Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fancy Nancy fans will love Jane O’Connor’s newest title, Fancy Nancy Aspiring Artist! Full of the same bright, colorful illustrations from Robin Preiss Glasser, Nancy is enjoying spring break and taps into her creative side with paints and markers while exploring the masterpieces of world-renown artists such Matisse and Degas to name a few. Full of O’Connor’s rhyming text and excellent vocabulary, Nancy introduces the reader to different art types on each day of the week with Sunday being the final “art exhibit” day for the neighborhood. An excellent title to include into masterpiece art programs for elementary or preschool age children.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

My Swordhand is Singing uses the origins of the vampire legend in Eastern Europe to create a chilling and dark story of the supernatural. Peter and his father Tomas have finally settled in as woodcutters in a small village in the forest after wandering for years. Their business is flourishing and they are beginning to be accepted by the villagers. After several mysterious deaths and the arrival of gypsies in the village, Peter realizes that strange secrets surround his family, several held by his own father. When he bravely violates village rules to help a friend, he encounters the horror among them and joins forces with a fiery gypsy girl to save the village.
This is the third Sedgwick novel I've read and they've all been excellent. He writes the father/son relationship especially well and his depiction of the supernatural is terrifyingly believable.
I really enjoyed reading about the original vampire legends and how much they differ from the vampire myth of today.
Sedgwick is a master of atmosphere, describing the setting so well that I could feel the cold, the chill, the darkness of a winter in the forest.
His books are perfect for boys or girls who like setting and the supernatural over fast-paced, plot-driven novels.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor

Nominated for a National Book Award in 2009, Lips Touch is the first young adult novel written by Laini Taylor. It is composed of three stories that take the reader into a world of goblins, demons, hell, curses and kisses. Sound incongruous? It all makes sense when you realize that kisses can be dangerous.
The first story in the book,Goblin Fruit, is the strongest and my favorite, maybe. Kizzy is a high school student who longs to be beautiful, alluring and attractive to men. But she's not. This makes her the perfect victim for goblins who prey on girls just like her. When a new boy starts school and is immediately attentive to her she responds, though she's been warned by her grandmother to be alert to beautiful men and situations that seem too-good-to-be-true. As relations quicken between Kizzy and Jack she ignores the signs her grandmother is sending, until one final moment of decision. This story is highly sensual and evokes the feelings and atmosphere of Goblin Market, the famous Christina Rossetti poem, perfectly, yet with a modern sensibility.
The second story, Spicy Little Curses Such as These, is set during the British Raj and centers on a curse. At birth Anamique is cursed with the most beautiful voice ever heard, but one that would kill any human who happens to hear it. She lives her life in silent motion, begged by the servants to never utter a sound. At 17 she falls in love with a damaged war veteran and struggles with her desire to tell him of her love. Will the curse be violated or will she remain without a voice? This story didn't capture my interest as much as the other two, but I think it is mainly because I don't really care for the time period or subject matter. It has nothing to do with Taylor's writing.
The third story is longer than the other two and maddeningly fascinating. Hatchling relates the tale of Esme, a sheltered fourteen-year-old whose life changes dramatically when she wakes up one morning with one blue eye and one brown eye. From this she discovers her mother's shocking history as a "milk sacrifice" to a frightening race of soulless vampire/werewolf like creatures. Hatchling felt Eastern European, black forest, wolfish and dark. I loved it. I think this may be my favorite story.
The illustrations by Taylor's gifted husband, Jim di Bartolo, help create the right atmosphere for her writing.

Taylor is a magnificent and imaginative writer. Her prose is lush without being flowery and gorgeous to read. I am truly in love with her. Her next YA novel will be released in October. I have baited breath.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Brief Summary: Considered by many to be mentally retarded, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.

I thought this was a powerful book. I really enjoyed the entire book. I think 5th graders might not initially be interested in the book when you describe it to them. Once they get started, they should be hooked. I think kids would relate to the main character Melody in a different way. It tells what her life is like at school with cerebral palsy. She notices things about people that others would not. The ending is not what you would expect.

Posted by Lisa

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Katniss is Cast

Reports are abounding today that Jennifer Lawrence has been cast as Katniss in the Hunger Games film. She starred in Winter's Bone. Has anyone seen it? Any thoughts on her playing Katniss? She doesn't look like how I envisioned Katniss, but all opinions are that she is a great actress and will do the part justice.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus

Exposed is a novel in verse that recounts the experience of Liz after her brother is accused of raping her best friend, Kate.
Liz and Kate have been friends since elementary school, "forever-bests", who spend one Saturday a month sleeping over at each other's houses and spending time alone without their boyfriends. This particular Saturday they get into a nasty argument as Liz insults Kate's boyfriend for being a wet blanket and Kate takes offense. Liz tears off to sleep in her room leaving Kate on the couch.
The next morning, Kate is gone.
When Kate won't speak to her or let her apologize, Liz assumes that she is still upset over their argument. But as days turn into weeks she realizes that something more is troubling Kate and she demands to know what. When she finds out that Kate has accused her brother, Mike, of rape she wishes she had never asked.
Marcus does an excellent job at creating the conflicting emotions that Liz experiences as she tries to decide who to believe. Her passion for photography is interwoven through the story, giving us a look at the world through Liz's eyes as she photographs her surroundings.
Though I usually cringe at the thought of reading verse novels, the few that I've read I have really enjoyed. There is something so to the point, yet elusive in their form that works very well in relating dramatic and forceful stories.
This is a convincing novel that does not have a neat solution. For readers who like a firm ending, Exposed won't do. It creates more questions than it answers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday Three: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Define "Normal" and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Last weekend while home sick with stomach nastiness I read three YA novels I've been wanting to read for ages. Here are my brief thoughts about them:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Quite controversial and banned in many schools across the country, this novel IS very racy and deals with lots of issues parents might not feel comfortable having their young teens read about: sex, drugs, drinking, masturbation, abortion, mental illness and sexual abuse. Written by fifteen-year-old Charlie in the form of letters to an unknown recipient, it chronicles his life during his freshman year of high school. He has a very unique voice and his mistakes and successes are equally fascinating. This is a good novel that has a strong narrative and the challenges Charlie faces are believable. It should not be suggested to a teen if you're not sure of their background or family persuasion.

Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters
This novel is a perfect middle school read that centers on two girls, middle schoolers themselves, who are paired together for peer counseling. Jazz is a "punk" who dresses in black and changes her hair colors frequently. She hates her mother and is struggling to break out of her parents stranglehold. Antonia is a "priss". She gets good grades, follows the rules and has a horrible home life. Her mother is mentally ill and stays in bed all day while Antonia is expected to care for her two younger brothers, run the household and do her homework. This book says a lot about stereotypes, judging others by their appearance and letting others help when you are ashamed to ask them for it. A very sweet story with a happy ending.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
While dealing with many of the same issues as Wallflower, along with racism, alcoholism and poverty, this novel adds humor and pictures to give extra spice and vigor to the issue novel. Junior is a Native American who lives on a reservation and decides he wants to attend the "white" school in town instead of his reservation high school. This choice brings him more heartache and joy than he could have anticipated. His misadventures are grin-inducing, but I found this book lacking for some reason. It didn't feel cohesive or as seamlessly written as Wallflower and I thought Junior was a punk most of the time. Maybe I just don't enjoy teen male humor?