Libri Dilectio: May 2010

25 May 2010

Book Review: Dark Life

Dark Life, Kat Falls
(Gr 6-8)

Set in our future, after global warming has raised sea levels to the point of cutting off huge chunks of land, Dark Life tells the story of the first sub sea settlers. Ty was the first baby to be born and raised sub sea. As such, there are several things about him that are entirely unique to his living situation. Due to the amount of bio luminescent fish he eats, Ty’s skin has a permanent shimmer, he’s extremely sensitive to sunlight, but most of all, seemingly has the ability to see even in the darkest depths of the ocean. When Ty meets Gemma, a “topsider” from the remaining world above, she sets in motion events that will change his life forever.

This was a really wonderful book! It had everything I look for in a novel; action, adventure, mystery, romance, and pirates. Well, outlaws…underwater outlaws, so in my head they were pirates! Kat Falls has imagined a world that seems plausible to readers. With global warming all over the headlines and a very real issue, the world it creates will be interesting to teenage readers. I loved the juxtaposition of the topsiders crammed into apartment buildings, with no one having any space at all and the sub sea pioneers living in miles and miles of open sea. Obviously, if I found myself living in this world, I’d want to live in Benthic Territory (sub sea).

This story is full of twists and turns, with barely a second left to just sit still. Ty and Gemma bounce from one adventure to the next, but the author manages to develop their characters and make the reader care about them. The secondary characters are not so lucky. There are a host of them surrounding our leads, but none of them are particularly interesting or stand out that much. Several of them have the potential to be extremely interesting characters, but the reader is never really given enough information about them and their motivations to feel completely satisfied.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be recommending it to teens who are looking for a new adventure novel. I’ll also definitely show them that Kat Falls is a local author! It’s always fun to tell the kids that an author lives nearby, they seem to get a kick out of it. Maybe we can get her to come to the library for a signing in the fall…that would be awesome! Anyway, if you’re looking for a fun, exciting read and a way to cool off from these ridiculously warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing (in the Chicago area), you’ll love Dark Life!

19 May 2010

The Adventures of a Booktalking Librarian

This morning a coworker and I went out to one of our local elementary schools for a booktalk! We each brought ten books to promote to kids in the advanced reading group (grades 3-5). If you’re a librarian and you haven’t had a chance to do something like this, definitely start trying to! Get in touch with your local elementary schools and offer your services, they may not know that you’ll do booktalks.

As soon as I found out I was one of the lucky librarians going on this visit, I ran right out and started grabbing my recent and long time favorites. Frankly, narrowing them down to only ten was really difficult…and really fun! Here are the ten that made the cut for me!

 The Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor
Everyone knows the story of Alice Liddel who walked through the looking glass and into a magical adventure in Wonderland, but what you don’t know is that Lewis Carroll got it all wrong. Alyss Heart is not just an ordinary girl, she’s the heir to the throne of Wonderland. A happy kingdom ruled by imagination, until the day that Alyss’s evil Aunt Redd attacks the palace and steals the throne. Alyss escapes to our world with her loyal bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, but they are separated. Alyss finds herself alone and lost in Victorian London, while Hatter Madigan searches for her to return her Wonderland and restore her to her rightful place on the throne.

Revolution is Not a Dinner Party, Ying Chang Compestine
Nine year old Ling has a good life. Her parents are physicians at the best hospital in Wuhan, her family is educated and worldly. She loves to read English books, listen to radio shows from other countries, and learn as much as she can about the world. Then a high ranking official of Chairman Mao’s moves into Ling’s apartment building. Soon she’s not allowed to read or listen to anything that isn’t Chinese, she can’t have ideas different from those of Chairman Mao’s and it’s considered dangerous that she can speak English. Ling watches, over the course of four years, as her neighbors, friends, and family lose more and more of their rights. This novel is based on the author’s own experiences as a child living in Wuhan, China.
Emily and Navin’s mother has just moved them into their deceased great grandfather’s home. It’s a dirty, dusty, dank old mansion that they must first clean up. As Emily cleans, she discovers a secret room, a mysterious book, and a beautiful amulet, but something sinister also discovers her. That night an octopus creature breaks into the house and kidnaps Emily and Navin’s mother. In order to save her, the kids make their way into a new world filled with talking animals, robots, and the most frightening monsters imaginable.
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
This year’s Newbery Award winner was Rebecca Stead’s, When You Reach Me, which told the story of a girl named Miranda, who’s favorite book in the world is A Wrinkle in Time. She loved traveling through time and space with Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin as they search the stars for Meg and Charles’s lost father. Their father was a prominent scientist who disappeared off the face of the Earth while experimenting with a new form of space travel called tesseract. The adventure begins, as all good adventure’s do, on “a dark and stormy night,” (p.1).
North, Donna Jo Napoli
Alvin is a wimp. He’s a wuss and a mama’s boy. Or so his classmates think. He’s nothing like his hero, Matthew Henson, the first African American to explore the Arctic. Alvin never does anything unexpected. He does well in school, obeys his elders, and never strays far from home. Until the day he decides he’s had enough. He doesn’t want to be the wimp anymore, he’s ready for a real adventure, just like Matthew Henson. Alvin leaves the comfort and safety of home to run away to the arctic North, but he’s not really prepared to face polar bears, wolves, and temperatures cold enough to freeze a man in moments.

