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Princess thoughts

6 Jul

Cinderella never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress. – Kiera Cass

One of my favorite library stories to tell is about the day I read The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch aloud to a group of first graders. There was one particular girl in the class whose reaction I wanted to see. Mina LOVED Disney princess books and was excited to see a princess on the cover of this book, even the eponymous princess was wearing a paper bag. Her reaction at the end was priceless. She was speechless, and possibly horrified at the unexpected ending. I don’t think it ever became her favorite book, but I hope it planted a seed.

As I aired out the house very early yesterday morning, I picked up my library copy of I am Princess X by Cherie Priest and started to read.

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Publisher’s Summary: Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon — her best friend, Libby, who lives.

This was a great summer read. It has strong female characters, mystery adventure, clue following and a story within a story. It was a quick read and, although it is marketed as YA, I’d say it was on the younger end of the YA spectrum, so middle grade readers looking for something a little more should give it a try.

 

Serendipity with dolphins

3 Jul

In amongst the very famous authors at last Sunday’s YA Coffee Klatch were some lesser known authors. It doesn’t mean they were less skilled authors. When Ginny Rorby sat at our table and held up the novel she was promoting,

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I blurted out, “That is sitting in my to read pile right now!” It was serendipitous.

Publisher’s Summary: Lily loves her half-brother, Adam, but she has always struggled with him, too. He’s definitely on the autism spectrum–though her step-father, Don, can barely bring himself to admit it–and caring for him has forced Lily to become as much mother as sister. All Lily wants is for her step-father to acknowledge that Adam has a real issue, that they need to find some kind of program that can help him. Then maybe she can have a life of her own.

Adam’s always loved dolphins, so when Don, an oncologist, hears about a young dolphin with cancer, he offers to help. He brings Lily and Adam along, and Adam and the dolphin–Nori–bond instantly.

But though Lily sees how much Adam loves Nori, she also sees that the dolphin shouldn’t spend the rest of her life in captivity, away from her family. Can Adam find real help somewhere else? And can Lily help Nori regain her freedom without betraying her family?

Ginny is also the author of Hurt Go Happy, which won a 2008 Schneider Family Book Award.

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Publisher’s Summary:Thirteen-year-old Joey Willis is used to being left out of conversations. Though she’s been deaf since the age of six, Joey’s mother has never allowed her to learn sign language. She strains to read the lips of those around her, but often fails.

Everything changes when Joey meets Dr. Charles Mansell and his baby chimpanzee, Sukari. Her new friends use sign language to communicate, and Joey secretly begins to learn to sign. Spending time with Charlie and Sukari, Joey has never been happier. She even starts making friends at school for the first time. But as Joey’s world blooms with possibilities, Charlie’s and Sukari’s choices begin to narrow–until Sukari’s very survival is in doubt.

I highly recommend both!

John James Audubon: Fiction/Non-fiction Pairings

19 Jun

I just got my hands on This Strange Wilderness:The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain.

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John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, was published in 1838, a mere 32 years after the  Lewis and Clark expedition  returned from their cross-country journey. I think we forget how challenging it must have been for Audubon to produce his masterpiece. Plain’s book is an excellent biography of the artist and naturalist, giving us an idea of the personal tragedies he suffered  and the challenges he faced as he roamed the country to paint the 489 pictures of The Birds of America. The book includes many full-page, full-color interior illustrations.

While reading This Strange Wilderness,  I got thinking about books n which John James Audubon plays a role. The first one that came to mind was one of this year’s OBOB books, A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole.

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Celeste, a mouse longing for a real home, becomes a source of inspiration to teenaged Joseph, assistant to the artist and naturalist John James Audubon, at a New Orleans, Louisiana, plantation in 1821.

Audubon’s The Birds of America  plays a significant role in Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay for Now.

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As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends, an abusive father, and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him until he finds an ally in Lil Spicer–a fiery young lady. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage.

 

 

My summer reading program

17 Jun

The summer reading program is in full swing at my local library. I stopped by yesterday afternoon to pick up my holds. I was actually  on my way to the dentist for a check up, so I didn’t linger and browse the shelves, but the library was busy. Here are the things I picked up:

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The Skunk  written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Patrick McDonnell Let me just say this: Waiting for Godot for the primary set. You should read this.   Unknown-1

Fifeen Dogs  by André Alexis. Publisher’s Summary: And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks. André Alexis’s contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.   Unknown-2

Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb. I’ve heard good buzz about this one. On Moonpenny Island, eleven-year-old Flor O’Dell experiences a series of life changes after her best friend’s sent away to a private school. And, finally… Unknown-3

Paper Things  by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem—Gage doesn’t actually have a place to live. I have a pile of books to read and don’t know when I will get to these. Fortunately, I have two and a half months stretching out ahead of me.

Audiobook Heaven

14 Jun

I don’t think I mentioned that I listened to Echo  by Pam Muñoz Ryan in the car. The audiobook is amazing because there is music. Harmonica music. Piano music. Orchestral music. It is truly a treat for the ears.

Now, I am listening to Listen Slowly by Thanhha Lai.

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I think I would have liked reading the book, but listening is amazing because the reader, Lulu Lam, reads the Vietnamese in perfect Vietnamese and she also reads some of the English parts with a Vietnamese accent. It feels natural when you listen.

Publisher’s Summary:A California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn’t know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

If you are looking for some good road trip books to listen to, you should give these two a try.

Girls save the world….again

29 May

I have two really great sequels to rave about today. They both have exclamation points in the title and both feature girls who save the world. Isn’t it always thus!

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Dragons Beware!  is a sequel to Giants Beware, both written by Jorge Aguirre and  illustrated by Rafael Rosado.

