Libri Dilectio: April 2010

30 April 2010

Fanfare Friday: A Duck in New York City

A Duck in New York City, Connie Kaldor

This CD first came to my attention at a Preschool Partnerships meeting. I’m going to take a second to be happy that librarianship is one of the most giving professions ever. If a librarian stumbles across something amazing, the first thing they want to do is share it with all other librarians. We don’t compete with each other, we make each other better. Love it.

Anyway, this particular CD is tons of fun for parents and kids. It has a mixed feel between traditional preschool songs, broadway sounding tunes, and folksy music. It’s also just the right mix of sweet and silly. My favorite. One song in particular, “Seed in the Ground” is great for storytime. We’ve done it in our family storytimes and also when a preschool came for a field trip. The kids really love it and so do the teachers/parents. It’s kind of like “The Green Grass Grew all Around” but a little slower and sweeter. It gets stuck in my head for days and I love it. All librarians and parents should check out this great CD, I mean c’mon, it has a song called “Slug Opera!” You know that’s awesome!

29 April 2010

Book Review: Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes, Gennifer Choldenko
(Gr 6-8)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Moose and the cons are about to get a lot closer in this much-anticipated sequel.

It’s 1935. Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz with his family, the other families of the guards, and a few hundred no-name hit men, con men, mad dog murderers and a handful of bank robbers too. And one of those cons has just done him a big favor.

You see, Moose has never met Al Capone, but a few weeks ago Moose wrote a letter to him asking him to use his influence to get his sister, Natalie, into a school she desperately needs in San Francisco. After Natalie got accepted, a note appeared in Moose’s freshly laundered shirt that said: Done.

As this book begins, Moose discovers a new note. This one says: Your turn. Is it really from Capone? What does it mean? Moose can’t risk anything that might get his dad fired. But how can he ignore Al Capone?”

I have mixed feelings about my second trip to Alcatraz. I still loved the history of the novel. I had no idea that families with children lived on “The Rock” during the years that it was a working prison, so reading more about kids living there alongside convicts is still fascinating! However, I think my problem was that I loved Al Capone Does My Shirts so much that my hopes may have been a little too high for this novel.

Moose Flanagan has a seriously big problem, everyone around him is bat-shirt crazy! Like really…really really…trust me. They all are mad at him because…wait for it…he’s too NICE! The characters all keep expressing basically the same sentiment, “Everyone likes Moose, that’s the problem.” Really crazy Alcatraz kids, that’s the problem?! I was so frustrated and I felt so bad for poor Moose. Everyone wants to be his best friend so much that they hate him for not picking them and want to not be his friend if they can’t be his best friend. Yeesh, that was a confusing sentence. Gennifer Choldenko managed to keep me frustrated for pretty much the entire novel, which I think was her aim since that was how Moose was feeling.

My real problem with this book came down to two characters, Piper and Darby Trixel. I hated them both. Completely. Hated. As far as I can tell neither of them have any redeeming qualities. They are selfish, self centered, manipulative bullies. I suppose Piper has an excuse being only thirteen, but c’mon, some of the stuff she does is ridiculously evil. At one point the Alcatraz moms try to explain to the kids about forgiveness and that they should try to understand Piper, ummmm, no thanks. I want to pelt overripe fruit at her instead. Darby doesn’t even deserve fruit, I wanted to push him off a cliff. Again, this is probably the intent, but it was a little extreme for me. Usually, unless the character is Voldemort, there ends up being something for the reader to like, but frankly, Piper, Darby, and Voldemort are all kind of on an even playing field in my mind.

Overall I did enjoy this book. There was a lot more drama and action than the first time around. Moose and the gang had a lot more direct dealings with the convicts, which was really entertaining. I’m interested in learning more about the real life kids who grew up on Alcatraz so I think I might try to sniff out a non fiction book for more reading fun. If you were a fan of Al Capone Does My Shirts, you should check out Al Capone Shines My Shoes, just be prepared with a stress ball or something, because it will make you mad.

28 April 2010

Book Review: Will Grayson Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
(Gr 9+)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.”

