Libri Dilectio: April 2011

14 April 2011

Book Review: Me…Jane

Me…Jane, Patrick McDonnell
(for everyone!)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2011. Reviewed from library book.

Jane Goodall is my life long hero. Seriously. I’ve read everything she’s ever written (and I own most of her books…actually…all, now that I think of it). When I was twelve she came to Chicago to speak and my wonderful parents took me out of school and brought me to meet my hero. After her talk there was time for her to sign books, when I got to the front of the line and she made real-live-in-person eye contact with me, I immediately burst into tears. Yup. TEARS! I have a picture of the two of us taken right after the tear bursting. I’m kneeling down next to her and we’re looking at each other. I’m looking like another bought of tears is about to hit me and she looks vaguely concerned for my obvious little girl sensibilities. It is one of my favorite memories of my entire life. It’s up there with my wedding.

Anyway, now that there’s a frame of reference for why I would be drawn to this book, I can give my brutally honest opinion of it. This book is completely and totally fabulous! It is biographical, but written in such an accessible way that it is also a perfect read aloud. I’ve already shared it with my kindergarten group, a visiting preschool, and two after school groups ranging from 1st-5th grade…and it’s only been in the library for a week.

Patrick McDonnell (best known for his Mutts cartoons) has written a sweet, endearing story of one of the most inspirational women ever. His illustrations will appeal to even the youngest children and his language is simple without being boring. He includes real pictures of young Jane, as well as a two page spread featuring some of her actual childhood sketches.

This book is completely wonderful. Go out and find a copy right now! Then, if you’re anything like me, share it with every child you know – maybe keep a copy for yourself too. 😉

11 April 2011

Abraham Lincoln Award (2012)

Every year I feature the nominees for the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award which is chosen by 4th-8th grade students in Illinois. It seemed like this year it would be fun to also feature a few of the other state book awards, starting with the one I have the least to do with! The Abraham Lincoln Award is voted on by Illinois high school students. Since my department at the library only serves patrons up to 8th grade, I’ve never really paid any attention to this award before, but it looks pretty interesting. Here are the nominees for the 2012 award – I put the ones that I’ve read in bold. Have you read any? What do you think of the choices?

After — Amy Efaw 
(Speak 2010)

Beastly — Alex Flinn 
(HarperTeen 2008)

Before I Die — Jenny Downham
(David Fickling 2009)

Carter Finally Gets It — Brent Crawford
(Hyperion 2010)

Columbine — Dave Cullen
(Twelve 2010)

The Compound — S.A. Bodeen
(Square Fish 2009)

Flash Burnout — L.K. Madigan
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2010)

Ghosts of War — Ryan Smithson
(Harper Collins 2010)

Going Bovine — Libba Bray
(Random House 2010)

How to Build a House — Dana Reinhardt
(Wendy Lamb 2009)

If I Stay — Gayle Forman 
(Speak 2010)

The Looking Glass Wars — Frank Beddor 
(Speak 2007)

Love is the Higher Law — David Levithan
(Knopf 2010)

The Maze Runner — James Dashner 
(Delacorte 2010)

Mexican White Boy — Matt de la Pena
(Delacorte 2010)

Reality Check — Peter Abrahams
(HarperTeen 2010)

Shiver — Maggie Stiefvater 
(Scholastic 2010)

Story of a Girl — Sara Zarr
(Little, Brown 2008)

Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines — Nic Sheff
(Atheneum 2008)

Why I Fight — J. Adams Oaks
(Atheneum 2010)

Wish You Were Dead — Todd Strasser
(EgmontUSA 2010)

World War Z — Max Brooks
(Three Rivers 2007)

10 April 2011

Book Review: Junonia

Junonia, Kevin Henkes
(Gr 2-4)

Coming 24 May 2011.
Greenwillow Books, review copy provided by publisher.

Alice Rice has spent every February since she was a baby in Florida with, what she considers, her extended family. She looks forward to this visit more than anything else, and this year will be especially wonderful, because this year she’ll be turning 10! Alice can’t wait to enter double digits and she just knows that this birthday will be the best one ever, but when she and her parents arrive in Florida they learn that several of their friends won’t be able to come this year. Then Alice’s Aunt (well she’s not really related, but she may as well be) Kate shows up with a new boyfriend and his young daughter in tow. Suddenly Alice’s special trip is turning out all wrong. She knows that the only thing that will save the vacation is if she can find a junonia, the most rare and special shell she knows. That will make everything perfect.

This incredibly sweet story is told by one of the masters of children’s fiction. Kevin Henkes seems to be comfortable writing for all age levels and excels in all of them. His picture books are award winning storytime classics and his chapter books are just as wonderful. This man seems to be full to the brim with good stories.

Alice is a very believable little girl. She is so excited for her tenth birthday and has built it up in her head as being a turning point in her life. This will resonate with young readers who will empathize with Alice’s excitement and disappointment as her vacation turns out to be different from what she’d wanted. She does read slightly more mature than a lot of ten year olds, but I think this can be explained by the fact that she is an only child who spends most of her time in the company of adults. However, she has moments of such pure, childish bursts of emotion (there’s a perfect scene with a missing spoon) that she feels completely real.

