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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Cybils, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 476 - 500 of 938
476. Unicorns vs Zombies

So you might already have heard that Simon and Schuster is putting out a book (in 2010, a long ways away), entitled, catchily, "Zombies vs Unicorns."

Unicorns. John Green calls them "horned beasts of suck." How this would have hurt my 11 year old self, who loved them passionately (although strangely my unicorn rug, book ends, unwritten in journals, pillowcase, cushion, etc. all failed to make it inside my grown-up house. I think my poor mother is still trying to use up unicorn notepads back at home). Heading up Team Unicorn is Holly Black--here's just one of her arguments: "Unicorns are interesting because there is something to subvert, something to transgress. No one wants to see the zombie transgressed. Well, only crazy people."

Zombies. I just don't much care for the undead. Possibly because, before Pet Cemetery was even written, I had recurring nightmares (well, at least 2) about digging up my dead cat. In the Zombie camp is Justine Larbalestier ("Why Zombies Rule"): "You can fight them off. You can get away. But in the end? Not so much."

Read more about this epic battle here.

2010 is a long time to wait to see which side will prevail. So what, you might ask, is the status of Zombies vs Unicorns this year, now, 2008? Thanks to my position as reader of the 168 or whatever books nominated for the Science Fiction Fantasy Awards, I can answer that question with Hard Data.

In the zombie camp are Zombie Blondes, by Brian James, and Generation Dead, by Daniel Waters. If you are a reader who craves books about Zombie Cheerleaders, 2008 was great great great and will probably never be surpassed. Then there's Playing With Fire, by Derek Landy, the second Skulduggery Pleasant book (is a sentient, "living" skeletal creature a zombie?) There is also an undead hamster from hell (The Curse of Cuddles McGee, by Emily Ecton). He is perhaps more ghost than zombie, although his bones move, instead of staying sweetly in one place, the way a ghost's do, and I have now decided (mainly so that I can include this book) that if your bones move, you're a zombie.

Final count: 4 zombie books (I have read 2)

Unicorns are represented by Dark Whispers, the third book of the Unicorn Chronicles, by Bruce Coville, and Charm for a Unicorn, by Jennifer Macaire. I haven't read either of these; once I do, if I have anything interesting to add, I'll come back and say it.

Final count: 2 unicorn books (I have read 0)

In general, I am on Team Unicorn (although I will of course read the zombie books on the Cybils list with respect and careful consideration). How can one not be. Think of some of the classic books with unicorns, like Elidor, by Alan Garner, or The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis, or even (although it's not really a favorite of mine) The Last Unicorn, by Peter Beagle. Now think of the powerful, beautiful, moving books with zombies, books destined never to fall out of print. I can't think of any. But maybe my parents, busily buying me unicorn notepaper, kept such darkness from me... Read the rest of this post

7 Comments on Unicorns vs Zombies, last added: 11/28/2008
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477. Easy Reader Review: Spring is Here! A Story About Seeds by Joan Holub

Another book up for consideration in the Cybils Easy Reader category is this pre-level 1 offering by Joan Holub. According to the level chart on the back of the book, a Pre-Level 1 reader (as defined by publisher Simon and Schuster) is as easy reading as one can get, focusing on word repetition, familiar words and phrases, and simple sentences. With only 21 pages and 97 words, author Joan Holub

0 Comments on Easy Reader Review: Spring is Here! A Story About Seeds by Joan Holub as of 11/18/2008 10:10:00 AM
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478. Cybils Book Review - Boys of Steel

What does it take to bring superhero to life? In Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, readers learn that imagination and perseverance both were essential in giving America, and the world, its very first superhero.

Superman debuted in 1938, at a time when the Great Depression had lasted nearly a decade, and the world was teetering on the brink of war. If there was ever a time when people were looking for a fantasy hero, this was it. However, Superman's story began long before that date of publication.

When the book opens we meet Jerry Siegel, a shy kid with glasses who preferred books, and movies to the real world.
But Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers were fictional characters. They saved other fictional characters in pulp magazines and comic strips. They couldn't save anyone in the real world, where millions of people were struggling to find jobs during the Great Depression of the 1930s. They couldn't save Jerry's father, who died of heart failure during an after-hours robbery in his clothing store in Cleveland.
Not only did Jerry immerse himself in these fantastical worlds, but he also let his imagination wander, writing his own adventure and fiction stories. The retro- comic-style illustrations by MacDonald perfectly fit the subject matter. In the page that describes Jerry's love for writing, he is depicted working at his typewriter, while a group of boys plays ball outside his window. It's clear that Jerry doesn't fit in. He doesn't share the interests of other boys. However, there is one boy who is so like him that they "could've passed for brothers."

Joe Shuster was also a boy who enjoyed the worlds found in comic strips and pulp fiction. Like Jerry he was shy and not athletic. While Jerry created stories with words, Joe created them with pictures. He often spent his time at the kitchen table, drawing his ideas. Like Jerry, he had a difficult home life. When his family couldn't afford art paper, he made due with the back discarded wallpaper or wrapping paper from the butcher shop. In the winter when the family's apartment was cold because it had no heat, he drew "while bundled in several sweaters, one or two coats--even gloves."

Joe often illustrated Jerry's stories. Joe had a plan to to work with Jerry to develop a new character and comic strip, one that they could perhaps sell to a newspaper. Their first attempt centered on a man who fought for truth and justice. When the first publisher said no to the idea, Joe tore up the pages in disappointment.

In 1934, during a fitful night of sleep, Jerry woke to record his ideas for a new hero. A double page spread with a series of story boxes (4 on a page) shows Jerry in his pajamas while the hero in his head begins to take form. The hero would be strong, an alien (though he would look human), capable of leaping so high it would look as though he were flying, full of confidence, and a man with a secret identity. Early in the morning, Jerry ran to Joe's house to share his ideas. He looked over Joe's shoulder as he sketched. Jerry sketched all day, and finally their hero was created on paper. They put an "S" on his costume, for super, but also for Siegel and Shuster.

Joe and Jerry spent more than three years trying to sell their Superman idea. Finally, a man who was publishing a new type of magazine (a comic book), said yes. The Superman comic book was an enormous success. Joe and Jerry's superhero moved from comic books to radio, cartoons, books and movies. He even ended up on television.

The story ends this way.
Some people look up in the sky and see a bird or a plane, but nothing beyond. In the trying days of yesteryear, Jerry and Joe looked up and saw a star that no one had discovered before. They brought him to Earth and watched him become a superstar.

And today, on every story where his name appears, theirs do, too.
While the text itself ends on a happy note, Joe and Jerry's story is not nearly as rosy. Because they believed they might not have another chance to publish their story, they sold it and all the rights to the character for $130.00. Joe and Jerry did not get profits from the continuing sale of Superman stories, though they were employees of the company that is now DC comics and were well paid. When they asked for royalties, they were denied. In 1947, they sued DC for 5 million dollars and the rights to Superman and lost their suit. DC did offer them $100,000 to surrender all claims, which they did. Upon doing so, they were fired.

The author's note is extensive and continues to describe the difficulties that Joe and Jerry faced. In 1975, upon hearing that Warner Bros. Studies has paid DC 3 million dollars for the rights to make a Superman movie, Jerry began a letter-writing campaign. He told the story of how DC ruined their lives and got rich off their creation. There's more to the story, and to this day, negotiations with the families are still ongoing.

This dark part of their story is not told in the illustrated text, but it needn't be. Readers will be inspired enough by the story of how two young men came to create one of the greatest superheroes of all time. Overall, this biography is well-written, perfectly illustrated, and quite engaging. I highly recommend it.

Book: Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman
Marc Tyler Nobleman
Ross MacDonald
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Date Published:
40 pages
Source of Book:
Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

If you want to use this in the classroom, don't miss the teachers guide. (Hey, I know it looks wrong (it IS wrong), but that's how Random House spells it!)

