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!

Top Ten Tuesday and Contest Reminder

Yesterday we hit 10,000 visitors to our blog! We had to go back and look a couple times - that's really 10,000, not 1,000? We got so excited, we decided to do what every book blogger does when she gets excited - give stuff away! For the rest of this week (up until midnight Sunday), for every post you comment on, your name will be put in a drawing for a goodie pile (list and picture to be posted later today). Only posts from this week (starting with Monday's) count, so if we get off our collective turtle rears and post every day, that will give you seven chances. Or, if we post twice in a day (like the goodie post later), there could be more than seven chances, so keep checking in! Winner will be announced on Monday.

Once again, we are joining The Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday. Today's theme: top ten book to movie adaptations. This was hard, because

a) We are turtles. Going to movie theatres just doesn't work well for us - we can't get the stupid folding seats to stay down, and even if we could, we couldn't see over the backs of the seats in front of us. So, we have to sit in the front row and crane our little turtle necks way back, and then if we lean too far back the seat flips up again and sends us sailing into someone's popcorn.

b) Thus far, Miss Ami has neglected to install a TV/DVD combo in our tank. She doesn't even have cable in her own home, so she doesn't think we are missing out on much. Phooey!

We did manage to come up with a few, though, so in no particular order:

1. The Princess Bride. Okay, we lied, this one is definitely first on our list, and always will be. Perfect casting, and absolutely faithful to the book, even to the point of the conversations between author and grandfather. Hands-down favorite.

2. Holes. A very close second. Again, perfect casting, and we still cry at the end when it rains.

3. Harry Potter. Yes, they changed things/left things out, but hello! The books are 8,000 pages long! We would have liked to see more of Dobby - and is Hagrid's half-brother just not important? Whatever. Still well-cast, and faithful enough to make us happy.

4. The first two Chronicles of Narnia movies. Finally, a lion that doesn't make you laugh when he appears! We just wish Hollywood hadn't felt the need to mess around with the third (evil green haze? Wha????). Guess there aren't enough folks there able to recognize moral lessons when they see them, so the book as written didn't make sense to them.

5. Lord of the Rings series. Miss Ami was in love with Aragon when she read the books as a teen, and the casting there did not disappoint her. Oh, and all the other parts were good, too.

6. Pride and Prejudice (the one with Keira Knightly). It can be hard to faithfully produce a book with less-than-modern speech and still make everything understandable to those not familiar with the books, but they did a marvelous job.

7. Little Women (with Winona Ryder).

8. Vampires S***. Being a little facetious here - we enjoyed the Twilight novels, but not all the hype, and the bits we've seen of the movies are terrible. This movie was juvenile and awful, but made a lot of great points - in a very juvenile and badly written way!

Hmm...still not 10, but we had some collections in there, so we'll call it good. tell us what we missed in the comments section, and get your name in our drawing!

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's Here! Nonfiction Monday - and a contest!

We are pleased to be hosting Nonfiction Monday today, a weekly collection of posts from bloggers all over the internet, highlighting great nonfiction children's books. Leave your link in the comments section, and we will add them to the post throughout the day!

baseball
Starting us off with some baseball books, we have

We are a Ship at Bookie Woogie, and

Lipman Pike: America's First Home-Run King at Shelf-Employed.


There was a nasty Oil Spill over at Jean Little Library.

Archaeology Troy History Dig Science
While at Charlotte's Library they are Digging for Troy.


NC Teacher Stuff is in to tell us What's for Dinner.

George Washington crossing the Delaware at the Battle of Trenton

Our first president for the day makes his appearance at proseandkahn in The Crossing,

Four-O'Clocks - Marvel of Peru
and Wild About Nature has a Contest to win a copy of Our Shadow Garden.

César E. Chávez
Cesar Chavez Day is next month, and True Tales and a Cherry on Top has a review of a picture book biography.


Bored with reading about people's lives? Read about how they died at Bookends.


Here's something different: an iPad app, The Strange and Wonderful World of Ants, which lets you change the reading level!

