Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, Dial, 2012, 256 pp, ISBN: 0803736703Recap:
As an infant who washed ashore in a hurricane, tied to a scrap from a billboard, Mo(ses) LeBeau surely does have luck on her side. (Even if all of that luck hasn't helped her find her Upstream Mother in the last eleven years)
But now Mo and her best friend Dale are going to need more than luck if they're going to solve a murder and bring Mo's adopted family home safe again!
Sheila Turnage's Three Times Lucky found it's way into my book bag via School Library Journal's Battle of the Books. The very first thing that grabbed my attention was Ms. Mo LeBeau herself. That girl is downright hilarious! I have a (bad?) habit of turning down pages when there's a line I want to remember, and I turned the first three corners down before realizing that Mo was going to make me laugh out loud, or at least crack a grin, on pretty near every page.
Everyone else in Tupelo Landing, NC is just as colorful a character, and the town itself reminded me of a more country-fied version of Stars Hollow - everybody knows everybody else's business and, for the most part, they love each other just the same.
The plot of the story was where I got stuck. It was about a murder, but the writing was just so funny and cute that I never got that creepy murder feeling. In fact, for a long time I was sure that the murder was going to end up being a hoax. There's another serious plot line going on at the same time, regarding Dale's alcoholic, abusive father, but the reader never actually sees this firsthand until the very end, so again... I just wasn't getting the intense vibe that the story probably deserved. For me, the quick-witted, clever narration from 11-year-old Mo just never seemed to gel with the actual story she was telling.
But maybe that's part of the point? I mean, Mo was only 11, and she was 100% into solving the case with her Desperado Detective partner Dale, so maybe she was just telling the story as seriously as a 11-year-old is able to? Help me out here, book lovers! I know a number of you have read this one and loved it. What do you think I'm missing?
Three Times Lucky would be perfect for middle grade readers (in this case, I'm picturing grades 4 - 6) who like to laugh and maybe even solve a mystery.
BOB Prediction:Three Times Lucky
goes up against Endangered
in the first round, and if I were the judge... I would give it to Endangered
, no question.
- "Demons!" he gasped, pointing vaguely in my direction. I sighed. Dale's family is Baptist. - Mo
- I tried not to sound impressed. "You stole Mr. Jesse's boat?" He studied his fingernails. "I wouldn't say stole," he said. "But I did borrow it pretty strong." - Mo and Dale
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Hyperion Book CH, 2012, 352 pp, ISBN: 1423152190
Imagine yourself a prisoner of war. Your plane was shot down in Nazi occupied France. All of your clothes have been taken away. An iron rod has been tied to your back. You are tortured on a daily basis. How long would it take you to break?
And when you started talking, what story would you tell?
It took me two attempts to read Code Name Verity
. Not because I couldn't get into the first time - quite the opposite in fact. My first attempt was the audiobook, read by the immensely talented Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell (although I didn't quite make it to Gaskell's portion). Christie was the voice of "Verity" and her gorgeous Scottish brogue made the book for me. I can still hear her spitting out "mein Hauptsturmführer von Linden,
" and goodness knows I would have completely muddled up that pronunciation had I been reading all on my own. Christie did an absolutely brilliant job of nailing down each nuance and innuendo of Verity's story, all through the power of her voice.
Now, when I started reading/listening to Code Name Verity
, I didn't know a single thing about the story except that it was generating a ton of positive buzz in the book world. **Possible spoiler alert: When Verity's section abruptly ended and Maddie's began, I was so upset that I immediately ejected the CD and took it straight back to the library. Why was Elizabeth Wein taking Verity away??? Bring her back!!!
Well, about a week later, I was burning up to know how the book ended. So I checked out the print version from the library - hence, my second attempt. And I actually just started fresh from the very beginning. Seriously, this story does not get old. And I picked up on so many more things on the second read-through! So, I would consider the second attempt a big success. When I got to Maddie's story again, I was ready. And then Maddie had to go and blow my mind. Verity wasn't gone by a long shot, and her story just took a very dramatic twist when it picked up with her best friend. Elizabeth Wein
, I take back what I said before. You are a genius.
Recommendation:If you love a mystery, if you appreciate historical fiction, if you get into a girl power story, if you are simply a human being who loves to read... do not pass up Code Name Verity.
BOB Prediction:Code Name Verity is going straight to the Big Kahuna Round. I will be pretty shocked if it doesn't win the whole thing.
