Saturday, October 26, 2013

An Adventuresome Duo

Since I loved Divergent this summer I decided I would do well to branch out and read more books in genres that I do not naturally gravitate toward.  Hence adventure books!  I am not an adventurous person- adventure makes me nervous. But here are two good adventure books that I thought went well together.  Both are, well adventurous, both are about teenage boys making tough decisions and trying to navigate right and wrong when most of the adults in their lives aren't doing such a good job in that area.  Both could be called political thrillers.

First up is First Boy by Gary D. Schmidt.  One of my favorite books of all time is Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. A book of historical fiction which garnered Mr. Schmidt the Newbery Honor in 2005.  

Strange things are happening in the rather ordinary life of 14 year old Cooper Jewett.  Black sedans are showing up in the sleepy New Hampshire town where Cooper lives on his grandfather's farm.  It feels like he is being watched.  Despite this feeling Cooper goes on with his chores on the farm, he goes to school, he runs cross country, he watches after his grandfather, as they are both still reeling from the recenty death of Ida Jewett, Cooper's grandmother.   

Unexpectedly, Cooper's grandfather passes away and now Cooper is alone. No parents, no grandparents, not even a dog.  Cooper does have 64 cows that need milking and cleaning up after and Cooper is a tough kid, but can he really run a dairy farm by himself?  Cooper is determined to keep the farm going, keep up with his school work and show his neighbors and the social services that he can take care of things.  

Senator Wickham who is currently challenging the sitting President in a primary shows up at Cooper's school and offers him the opportunity to join the campaign.  Cooper is suspisious or the Senator's motives and feels too much loyalty to the cows and his grandparents legacy and bravely declines this offer.  Now very mysterious things are happening around the farm, broken fences and fires, break ins and black sedans showing up to watch him. Is Senator Wickham behind all this? What does he really want with Cooper?  

While this storyline was a bit odd, the well drawn characters and the suspensful pacing of the mystery made it a good, quick read and a great one to reccomend to those who like Alex Rider or the Gordon Corman books.  

If Cooper Jewett ever got to NY, I am certain that he and Zach Harriman would be fast friends.  

Zach is the main character in Mike Lupica's Hero.  Mr. Lupica is know for his sports novels, Heat is a favorite of mine.   

14 year old Zach seems to have a pretty great life in NY.  He lives with his parents, housekeeper and her daughter who is also Zach's best friend. They live in a brownstone on swanky Fifth Avenue, right near Central Park. Zach's mom spends a lot of time working at her family's charitable foundation and Zach's dad, works for the President, as in of the United States. Zach's dad is a hero, a confidante of the President who is called in to rescue hostages in foriegn lands or capture terrorists.  Everything is great until on the way back from a mission, the plane crashes and Zach's dad dies.  

Life without his dad is incredibly difficult for Zach.  His mom seems to be coping by throwing herself into her friend's campaign for President.  But something doesn't feel right to Zach, he starts to investigate his dad's death, believing his dad wouldn't never let his plane go down.  

Zach feels something in himself changing and its not just his grief.  He is suddenly strong, suddenly bold and feels the need to patrol Central Park at night to protect good people and fight the bad.  What does it mean to be a hero?  And what's with the old man who keeps following him? 

Does Zach suddenly possess super powers?  How does this all connect to his fathers death and what does it all mean to the campaign for the presidency?  

Cooper and Zach's lives go from ordinary to incredibly exciting. They go on adventures that border on the extreme and the strange.  They outwit law enforcement and government agencies.  And the both grow and learn to trust themselves, figure out which adults to trust,  and what it means to be trustworthy.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Tales

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Tales is the newest book by Kate DiCamillo, an author I admire and respect and who previous works (Tale of Desperaux, Because of Winn Dixie etc.) I have devoured whole in a single setting. I have been waiting for a new book from this author for a long time.   

Flora, a witty, quirky girl is obsessed by comics like, Terrible Things Can Happen To You.  Flora lives alone with her mom who smokes, writes romance novels and transfers all her love and affection on to a lamp shaped like a shepherdess named Marianne.  