I’m not entirely sure that I’m smart enough to review this book! I’ll give it a try though, but all I’ll probably say is how much I loved it! This isn’t my first foray into John Green, but it is my first David Levithan. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from him, but let’s just say….wow. His Will was so complex. He was dark, selfish, angry, but also sweet, smart, and completely sympathetic. I loved watching him grow and change throughout the course of the novel. John Green’s Will made me pick up the book and David Levithan’s got into my heart.

Alright, now for Tiny Cooper. Has there ever been a character as amazingly fabu as Tiny Cooper?! I really wonder if John Green had a full sized, overly personalitified, hilarious best friend in high school. After reading his books I want a friend like Tiny or Hassan from An Abundance of Katherines. I’m pretty sure anyone who has read this book, or even a few chapters of it, would agree that Tiny is a serious scene stealer. Whenever he was in on the action I was completely focused on him…and loving it!

The story was interesting and by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. It made me laugh out loud, grind my teeth in anger, and cry like a little baby. The setting was perfect for me since I’m from Naperville (like David Levithan’s Will) and love going into Chicago for fun things like author signings. The Wills go to classic porn shops and I go to book events…maybe they’re a little cooler than I am. My only critique for the book is, Naperville didn’t really feel like Naperville and didn’t need to be it. If Will hadn’t said he lived there I would never have known. Maybe that was good though, it felt like Will could have lived in Anywhere Midwest Suburb, USA. That probably makes him more accessible to readers. Okay, guess I didn’t critique at all, but actually just climbed back on board the David Levithan love train!

Will Grayson Will Grayson…read it…love it…yay!

27 April 2010

Book Review: River Secrets

River Secrets, Shannon Hale
(Gr 7+)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Razo has never been anything but ordinary. He’s not very fast, or tall, or strong, so when he’s invited to join an elite mission escorting the ambassador into Tira, Bayern’s great enemy, he’s sure it’s only out of pity. But when they arrive in the strange southern country, it is Razo who finds the first dead body. As they try to learn more from the Tirans about the ever increasing murders, Razo is the only Bayern soldier able to befriend both the high and low born, including the beautiful Lady Dasha. And as Razo finds allies among the Tirans, he realizes that it may be up to him to get the Bayern army safely home again.”

I’m pretty sure that I’ve made my love for Shannon Hale pretty clear. I just discovered her this year (with some help from a friend) and am now obsessed! This third title in the Books of Bayern series is just as good as the previous two! This time we get Razo’s story. He’s been around since The Goose Girl, remember when he convinced Enna that her chickens were laying colored eggs? Yeah, I’ve always had a soft spot for Razo, so I was really excited to read his story!

Razo is a really sweet character. He’s honest and genuine, loyal to his friends, and stronger than he knows. He isn’t sure at first, why he’s included on such an important diplomatic mission, but there are those who know what he’s capable of and want him nearby. Every time he second guessed himself I wanted to beat him over the head and tell him how awesome he is!

It was great to get out of Bayern for a little while and see a new country. Shannon Hale creates a whole new society with separate traditions and beliefs than those of Bayern. The Tirans are more fair haired than the Bayern, they live by the sea, and dress predominantly in whites and very pale cool colors. This is pretty much the exact opposite of the dark, forest dwelling, loudest color possible wearing Bayern. Hale gives the reader an inside look into what makes people different, what makes them the same, and how not understanding both can lead to conflict.

Sadly, I recently finished the last book in the Bayern series, Forest Born. I’m hoping that Shannon Hale will be writing more because I’m not ready to leave yet! I guess I’ll ask her tonight at her book signing! So excited!!

Tuesday – 7:49 pm

With two of the best librarians ever and SHANNON HALE! She was awesome! I lovelovelove going to book signings! Got star struck and forgot to ask about more Bayern books…whoops.

26 April 2010

Book Review: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
(Gr 7+)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend:  the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Landau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.”

This may very well be my favorite book I’ve read so far in 2010. It sucked me in right away, granted, I’m apt to like anything that takes place at a boarding school. Not sure why, but something about them makes for great book settings. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld made me want to go to boarding school, even though I’m pretty sure that was not the reaction the novel was going for. Obviously I’ve wanted to go to Hogwarts ever since I got Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for Christmas in 1998…so 12 years. So, yes, this book had a good head start with me, but the story itself was so awesome that I completely fell for it.