"I have told the truth." - Verity
(If you've read it, doesn't this line still just give you the chills??)
...you forced yourself to expand your reading horizons?
As a teacher, I used to love coercing my students into reading a book that I just KNEW they would love. There were a few eager readers in every class, but for the most part, my kiddos were pretty resistant to independent reading time. Being the book lover I am, I refused to believe that it was possible for someone to actually not like reading - the unbeliever just hadn't been introduced to the right book yet! After they had been coaxed/compelled/bribed to expand their reading horizons a bit... I would venture to say that at least 95% of them became, at the very least, book likers. If you're a teacher or librarian, can you relate?
BUT... what about US? You and me, the ones who already love to hunker down with a good book? How often are we willing to branch out and try a new genre? For me, the answer is not often. I'm pretty darn content with my often-dystopian-or-post-apocolyptic-sci-fi-fantasy-with-the-occasional-romance-thrown-in (did you know that was a genre?)
. And, lucky me, the YA book world has no shortage of novels that fit that description.
BUT... that also means I'm missing out on quite a lot of book loving goodness.
That's why every year I just can't wait for the excellence that is School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids Books
. I know I've already talked about it here, but as I've been reading through this year's list of Contenders (have to finish before the 12th!)
I've been struck over and over again by the amazing-ness that I would have missed had the BOB not forced me to try (many!)
new things. Who would have thought I'd end up rather obsessed with a book about the atom bomb? Or bonobo apes? Or a woman who designs cow enclosures for a living?So tell me book lovers, when was the last time you read out of your comfort zone?
Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - The World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin, Flash Point, 2012, 272 pp, ISBN: 1596434872Recap:In December of 1938, a German chemist named Otto Hahn made a discovery that stunned scientists around the world: he discovered that atoms could, in fact, be split in half.
And while that may not have meant much at the time to most of the world's population, Hahn's discovery eventually became the foundation for the deadliest weapon that our world has ever known.
is the story of three countries in a race against time - a race to solve the mysteries of physics, a race to make history, a race to kill or be killed.Review:Whew, I feel like I just ran a race myself! Book lovers, I am telling you, that Steve Sheinkin had me on the edge of my seat from page 1! Am I a history buff? No. A science scholar? Oh, no. On any given day I'm more likely to be reading People.com than really anything history related. But I could not put this book down.
Thanks to Sheinkin's narrative style and the heaps of (true!) dialogue, Bomb reads very much like a novel. There are pages and pages of photographs, and my favorites were the scrapbook style photos at the beginning of each new section, highlighting the "major players" that the reader was about to meet. The sheer amount of different names could have proven daunting for a reader, but Bomb is written so skillfully that I never once felt overwhelmed or confused. Rather, I couldn't wait to see what the next chapter would hold.
I think one of the marks of a truly great read is when you frequently find yourself talking about it with others. In the past few days, I've managed to turn a number of conversations around toward Soviet spies, particle physics, secret science labs in the desert, and weapons of mass destruction. Seriously, can you tell I'm hooked on this book?
Recommendation:If you are at all interested in World War II or in Science, Bomb is a must-read. And for the record, I'm not particularly interested in either of those subjects, but I still found Bomb completely fascinating. In the mood to expand your reading horizons? Pick up Bomb today.(PS: Did I mention that Bomb won the Sibert Medal for nonfiction + was selected as a Newbery Honor and National Book Award Finalist??)
BOB Prediction:Honestly book lovers, this one is just too close for me to call. I have a sincere love for Wonder. It's one of the best books I've read this year. BUT... Bomb is one of the best, most engaging pieces of nonfiction that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I do not envy judge Kenneth Oppel in this round!
Quotable Quotes:- "When do we get as scared as we ought to?" - Leona Woods
- (on site at the Trinity test) "We were told to lie down on the sand, turn our faces away from the blast, and bury our heads in our arms. No one complied. We were determined to look the beast in the eye." - Edward Teller
- (in reference to the chill that settled over the jubilant crowd of physicists, following the successful test at Trinity) "It was the chill of knowing they had used something they loved - the study of physics - to build the deadliest weapon in human history." - Steve Sheinkin
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Clarion Books, 2011, 368 pp, ISBN: 0547152604Recap:When Doug's dad loses his job, their family is forced to pick up and move to stupid Marysville. And moving is never easy, but it's even more difficult when half the town thinks you're some kind of skinny thug and your big brother's just come back from Vietnam. His father is pretty abusive too, but that's nothing new.