Normandy Invasion - June 1944 - united-states-of-america photo
The Children's War has a book about...well, a war, with The Orphans of War

Simply Science has Pop! The Invention of Bubblegum today. Btw, while looking for a picture, we found a fun art project they probably won't let us try.

Music Notes

MotherReader has Before There was Mozart, continuing with Black History Month.

And if the ants weren't enough for you, you can read about all sorts of insects at Carrie's Comfy Cozy Reading Nook


What Does the President Look Like? Find out at Lori Calabrese (we're planning to pick this one up ourselves!)

File:Louis Armstrong restored.jpg
More on African-American History month with Play, Louis, Play

Cybils2010-Web-Button

And combining AAH Month, Cybils, AND a giveaway, we have Oprah: the Little Speakerat Check It Out.

Bloggers are stepping it up! More AAH Month and Cybils with reviews of THREE books, we have Wrapped in Foil

We'll have to step things up ourselves. Has anyone noticed the counter at the bottom of our page? We are rapidly approaching the 10,000th visitor mark! We expected that to happen later this week, forgetting about the inevitable surge of Nonfiction Monday.

So...announcing, a contest! Erm...to win...something! Something cool! Books and book-related items! Yes, that's it. And to win...you should...um...comment! This week, on any of our posts! (This week being from today until midnight Sunday) Yes, that's it, every time you comment (and look, 20 lovely bloggers already have), your name will be put in a drawing for something cool, winner to be announced Monday.

We now bring you back to our regularly scheduled Nonfiction Monday, while we go rummage through our closet of cool stuff...

Which brings us to one of our favorite feel-good stories, Nubs: the True Stor of a Mutt, a Marine and  Miracle at All About the Book.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sneaky Sheep, by Chris Monroe

by Chris Monroe
Carolrhoda Books
978-0-7613-5615-8
Review copy from publisher

Blossom and Rocky are sheep - very sneaky sheep. But they are NOT very good decision makers. Poor Murphy, the sheep dog, has rescued them from many adventures, like cliff diving and sunbathing onthe railroad tracks. And then there was the unfortunate incident with the knitters...

But Rocky and Blossom are always looking for greener grass, and there's no telling what they'll try next.
This is one of those books we might read aloud to preschoolers and pause occasionally to say, "It's a good thing YOU don't act like that!" We know our story time crowd - not to mention Miss Ami's own children - well enough to know there are a few daredevils in the group. This is the kind of cautionary tale that inspires so many giggles, even those kids who realize there is a lesson won't mind a bit. Will they heed it? Well, that's another question entirely...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman

Harper Teen
978-0-06-113408-1
 

Tennyson:
Don't get me started on the Bruiser. He was voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty" by the entire school. He's the kid no one knows, no one talks to, and everyone hears disturbing rumors about. So why is my sister, BrontË, dating him? One of these days she's going to take in the wrong stray dog, and it's not going to end well.

BrontË:
My brother has no right to talk about Brewster that way—no right to threaten him. There's a reason why Brewster can't have friends—why he can't care about too many people. Because when he cares about you, things start to happen. Impossible things that can't be explained. I know, because they're happening to me.


Have we mentioned that we hate predictable? There are so many great books out there. When we get the chance to sit down and read something, we want to feel it was worthy of being chosen over all the others, and not wasting time we could be spending with another book. If we can guess the ending three pages in, it feels like a waste of our time to actually read the middle part.

We have never had that problem with Shusterman, so when we figured out VERY early on what Bruiser's 'secret' is, we were surprised. Fortunately, the story was compelling enough, and we had enough faith in Shusterman to continue.

Within a few chapters the other MCs figure things out, and it becomes clear the mystery is not the point of the story. Whew! This is more a story of friendship and sacrifice, of taking the easy way out of difficult situations, and how not letting things come to their natural conclusions can steal something from you in the end.