Frankie is a GREAT character. She felt so real. Actually, she reminded me of my best friend. Everything she did, her thought process, it felt so familiar. I wonder how many other people felt like that about her. How many readers either know someone like Frankie or are someone like that themselves. I think that’s what makes her so real as a character, a reader can relate to her so completely. After I finished this book, I found myself missing Frankie! I may have to re-read it really soon.

The rest of the cast of characters were interesting (not as much as Frankie, but hey that’s a perk of being the lead). I loved and hated Alpha. I could never figure him out, probably because Frankie never really could either. Does he like her, or hate her? He’s obviously not as cool as he lets people believe, but who is he really?! Then there was poor Matthew who doesn’t even realize what a jerk he is. He’s so sweet, but he keeps everyone at a distance, all the while pulling them uncomfortably close to prove himself to them. It was such a weird relationship dichotomy. I was never sure if I was rooting for Frankie and Matthew or begging her to dumb him on his (pretty) behind.

Basically this book is amazing! The plot is engrossing, the characters are real, and the setting is one that will completely pull you in. I laughed out loud and devoured the pages of this story with relish! I will be reading more from E. Lockhart soon. Actually, I’m really disappointed that I waited this long to read one of her books. Shame on me, but also yay! Now I have a new author to fall in love with!

23 April 2010

Fanfare Friday: Jim Arnosky

Gobble it Up: A Fun Song About Eating!, Jim Arnosky

This is a great picture book with a really catchy song! We used it in our family and toddler storytimes this week and the kids ATE it up! The pictures are great and the song is just repetitious enough that the kids will be able to pick up on it. A coworker and I played the song and sang along while showing the book like we would if we were reading it.

The story shows different animals and what they eat. We were a little worried at first because one of the animals is a crocodile who eats ducklings, but the kids didn’t even flinch. It’s funny how often adults underestimate kids. They just liked the pictures and the song. My favorite is the cover animal, a whale who eats a giant squid. Share this book and song with the preschoolers you know and just be forewarned, this song will get stuck in your head!

19 April 2010

Book Revew: The Boy Who Dared

The Boy Who Dared, Susan Campbell Bartoletti
(Gr 6-8)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, Hitler Youth, and fleshed it out into thought-provoking novel. When 16-year-old Helmuth Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he’s tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmuth’s story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times, to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself.”

This is another nominee for the 2011 Caudill Award and one that I really enjoyed. While researching for her book Hitler Youth, Susan Campbell Bartoletti came across the story of Helmuth Hubner, a young German, a member of the Hitler Youth, and the step son of a high ranking Nazi, who turns against his country in favor of the truth. This is the type of World War II story that I think needs to be told more often. There is so much literature for kids out there on this time period in history, but still there are stories that aren’t being told. Props to Bartoletti for getting one of the untold true stories into the hands of young readers.

We are first introduced to Helmuth as he sits in prison, awaiting his execution. We don’t know for sure how old he is while in prison so, if you don’t already know his story, you aren’t really sure how he got to where he is. The story is told in flashbacks as Helmuth remembers his life before he was arrested. Seeing the rise of Hitler and the Nazis from the perspective of a boy who is a patriotic German was very interesting. He wants what’s best for his country and, even though he hates the Treaty of Versailles, he doesn’t hate the French or English. I thought he was a very interesting and sympathetic character, which could be due to the fact that I was always aware that Bartoletti’s characterization was based on a real person.

While this is a wonderful book, it is one for slightly more mature readers. I don’t mean high school, but I do mean sixth grade and up, maybe some mature fourth and fifth graders would appreciate it. I think older readers will get more out of the story than younger ones will. Also, as the opening of the novel suggests, this is not a feel good book, but it is a good book. I am now very interested in reading Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s non fiction book Hitler Youth, hopefully that means that a lot of kids who read The Boy Who Dared will be similarly moved to do further research and learn more about Helmuth’s life and those of his peers.

15 April 2010

Book Review: The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary

The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary: How Greg Heffley Went to Hollywood, Jeff Kinney
(Gr 3-5)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Go behind the scenes with Jeff Kinney and the making of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie!