When Doug finds his way into the public library - So what? So what? It's not like he's reading books
- things start to shift. Not very quickly, not so's you would even notice at first. But a change is coming.Review:Who would have ever thought that a book about Audobon's bird paintings would become one of my favorites of the whole year? Not me, that's for sure. But Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now won me over almost immediately.
I am telling you right now. Do not be dissuaded by the weird/boring cover or all of the Audobon talk. Okay for Now is will not disappoint. And I think the #1 reason why is Voice. I can't remember the last time I read a book with such an incredibly strong voice. My parents visited over the weekend (Hi, Mom!) and I read aloud to my mom pretty much the entire way to church and back because every single paragraph was better than the one before. I can still hear Doug's voice in my head saying "So what? So what? I'm not a chump!" in my head.
ALL of the characters in Doug's life are so real you would swear they exist in real life. I would not be surprised to find stupid Marysville on a map, and you know Mr. Powell would have Okay for Now on the front desk at the library.
I really want to keep this review short because the main point is this: Okay for Now is one stellar read. It's up against Wonderstruck on Thursday in the BoB, and not only am I confident that Wonderstruck is toast, I wouldn't be surprised if Okay for Now won the whole shebang.
Recommendation:Read this book. Boy or girl, young or old, sports fan or bird watcher - you're going to love Okay for Now.
Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet, Candlewick, 2011, 416 pp, ISBN: 076365227XRecap:- Several generations of loveless (or at least romance-less) marriages- Star-crossed young lovers- The Cuban Missile Crisis- Our world on the brink of destruction- A look at the role both politics and religion play in the end of the world- Some pretty life-changing explosions
Review:Oh, what to say about Life: An Exploded Diagram...It has received all kinds of glowing reviews. It bested Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls in the first round of the BOB.
Author Mal Peet excelled in revealing a very specific world through the use of the characters' dialect. One example: "You put that ole coat on, if yer gorn out. There's a wind'd cut yer jacksy in half."
As I read, I was struck repeatedly with the thought, "Wow. This man can write." There are tons of writers who can tell a good story, but Mal Peet has a particularly affecting way with words.
All things considered, I can appreciate Life: An Exploded Diagram
But did I really enjoy
? That's a different story. My major issue is that I sincerely feel that this is an adult novel. The vast majority of the characters are adults. The narrator is an adult, reflecting back on a certain period in his teen years. The issues and themes that many of the adults dealt with felt completely out of place in a YA novel. When the story focused in on Clem and Frankie's teenage forbidden love, it felt a little more YA, but then the ending wandered back into adult territory again.
And does the YA/Adult distinction matter so much? Perhaps not. But. It just won a round in the Battle of the Kids
' Books. And this is not a book I would hand to most kids.
The overall mood of the story felt gloomy to me. Every scene I envisioned was brown, gray, and dreary. I found myself looking forward to the scenes with the different political leaders during the Cuban Missile Crisis because those were the only passages that hinted at any action. And because I thought Peet's sense of humor really came through as he described different conversations and reflections that were had by Kennedy, Castro, and Kruschhev.
And the end. What in the world happened there? Bizarre.
If you've read Life: An Exploded Diagram
, I would love
to talk to you about it. Please leave a comment and let me know!Recommendation:I would recommend Life to mature readers who appreciate adult, literary fiction or historical fiction.
Oh, BOB Lovers... This Battle of the Kids' Books is just not good for my heart! After the first round's losses (I'm still grieving Doug Swieteck), Round 2 came back and dealt yet another blow.
What started out as better than I had dared to hope (Between Shades of Gray advances to Round 3!)
, quickly dissolved into more anguish over the dismissal of Daughter of Smoke and Bone
. Winning the other two matches were Drawing From Memory
and Life: An Exploded Diagram
. Both wins surprised me, but I wasn't too crazy about either of their opponents so... I chose to just keep dwelling on the carnage of DoSaB
All of this means that the BOB Final Four
comes down to:Between Shades of Gray
vs Chime (the winner of the round was actually just revealed this morning, but since this post is just about Round 2, here's a hint: Wahooooooooo!)Drawing From Memory
vs Life: An Exploded Diagram
But do you want to hear the really, really exciting part? We are only two days away from the reveal of (cue spooky music here)
... The Winner of the Undead Poll.