Other Reviews - Fuse #8
Interviews - Read this fab interview with Nobleman at Guys Lit Wire. (Thanks, Jules!)

4 Comments on Cybils Book Review - Boys of Steel, last added: 12/1/2008
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479. The City in the Lake

http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif The City in the Lake, by Rachel Neumeier (2008, Alfred A. Knopf, 294 pp).

There is a city on the shores of a lake, where live a king and his beloved son, the heart of the country. Within the waters of the lake lies another city, much more than a reflection of what is real. And Neill, the bastard, the king's other, older, son, stops one evening on the bridge, to watch for its appearance...to see if the carved stone tigers come alive in the water.

In a village far from the city, Timou has grown up in peace, learning to be a mage from her distant but loving father. But her peace is shattered when her father disappears, echoing the mysterious disappearance of the king's own son and the desolation that has befallen the kingdom. She leaves her home to find answers, journying through the Forest, into the city, and past its walls into the city in the lake. And the answers she finds, that bind her to Neill and to the fate of the kingdom, are a maze of magic and danger spun by an ancient sorceress--"an echo in a old story. A name in a history older than the Kingdom."

But another young man, who loves Timou, has followed her into the enchanted forest. There he faces a power strong enough to defeat the ancient evil that has awoken, a power that might claim him forever.

This is a lovely story, beautifully told. It is a slow read, in the best sense of the term, because to rush through it would be to waste its wealth of detail. Fans of Patricia McKillip, in particular, will love it; the cadence of the prose, and the sense of history, mystery, old magic, and things seen at the edge of sight that characterize McKillip are also to be found here.

As well as all that, one of the things that I personally really liked about the book is that the main characters are all people I would enjoy knowing in real life. This could be a sign of my own mental weakness, but I so much prefer to read about people I can care deeply about. So in a nutshell, here you have lovely world-making, people I like, and a satisfying plot.

The City in the Lake has been nominated for the Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. My co-panelist Nettle also this book today (I just read it, wanting to wait until after I wrote my own). And here are a few more reviews, at The Well Read Child, at Book Obsession, and at Elizabeth Bunce's blog

0 Comments on The City in the Lake as of 11/16/2008 6:37:00 PM
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480. Cybils 2008 Nominees: Fantasy and Science Fiction - middle/elementary

Although I'm not a part of the Cybils Fantasy/Science Fiction team this year, I'm still following it closely, and not just because a book I published (Ratha's Courage) is a nominee. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I love YA fantasy and science fiction, and I love the Cybils, so I'm watching this with more excitement and anticipation than Christmas Eve. I've read so many of these books, and there are others that I'd love to read. The nominating panelists have a really tough job ahead of them!

Here are the 2008 nominees for Fantasy and Science Fiction in the middle/elementary age group:

39 Clues
written by Rick Riordan

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

written by Eoin Colfer

Best Friend for Claudia
written by Beatrice Weinberg Katz

Boots and Pieces
written by Emily Ecton
Simon & Schuster

Boy of All Time
written by Che Dee
Calderwood Books

Cabinet of Wonders
written by Marie Rutkoski

Reviewed by: Nettle |

Dark Legacy
written by K. G. McAbee
Calderwood Books

Dark Whispers
written by Bruce Coville

Diamond of Darkhold
written by Jeanne DuPrau
Random House Children's Books

Dinosaur Blackout
written by Judith Silverthorne

Dragon Flight
written by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury USA

Escape the Mask
written by David Ward

written by Gail Carson Levine

Reviewed by: tcr |

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague
written by Brandon Mull
Shadow Mountain

written by Jason Carter Eaton

Family Matters
written by Kristin Sheley

Farworld: Water Keep
written by J. Scott Savage
Shadow Mountain

Fish and Sphinx
written by Rae Bridgman
Great Plains Publications

Flora's Dare
written by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Girl Who Could Fly
written by Victoria Forester
Feiwel & Friends

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | Charlotte |

Gods of Manhattan
written by Scott Mebus
Dutton Juvenile

Graveyard Book
written by Neil Gaiman

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Grim Hill: The Secret Deepens
written by Linda DeMeulemeester
Lobster Press

Gypsy Crown
written by Kate Forsyth

Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go
written by Dale E. Basye
Random House Children's Books

House of Many Ways
written by Diana Wynne Jones
Greenwillow Books

written by Cornelia Funke

Kaimira: The Sky Village
written by Monk Ashland
and Nigel Ashland
Candlewick Press

written by D. M. Cornish
Penguin USA

Land Beyond the Clouds
written by Valerie Bishop
Light Publishing

Magic and Other Misdemeanors (The Sisters Grimm, Book 5)
written by Michael Buckley

Magic Thief
written by Sarah Prineas

Reviewed by: Charlotte | Nettle |

Mary Lamb Enters the World of Maze
written by F. T. Botham

written by Elise Broach
Henry Holt

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Misty Forest Fables
written by Acrid Hermit
Fauna Trek

Monks in Space
written by David Jones
Annick Press

Once Upon a Time in the North
written by Philip Pullman
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Order of Odd-Fish
written by James Kennedy
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Other Side of the Island
written by Allegra Goodman
Penguin USA

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat
written by Chris Riddell

Out of the Wild
written by Sarah Beth Durst
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: Nettle |

Palace of Mirrors
written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster

Philippa Fisher's Fairy Godsister
written by Liz Kessler
Candlewick Press

written by Jaqlyn Von Eger

written by Angie Sage

Remarkable and Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap
written by H. M. Bouwman
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books

Ring Dragonz
written by Mister Rengerz
Helm Publishing

Robe of Skulls
written by Vivian French
Candlewick Press

Reviewed by: Charlotte | Nettle |

written by Joanne Harris
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

written by Ingrid Law
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

Seer of Shadows
written by Avi

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

Shadow Diamond
written by S Brooke

Sisters of the Sword
written by Maya Snow

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire
written by Derek Landy

Softwire: Betrayal on Orbis 2
written by PJ Haarsma
Candlewick Press

The Curse of Cuddles McGee

Things That Are
written by Andrew Clements

written by Helen Lowe
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Nettle |

Travelers Market
written by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Idylls Press

Tygrine Cat
written by Inbali Iserles
Candlewick Press

written by Ellen Booraem

Warriors Power of Three: Eclipse
written by Erin Hunter

Well Witched
written by Frances Hardinge

Wild Magic
written by Cat Weatherill
Walker Books for Young Readers

Winter Wood
written by Steve Augarde
Random House Children's Books

2 Comments on Cybils 2008 Nominees: Fantasy and Science Fiction - middle/elementary, last added: 11/16/2008
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481. Cybils 2008 Nominees: Fantasy and Science Fiction: Teen

I just posted the list of Cybils 2008 nominees for Fantasy and Science Fiction: middle and elementary here. Now, here's the list of nominees for Fantasy and Science Fiction: Teen:

Adoration of Jenna Fox
written by Mary E. Pearson

Reviewed by: lainitaylor | Nettle |

written by Cliff McNish
Lerner Publishing Group

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

written by Heather Tomlinson
Henry Holt

Battle of the Labyrinth
written by Rick Riordan

Bewitching Season
written by Marissa Doyle
Henry Holt

Bite Me
written by Parker Blue
Bell Bridge

written by Lauren Myracle
Abrams for Young Readers

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | Nettle |

Book of Names
written by D. Barkley Briggs
NavPress Publishing Group

Breaking Dawn
written by Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | tcr |

written by Christopher Paolini
Random House Children's Books

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

written by Robin McKinley
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Charm for a Unicorn
written by Jennifer Macaire
Calderwood Books

Cherry Heaven
written by L. J. Adlington

Reviewed by: tcr |

City in the Lake
written by Rachel Neumeier
Random House Children's Books

City of Ashes
written by Cassandra Clare
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | tcr |