While Bruiser and his special abilities are a thing of fantasy, some of the general premises are very real, and could make for some thought-provoking discussion. This one may be a good pick for a high school classroom - just edgy enough to capture the reluctant readers, not so complicated as to turn them off, distinct voices presented in different fashion, and of course plenty to discuss and apply to 'real life'. We give it a

4 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

by Beth Revis
Razorbill
978-1-59514-397-6
Borrowed from Library
 
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Note to publishers: if you are going to put a whole lot of hype into a book pre-publication, you need to make sure the book will live up to said hype.

"Across the Universe" was widely anticipated after the release last year of what was called by some "the best first chapter ever." In it, Amy watches her parents being cryogenically frozen so they can participate in a space mission, then has to struggle with the decision to join them or remain with her boyfriend on earth. She chooses to go with them, but as she is being frozen, overhears some comments that tell us all is not as it appears with this trip.

We were just as intrigued by this beginning as everyone else, immediately made an order card and waited anxiously to get our flippers on a copy.

Hrm. Nothing quite like book let-down. It's not TERRIBLE, it's just...not that good. We are going to mention a few of our issues with it, but we can't do it without spoilers - so if you want to form your own opinion first, stop here. If you have read it and disagree with us, feel free to call us morons in the comments:)

1. World building. Pretty important for a dystopian novel, and we just didn't feel it. Too many things we were supposed to just accept, which would only work if we were drinking the same water. (That will make sense if you have read the book.)

2. Characters. Okay, we can forgive a vague background if the characters are real and compelling. Oops. Let's take Elder, for example. He was bred and raised to be the future leader of the entire ship, but he's a dunce. Totally clueless in so many ways. Then a pretty red-head comes along and he suddenly sees all sorts of incongruities and begins questioning the way his entire society is set up, when he never had before? Sorry, not buying it. Eldest is supposed to be a control freak, yet completely ignores things that are taking away his control. Also pretty slow, in that he couldn't figure out who the bad guy was until the end.

3. Suspense. It's a mystery, right? So can we at least enjoy puzzling through the clues? Alas, no. We knew who the bad guy was the second we met him (and not just that he was a bad guy, but WHO he was). The water issue was obvious. Everything Elder discovered that shocked him was hinted at so much beforehand, it just made him look even more obtuse. (Are you sure you are taking those inhibitors, Elder?)

Final kiss of death, our teen - who loved the cover and couldn't wait to get it next - didn't finish it. She NEVER not-finishes a book! We can't even recommend this to younger sci-fi fans who may not be savvy enough yet to pick up on the clues, because some of the scenes are definitely not going to be appropriate for the younger audience. A shame, because the premise was great, and the beginning intrigued. With a little lot more editing, this could have been the masterpiece it promised to be. For that reason, we will be watching for Revis's name in the future, in hopes that better things are to come.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Is That a Fact? series by Alison Behnke

Lerner Publications
978-0-7613-4914-3
978-0-7613-4913-6
Review copies from publisher.
What does it mean when reading a nonfiction book immediately makes us want to write a fiction book? We're going to say that's a good thing, at least in this case.

Kids love 'factoids'. They also love knowing more than the people around them (as do adults and turtles, let's be honest), and these books are chock full of urban legend-type 'facts' and the truth behind them. At last, the phrase "and called it macaroni" explained!

While each item gets just a two-page spread, it is packed with enough information to move these beyond the grade-school version of a coffee table book. We consider ourselves fairly well-read, but still learned amountain about ancient make-up, cast-iron skillets, and Betty Crocker. Some of the things we learned would be great tidbits to include in a historical fiction novel. Let's say a character in your 16th-century novel dies her hair red (to be like Queen Elizabeth) and experiences unexplained nosebleeds. History buffs will think you're a brilliant researcher for making that connection!

Kids will enjoy these books for their own sake, and won't notice or care when they learn a little science or history along the way (you're going to remember Elizabeth I was a red-head now, aren't you?) For the teacher looking for a little writing motivation, try making each question a story-starter: Is it really dangerous to talk on the phone in a thunderstorm? What could happen to your main character if (s)he did?