If you're not familiar with the BOB, the Peanut Gallery (that's all of us!)
can vote on their favorite Contender prior to the first round. The book with the most votes comes back from the Dead for the final battle aka The Big Kahuna Round. I feel fairly confident that the Undead will arise in the form of a) Okay for Now
or b) Daughter of Smoke and Bone
. Then again... I've been wrong a lot lately, so I'll say a little book-prayer for them both, just in case!
The Best Book Event of the Year is baaaaack!And is that artwork not fantastic? Mark Tuchman is a genius.
For those of you who aren't familiar, each year a team from School Library Journal puts together an epic competition where many of the best Children's and YA books from the past year have to battle it out to determine an ultimate champion. Last year's Big Kahuna Round had Okay for Now and Between Shades of Gray as two of the top three; it doesn't get much better than that (although Daughter of Smoke and Bone should have made it to the end!).
But this is a whole new year! When I first saw the 2013 Contenders
, I was dismayed to learn that I had only read ONE out of SIXTEEN. That is shameful, book lovers. But then I just hurried up and requested the rest from my lovely local library, and now I've got four down (with twelve to go... yikes!). Want to see a full list of Contenders without clicking over? Your wish is my command:
- Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
- Wonder by RJ Palacio
- Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
- Titanic by Deborah Hopkinson
- Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
- Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
- Temple Grandin by Sy Montgomery
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh
- Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
- Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
- Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
- Moonbird by Philip Hoose
- Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
- No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheax Nelson
- The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This might be a bit premature, seeing as how I still have twelve titles left to read... but I'm having a hard time envisioning a final three that doesn't include The Fault in Our Stars
and Code Name Verity
. What do you think, book lovers? Do you have any favorites on the list? Are as many new to you as they were to me?
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson, Scholastic Press, 2012, 304 pp, ISBN: 0545116740
We all know the story of the Titanic. The beauty of Deborah Hopkinson's new take is that the reader actually becomes acquainted with a number of "voices from the disaster."
I am generally not a reader of nonfiction. Except for that very special time once a year... Battle of the Books
time! SLJ's BOB invariably features a number of the year's best nonfiction titles. Sometimes they knock my socks off (Amelia Lost, I'm looking at you)
and other times, not so much. But I'm always grateful for the push to delve into a genre that I tend to neglect.
One of the strong selling points of Titanic: Voices from the Disaster
was the first-person accounts woven throughout each chapter. I actually feel fairly well acquainted with Jack Thayer, who endured hours balancing on top of the slowly sinking "Collapsible B" with perhaps 20 other men. Violet Jessup was another favorite, the selfless stewardess who not only survived the sinking on the "unsinkable ship," but went on to survive the sinking of the Britannic, Titanic's sister ship, several years later.
The full page graphics throughout the book helped bring the story to life, and also made it a fairly quick read. I can picture students becoming immersed in the images as they research the disaster.
While I wouldn't call Titanic a "must read," it is an impeccably researched account of one of the most well-known disasters in history. I would eagerly push Hopkinson's latest into the hands of any child who was researching the Titanic.
BOB Prediction:Titanic is up against Code Name Verity in the first round. My apologies to the crew, but I'm pretty sure this ship is destined to sink again.
I have been very busy this week with non-bloggy things - sitting for a grandchild; following my Dad from the hospital to Rehab to another room in Rehab; catching up on Committee work for my worship community; and reading.
Ah, reading... It is a salve to my weary - and sometimes restless - soul. Over at Battle of the (Kid's) Books, you can now vote for the one book in the entire contest that you want to return to the Final Round if it gets voted off. I LOVE this part of BoB because sometimes a worthy book falls short of a worthy judge's expectations. Ya know what I mean? Judges are human.
Here is how my reading and Battle of the Kids' Books stands. I have ONE book yet to read in the first match-up of Round One. I need to get hold of Bomb! by Steve Sheinkin before March 12th.
In the next set of match-ups, I have to read two books, Endangered
by Eliot Schrefer and Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage.
Round one continues, and I must read Starry River of the Sky
by Grace Lin.
In the next set of four contestants, I haven't read THREE of the books; Moonbird
by Philip Hoose, Seraphina
by Rachel Hartman
AND No Crystal Stair
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.
Some very heavy reading will be going on in this house.
If you would like to see all the books in the competition, and by elimination the books I've already read, click here
I've voted for MY Undead Choice. It was a close call. Join in the fun, today.