Crimson Thread
written by Suzanne Weyn
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Curse Dark as Gold
written by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | Nettle | tcr |

Cybele's Secret
written by Juliet Marillier
Knopf Books for Young Readers

written by Lauren McLaughlin
Random House Children's Books

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

written by Stephanie Spinner
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Nettle |

Dead and the Gone
written by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Dead Girl Walking
written by Linda Singleton

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Dead Is the New Black
written by Marlene Perez

written by Simon Holt
Little, Brown

Reviewed by: Nettle |

written by Charles de Lint
Penguin USA

Dragon Heir, The
written by Cinda Williams Chima

Dream Girl
written by Lauren Mechling
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Nettle |

written by Claudia Gray

written by Jenny Davidson

First Duty
written by Marva Dasef
Sam's Dot Publishing

written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Generation Dead
written by Daniel Waters

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | Nettle | tcr |

Ghosts of Kerfol
written by Deborah Noyes
Candlewick Press

written by Kristin Cashore

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

How to Ditch Your Fairy
written by Justine Larbalestier
Bloomsbury USA

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | Charlotte |

Humming of Numbers
written by Joni Sensel
Henry Holt

Hunger Games, The
written by Suzanne Collins

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | tcr |

written by Nancy Werlin
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: Nettle | tcr |

Penguin USA

In the Company of Whispers
written by Sally Lowenstein
Lion Stone Books

Ink Exchange
written by Melissa Marr

Invisible Touch
written by Kelly Parra

Knife of Never Letting Go
written by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press

Lament:The Faerie Queen's Deception
written by Maggie Stiefvater

Last of the High Kings, The
written by Kate Thompson

written by Tom Becker
Franklin Watts

Little Brother
written by Cory Doctorow

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | Nettle |

Lonely Werewolf Girl
written by Martin Millar
Soft Skull Press

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
written by Michael Scott
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Masks Rise of Heroes
written by Haydon Thorne

Melting Stones
written by Tamora Pierce

written by Marilee Brothers
Bell Bridge

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
written by Nahoko Uehashi

Must Love Black
written by Kelly McClymer
Simon & Schuster

written by Terry Pratchett

Night Road
written by A. M. Jenkins

Night World No. 1 : Secret Vampire/Daughters of Darkness/Spellbinder
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: tcr |

Nobody's Prize
written by Esther Friesner
Random House Children's Books

written by William Nicholson

Oh. My. Gods.
written by Tera Lynn Childs
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: tcr |

Other Book
written by Philip Womack
Bloomsbury USA

written by Obert Skye
Shadow Mountain

Poison Ink
written by Christopher Golden
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Nettle |

Posse of Princesses
written by Sherwood Smith
Norilana Books

Pretty Monsters
written by Kelly Link
illustrated by Shaun Tan
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: tcr |

Princess Ben
written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Houghton Mifflin

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Ranger's Apprentice: The Battle for Skandia
written by John Flanagan
Penguin USA

Ratha's Courage
written by Clare Bell
Imaginator Press

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Red Necklace
written by Sally Gardner

written by Gemma Malley
Bloomsbury USA

written by Amanda Marrone
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: Nettle | tcr |

written by Catherine Fisher
Hodder Children's Books

Saving Juliet
written by Suzanne Selfors
Walker Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Secret of Bailey's Chase
written by Marlis Day
Echelon Press

Secrets of the Survivors
written by Mark L. Eastburn

Sky Inside
written by Clare Dunkle
Simon & Schuster

written by Kenneth Oppel
Harper Collins Canada

Stone Crown
written by Malcolm Walker
Walker Books Australia

Stowaway: Stone of Tymora, Book I
written by R.A. Salvatore
and Geno Salvatore

Stranger to Command
written by Sherwood Smith
Norilana Books

Sucks to Be Me
written by Kimberly Pauley

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | tcr |

Summoning, The
written by Kelly Armstrong

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
written by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury USA

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Swan Kingdom
written by Zoe Marriott
Candlewick Press

written by Carol Snow

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Tender Morsels
written by Margo Lanagan
Random House Children's Books

Tim, Defender of the Earth
written by Sam Enthoven
Penguin USA

Time Paradox
written by Eoin Colfer

Treason in Eswy
written by K. V. Johansen
Orca Books

Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 2: Sea of Wind
written by Fuyumi Ono

Two Pearls of Wisdom
written by Alison Goodman

Untamed: A House of Night Novel
written by PC Cast
and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin

Vampire Academy: Frostbite
written by Richelle Mead
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: tcr |

written by Lisa McMann
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: tcr |

Wild Talent

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Worldweavers: Spellspam
written by Alma Alexander

Zoe's Tale
written by John Scalzi

Zombie Blondes
written by Brian James
Feiwel & Friends

1 Comments on Cybils 2008 Nominees: Fantasy and Science Fiction: Teen, last added: 11/16/2008
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482. Kids's graphic novel day with my pals

Ricky Ricotta and his Mighty Robot by Dav Pilkey
Magic Pickle by Scott Morse
Korgi by Christian Slade
Little Vampire by Joann Sfar
Knights of the Lunch Table by Frank Cammuso
Kaput & Zosky by Lewis Trondheim with Eric Cartier
Stinky by Eleanor Davis

Well, hello guys.
Prosper (8), Mao (7), Zhou (5), and Wendy Darling (5): Hello.
YNL: Happy Professional Development Day to you.
Prosper: Thank you.
YNL: So, you guys have been reading ALL DAY. Anything you've noticed about the books you've been reading?
Wendy Darling: They're comic books.
Prosper: They're all chapter books.
Mao: ANNND... the Ricky Ricotta books, all of them have the last line "That's what friends are for"!
Zhou: I noticed that they're all good. Magic Pickle is good.
YNL: Which one did you like the best?
Zhou: All the Ricky Ricotta books that we read.
Wendy Darling: The Ricky Ricotta.
Mao: I'd really say Ricky Ricotta's Might Robot vs. the Jurassic Jackrabbits.
Zhou: I would say two things: Ricky Ricotta's Might Robot vs. the Jurassic Jackrabbits and Magic Pickle.
Prosper: I kind of liked Kaput and Zosky.

YNL: What do you think about the art?
Prosper: The what?
Wendy Darling (his little sister): The pictures!
Mao: The art in Magic Pickle is really good. Because it's like comics and I like comics because they have like little squares of action.
YNL: Do the little squares do anything for you?
Mao: It's just like saying "Here's this, here's that, in this order."
Prosper: I like it because it really looks like a pickle.
YNL: So more realistic is better?
Mao: Speaking of pickles, can we have one?
Prosper: The drawings in Kaput & Zosky are pretty good but they're not perfect, but they don't have to be perfect to be a really good comic. I think the words have to be perfect.
YNL: So the words in Kaput & Zosky are perfect?
Prosper: Kind of. [lost reading again]

YNL: Hey, [Prosper], that page doesn't have words at all!
Prosper: Actually doesn't have to have words to be great. Look at this, [Mao] - he's walking along he meets this guy he shoots him, he's walking along he meets this guy he shoots him, he's walking along he meets this guy he shoots him, he's walking along he meets this guy he shoots him, he's walking along he meets this guy he shoots him...
Boys: Aww haww haww! That's great!
YNL: And that's funny.
Mao: Yeah
Prosper: Uh huh
YNL: How come?
Mao: Because it's like he keeps on shooting people and then someone else shoots HIM. that's the funny part.
Prosper: Look at this: [narrates a wordless page] Yay! Ha la lala, and then he gets out and he's like 'What the?' and dee dee dee, BLAM [hee hee hee] and then Oooh! Weee!