The action begins when Flora's neighbor Mrs. Twickham receives the gift of a vacuum cleaner, specifically, a Ulysses 2000, The machine has so much power Mrs. Twickham loses control and accidentally vacuums up a squirrel.  Flora swings into action, reviving the poor guy and a beautiful, sweet friendship is born.  

Ulysses comes away from his near death experience with some super human or super squirrel powers that enable him to type and create some beautiful poetry that expresses his gratitude to Flora for saving him and make up some of the books more tender moments.  

Calamity ensues when Flora's mother plots to kill poor Ulysses; Mrs. Twickham's super annoying and temporarily blind nephew comes to visit; Flora's dad shows up for his regularly scheduled custodial visit and chaos breaks out at the local doughnut shop when Ulysses is discovered in a box at their table, and he's very hungry!

The humor of the story is greatly enhanced by the comic or graphic novel style sequences illustrated by K. G. Campbell.  

I loved the relationship between Flora and her squirrel, it evokes the feelings of love, friendship, loss, and belonging that are usually themes in DiCamillo's work. These are two wonderful characters who in my opinion were shortchanged in the plot department. I kept waiting for something more significant to happen to them.  I wanted to know more about Flora's dad who seemed like a decent guy and I wanted Flora's mother to redeem herself.  

 So while I liked Flora and Ulysses, I  am sorry to say I didn't love it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Baby Time! 

So I began today with a joyful and crowded baby time!  Super fun with 36 babies, moms and dads.  We read I like It When by Mary Murphy, one of my all time favorite books for this age group.  

After Baby Time, I subbed for another librarian in Toddler Time.  Not quite as crowded, but some super enthusiastic little ones.  We read:  

What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell

Mama Cat has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee

I was also able to debut my homemade Alphabet Train flannel board pieces! 


Super fun and easy to make.  I think I will be making many more flannel board pieces! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Frills Field Trip

I am fortunate to live so close to New York City and to be able to take advantage of all of the conferences, workshops, lectures and events for and about children's literature.  

A few weeks ago I visited New York Public Library to see the Leonard Marcus curated exhibit the ABC of it: Why Children's Books MatterMr. Marcus is a children's literature historian. He has written some wonderful books including the definitive biography of Margaret Wise Brown, Awakened By the Moon and the great NYC walking tour guide of children's lit, Storied City.  Needless to say, I am a big fan.  He is also one of the best speakers I was ever able to get to visit my library. 

The exhibit is beautiful and inspiring for teachers, librarians, children and those that are kids at heart!  I heartily recommend it to everyone.  Luckily the exhibit is at the library until March 2014.  I hope I get to go again before its gone.  

There are so many wonderful components it's hard to choose only one, but for me the best part may be Milo's little car!  


Pile of Picture Books

I love when new boxes of books arrive fresh from Barnes and Noble, Amazon or Baker and Taylor.  Here a few new books I discovered this week that are soon to be program favorites. 

Lion vs. Rabbit by Alex Lattimer is laugh out loud funny.  The animals of the jungle are sick and tired of Lion and his bullying ways, but who can stop him?  Rabbit answers their advertisement for a troubleshooter but can little rabbit outsmart a ferocious lion?  Hmmm. 

Bear's Song by Benjamin Chaud is sweet and soothing like honey.  A small bear goes out into the night in search of a snack.  Can Papa Bear find him and safely bring him back to the den?  

Pig on a Hill by John Kelly  Pig enjoys his solitary life on the hill and is more than a little put out when duck moves in and turns Pig's quiet life upside down.  

Three great new picture books for your library collection and to enhance any preschool storytime.  Enjoy! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Two Great YA Summer Reads-

I have been reading a lot of YA lately and wanted to share a couple of the books that I really loved.  


Eleanor and Park is the kind of book that makes you conflicted. You want to rush to the end to know what happens but simultaneously you want to slowly savor every page because you don't want it to end. Rainbow Rowell is an amazing writer and I can't wait for her next effort.  

Eleanor is the new girl in Omaha and described as "big and awkward".  Quiet and shy, she stands out due to her outlandish outfits and flaming read hair.  