Check out Bob's post on Comic Con New York over at the Capstone blog! (And don't forget — over at Capstone Connect, every Friday is Fiction Friday. Join us!)
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One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Amistad, 2010, 224 pp, ISBN: 0060760885
When Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are shipped all the way across the country to spend the summer with the mother who abandoned them, they have absolutely no idea what they're in for.
Some time in the past six years, their mother Cecile has changed her name to Nzila, and she wastes no time in letting the girls know that she doesn't want them anywhere near her home.
Because the only thing Nzila will feed them is air sandwiches - "Go on back to the room. Open your mouths, and catch one." - the girls go down to the People's Center every morning for breakfast, and end up staying for Black Panther summer camp.
Even though, according to Vonetta, "We didn't come for the revolution. We came for breakfast," the girls end up getting a powerful education regarding Huey Newton, Lil' Bobby, and what Power to the People really means.
It might be one crazy summer, but it's a summer these sisters will never forget. Surely is.
Review:You know how some books just get so much hype that there's no way they could ever live up to it? One Crazy Summer is not that book. All of my expectations? Exceeded.
Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are each completely their own person with very distinct personalities. At the same time, no three sisters were ever closer.
"When my sisters and I speak, one right after the other, it's like a song we sing, a game we play. We never need to pass signals. We just fire off rat-a-tat-tat-tat. Delphine. Vonetta. Fern."
Even Cecile quickly became one of my favorite characters - regardless of the fact that she seemed completely disinterested in her own daughters. With her crazy get-ups, strange penchant for shrimp lo mein, and stubborn refusal to call Fern anything but "little girl," I just couldn't get enough
has taken an incredibly turbulent, pivotal time in our nation's history, a
While others spend months eagerly anticipating the Superbowl or NBA championships... I get all hot and bothered over SLJ's The Battle of the Kids Books! This March-Madness-bracket-style-tournament is just way too much fun to follow. Not only do your favorite books of the past year duke it out against each other, each day's winner is decided by a different author and then eloquently defended by said author. These are typically my favorite reviews of the entire year.
I'm thrilled that the list of contenders is out now
because I'm going to make darn sure I read every single one before the battle begins.
And if Between Shades of Gray
doesn't win... someone will pay. Unless A Monster Calls
wins. Ok, who am I kidding? I've only read 4 out of 16 books on the list! Lots of catching up to do... What about you, book lovers?? Which of the contenders
gets your vote?!
Drawing from Memory by Allen Say, Scholastic Press, 2011, 72 pp, ISBN: 0545176867Recap:Allen Say uses photographs, cartoons, paintings, and of course, words to illustrate an autobiographical look at his early years as an artist.
Review:When was the last time you met a twelve-year-old who lived on his own in an apartment in a huge city? Probably never, right? Well that was real life for Allen Say.
Say had always known that he loved to draw, even when it was to the detriment of his school work and strongly discouraged by his own father. But when his grandmother told him that he could live alone in his own apartment if he got into a prestigious middle school, he suddenly got a lot more interested in studying. Once he was living on his own, Say tracked down the famous Japanese cartoonist - Noro Shinpei - and asked him to be his sensei, or mentor. Shinpei agreed, and forever changed the course of Say's life.
It was fascinating to read about an life that was so completely foreign from my own experiences. Independent from his parents, he spent the vast majority of his time with Shinpei, other teachers, or other art students. He was committed - heart and soul - to developing his craft, willing to spend whole months on a single sheet of paper, learning to draw with charcoal.
Not surprising when you consider the fact that Say is an artist, the illustrations are critical in reading and understanding his story. In fact, Drawing From Memory reads almost more like a scrapbook than anything else, with a collage of photographs, archived cartoons, and "drawings from memory" filling in the gaps left by the words.
I picked up Drawing From Memory only because it was a contender in this year's Battle of the Books. While I was presently surprised by how engaging it was, I have to admit I'll be surprised if it makes it out of Round 1 of the BoB. It just seems a little too simple.
Then again, I've yet to read its opponent - The Grand Plan to Fix Everything - so who knows? *Update! I recently finished TGPtFE and wasn't a huge fan... In fact, I think Drawing from Memory now has my vote for this round!