YNL: Ok guys. Here's Korgi.
Wendy Darling: I liked Korgi.
YNL: What did you like about it, little girl?
Wendy Darling: Because the girl was brave.
YNL: What about they way she's drawn? here's Kaput & Zosky, which art do you like better?
Wendy Darling: Kaput & Zosky. I like the color.

Mao: Little Vampire was good, because he threw up the guy that the monsters ate when he wanted to do kung fu to him, and in the end he was brung back to life and he was giant.
YNL: So you liked that there was a lot of surprises?
Mao: And I liked that there was chemicals involved, and the chemicals, they made him forget about what's happened, and they made him normal size again.
YNL: Do you wish you had a chemical like that?
Mao: Yeah!
Prosper: Why?
Mao: So I could make people forget everything and become tiny.
Prosper: What about if you shrunk somebody who was only this big, then they'd be a milliperson!
YNL: Hey, Kaput & Zosky: It seems like these guys are kind of mean.
Prosper: Why?
YNL: Why? Because they shoot everyone all the time?
Prosper: Heh heh
Mao: Actually that never occurred to me, because the red guy is always like SHOOT SOMEBODY! and the other guy is always like 'Wait, first we have to make sure nobody's around' - so they're really opposite!
YNL: Is that opposite?
Mao: Wellll, they THINK opposite but they have the same goals.
YNL: What's their goal?
Mao: Their goal is to go in charge of every single planet.

YNL: How about Stinky: did you like it?
Everyone: Yes.
YNL: There's no shooting in it...
Mao: No. But there is trying to get rid in it.
[And they're lost again. Prosper has Stinky, Wendy Darling is reading Korgi, Zhou has Ricky Ricotta, and Mao is into Kaput & Zosky]
YNL: Should I leave you guys alone to read?
Prosper: Yes.
Mao: Yes.
Zhou: Yes.

2 Comments on Kids's graphic novel day with my pals, last added: 11/19/2008
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483. Ratha's Courage

One of the great things of having a reading list with more than 160 book on it is finding yourself reading, and enjoying, books you wouldn't have picked out for yourself (yet strangely this didn't happen with many of my high school reading lists). One such book is Ratha's Courage, by Clare Bell, the fifth book of the Named series (2008, Imaginator Press). This book could be described as Watership Down Meets Clan of the Cave Bear (only with prehistoric cats as the main characters, and a different plot, feel, and style from either, she adds helpfully). But seriously. Watership Down is the only "sentient animals as characters" book I love, and Clan of the Cave Bear was amazingly successful at capturing prehistoric life, and Ratha's Courage works for me in similar way.

Ratha is the leader of a clan of prehistoric, sentient cats, who has led her people into a settled existence as herders rather than hunters, with fire tamed to serve them. But this peace is threatened when delicate diplomatic relations with another clan of hunter cats collapse...for the hunters share a group mind, and how can one society, that prizes the contributions of each individual, coexist with another in which the song of tradition dictates every action?

After a few doubts about sharing a story with sentient cats, I found myself swept into Ratha's world. I hadn't read any of the previous books, but this was not an issue. The cats became real characters in my mind, and their problems were gripping.

Ratha's Courage has an interesting publishing history. The first four books were written in the 1980s and 1990s, and this book was written 14 years later, when the first four were reissued. But due to publishing issues, it didn't see daylight until an independent publisher, Imaginator Press, took it on. I see in the front of the book that other new Ratha books have been written, and I am a tad surprised (given that I still don't consider myself a fan of sentient animal books) at how much interest I have in reading them....and, of course, in going back to books 1-4.

But it will have to wait, because, like I said, I have this reading list--all the wonderful, sweet, strange, and fascinating books nominated for the Cybils Awards in the science fiction/fantasy category (which you can see here).

3 Comments on Ratha's Courage, last added: 11/16/2008
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484. Easy Reader Review: I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems

One of the nominees for the Cybils Award in the Easy Reader category is this funny offering by Sesame Street scribe turned children's book legend, Mo Willems. Willems was the recipient of the 2008 Theodore Geisel Award for There is a Bird On Your Head, which also features Gerald Elephant and Piggie. In "Surprise", Gerald and Piggie observe a squirrel playing a hide and seek trick on a friend,

0 Comments on Easy Reader Review: I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems as of 11/11/2008 10:37:00 AM
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485. In the Company of Whispers

I just finished In the Company of Whispers, by Sallie Lowenstein (2008, Lion Stone Books, 360 pp). I am shaking a little, and sniffing. Oh my gosh. I don't think a book has had this much emotional effect on me since I first read Lois Lowry's The Giver* a few years ago.

In the Company of Whispers is a dystopia, set in the Greater East Coast Metropolis in 2047. The roaches are doing well; people, less so. Zeyya comes home one day to find her apartment sealed, yellow quarantine tape across the door, and no parents. Ever again. She takes refuge with her grandmother, in what might be the last single family house in the hellish city. And there she meets Jonah, whose intricate tattoos apparently let him commune with his ancestors...who says he is from another place, another people, for whom the past is always present.

Zeyya's story is interspersed with flashbacks to her grandmother's childhood in Burma, told with pictures, letters, and quotations from historical and contemporary accounts of Burma. For the first half of the book, I found this distracting, and I wasn't quite sure I was going to like the book in general. But then, as I let myself simply take it in, I began to understand the point--the intersections of past and present, love and loss that are at the heart of the stories.

And somewhere past page 250 I began to cry off and on as I read...but I was careful not to let any tears actually fall on the book itself, for this book, qua book, is a thing of beauty. It is heavy and luxuriant, the pages are glossy, the reproductions of old photographs beautiful. And I think these choices in book-making serve the story well.

In the Company of Whispers
is beautiful (and I'll add a picture of the cover when I get a new mouse...)

This book has been nominated for the Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category, and I'd like to thank the publisher, Lion Stone Books, for sending each of us panelists a review copy.

Here are two other reviews, at Wands and Worlds, and at Becky's Book Reviews.

*Other reasons why I am reminded of The Giver, besides the dystopian part and the focus on the transmission of memories, are the obvious similarities of character name (Jonah here and Jonas there), and also the important role played by a wooden sled...

9 Comments on In the Company of Whispers, last added: 11/14/2008
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486. Cybils Book Review - Wangari's Trees of Peace

Can one person make a difference in this world? If people believe in what you do and follow your example, can/will change occur? One need only read Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, for an unequivocal yes. Wangari Maathai, the 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is the subject of this picture book biography. Written in clear, simple text, and accompanied by vibrant acrylic illustrations, readers learn the story of the woman behind the Green Belt Movement.

Imagine living in a world filled with lush green trees, forests filled with birds, and fields ripe with food for harvest. Imagine leaving that world for the opportunities an education would bring. Imagine returning home to find a world that looks completely different. This is what happened to Wangari.

After six years of study in the United States, Wangari returned to her home in the shadow of Mount Kenya to find that the trees were gone. Where women once collected firewood from close to home, these changes in the landscape now meant they had to walk miles away to find it. There were no longer crops to feed the people, and the birds had disappeared.

The trees in Kenya were cut down to make room for buildings, but new trees were never planted in their place.
Wangari thinks about the barren land.
I can begin to replace some of the lost trees
here in my own backyard--one tree at a time.
She starts by planting nine seedlings.

Watching the seedlings take root gives Wangari
the idea to plant more--
to start a farm for baby trees, a nursery.
In an open space, she plants row after row
of the tiny trees.
Wangari recruited women of the village and gave them seedlings to plant. She shared her vision for a better future, one in which the land was green. Wangari and her women kept planting, even in the face of those who mocked them. Wangari paid them for the seedlings that lived past three months. As the green returned to Wangari's village, women in other parts of Kenya began to plant seedlings too.

Despite all these efforts, the cutting continued. When Wangari placed herself between a stand of mature trees and those who would cut it down, she was beaten and taken to prison. However, the movement to plant trees continued, and the green returned to Kenya. Not only did new trees take root, but the land became rich again with crops.