Park is half Korean and feels just as misunderstood and isolated as Eleanor.  Slowly and sweetly, the two bond on their bus rides to and from school over alternative music and comics.  The bus ride because "the best part of my day."

Eleanor is terrified of her abusive, creepy step-father and finds sanctuary from her home life at Park's with his hair-stylist mom and sports addicted dad. 

Both Park and Eleanor are well drawn characters who alternate narrative points of view throughout the story.  Their relationship is tested by peer pressure and bulliess, family misunderstandings and finally the domestic disturbance within Eleanor's family.  Their's is a simple and sweet story that captures beautifully the amazing power of first love, of friendship and acceptance.  I imagine all the girls who will read this and dream of finding a guy like Park.  

So I am a little late to the party with Divergent. I am very particular about the kinds of books I read.  I will probably never read a book about vampires or aliens, and I used to feel the same was about futuristic or dystopian type novels, like Veronica Roth's Divergent.  But this book was highly reccommended by my cousin Logan who is a great reader.  I felt obligated to give it a try and I am very happy that I did.  

Set in Chicago, far into the future, the society has crumbled and life is divided into five cult like factions, each dedicated to a different philosophy.  There are the Erudite who focus on intelligence, the Abegnation who believe in selflessness, Amity who want to work for peace above all else, Candor who believe in honesty at all costs and Dauntless, who use their bravery.  

The time has come for 16 year old Beatrice Pryor and her twin brother Caleb to choose their faction, complicated testing is conducted to see where you might thrive, but you have the choice to stay with they faction in which you are raised and with your family.  Up until now, meek and naive Beatrice has lived a very quiet, simple (and selfless) life with her parents and brother.  Some abnormalities occur during her test and the administrator confides to Beatrice that she is indeed Divergent and hard to control, she will be considered by the authorities to be a risk to have in any community and if knowledge of this becomes public she will most likely be killed.  

Throughout the story Beatrice is confronted with many delimmas and moral choices. This is a complex story about loyalty, trust, friendship, taking risks and being brave.  She is struggling to determine right from wrong and her life becomes bigger and bolder than she ever thought possible.   

Beatrice is a great character in an original and fresh fast paced story that kept me turning the pages and had me thinking about her decisions for days after. I can't wait to read the sequel!  Or see the movie.         

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bedtime is Canceled By Cece Meng

Maggie shares her idea with her brother.  Her brother shares it with a journalist and suddenly its breaking news! Hilarity ensues! 

  For storytime, I love funny books and this will be a great addition.  I also love stories where the kids are much smarter than the grown ups! This would be a great book to pair with David LaRochelle's The Best Pet of All.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking

Moxie has big plans for this  summer, her last before high school- exploring the city of Boston (unsupervised) with her friend and trusty side kick Ollie. Moxie's plans are abruptly changed when a stranger appears on her doorstep claiming to be a representative of Sully Cupcakes, a dangerous criminal and former "business associate" of Moxie's Grandpa, who she lovingly refers to as Grumps.  The mysterious stranger wants Sully's property returned, or else. 

Unfortunately, Grumps now suffers from Alzheimer's and is not revealing any clues.  Could Grumps know where the art stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is hidden? 

Moxie and Ollie set out to find the truth and over 14 days race across Boston, tangle with dangerous criminals, break into some historical landmarks, and deal with their own family dynamics. 

I also enjoyed the setting of Boston and the storyline surrounding one of the cities biggest real life mysteries.  Boston itself feels like a character. 

Some may say some of the plot lines are a bit far fetched, but not me, I think the strong characters portrayed here and great writing  make it all pretty plausible. 

Light hearted, fun and fast paced, Moxie kept me on the edge of my seat.  She is smart and funny and completely lives up to her name and reminiscent of Harriet the Spy or Sammy Keyes. This is a perfect book for someone who loves adventure and is maybe not ready for likes of Kiki Strike. 

I found this in the teen section but I would recommend it to good 5th or 6th grade readers.  Especially ones visiting Boston!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Doll Bones

by Holly Black 

I would recommend for strong 4th grade reader and up.  But it is scary! 