2 Comments on Drawing From Memory, last added: 2/25/2012
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Una Krishnaswami, Illustrated by Abigail Halpin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011, 272 pp, ISBN: 1416995897Recap:Eleven-year-old Dini and her best friend Maddie are in love. They are in love with Dolly Singh, the most beautiful and talented actress/singer/dancer in all of Bollywood. But they have been picking up on signs - signs that only a true fan would notice! - that Dolly is in some kind of trouble. When Dini's family suddenly moves to India, she knows this is her chance to find Dolly and fix everything. The only problem is, she'll be leaving Maddie behind...
Doesn't this book just look adorable? I love the fact that the protagonist is Indian-American and that much of the story takes place in India. That is certainly a country we don't get to see much of in MG or YA literature. And the introduction to Bollywood, complete with song lyrics and descriptions of big dance numbers, was a welcome break from more typical tween obsessions.
Dini and Maddie's friendship was very sweet, and I can envision two little girls giggling over this book together in real life. In fact, it could be a perfect "going away" present for a friend who has to move - proof in print that distance doesn't end friendships!
And I need to mention that the illustrations throughout are just as charming as the cover. I think Abigail Halpin just might be my new favorite artist. Check out this interview
with both Halpin and author Uma Krishnaswami for more images and details on the creation of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything
But... something about this story just didn't sit right with me. The third person narration was a small factor in that I never truly connected with Dini. It was also a little too convenient that Dolly just so happened to be living in the same remote, rural village that Dini had moved to. *Don't worry: That's not really a spoiler. Dini figures it out the day that she moves.*
In fact, all the way through the book, the narrator makes it seem like Dini is having such a hard time "fixing everything" for Dolly, when really everything just kept (very unrealistically)
falling into place.
March is coming in like a lion! This month is full of some crazy, exciting stuff and I do not mean NCAA brackets or The Bachelor finale (although both of those things are awesome, too)
.Crazy, exciting #1
: Middle Grade March Madness at The O.W.L.
! If you love MG, or are looking for great new MG suggestions, then you are in for a treat. Every single day this month The O.W.L. will have a MG review, guest post, giveaway, or some combination of all of the above. And, a guest post/giveaway from Book Love
toward the end of the month :)Crazy, exciting #2: School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books
!!!!! Seriously book lovers, this is some of the best reading and reviewing that you'll see all year. The BOB "Contenders" cover a huge range of genres and reading levels and every single year I find new favorite books that I never would have otherwise read. They definitely don't just stick to award winners, although a few can be found.
The judges for each round of this bracket-style tournament are all authors, and they write Simply Amazing
reviews - comparing the two literary opponents and then defending their winners. This year I am determined to read every single contender before their round in the BoB begins. As of now I've read 8 out 16 so I've still got some great reading ahead of me.
***And don't forget to vote for The Undead before March 11
! We, the Peanut Gallery, get to cast our votes for our favorite contender, so if it is killed off before the Big Kahuna Round, it still has the chance to come back and compete in the end. Please, oh please, oh please let Between Shades of Gray
make it to the end!!!What are you looking forward to this month, book lovers? And which contender do you predict will come out on top in the BoB?
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2011, 608 pp, ISBN: 0545027896Recap:Two very separate lives, decades apart, become inextricably linked through the magic of howling wolves (not werewolves, real wolves!), a great big museum, and a little blue book called Wonderstruck.
Review:The story of Wonderstruck is lovely - a little girl growing up in New Jersey in the 20s, and a little boy growing up in Minnesota in the 70s, are unaware that their lives are being knit closer and closer together with each passing page. Neither have any parents to speak - due to either death or just really bad, dismissive parenting. And both are deaf, and just beginning to learn to communicate with their hands.
I had a few different ideas about how their stories would eventually connect, and I thought that their ultimate resolution was completely satisfying.
But... the real star of this story is the artwork. And that's not just because Brian Selznick creates some truly fantastic illustrations. Obviously, he does that, but the magic of the artwork here is the way that they communicate an entire storyline with almost zero words.A series of illustrations will zoom in and out, so you think you're seeing one thing, but then realize that it's actually only a small part of a much larger scene. And he includes tiny details, so that discerning readers can approach each page as a treasure hunt, searching for clues that will connect back to the story in prose.I remember reading The Inventio
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming, Schwartz and Wade, 2011, 128 pp, ISBN: 0375841989Recap:Amelia Lost traces both the life and the disappearance of one of the world's most renowned fliers: Amelia Earhart. Dispelling myths and including quotes and stories from primary sources, Amelia Lost helps readers to find the truth behind the daredevil
Review:I did not want to read this book. At all. In fact, I probably never would have, except it's the very first contender in the very first round of SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books. And I know that the BOB doesn't do bad books. Plus, it doesn't hurt that Betsy Bird is pretty much obsessed with Amelia Lost. So, I read it.