In page after page we see seedlings being planted and how the landscape begins to change. Near the end of the book, an illustration of the earth with Wangari and her trees firmly planted in Africa is accompanied by the text, "The whole world hears of Wangari's trees and of her army of women who planted them." The book ends full of hope and beauty, as we see the view from the top of Mount Kenya, and row upon row of mature trees.

The author's note in the back provides more information about Wangari and the Green Belt Movement she started in 1977. By 2004, more than 30 million trees had been planted and the movement had spread to 30 African countries and beyond.

It is fitting that this book about an environmentalist is printed on 100 percent recycled paper. I found the story inspirational, and young readers will too, as they see how with one simple action, one woman was able to start a movement that changed the landscape of a nation.

Book: Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
Jeanette Winter
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Date Published:
32 pages
Source of Book:
Personal copy purchased for Cybils consideration.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

10 Comments on Cybils Book Review - Wangari's Trees of Peace, last added: 11/12/2008
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487. Wake, by Lisa McMann

Of all the books I've read this past month (around 40), Wake, by Lisa McMann, was the page-turniest, grippingest of them all. I am very glad that I woke up early this morning and read it cover to cover before my Dear Children awoke, because I would have not have been happy to put it down! (Although I would, of course, have done so with a smile...and gone into the kitchen to prepare nutritious breakfasts etc. etc.)

17 year-old Janie falls into other peoples dreams. In high-school, surrounded by sleep-deprived classmates, Janie suffers.

"A boy named Jack Tomlinson falls asleep in English class. Janie watches his head nodding from across the room. She begins to sweat, even though the room is cold. It is 11:41 a.m. Seven minutes until the bell rings for lunch. Too much time."

Because Janie, even though still awake, would have to dream right along with him.

But much worse than suffering through the humiliations and sexual fantasies of her classmates is the nightmare that finds her when she is driving home from work one night. And this worst dream of all belong to Caleb, a boy she finds herself drawn too...

Janie struggles to control her dreaming, struggles to understand Caleb and his secrets, and suffers. It doesn't help that she's poor, with an alcoholic mom. Caleb is the only person she knows who might bring her out of her own personal nightmare, but he seems caught in a nightmarish situation of his own...

Like I said, this was a page turner-I read it in less than an hour. It moves so briskly in part because it is written in third person present, in short sentences and episodes that take Janie back and forth from dream to reality. I think this was an absolutely brilliant choice of tense and voice--the reader is present with Janie moment by moment, but not inside her head--just like Janie's situation when she's stuck in other peoples' dreams.

And I liked Janie and Caleb. They didn't get a chance to do a whole heck of a lot besides dreaming (and a bit of, um, other stuff in a (very) mild YAish sort of way), but neither of them were whiners, despite having cause (lots of cause). Janie is focused on working her way through college, and doing well in school. She's a good friend, and a caring person.

And I really liked the plot! Suspense, mystery, dreams holding the key to unravelling it, a nice dash of romance-good stuff! It is really easy to imagine this one being recommend from reader to reader. I myself am anxious to read the sequel, Fade (coming in February 2009). A third book will be out in 2010.

Jen had much the same reaction as I did; so did Sarah, at Sarah's Random Musings, and here's a review by one of my Cybil's co-panelists, at The Compulsive Reader.

And now I am going to be very unselfish and tell you that there is a "freaking huge contest" at Lisa McMann's blog (ending Nov. 25, 2008) in which I would really like to be a winner....

Wake (2008 , Simon and Schuster) has been nominated for the Cybils Awards in the Sci. Fi./Fantasy category. Thank you, Simon and Schuster, for sending us panelists review copies (and of course for publishing the book in the first place, which always helps).

7 Comments on Wake, by Lisa McMann, last added: 11/11/2008
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488. PW Best Books - Children's Nonfiction

This week Publisher's Weekly highlighted the books they feel to be the very best in a variety of categories. Here's what they chose for children's nonfiction.

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
Cylin Busby & John Busby (Bloomsbury)
No one with even a marginal interest in true crime writing should miss this page-turner, by turns shocking and almost unbearably sad, alternately narrated by an ex-cop who, in 1979, narrowly escaped assassination in an underworld-style hit, and his daughter, Cylin, then nine.

What the World Eats
Faith D'Aluisio, photos by Peter Menzel (Tricycle)
Visiting 25 families in 21 countries around the world, D'Aluisio and Menzel photograph each surrounded by a week's worth of food and groceries, then use these as a way to investigate different cultures, diets and standards of living as well as the impact of globalization—issues introduced conversationally and examined memorably.

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
National Children's Book and Literary Alliance, intro. by David McCullough
An all-star roster of more than 100 children's authors and illustrators, as well as a few scholars and former White House employers and residents, offers a history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in entries that range from poems to presidential speeches, satirical cartoons to stately portraits; a blue-ribbon choice for family sharing.

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West
Sid Fleischman (Greenwillow)
Amusingly illustrated with period engravings, newspaper cartoons and ephemera, this stylish biography is top-notch entertainment.

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
Kadir Nelson (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun)
No baseball fan should be without this sumptuous volume, a history of the Negro Leagues delivered in folksy vernacular by a fictional player. While this handsome, square book could sit proudly on a coffee table by virtue of Nelson's muscular paintings, it soars as a tribute to individual athletes.

Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry
Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson (National Geographic)
Nelson models the study of history as an active and passionate pursuit as he shows readers how he pieced together a panoply of facts and anecdotes to find the real-life subject of the folk song “John Henry.”

Several of these titles appear on the list of nominees for the Cybils in the category of Nonfiction Middle Grades/YA books, including Ain't Nothing But a Man, Our White House, The Trouble Begins at 8 and We Are the Ship.

The list for children's picture books includes only one nonfiction title. It also appears on the list of nominees for the Cybils in the category of Nonfiction Picture books. That title is:

What to Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!
Barbara Kerley, illus. by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic)
It's hard to imagine a picture book biography that could better suit its subject than this high-energy volume serves young Alice Roosevelt.

2 Comments on PW Best Books - Children's Nonfiction, last added: 11/8/2008
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489. Cybils Book Review - Fabulous Fishes

Fabulous Fishes, written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale, is, in a word, FABULOUS. It is exactly the type of nonfiction picture book that will capture the attention of readers and have them begging for more.

The text is written in simple, rhyming format. What Susan Stockdale has accomplished is elegant, because using words that are easy to read yet highly descriptive, she has given us an introduction to the amazing diversity that exists in this group of animals. Here is how the book begins.
Round fish,
fish that like to hide.
Striped fish, spiked fish,
fish that leap and glide.
The depth and breadth of information provided in the pairing of text and illustrations is astounding. Readers can learn about fish color, shape, size, and camouflage. Reading through the text made we want to know the names of the fish depicted, where they lived, what they ate, how they adapted and more. Let me repeat that. This book left me wanting more information.

Some of this thirst for information was quenched in the back matter, where each fish is pictured again in miniature and identified by name. Also included is a brief bit of information about it, as well as the location(s) where the fish can be found in nature. Here's what I learned about the porcupinefish.
When threatened, the porcupinefish blows up like a spiky balloon so it will appear too large to fit into a predator's mouth. (Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans)
Featuring 20 species of fish, the acrylic illustrations are brightly colored and boldly rendered. Each fish is pictured in its natural environment. The overall selection of fish is quite varied and helps readers to understand that fish come in all shapes and sizes, and that in many cases, the shape is not the "standard" fish shape so many of us imagine when we picture a fish. The illustrations in this book are a visual delight. You can learn more about the creation of the book in the article Every Picture is a Story.

I am crazy about this book and found so much to enjoy in it. You will too. I highly recommend this delightful introduction to these fascinating creatures.