If you’ve ever wondered how a movie gets made, you’re not alone. Author and illustrator Jeff Kinney didn’t know either, but when his bestselling series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, was turned into a live-action movie by 20th Century Fox, he learned how a book gets adapted into a major motion picture.

Complete with photographs, script pages, storyboard sketches, costume designs, and original art by Jeff Kinney, The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary is the perfect companion to the bestselling series.”

This is a great way for kids to learn about how movies get made and more about their favorite series. We recently had a Wimpyfest program at the library that was really well attended, so I already knew this would be a popular book. I love that the non-fiction nature of the book doesn’t take away from the traditional wimpy format. It’s still cartoons, jokes, and all Greg Heffley.

I think that kids should read this before they see the movie (if there are any big fans who haven’t already seen it!). Jeff Kinney gives the reader tons of great details to look for during the movie. The set directors went to great lengths to make the movie feel as real as possible! I had no idea so much work into making the diary for the movie. They wanted it to look just like the cover of the first book, but, obviously, that’s not a real diary. They made it from scratch, complete with stitched cover, that’s dedication.

I already wanted to see the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, but now I want to even more! Who wants to take me? Anyone?

14 April 2010

Book Review: The Big Fat Cow that Goes Kapow

The Big Fat Cow that Goes Kapow, Andy Griffiths
(Gr 1-3)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Look! It’s a book
With a mouse and his house,
And a mole in a hole,
And a bike with a spike,
And, of course,
A big, fat cow that goes . . .
5,4,3,2,1 . . . KAPOW!”

When this came across my desk I just had to read it! Look at that adorable exploding cow! This is the type of book the defies categorization. Is it an early reader? Sort of. Is it a collection of short stories? Not really, but kind of. Is it totally off the wall hilarious? Oh so much yes.

The first of this type of short story, picture, nonsense book was The Cat on the Mat is Flat, another popular title at my library. The book is basically a series of very short, rhyming silly stories that young kids will love. It’s kind of part joke book part early reader and all around ridiculous.

The illustrations are the best part as far as I’m concerned. They almost remind me of Quentin Blake. Which is always a good thing. This will be met with a round of applause from all of the early elementary school kids, so find a copy and start recommending it!

13 April 2010

Book Review: Rebel Angels

Rebel Angels, Libba Bray
(Gr 9+)

Synopsis from Amazon:
“Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy—spending time with her friends in the city, attending balls in fancy gowns with plunging necklines, and dallying with the handsome Lord Denby. Yet amid these distractions, her visions intensify—visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened that only the realms can explain.

The lure is strong, and soon Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world that Gemma takes them to. To the girls’ great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.

But all is not well in the realms—or out. Kartik is back, desperately insisting to Gemma that she must bind the magic, lest colossal disaster befall her. Gemma is willing to comply, for this would bring her face-to-face with her late mother’s greatest friend, now Gemma’s foe—Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task…”

This second installment in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy was a little harder for me to get into than A Great and Terrible Beauty was. I’m not really sure why, but I struggled with the story for the first few chapters, but then they went back into the realms and I was hooked again! I especially love that they left Spence and spent the majority of the story in London! This series needed a change of scenery and London at Christmastime was perfect.

I find myself torn with my feelings for Felicity and Ann. Sometimes I really like both of them and other times I really hate them! I suppose that’s what you’re meant to feel for them though. The reader is never quite sure if the two of them are actually Gemma’s friends or if they just use her as a means to enter the realms. I get the feeling that Ann actually does like Gemma, but also that she’d like anyone who paid her the slightest bit of positive attention (not that she thinks very positively of herself). Felicity is the one who I’m never sure of even a little bit. Does she like Gemma? Does she hate Gemma? Is she on the road to becoming the next Sara Rees-Toome?

My favorite parts of this story are the ones that took place outside the realms. I love the Victorian setting and the family/relationship drama. Gemma’s relationship with Kartik is changing and, at the same time, she’s found Simon and is starting to have feelings for him. Aside from cute boys, we get to find out more about Gemma’s family and finally meet her Grandmother. Libba Bray writes great dialog that make her characters come to life and have individual, distinct personalities (something that I really admire because I can’t do it).

Overall I was very pleased with the second in this trilogy and look forward to reading the third. Granted, I won’t read it for awhile. I can’t read books in a series back to back. I always need a little break in between each one!