Hmm...we feel a good thriller coming on. Excuse us while we go dictate to Miss Ami. In the meantime, you can check out some more great nonfiction reviews at Wrapped in Foil, today's host of Nonfiction Monday.

Cybils Winners Announced!

What better way to start off Valentine's Day than to hear a book you are in love with has won yet another award? As hard as it was to help pick the top seven YA Fiction books for 2010, one title has remained my favorite. Looks like the second round judges have the same great taste! So, which one was it? Click over to Cybils and find out! (post a comment if you get the hint!)

Edited to add: It seems to have made someone else's Valentine's Day as well.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable, by Dan Gutman

HarperCollinsPublishers
978-0-06-1827648
review copy provided by publisher
In eight days, Coke and Pepsi McDonald are going to turn thirteen.
Before then, they'll jump off a cliff, get trapped in the locked basement of their burning school, chased cross-country by murderous lunatics, left for dead in the pit of a sand dune, forced to decipher mysterious coded messages, thrown into a giant vat of SPAM, and visit the world's largest . . . ball of twine!
There's more, but if we told you here, we'd have to kill you.
Gutman is of course the author of popular series such as My Weird School and The Baseball Card Adventures. This is the start of another series that brings the old Spy Kids movies to mind, or perhaps Michael Buckley's NERDS series.

As such, we have to say it's a little formulaic. Most of the 'surprises' were easy to predict, as was the ending. At the same time, we think this will appeal to the middle/upper elementary crowd that like Gutman's other series, those for whom humor and adventure are more important than suspense. There were plenty of phrases and situations to laugh out loud at, from clueless parents to (literal) bathroom humor, to the normal brother-sister sniping. Give this to fans of Buckley, Louis Sachar, or Michael Greenberg.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hush by Eishes Chayil

Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.
978-0-8027-2088-7

Slooooooooooooow start. As in, so slow we might not have finished it if we hadn't been curious. At first the book alternates between 9-year-old Gittel and 17-year-old Gittel, and the voices aren't awlays distinct. We know something bad is going to happen (or is continuing to happen) to devory, and that the older Gittel is haunted by it, but the first part of the book seems to take a very long time to get there. Slow build-ups just don't work when you already pretty much know the end result.

Fortunately, things pick up about halfway through the book, around the time Gittel finishes school and her marriage is arranged. At this point the descriptions of Chassidic life become more a part of the story than lesson in culture, and the characters become more fleshed out. The story of her betrothal and marriage could be a book in itself - so sweet, at times funny, we finally got more than a snapshot of various characters' personalities. We also get a sense of the warmth and community that we appreciated - this is shown throughout the book, but especially in this section. Honest portrayals, no stereotypes. While an arranged marriage would horrify most readers, for example, we end up being very happy for Gittel, and we see how such a custom could still be embraced.

Of course, marriage brings to the forefront of Gittel's mind the things she has been trying to forget for so long. What happened to Devory, and the way the community handled it, has always haunted her: now it threatens to destroy her life and the lives of those around her, unless she can find a way to deal with it. We are glad we stuck with it through the slow beginning, and give it a

4 out of 5.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Literary Characters I Would Name My Children After

So, we completely forgot the Top Ten Tuesday last week. We hear it takes 72 times of doing something before it becomes a habit, so long about 2013 we should be all set. Today we remembered, however, and it's a very timely topic as Miss Ami is expecting and has yet to settle on a name. Gender is unknown at the moment, making the process a little more difficult. We do hope that, as appropriate as "Freaky" might be for a turtle, she comes up with something a little kinder for a newborn baby.

Her choices, in no particular order:

1. Elizabeth, from The Paper Bag Princess. This is actually her daughter's middle name, and was a no-brainer. Who wouldn't want their daughter to grow up as competent and fun as Robert Munsch's Elizabeth, with the same healthy sense of perspective? Coupled with her first name (Sheridan), we have a name that means "Wild Gift from God." Perfect.

2. Meg, from A Wrinkle in Time. Perfect ugly duckling story - bright, caring, underappreciated young lady grows into beautiful, loving, wise mother.