I would highly recommend this story to elementary school girls. They will eat it up and parents will enjoy it as well. This is the type of story to be shared and savored chapter by chapter at bedtime. Kevin Henkes has once again delivered a beautiful story that will be popular with those who already love him and bring in lots of new fans.

04 April 2011

Books that Keep Me Coming Back for More

I read a lot. Not as much as some people, but a lot. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of favorite books. To me a favorite book is one that you dream about, filled with characters who become your friends, one that you never want to end. These books are the ones that you want to read over and over and over and over… I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my favorite books, the ones that I always want to read when I look over my shelves for my next book. Why do I keep coming back to them and why are they so awesome?

The Song of the Lioness Quartet, Tamora Pierce
Anthem Books for Young Readers, September 1983
I first read this series at the age of 11 and found myself completely and totally hooked. The story of a young girl who disguises herself as her own twin brother to become a knight consumed my imagination. I loved Alanna so much. She was strong, smart, and ridiculously driven. Her story resonated with me so much that after finishing all four books in the series, I immediately went back and read them again. I have since read all the Tamora Pierce books I can get my hands on and was lucky enough to meet the lady herself at a book signing last year. Over the years I have read Alanna’s series over and over and over. Actually, all this thinking about it is making me want to go read it again. Okay, so one thing that draws me to a book is a strong female lead.

Graceling and Fire, Kristin Cashore
Harcourt Children’s Books, October 2008.
Dial, October 2009.
I first read Graceling in the summer 2009, shortly after I started my first full time job, and Fire in October of 2009. Both of these books took root in my imagination and became stories that I would turn to again and again in a short amount of time. These stories are epic and take place in a world I can imagine so well that it is difficult for me to keep it from seeping into my own writing attempts. Every time I wander over to my bookshelves, these two call to me. They demand to be experienced again and loved to the fullest. In only 2 years, I’ve re-read Graceling twice and Fire three times. The adventure keeps me on the edge of my seat every time and the romance melts my heart. Brigan and Po are book boys who I have big crushes on. They aren’t just pretty to look at, they are strong and they challenge Fire and Katsa to be better than they are. These are the types of relationships I want to experience over and over! Turns out the second thing I look for in a favorite book is a unique love story.

Sloppy Firsts, Megan McCafferty
Broadway, August 2001.
This was the sort of book that I knew nothing about before I bought a copy. It was face out on the bookstore shelves and something about the cover made me keep picking it up. Eventually, I gave in to temptation and took it home with me. As soon as I started reading, I realized that I was lead astray by the cover. This was not the fluffy light chick lit book I had assumed it would be, but instead, it was something so much better. Jessica is smart, snarky, honest, and completely hilarious. Marcus Flutie is not the typical romantic lead in any way and yet, I fell hard for him. Since I first picked it up in 2005, I have re-read this book more times than I can count. I even chose it for a discussion session I had to lead in a grad school course. This book doesn’t get old for me because it makes me laugh – so there you have it. I’m drawn to books with a generous helping of hilarity.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Knopf Books for Young Readers, March 2006.
This is the book that brought me back to young adult fiction. I had avoided it for all of high school and college, believing that I had grown past it – that it held nothing of interest for a mature woman (scoff) of 22. What a doofus I was, a stuck up book doofus. Shortly after starting my first year of grad school in 2007, I was working as a page and I stumbled across this book. I was bored after working a long shift and had started reading the back of most of the books on my cart prior to shelving them. This one grabbed my attention completely. I had heard about it from various people, but always dismissed it because it was “just ya.” I was honestly embarrassed to be seen checking it out, so I shuffled it back on my cart and tried to slyly use the self check. I brought it home and it completely changed my opinion of young adult fiction. I sobbed my way through this book. I don’t mean a few adorable tears running down my cheeks or even a few cries, I mean full out-no holds barred-give yourself the hiccups SOB. Liesel’s story didn’t just get inside my head, it got inside my heart and sent me running back to the ya section for more earth shatteringly wonderful stories. That’s another thing I look for in a favorite book – a strong emotional reaction.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Pub. 1847. HarperTeen; Reissue edition February 2011.
Since I first read it at 12, this has been my number one, all time favorite book. I thought that Jane was the most wonderful character I had ever read, and I still do. I admire her strength, her intelligence, and her human frailty. I have re-read this book more times than I can count. I encouraged my husband to read it and chose a favorite passage from it to be read at our wedding. This story is a part of me in a way that no other book has ever been. It combines all the things I most look for in a story; a strong female lead, a unique love story, a dash of humor, and a strong emotional reaction. Yup, this is my favorite book and I’m so glad there is a new edition, with a teen friendly cover, so a new generation of readers can experience this story and love it as much as I always have!

There you have it, the books I can’t stop reading. The ones I’ll probably never stop reading. These are the stories that have gotten inside my imagination and taken root. I can’t stop pushing them on anyone who will listen and frequently pick them up for a quick fix or a full immersion. What are the books that keep you coming back for more? What takes a book from simple enjoyment to lifelong favorite for you?

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