12 April 2010

Book Review: Fablehaven

Fablehaven, Brandon Mull
(Gr 4-7)

Synopsis from Amazon
“For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite. 

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken — Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good — powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.”

Sigh, yet another Caudill nominee that I wanted to like, but just didn’t. I’ve wanted to read this for awhile, but it never clicked for me. From the start of the story I didn’t actually like either Kendra or Seth. Kendra was too much of a goody goody while simultaneously being kind of snarky with her younger brother. Seth was just plain annoying. He doesn’t do anything he’s told and is overall an unlikeable character.

I liked the idea that the Sorenson’s are keepers of a supernatural wildlife preserve of sorts, but throughout the story there were a lot of parts that I could have done without. For instance, Grandma spends a very long time convincing a troll to allow her to swap a massage for his help. It got down right awkward listening to her. Ew. Also, at one point Kendra needs to gather blood for a potion and stabs an animal…in the “teat.” Ewewewewewew triple quadruple ew. The description went on for much longer than necessary. Like much longer. I understand that kids like gross, but come on! This book was trading off between boring and too much yuck.

I am seriously hoping that I will like the rest of the Caudill nominees better than this one. I can’t believe this goes on for five more books! Yikes! Granted, I’m sure some people really like this series, but it’s not my style. My one positive thought for this story is that I really loved the character of Lena. Her personality and back story were wonderful. She was the best part of the book for me.

09 April 2010

Fanfare Friday: Great Big Sun

Great Big Sun, Justin Roberts

I have (rather belatedly) come to the conclusion that I really like folksy music for children. I’m sure anyone who reads my Fanfare posts has already noticed this. Well, here I go again, another folksy sounding CD for kids. I used this for some pre-storytime music while the kids were arriving and they were all bopping around to it. Anything that gets a really positive reaction from the kids is worth a second listen and I definitely like this album!

This is perfect for preschoolers and also older listeners. Older kids will like the sound of the songs and younger ones will like what Robert sings about. One of the songs on the CD is called “3 Lil’ Pigs” which is super cute! I love it! It makes me want to play the song, sing along, and do a flannel story of the 3 Little Pigs! That would be a storytime multimedia extravaganza! Woah…don’t want to overdue it (tee hee librarian puns are lame).

Check out this CD and all the others by Justin Roberts! He’s a GREAT children’s recording artist that I will be playing a lot more of for the storytime crowd. Check out this music video for his song Willy Was a Whale off his album Yellow Bus!

07 April 2010

Take Two Review: The Song of the Lioness Quartet

Every once in awhile I like to re-read the books that I loved when I was younger – my second opinion is a Take Two Review.

I was always a big reader in elementary school. Pretty much from the moment I could read, I was. Then I hit junior high school and a little bit of a reading wall. There was a point in sixth grade when I might have stopped being a big reader and might have become one of those kids who think of reading as a chore. Lucky for me, a very smart book seller gave me Alanna and I was hooked. I have read and re-read these books periodically since then. They just get better every time!
Alanna’s life looks bleak. Her father is only concerned with his studies and she’s about to be sent away to a convent to learn how to be a lady. Alanna doesn’t want to be a lady, she wants to be a knight and have great adventures. She convinces her brother Thom to switch places with her. Thom will go to the convent, where young boys start learning to be mages and Alanna will disguise herself as a boy and begin training to be a knight.
Alanna starts her new life as Alan and finds that knight training isn’t as exciting as she thought it would be. She works from sun up to sun down, studies non-stop, and has to fight bullies who see her as an easy target. With the help of her friends, both noble and crooked, she earns her place among the boys and proves she’s the best of all. 
I love Alanna. She is exactly the character I think girls should read about. She’s strong and determined, but also stubborn and temperamental. She learns a lot about herself over the course of the four novels. Tamora Pierce is the kind of author who doesn’t just write a great main character, she writes awesome secondary characters. I love all of Alanna’s friends at the palace, her peers and her superiors. I fall instantly in love with George the Rogue and Prince Jonathan every time I read these books. My favorite secondary characters are Myles, Coram, and George. They’re all so good for Alanna, I wish all of them were real people!
Yup, I love Tamora Pierce. She can pretty much do no wrong in my eyes. I’m probably going to read her Protector of the Small Quartet soon and I’ve been told that a lot of the characters from Song of the Lioness make appearances in that series too! Yay!