Book: Fabulous Fishes
Susan Stockdale
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Date Published:
32 pages
Source of Book:
Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.

For all you teachers and librarians considering this book, be sure to check out the teacher's guide for the book.

Other Reviews: Young Readers

7 Comments on Cybils Book Review - Fabulous Fishes, last added: 11/13/2008
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490. You Know Your Blog Has Been Quiet When…

…you start getting worried letters from kindhearted readers who want to make sure you aren’t back in the hospital or something. No worries; we are all well; I’ve just not been feeling very talky. Am spending a lot of time working in the yard—our mini-butterfly garden is really coming along, particularly the hundred billion weed seeds which were apparently lying dormant in that dry, dry soil until we oblingly began to water them. Now Beanie and Rose and I are out there every day, ruthlessly yanking up wee baby weedlings by the dozen. Ah, the blissful peace of gardening…

And I’ve had lots of Wonderboy stuff to occupy me: preparing for his IEP meeting tomorrow (yes, on Election Day, because I am a glutton for punishment, I guess), working some new PT exercises into his daily routine, reading Mother Goose on demand a hundred times a day…have I mentioned that he is awfully fond of the two Rosemary Wells/Iona Opie Mother Goose collections? As in, he wants them read and/or sung cover to cover approximately once every hour? Rilla, of course, approves wholeheartedly—except she wants it known that they are HER Mudda Doose books, and hers alone, contradictory evidence in the form of inside-front-cover inscriptions to Jane and Rose notwithstanding.

Speaking of reading, I’ve been kept quite busy, of course, with my ever-growing stack of Cybils picture book nominees. I think we have about 35 of them checked out from the library right now, and at least 20 more have arrived via post as review copies from publishers. I don’t know where I’m going to put them all. We are plumb out of shelf space. But reading them is fun, for sure. Ask Beanie. She’s way ahead of me. I’ve read about a dozen nominees so far, and I think she is upwards of thirty.

I am posting mini-reviews at Twitter, by the way, if you’d like a peek. More like mini-summaries, I guess I should say: these are my plot notes to help me keep the 175 nominees straight. I am finding I quite enjoy the challenge of boiling a summary down to 140 characters. You know brevity really IS a challenge for me, ahem.

Speaking of Twitter, you can always look for me there if you’re worried because of bloggity silence…the link above goes to bonnyglencybils, but my main Twitter profile is just plain bonnyglen. I often post short (duh, it’s Twitter) notes during the day about what’s going on around the house. I really love being able to look back, later, at these microglimpses of our days. They are like candid snapshots, the kind no one knows are being taken, the kind you linger over in the photo album because they are so filled with rich detail of what was really happening. Not that my tweets are necessarily “filled with rich detail,” detail being exactly what is hard to squeeze into a 140-character box, but I’m just going to assume you know what I mean. And sometimes a tweet does capture a detail you wouldn’t have been likely to record in any other medium.

Lilypie Expecting a baby Ticker

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491. Annie and Snowball and the Teacup Club

by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson. Simon & Schuster, 2008. (View and excerpt by clicking the link on the publisher's name). I've loved Cynthia Rylant's beginning readers ever since my oldest son was learning to read with Henry and Mudge back in the early 90s. Annie is Henry's cousin and best friend, and Snowball is her pet rabbit. Annie loves dainty, frilly things. She loves her

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492. The Merchant of Venice (Graphic Shakespeare) by Gareth Hinds - review

The Merchant of Venice (Graphic Shakespeare) by Gareth Hinds
I'll admit, The Merchant of Venice has never been my favorite play - smug Portia, gloomy Antonio, is it racist or is it a comment on racism: whatever, Shakespeare - but this condensation by Gareth Hinds is skilfully done. He manages to reduce giant long scenes of greeting and farewell to fairly snappy exchanges, while incorporating the famous and beautiful speeches from the play (the quality of mercy; prick us and do we not bleed) in a reasonably organic way. And I personally like the scratchy, sketchy grisaille drawing style - I think it suits the setting - though I know that some people find it a bit drab.

The thing is, though, putting The Merchant of Venice in a modern setting is always problematic. The juxtaposition of real peril - Antonio's trial and potential death - with the lighthearted naughty teasing that takes place between Antonio's newlywed pals comes off as even more jarring. When Portia and her maid Nerissa dress up as men, travel to Venice, and save the day, the audience is clearly meant to be as impressed as their husbands are - but in a modern context, we more or less expect Portia - beautiful, rich, smart Portia - to pull a Nancy Drew. If not a Buffy, for Pete's sake. Shylock is lucky she wasn't carrying a stake.

Speaking of Shylock, his poor treatment at the hands of the otherwise noble Antonio and his friends just doesn't make it when they're wearing tailored suits instead of jerkins and pantaloons. A guy in a suit who says he's going to spit on a Jew is, nowadays, an irredeemable douche - and it takes a story much longer than this one to show him as otherwise. (I can't help it - I'm thinking of Tony Soprano here.)

There are just too many problems with this particular play for it to be anything but a hot mess except when presented exactly as written and in historical context. This is not to say that this book isn't immensely superior to graphic novel adaptations of Shakespeare by other authors. It is: they're terrible. It's just that other plays have aged better. I look forward eagerly to Gareth Hinds's treatment of almost any of them, as I am currently on the lookout for his King Lear.

0 Comments on The Merchant of Venice (Graphic Shakespeare) by Gareth Hinds - review as of 10/28/2008 6:41:00 PM
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493. Chiggers by Hope Larson - review

Chiggers by Hope Larson
I read this sweet-but-not-too-sweet graphic novel at the same time, and for the same reason (it's a Cybils nominee), as Betsy, Ms. Fuse #8, did, and I pretty much have to say... what she said.

Is that a cop-out? Yeahhh... but no! She just happens to have written just exactly what I'd've written (except, hrm, more words, 'cause of the part about me being lazy and sometimes being content to just go like, "ME LIKE," and I guess you'd have to say this current review would be an example of that).

Except that, unlike Betsy, I do have some memorable summer camp experiences, both as a camper, at Girl Scout camp and orchestra camp (I played oboe) and, if I'm not mistaken, some G&T camp where we read Walden Two and discussed behavior modification... and as a counselor, at a beautiful hippy-dippy camp up in Maine where I taught candle-making and fencing to Manhattan preteens wearing Echo and the Bunnymen t-shirts (in 1984). And reading Chiggers took me right back to camp, especially to Maine, and I found myself trying to remember the names of the girls in my cabin: tall Allison, shy Betsy, bubbly Deenie, and a girl we called Titsy, whose personality traits you may intuit all on your own.

Chiggers is terrific that way - the art, the plot, the characters all ring true. Even the trees look just right. Why, I remember the morning I found a dead mouse in a trap, and since I didn't have my glasses on I had to bring it right up to my face to see what it was, and then... but I guess that's a story for another blog.

1 Comments on Chiggers by Hope Larson - review, last added: 10/28/2008
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494. Cybils--the best of last year's Science Fiction and Fantasy

The lists of nominations for the Cybils are being pulled into their final form, and us panelists are busy reading away….but before I get too involved in talking about the 2008 books that have been nominated, I thought it would be nice to take a look back to 2007, and the science fiction/fantasy books that made the shortlist that year.

This is a great list of great books that embody the qualities my fellow panelists and I are going to be looking for in this year’s crop—outstanding world building, vivid characterization, and the sort of all-engrossing appeal that makes a book one that you find yourself pressing in the hands of strangers in book stores and libraries….(well, I have found myself doing this. Sometimes it’s even appreciated). And although several of these books needed no help from the Cybils in finding readers, others were books that before their Cybilian honors had lingered more under the radar. I hope the mix of books we offer at the end of our reviewing period also has on it wonderful books that haven’t yet gotten the buzz they deserve (this is one of the points of the Cybils, after all).