And guess what? It's actually pretty darn fascinating.
is like two books in one: the white pages give her basic autobiography, from childhood right up until her final flight. These pages are broken up with a number of photographs, news clippings, and anecdotes, all of which made my eyes bounce around like ping pong balls because I could never decide what to read first. Finally, I made a promise to myself that I would finish reading the paragraphs on each page before digesting the yummy little text features sprinkled about.
And you're probably thinking now, "Uh, didn't she say there were two books? What about the second?"
Ahhh, the second story was my favorite. The second story was set apart on gray pages, interspersed throughout the white. It told of Earhart's initial missed landing and the following days of searching - a search that covered 250,000 miles and required today's equivalent of $58 million. A search that - if you know your history - never turned up a body or even a piece of a plane. And the most baffling part of the whole thing? These gray pages of the second story revealed that time and again
regular citizens heard Earhart's cries for help and snatches of a possible landing location via the radio, but they were always ignored
I am definitely not a big biography reader, but both the white story and the gray story had me completely engrossed in the life of Amelia Earhart. All throughout dinner tonight I kept
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, First Second, 2011, 224 pp, ISBN: 1596437138Recap:Anya just wants to blend in. She's lost her Russian accent, lost all kinds of weight, and is scrupulously sure to stay away from Dimi - the other Russian in her class - just to make sure that none of his "fobby-ness" rubs off on her. But Anya is still pretty much a nobody at school.
That is until a ghost follows Anya home. Anya's ghost knows how to raise her grades and grab the attention of her crush. All of a sudden, Anya's life is looking good! But no favors come for free, and this ghost is asking for more than Anya is able to give...Review:Anya's Ghost is a Cybils Winner and a Round 1 Contender in SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books (BoB). So it's got to be good, right?
Eh... I'm not so sure. Let's start with what I liked. The art throughout this graphic novel was outstanding. Honestly, I think Anya's Ghost has the best illustrations of any graphic novel I've read. The moody color palate perfectly matched the tone of the story, and Vera Brosgol did an amazing job of conveying emotion and personal transformation through each tiny square.
I thought the plot had a lot of promise. The ghost was initially completely loveable, and Anya's dismissiveness made me root for her even more. Then Brosgol did a great job of slowly, subtly showing the reader that the ghost isn't quite as innocent as she had made herself out to be. By that point, I had switched over to Team Anya and couldn't wait to see how she would react.
But that's point in the story where, unfortunately, Anya's Ghost started to lose me. A) It left me with a lot of unanswered questions. How did t
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011, 432 pp, ISBN: 0316134023Recap:Karou's past is a mystery - even to herself. She has no idea where the hamsas - devil's eye - tattoos on her palms came from. She has no memory of parents or siblings. The only home she has ever known is Brimstone's shop and her family of chimaera-monsters.
Now 17-years-old, Karou isn't a little girl anymore and she has had to make a home for herself in the human world. But it's almost impossible to make friends when half of your time is spent running through magical portals, collecting teeth for your otherworldly family.
Just when it seems that her life couldn't get any more complicated, Karou meets Akiva. An angel. An angel who almost kills her. And then she falls in love.
Review:Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone opens with perhaps my favorite opening lines, ever. And that is saying a lot:
"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well."Doesn't that just grab you? And really, that could have just been my entire recap. Because this book has a lot going on, but those two lines get at the crux of the whole thing.
Backing up... I've been wanting to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone for a good, long while now. Especially since it was announced as one of the Contenders in SLJ's BoB. But, I was a little wary of the "angel/devil" aspect. I've never read an "angel book." And I actually do believe that angels and demons exist in real life. So, I just wasn't sure how I would react to these fictional forces of good and evil. But as I read Karou and Akiva's story, I quickly came to the conclusion that these angels and demons are, duh, fictional - and nothing like the forces that I believe exist in reality. Once I got past that, I could fully immerse myself in Laini Taylor's wildly imaginative world of "good" versus "evil."
12 Comments on Daughter of Smoke and Bone, last added: 3/13/2012