06 April 2010

Book Review: 13 Treasures

13 Treasures, Michelle Harrison
(Gr 6-8)
Released into the Wild: 12 April 2010
ARC picked up at PLA by co-worker

Synopsis from Amazon:
“No one else can see the evil fairies that rouse Tanya from her sleep, torturing her at the slightest mention of their existence, but they are as real to the 13-year-old as anything she’s ever known. She cannot rid herself of them, nor can she ignore them. But it is her insistence on responding to them that has her banished to her grandmother’s secluded countryside manor.
There is much to explore and even more to fear in the woods surrounding the estate. But, the forest isn’t the only source of dark secrets, and Tanya soon finds herself entangled in a mystery that could trap her in the fairy realm forever.”

It seems that the scary fairies are following me wherever I go. I really don’t seek out these sort of books, they just find me. This one, for instance, landed in my lap (well not really, it landed in the youth services department mailbox and I called dibs) and immediately started giving me the fairy creeps.

Tanya feels very alone for most of the book. Her mother can’t handle her, her grandmother doesn’t want her around, and, like all good fantasy-esque heroines, her weirdness keeps her from really having any friends. She does have her dog, but I was happy when she started to get closer to Fabian. She really needed a human friend her own age, someone with his own weirdness who would be able to understand her.

The plot of the story overall was very enthralling. I was in turns confused, intrigued, excited, and a little freaked out. The characters and setting felt so real it was like watching a movie play out in my head. I love a book that makes me feel like my couch is transported into the middle of a thick, misty wood filled with mystery. This is the type of story that you can really get deeply into, I definitely enjoyed it.

Michelle Harrison is the type of writer who really understands young teens and how to portray them, and their relationships with adults. At one point, during breakfast, there is a perfect exchange between Tanya, Fabian, and their respective adults.

“Fabian had succeeded. She caught his eye and the two of them shared a look; it was the kind of look children wear when they know they’ve gotten away with something. At the same moment, Warwick and Florence also shared a look. Theirs was the kind of look adults wear when they know that somehow they have been well and truly hoodwinked, but are clueless as to the how and why, and know only that there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it.”         (ARC p. 224)

 I will be recommending this to lots of kids in the coming months and hopefully, they’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

01 April 2010

Book Review: Suite Scarlett

Suite Scarlett, Maureen Johnson
(Gr 7+)

Synopsis from Amazon:
“Her new summer job comes with baggage.
Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small hotel in the heart of New York City, and Scarlett lives there with her four siblings – Spencer, Lola, and Marlene.
When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take over the care of a suite in the once elegant, now shabby Art Deco hotel. For Scarlett’s fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite, and a permanent guest called Mrs. Amberson.
Scarlett doesn’t quite know what to make of this C-list starlet, world traveler, and aspiring autobiographer who wants to take over her life. And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn.
Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, and theatrical deceptions. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.”

If you follow Maureen Johnson on twitter or read her blog, you know how funny she is. After reading about her on Libba Bray’s blog and seeing her be “actual John Green” on Vlog Brothers, I just had to read one of her books. I was happy to discover that she’s just as funny in her books as she is everywhere else!

This story was so fun and unique. The family living in an old, antique hotel is pretty great on it’s own and then the characters are so funny and the situations they find themselves in are mildly ridiculous, but also believable. My favorite character, other than Scarlett, was her older brother Spencer. I want a brother like him (not that I don’t love the one I have). He’s smart, funny, protective of his younger sister and impossibly charming. I really loved all the Martin kids. Lola is so nice and caring and Marlene was a very interesting character. This is a family I wanted to be a part of.

I really responded to Maureen Johnson’s writing style. The descriptions were very vivid and I felt like I was in New York wandering the streets with a cute Southern boy or an eccentric actress instead of sprawled on my couch. The Hopewell Hotel became a character in the story as well through these great descriptions. It was another member of the Martin family and I would very much like to go and stay there.

This is a great book and lots of fun. Its a perfect summer read for teenage girls and I will be recommending it a lot for my teens. They will all LOVE me!

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