Goodreads Summary: Scrappy Claudette sets out once again with her pal Marie and her little brother Gaston to right wrongs and fight evil. And this time, it’s personal. Claudette is out to get the dragon who ate her father’s legs…and his legendary sword. But as usual, nothing is as simple as it seems, and Claudette is going to need Marie and Gaston’s help more than ever.

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Smek For President! is a sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday  by Adam Rex.

Goodreads summary:After Tip and J.Lo banished the Gorg from Earth in a scheme involving the cloning of many, many cats, the pair is notorious-but not for their heroics. Instead, human Dan Landry has taken credit for conquering the Gorg, and the Boov blame J.Lo for ruining their colonization of the planet. Determined to clear his name, J.Lo and Tip pack into Slushious, a Chevy that J.Lo has engineered into a fairly operational spaceship, and head to New Boovworld, the aliens’ new home on one of Saturn’s moons.

But their welcome isn’t quite as warm as Tip and J.Lo would have liked. J.Lo is dubbed Public Enemy Number One, and Captain Smek knows that capturing the alien is the only way he’ll stand a chance in the Boovs’ first-ever presidential election.

With the help of a friendly flying billboard named Bill, a journey through various garbage chutes, a bit of time travel, and a slew of hilarious Boovish accents, Tip and J.Lo must fight to set the record straight-and return home in once piece.

The first book came out in 2007, so it took me a few pages to get back into the Boov groove, but before long, I remembered why I liked the first book so much. They are just so funny and you can’t help liking the endearing Boovish way of speaking.

Detective Duos

18 May

First there was Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Then, we had Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and Steve Keller (Michael Douglas) in The Streets of San Francisco. If you mashed up Stone & Keller with Frog & Toad, you’d have  Detective Gordon and Buffy, the heroes of  Detective Gordon: The First Case written by Ulf Nilsson and illustrated by Gitte Spee

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Detective Gordon is an aging detective, fond of cakes, and prone to falling asleep. Buffy is his new assistant, eager and anxious to get out the pistol. They are working together to solve the mystery of the nuts that are disappearing all over the forest. Detective Gordon, though getting older, has learned important lessons.

I was a little concerned at first with the pistol that was locked in the cabinet. Buffy keeps asking if they are going to use it. Detective Gordon keeps telling her “no”. Finally, he explains,

“To take the pistol one must be very wise and very careful. It’s dangerous.”

Buffy jumped up and down angrily. The thieves were disappearing between the trees. But she badly wanted to have the pistol.

She would have it.

“But you are very wise and very careful, chief.”

Detective Gordon held up his finger. He had something very important to say.

“The one who is really wise and very careful doesn’t take it with him!” said the detective. “It’s dangerous.”

Far, far away, they could hear the thieves laughing. But Buffy wouldn’t give up.

“Why is it in the glass cabinet then? Why don;t you throw it away?”

“In case someone finds it and hurts themselves. It is safest locked up in the police station.”

The entire book is full of philosophical conversations like that. But what makes me really love the book is the stamp.

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Every paper the detective duo write on requires an official stamp. The stamp they use has a crown in the center, through Detective Gordon doesn’t really know why “but it seemed powerful and no one had questioned it”. It makes a satisfying KLA-DUNK sound and that is good enough.

This is a charming  book for readers just venturing into chapter books.

My favorite mother’s in kidlit

10 May

My mother didn’t read to me but had the foresight to take me to the library. Go, Mom! No mother is perfect, but here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites from childrens & YA books.

Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter Series

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Marilla Cuthbert from  Anne of Green Gables

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Marmee in  Little Women

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Sara from  Sara Plain & Tall

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Mama from All of a Kind Family

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Hazel Grace’s mom The Fault in Our Stars

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Who are your favorites?

Journeys On the Oregon Trail

15 Apr

This week, my class set off on a book club adventure along the Oregon Trail. I started by introducing the five books they could choose. I gave a short book talk about each, then set a set of he five books on each table, giving theme ample time to look through to find a good fit book. Their choices were:

Ranger in Time:Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner (by far the most desired book)

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Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell and Elizabeth Hall (not exactly an Oregon Trail book, but there is a connection)

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Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail  by Elvira Woodruff

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Rachel’s Journal  by Marissa Moss

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The Stout Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail  by Neta Lohnes Frazier

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Then they had to fill out a form naming their first and second choices and why each would be a good book for them. Some of their reasons were excellent. Here are some samples.

“When we talked about Native Americans, I had questions that went farther. I would like to know how they were pushed out of their own land .”

” I like books with a map and journal books.”

“I enjoy books where people have to go on a hard life-or-death mission.”

“I want to know the feeling and how hard it can be to have to survive alone.”

“Time travel is right next to impossible.”

“It is teaching you about the Oregon Trail and it is also doing fantasy at the same time.”

“I could see how other people come together and help each other live.”

 

They didn’t all get their first choice, but everyone got their first or second choice, and so far, everyone seems happy with their book.

 

 

 

 

On my bookshelf

11 Apr

I currently have two stacks of books.

There’s the Morris Award pile of books I’m reading, or have received and meet the basic Morris criteria. That stack is getting bigger and I don’t have to read all of them. We divvy those out, but we all have to read any we decide to nominate. This one sits on a table on the east side of my living room.

On the west side, I have the stack of library materials I want to get to. This is mostly books, but also Audiobook CDs and a DVD or two. Here is a picture of that shelf.

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It is a snapshot that captures this moment today. It s a shifting shelf and might look different tomorrow. Currently, there are no picture books.

The four I am most excited about are

Prairie Fire by E. K. Johnston, a sequel to The Story of Owen: Dragonslayer of Trondheim

Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place  by Julie Berry (audiobooks CD narrated by Jayne Entwhistle)

 

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