 In first grade I had an obsession with Dare Wright's The Lonely Doll, which I knew was usually found right above the "W" shelf marker in my school library.  I checked this book out so much that I was told by the school librarian that I wasn't allowed to have it anymore and that I needed to find other things to read.  

So I picked up Holly Black's Doll Bones with great curiosity.  I am not a fan of horror, or a huge fantasy buff, but I do love a good ghost story.  

The bones in question belong to the doll queen, the ruler of the imaginary kingdom that Poppy, Zack and Alice created and continue to act out with discarded Barbies and thrift store finds. Their imaginary world is multifaceted and has been developed over years of play.  The Queen rules over this world from Poppy's mother's china cabinet-  and they are forbidden to touch her or take her from the glass case.  

When Zack's father suddenly reappears, he determines that Zack would be better off shooting hoops with the guys then playing dolls with girls and throws away Zack's beloved action figures who act as the main characters in most of the storylines for the game.  Devastated and ashamed, Zach would rather lead Alice and Poppy to believe that he is no longer interested in their game than admit the truth.  

In an effort to tempt Zack back to the story for at least a grand finale, Poppy takes the Doll Queen from the shelf and here the trouble begins.  

Poppy begins to have strange dreams about the doll and odd things begin to happen.  Things disappear and reappear in odd places. After some minimal library research (love it) on the doll manufacturer, Poppy explains to the others that the doll maker's daughter died in 1912 and her body was never discovered.  Poppy convinces them that the doll contains the ashes of this dead girl and strange things will continue to happen to them, unless they can properly bury her in the family plot in the next state. 

Is the doll really haunted?  Or has Poppy created a real life action adventure game for her friends to act out in a desperate attempt to keep their game going?  

This is one creepy, scary story.  I will never look at a china doll the same way again.  And this is not just a ghost story.  It's about dealing with your family- Zack's constantly disappointed by his dad who is in and out of his life  and  Poppy's parents are struggling with money and virtually absentee while Alice's grandmother is overbearing and barely let's Alice out of her sight.  

 And at its heart, this is a story about the cyclical life of friendships; the dull ache of being on the cusp of adulthood and saying good-bye to childhood with the knowledge that it may also mean growing away from those you love best.   


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Long Time, No See!

I am sorry to have been away for so long!

 Book reviews will resume this week! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Children's Book Week Part Deux!

In celebration of Children's Book Week, here is a few of my favorite books for storytime! 

Book! Book! Book! By Deborah Bruss

So sweet!  What are the animals to do when their boy goes off to school? They go to the library!

Little Bear's Boat By Eve Bunting

What's a bear to do when he is too big for his little boat? 

I wish for rain and a wonderful rhyme!  

Room on the Broom By Julia Donaldson

My very favorite Halloween book!  Such a fun rhyme that lends itself easily to  audience participation!
Library Lion By Michelle Knudsen

Everyone is welcome in the library! As long as there is no running!

Rattletrap Car by Phyllis Root

A fun, family adventure!  

Shark in the Park by Nick Sharratt

Another fun one for eliciting lots of participation!  

Daffodil by Emily Jenkins

Everyone should be able to chose their own party dresses! 

Stella Luella's Runaway Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst

I can't imagine doing a school visit without Stella!  Everyone loves a good mystery. 

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

My favorite book to take to teach storytime techniques to the child development class at the high school. Perfectly sweet! 

  Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

What's funnier than a duck riding bike?  A whole barnyard of animals riding bikes!

Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone 

The best interpreter of folktales for storytime that I've come across and this is my very favorite.  

I could go on and on but then what would I post tomorrow?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Children's Book Week!

Happy Children's Book Week!
It's the perfect time to re-read an old favorite or learn some great new titles and authors- especially if you know, work with, or are related to some children!

In honor of the occasion I will recommend some of my personal favorites this week.

So in no particular order, here are just a few (I have hundreds!) of my favorite middle grade novels.

Walk two Moons- by Sharon Creech


On My Honor- by Marion Dane Bauer

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson


Everything on a Waffle- by Polly Horvath


When you reach me- by Rebecca Stead 


House of Tailors- by Patricia Reilly Giff 

Lizzie Bright & the Buckminster Boy- by Gary Schmidt

What are some of yours?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Pair of Picture Books!

Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead have created a delightful tale about waiting patiently for spring.  This story is gentle and thoughtfully paced, and the promise of spring and all her beauty is fully realized.  Erin Stead's illustrations are a perfect compliment to Fogliano's prose.  And Then It's Spring is great new addition to my spring story-time collection and well deserving of the Caldecott Award that was bestowed upon it and its creators this January.


Boot & Shoe written and illustrated by two time Caldecott Honoree Marla Frazee is the story of 2 dogs content to live together, but exist separately- Boot is a back porch kind of dog and while Shoe prefers the front porch.  This arrangement seems to be working out fine, until a squirrel comes to the yard and causes quite a calamity.  A sweet, fun and funny book for my dog story-time! I am a big fan of Frazee's work and Boot & Shoe are a great addition!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

Lisa Graff, author of Umbrella Summer has created a magical world in Pougkeepsie, NY ( a rather ordinary place, I have found) where nearly everyone has a special Talent.  And yes, that's Talent with a capital T.

Each chapter tells the story of a different person's gift and their life's path and the culmination of all these situations is the tangle referenced in the title.  Graff manages to take every quirky circumstance and tie all of these knots into a beautiful, magical bow.

At the forefront of A Tangle of Knots is Cady, the orphaned cake baker with an affinity for knowing the perfect cake for each person she meets.  Cady lives with Miss Mallory at the Home for Lost Girls and she has a knack for finding the perfect family for each of her charges, except of course, Cady, who cheerfully bakes Adoption Day cakes for all of the girls who eventually leave the home.  

Across town The Owner of the Lost Luggage Emporium is bitterly carrying the baggage (pun intended, sorry) of his lost family treasure while his upstairs tenants; The Ashers, troublesome Zane and Will; Marigold, who is searching desperately for her Talent and terrified that she'll only be Simply Fair and Mrs. Asher, the incredible knitter and Mom, are each harboring their own secret. 

With quirky, fun characters and recipes* this story evoked Polly Horvath's delightful Everything on a Waffle.  And the serendipitous world in which they reside, full of secrets and Talents, reminded me of Ingrid Law's lovely Savvy.  Thoroughly enjoyable, but you need to pay close attention to see how everything and everyone ties together.  

*Warning! Recipes will make you long for a trip to the bakery.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder R.J. Palacio’s debut novel is topping all of the Best Books of 2012 lists, and with good reason.  Wonder is joyful and sad and beautiful.

Auggie Pullman is about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, a rather progressive school in Upper Manhattan.  Auggie has been home schooled up to this point in his life because he was born with severe facial deformities that have required surgeries, hospitalizations and constant care and attention. 

While Auggie’s looks have always garnered stares and unwanted attention,  he was generally safe in the cocoon provided by his family: Mom, Dad, big sister Via, his beloved dog, Daisy, the dog and a few friends.  All that changes when Auggie agrees to attend Beecher Prep.  While transition is difficult, Augie perseveres.  

This is a family story, a school story, a story of self discovery and self acceptance.  I read it in one sitting.  While I was captivated by Auggie and how he grows, the novel also features some full realized secondary characters like:  Auggie’s sister,  Via, and her estranged friend Miranda, and Summer who befriends Auggie in the dreaded cafeteria.    Although, the story is primarily Auggie’s, I enjoyed the alternating narrators and felt it helped us to learn about Auggie struggles and the effects on their family through others, specifically Via. 

Everyone is struggling.  Auggie works at adapting to school and the inevitable cliques, friends and bullies. Via is trying hard to figure out where she fits in the family as Auggie’s sister and protector and to find her place in her own new school and with and without friends.  Their parents are on new shaky ground, wanting Auggie to spread his wings, attend school and make friends and terrified how the world will react to Auggie’s deformities. Everyone learns  to cope and there is much humor and hope along the way.  

Our Mother Daughter Book Club recently read Wonder and everyone’s sentiments echo my own.  Wonder is thoughtful and well written and so worthwhile.   I think you should run to the library and get a copy today!  And it wouldn’t hurt to have some tissues handy!