3. Katniss, from The Hunger Games. Except there are probably a million little girls being named Katniss these days, so we'll let that one go. Still - great character! Do you see a trend in strong, intelligent females here?

4. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Timothy, David, Daniel...all the great "Bible names". Except, various cousins and so forth have already used those, and naming a baby "Ishtob" could be likened to naming him "Freaky".

5. Jeremy - as in Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. Great kid, great book. Miss Ami says she would love to have a son with a heart for animals (and people) who is also capable of standing up for what is right, willing to do the right thing even when it doesn't give him what he wants for himself.

6. Ella - as in Enchanted. See #s 1-3.

7. Jack - A good, solid name, with so many possible literary connections. Heck, in desperate times, we could even call him "Jack-Jack", as in the baby in The Incredibles who scares the babysitter away.

8. Stephanie, as in Plum, a la Janet Evanovich. Miss Ami used to want to be Stephanie Plum when she grew up. Now she wants to be Grandma Mazur.

That's all we've got right now. Of course, #4 would put us over 10 if you counted them all. Miss Ami and her husband do have one girl's name they've tossed around, Cheyenne, but we can't think of any literary characters to connect that with. Anyone???

****Note from Miss Ami: So, I mentioned to my husband that the most popular name from the other bloggers' lists seems to be Atticus. He immediately piped up with, "Hey, Jack Atticus!" You didn't have to read that out loud to groan, did you. Sigh. No, that is NOT a name we will be using. I did forget another great girl's name/character: Ronia, from Ronia the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. The cover art by Trina Schart Hyman (who I adored) is exactly how I pictured my youngest looking, and the attitude/ability to wrap a big old hairy man around the little finger is how I expected her to be. Well, she turned out blonde and blue-eyed somehow, but the other part? Oh, yeah!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mini Reviews - Fractured Fairy Tales

Marshall Cavendish
978-0-7614-5793-0
A collection of different takes on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. We love Vivian Vande Velde, but this wasn't her best. The introduction is the best part of the book. That, however, is hysterical, and it is worth borrowing the book just to read it.

Henry Holt and Company
978-0-8050-89684
Loved it! We haven't read Tomlinson's other tales, but we plan to rectify that soon. This one is a retelling of the fairy tales in which the 'good' sister is blessed with jewels falling from her lips every time she speaks, while the 'bad' sister is cursed with toads and snakes. In one of many twists Tomlinson offers, both sisters are actually 'good', and either gift proves to be both blessing and curse.The setting is a somewhat fictionalized India, as might be guessed from the gorgeous cover. One niggling detail about that cover, though: both sisters only had two gold dowry bracelets, not armsfull. Otherwise; vivid setting, interesting characters, perfect comfort-food kind of story.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Room, by Emma Donoghue

Little, Brown and Company
978-0-316-098335
Wow.

And that's all we have to say about that.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Matched, by Ally Condie

Oy! Miss Ami here. Trying to get blog posts up with intermittent internet, while snowbound with bored preschoolers, has been a bit of a challenge. Yes, we actually got snow in southern New Mexico, and since there are approximately 3 snowplows in the entire state, roads are a bit dicey right now. That just means plenty of time to read, right?! Hope you are all hunkered down with heat, food, and a pile of good books like this one:



Dutton Juvenile
978-0525423645

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.


The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Talk about sucking you in! We already know from the description that Cassia will be matched with Xander, yet when the announcement is made we are just as breathless with nerves and excitement as she is. Unlike many dystopian novels, this one focuses more on Cassia's character and her internal struggles than on any action. We get to know Cassia very quickly and very well. Side characters are revealed more slowly, through her interactions with them, but all are distinct and sometimes changing.

Don't take that to mean it is slow-paced at all - in fact, I kept sneaking away to read 'just one more chapter', because I had to know what would happen next. I was very happy with the ending, while my teenager was irate - and immediately demanding a sequel (don't tell her it's first in a trilogy, let her suffer for a bit.) I can't say much more without giving anything away, but we all know how much I hate easy, pat endings, right? We give it a

5 out of 5.