The Science Fiction and Fantasy category, incidentally, is divided into two groups-- older and younger readers (my 2008 list isn’t split yet; the final one will be). I have lifted the following blurbs off of the Cybils site, where you can go to see the other shortlists of 2006 and 2007, so if anyone ever lifts these descriptions from here in turn, please do credit the original authors!

Cybils 2007 short list in Science Fiction/Fantasy

Teen/Young Adult:

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books
On her first day as a Lady’s maid, Dashti finds herself sealed in a tower for seven years with her Lady, who is being punished for refusing to marry the Lord of a neighboring land. Tight plotting, beautiful use of language and metaphor, and an engaging main character make this book a standout.
--Sheila, Wands and Worlds

by Catherine Fisher
Hodder Children’s Books (UK)
No one has been in or out of Incarceron for over 150 years. Now, a young man on the
Inside thinks he’s found the way Out--and a young woman on the Outside thinks she may
have found the way In. Success will require going up against the Warden--and Incarceron
itself. The strong writing and characterization, suspenseful narrative, and creative world
building brought this book to the top of the pack.
--Leila, Bookshelves of Doom

Northlander (Tales of the Borderlands)
by Meg Burden
Brown Barn Books
Northlander is an engaging tale which shows how hatred is only ignorance of the unknown.
Though Ellin’s gift of healing saves the Northlander king, she is feared and imprisoned. This gripping tale is both emotionally moving and thought-provoking.
--Kim Baccellia, Earrings of Ixtumea

by A. M. Jenkins
Fast-paced and sharply funny, A.M. Jenkins’ story of Kiriel--the fallen angel whose name
means “mirror of souls”--takes readers on a week-long ride in the body of an ordinary
human boy. Philosophical in a religious sense, yet untethered from any churchy elements,
this novel’s quirky appreciation of the mundane combines with a wisecracking,
personable narrative voice to create a funny yet thought-provoking novel. (For mature
--Tadmack, ReadingYA: Readers’ Rants

Skin Hunger
by Kathleen Duey
Simon & Schuster/Atheneum
Take two divergent story threads and weave them into one of the year’s darkest novels.
Add vivid characterization, a quest for knowledge beyond any cost, and magic that is
repulsive but intriguing and you have Skin Hunger.
--Tasha, Kids Lit

Elementary/Middle Grade:

The Chaos King
by Laura Ruby
The Richest Girl in the World and the son of gangster Sweetcheeks Grabowski have to find
their way back to friendship, as compelling weirdness enters their lives again in the form
of a giant squid, a super-annoying hotel heiress, an animated stone lion, and The
Chaos King--a “Sid” punk with a serious art fetish. This fast-paced, stand-alone sequel is
accessible to both middle grade and teen readers and is both funny and endearing.
--Tadmack, ReadingYA: Readers’ Rants

Into the Wild
by Sarah Beth Durst
A long time ago, all fairy-tale characters fled from their stories seeking refuge from “The
Wild,” a tangled, evil forest. Since then, Rapunzel has kept the forest under control with the help of her daughter Julie, but when it gets too powerful she is forced to depend on Julie to set aside her fears and doubts and defeat The Wild. Julie’s strong character is an inspiring example of duty, survival, and love.
--Traci, Fields of Gold

The Land of the Silver Apples
by Nancy Farmer
Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/Richard Jackson
Land of the Silver Apples has it all--adventure, fairies, old world gods, and an ancient world that is caught between belief in the Old Gods and Christianity. This standalone sequel will appeal to not only fans of Nancy Farmer but those who enjoy adventurous tales.
--Kim Baccellia, Earrings of Ixtumea

Skulduggery Pleasant
by Derek Landy
When twelve-year-old Stephanie Edgley’s mysterious uncle dies, he not only bequeaths her his house, but a sticky supernatural situation and a rather dashing skeleton detective named Skulduggery Pleasant. This smart novel is full of humor, action, and a real sense of danger--and has a sly wit that would appeal to a wide age range.
--a. fortis, ReadingYA: Readers’ Rants

The True Meaning of Smekday
by Adam Rex
Nothing has been the same since the Boov invaded Earth and re-christened it Smekland. But things get even weirder when twelve year-old Gratuity Tucci embarks on a journey to find her missing mother--accompanied by her cat (named Pig), a fugitive Boov (named J.Lo) and a slightly illegal hovercar—and realizes that there’s more at stake than just her mother’s whereabouts. A hilarious satire with a touching ending and spot-on illustrations by
the author.
--a. fortis, ReadingYA: Readers’ Rants

Three sequels to books on this list have been nominated this year—Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing with Fire, Out of the Wild, by Sarah Beth Durst, and Sapphique, sequel to Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher (I’m looking forward to reading these!)

And speaking of sequels, the wait for the sequel to Skin Hunger is almost over (well, kind of). Sacred Scars will be out in paperback in the UK next June, and here in the US in hardback in August (which seems strange, but that's what fanfiction says). Anyway, here’s the cover:

0 Comments on Cybils--the best of last year's Science Fiction and Fantasy as of 10/17/2008 10:17:00 AM
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495. The Empty Kingdom, by Elizabeth Wein

The Empty Kingdom, by Elizabeth Wein (Viking, 2008), continues the story of young Telemakos, the half British, half-Aksumite (Ethiopian) grandson of King Arthur. This is the second book of the Mark of Solomon duology, set in North Africa and the Arabian peninsula during the 6th century. In the first book, The Sunbird, Telemakos, wounded in body and spirit by months of torture, was further wounded when he lost his left arm to blood poisoning after a lion attack. Sent with his baby sister to Abreha, ruler of Hymar, ostensibly to keep them safe, he began to learn the secrets of his own emperor's erstwhile enemy. But Abreha caught him in an act of apparent treachery, and threatened him with a death warrant.

When The Empty Kingdom opens, Telemakos is serving the final span of his immediate punishment, a period of disgraceful isolation, whose worst pain was his separation from his beloved sister. The valuable information he has learned must somehow be sent home, but how can he do this when his every move is watched by Abreha, who reads his every letter, and whose acts of kindness and respect seem at odds the the death threat hanging over Telemakos' head:

"You sign yourself Meder, lord of the land, and you boast of your disgrace. Do you count yourself so far above other mortals, my shining one, that you make a jest of the order I carry in my sash, and of the iron nails balanced ready to pierce fast your feet and your single wrist?"

The tangled threads of intrigue, politics, and trust are skillfully woven together here, but I would strongly recommend reading The Sunbird first if you want to try to untangle them. I read it last year, when it was a 2007 Cybils nominee, and I still had to focus while reading The Empty Kingdom to try to keep things straight. And these two books are themselves a continuation Telemakos' story, so ideally one should read The Sunbird first. And that in turn is one of a series stretching back to Arthur's Britain, which even more ideally should be read beforehand (see below for complete sequence).

This is a book that I would like to come back to, having read all the earlier ones--I'm sure I would find things I missed in reading The Empty Kingdom this time around (which is a compliment, not a criticism!). For instance, I am still brooding over the title--The Empty Kingdom--which I am sure must be a metaphor that I don't quite get, as yet (the kingdom of Telemakos' lonely spirit??? General emptiness of kingdoms when there is no trust???). Likewise, the world building, in the geographic and cultural sense, is superb in its detailed and nuanced complexity, but carries with it a concomitant possibility that the new reader will be confused.

Telemakos is great hero, not so much in his deeds of action, although those are present, but as a character. In Telemakos, Wein has carefully created a thoughtful, lonely, and intelligent boy, trapped in complex circumstances that seem beyond his control. The pacing of the writing is unhurried, allowing characterization and relationships to take center stage. I imagine that there will be many who love this book for that reason, and others who may become irritated--I fall into the former category.

Amazon has this book listed as appropriate for ages 9-12. It is true that there is no sex or bad language, or actual acts of violence. But I think that (in general) a kid that age might end up confused, and an older kid might get more out of it. Another categorical trickiness is that although this is "fantasy" in the alternate history sense, there is no magic, no supernatural elements--in short, nothing explicitly fantastic at all, so don't expect to find that here!

Here's a review (by another Charlotte), at Blogging for a Good Book.

And here's the sequence: The Winter King, A Coalition of Lions, The Sunbird, The Lion Hunter, and The Empty Kingdom.

The Empty Kingdom has been nominated for the 2008 Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category (link to complete list at top right).

2 Comments on The Empty Kingdom, by Elizabeth Wein, last added: 10/19/2008
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496. Books at Bedtime: Wabi Sabi

We will be publishing a full review of Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein with art by Ed Young in our next issue of PaperTigers so I’m not going to say much now - except that it is stunning and enriching, a gentle, heart-warming delight that lends itself to being read aloud in many different ways! It had already been nominated for a Fiction Picture Book Cybils Award by the time I got round to it (as had a couple of others on my list, making decisions much easier… I finally plumped for Colors! ¡Colores!, which I blogged about last week…).

We’ve been waiting for Wabi Sabi to come out for a while – and one of Aline’s and my thrills at the Bologna Book Fair in April was being shown the proofs for the book by Andrew Smith at Little, Brown and Company, where we learnt that we were not looking at the original but at the second version of art-work…

Yes, this book has an amazing, Wabi Sabi-esque story behind it. It’s hard to explain but Alvina, over at Blue Rose Girls, is the book’s editor and has blogged about its amazing story in four installments – read from Number 1 now! In the meantime, here’s what she says about what Wabi Sabi actually means:

Mark spent some time living in Japan, and while there he was introduced to the concept of wabi sabi. He asked many people about it, and they all paused and said, “That’s hard to explain.” but they would offer a poem, or a photograph, a small description, and gradually, Mark began to piece together the meaning of wabi sabi.

So, what is wabi sabi? Well, as I understand it, it is a Japanese philosophical belief in finding beauty in the imperfect, the unexpected, in simplicity and modesty. For example, a old, cracked clay tea cup is wabi sabi, but a fine china cup is not. Fallen leaves in muddy water is wabi sabi. A scruffy, multi-colored cat can be wabi sabi. Mark actually named his cat in Japan Wabi Sabi!

Her final post on the subject came out on Monday and has had me chuckling aloud – but only after I knew the outcome. All’s well, that ends well! Phew – if ever a book has gone through a parallel journey in real life, this is it!

0 Comments on Books at Bedtime: Wabi Sabi as of 10/19/2008 9:25:00 PM
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497. Cybils Nominations

Here are the nomination long lists for the Cybils Awards. I am sorry I haven't talked about it before, but there were TOO MANY posts about it. I didn't figure you would appreciate another. Now you can go to these links and look for books you might be interested in. LOVE IT!
Cybils: The 2008 Nominations
If you have no idea what a Cybils is, go HERE.

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498. Bewitching Season

Bewitching Season, by Marissa Doyle (2008) is the sort of book I would imagine Georgette Heyer thinking up if she had wanted to add Magic to her trademark regency/early 19th century) romances. Like many a Heyer romance, Bewitching Season features a smart heroine and a handsome and sympathetic male lead, and the setting is the London Season, when young girls of good families came out into society.

Persephone and and her twin sister Penelope are about to begin their season. Pen, the more vivacious of the girls, is eager; Persy, the more studious, feels sick to her stomach. She would far rather continue at home with their governess, learning not just the elements of a classical education, but magic as well.

For unlike the other young ladies, these twins come from a line of female magic users. And Persy will have to use both her magic and brains, and considerable help from her little brother this coming season, when her governess becomes ensnared in a plot to wrest power from the young not-yet-queen Victoria....Unfortunately for Persy, magic and brains are not much use in sorting out the tangles of young love, as she learns when her path keeps crossing that of handsome young Lochinvar.

In short, a pleasant read.

Poor Pen, who gets nothing to do in this book, is apparently going to have a much more interesting time in the sequel, Betraying Season, is coming May 2009.

Here's a rave review at The Book Muncher, and another review at Everyone has a Blue Castle.

And for more nineteenth-century fun, visit Marissa Doyle's blog, NineteenTeen.

Bewitching Season has been nominated for the Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy Catagory--the complete list is here.

2 Comments on Bewitching Season, last added: 10/23/2008
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499. 175 Books

That’s how many titles were nominated in the Cybils Fiction Picture Book category, and how many I need to read in the next six weeks or so.

Two. That’s how many I’ve read so far. Neither one was a standout.

I am keeping my Library Elf hopping these days. Slowly I’m making my way through the Cybils database, clicking back and forth to my library catalog to see which nominees are in our local system, reserving all I can find.

It’s fun to observe which books catch the kids’ attention. Reading and discussing the nominees is something of a family affair, as most things are around here. Beanie has read more of the nominees than I have, so far. Guess I’d better get back to my databasing, so I can catch up.

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500. Wild Talent: A Novel of the Supernatural

Wild Talent: A Novel of the Supernatural
by Eileen Kernaghan (Thistledown, 257 pages)

In Scotland in the 1880s, Jeannie Guthrie, a sixteen-year-old girl raised by her school teacher father to love books, dreamt of being a famous author. This dream died with her father's untimely passing, and she was hired out as a farm girl. That life too came to an abrupt end, when, cornered in the barn by her lecherous cousin, Jeannie stabbed him with a pitchfork. Without picking it up.

"He clutched his shoulder and stared at the blood welling up between his fingers. "You've killed me," he said, and there was a kind of puzzlement as well as anguish in his look.
"I haven't," I cried. "I didn't." Something had happened, sure enough, and George without question was wounded; yet I felt it had naught to do with me.
"You're a witch," he said, and what I saw in his face now was hatred, and bewilderment, and fear."

Terrified that she has killed her cousin, and fearing that she will be accused of witchcraft, Jeannie flees to London. The fortuitous friendship with a free-spirited French girl, Alexandra David, leads Jeannie to a job as assistant/dogsbody to the formidable Madame Helena Blavatsky, a mystic seeker for spiritual truth, keeper of a salon frequented by the likes of Yeats, and a medium. Recognizing Jeannie's wild talent, Madame draws on her power to convince her audiences of her own spiritual abilities. And Jeannie meets Tom, a young, handsome, and skeptical student of zoology....

But when Madame's health fails, there is no longer a place for Jeannie in her menage. Jeannie's new position, assisting a charlatan in deceiving gullible audiences, is depressing, and, she fears, has alienated Tom. She flees to join Alexandra, who is now living a wild bohemian life in Paris, frantically seeking her own path to what lies beyond. When Alexandra goes too far, and actually enters the realm of spirits, it become clear that Madame's earlier warnings are true--that land is not inhabited by the the dear departed, but by much more sinister forces. Jeannie must follow Alexandra, or leave her trapped in a horrible otherworld.

In a book called "Wild Talent," I expected a lot more about Jeannie learning to live with her gifts, exploring their power, struggling with the how, the what, and the why of it all. There is a little bit of this, but the focus of the book is more on the historical fiction side of things--painting a detailed picture of life among the mystics of late Victorian London, and the artists and poets of Paris. The actual journey into the spirit world takes place late in the book, and only lasts 28 pages.

So if you enjoy well-written historical fiction, with particular reference to spiritualism, this is a book for you. Alexandra David and Madame Blavatsky were actual people, who led fascinating lives. Jeannie herself is a believable character within this historical context. On the other hand, if you are looking for wild magic, this might not be quite what you're looking for.

Wild Talent has been nominated for the Cybils Awards, in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.

1 Comments on Wild Talent: A Novel of the Supernatural, last added: 10/25/2008
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