Arthur Penhaligon was supposed to die on Monday, instead he’s saved by a key shaped like the hand of a clock, but the key also brings with it great danger. Strange men enter the world after the key and bring in their wake a dangerous plague. In order to save his family and friends, Arthur must enter a mysterious house, that turns out to be the doorway into a new world. The world inside the House is ruled by seven keys, one of which is now in Arthur’s possession. He now has to solve a mystery and fight for the safety of the House as well as that of his world, all while never letting go of his key, or else he will die.
Rascal, Sterling North
The world is full of adorable creatures that your mom has always told you would not make good pets; squirrels, chipmunks, birds, and raccoons belong outside, unless you’re Sterling North. As a young boy, he found an abandoned raccoon cub and brought him home. The cub, whom North named Rascal, became his most loyal pet and the author had a lot of interesting pets!
This is a lifelong favorite that my dad read to me as a child. I love passing along books like this to a new generation of readers!
Nicholas, Rene Goscinny and Jean Jacques Sempe
A collection of short stories about an energetic, trouble-making French school boy named Nicholas. This hilarious book is written by one of the creators of the universally popular comic series, Asterix the Gaul. Nicholas and his friends are forever in and out of trouble. My favorite story in the book involves a game of cowboys that ends with Nicholas and his friends going in for supper and leaving his father tied to a tree outside. Nicholas sees nothing wrong with leaving his father tied up, in his mind, his dad is just really dedicated to the game. This book is great for reluctant readers who want something a little shorter, but also for strong readers who just want something to laugh at.
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld
In 1914, on the eve of World War I, Deryn Sharp and Prince Alek of Austria are about to embark on a great adventure. Deryn is a British girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to join the Royal Air Force, but she doesn’t learn to fly planes. The British are Darwinists, which means they genetically engineer animals into war machines. Prince Alek is an Austrian Clanker, who’s country creates machines of steal and steam. Both the Clankers and the Darwinists find the other unnatural, but who will win this conflict of animal vs. machine? And can Deryn and Alek find a way to work together for the common good when they are so different?
Thirteenth Child, Patricia C. Wrede

The most powerful magicians in the world are seventh sons of seventh sons and the most unlucky children are thirteenth. Lan is a double seventh son and his twin sister, Eff, is a thirteenth child. Eff has been mistrusted and mistreated for most of her life just for being thirteenth. When her family moves out West it’s her chance to start a new life where no one knows her curse. Life in the West isn’t easy – the settlements are constantly under threat from the many magical creatures living just beyond the protective magical border. Eff must discover her inner strength to find out if she really is bad luck or just a different kind of magical.

07 May 2010

Fanfare Friday: The Chipmunks

Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakquel, what is it about three chipmunks that sing and dance?! Kids have been asking for this album at work and all I could think was, “Ugh, their poor parents are going to have to listen to that high pitched nonsense!” Then I realized something…I used to listen to that high pitched nonsense! What is it that makes kids like it so much? I wish I knew, but I remember watching the chipmunks on television, and I loved The Chipmunk Adventure movie. Remember that one? Alvin, Simon and Theodore take off in a hot air balloon race around the world against, their female doppelgangers! Here’s a clip that I remember a little too well, maybe it will make some of us grown ups remember just what is was that made us love all that squeaky singing! And as for this particular CD, it is a fun way to let kids listen to popular music without actually letting them listen to it! Maybe it’s the best of both worlds. Squeaky clean pop music that parents don’t mind kids listening to, as long as they have some ear plugs.

06 May 2010

Book Review: 11 Birthdays

11 Birthdays, Wendy Mass
(Gr 3-5)

There has never been a time in Amanda’s life that she hasn’t been best friends with Leo. They were born on the same day, in the same hospital and have spent every birthday of their lives together…until now. Last year, at their 10th birthday party something happened that broke up their friendship. Now it’s Amanda’s 11th birthday and she hasn’t spoken to Leo in an entire year. All Amanda wants is to get through her birthday and be done with it, but the universe seems to be playing some sort of joke on her because every morning when she wakes up, it’s her birthday all over again! Amanda has to find a way out of this loop or spend the rest of her life living the same day over and over.

Another Rebecca Caudill nominee down…only a whole lot more to go! This one I really enjoyed. Amanda is a sweet, likable character with realistic eleven year old problems. She isn’t the most popular girl in school, but she has a few close friends and the open friendly nature that seems to make most people like her. She doesn’t have a whole lot of self confidence, but, as her day repeats, she starts to believe in herself more and more.

At first I was worried about reading a middle grade novel about a girl repeating the same day over and over. I thought it would get ridiculously dull and, yes, there were a few moments when the plot dragged or when I’d figured out something and was getting frustrated that the characters hadn’t, but overall it was very well done. Each day changes enough that, to the reader, it could feel like a completely new day. I need to cut middle grade novels a little more slack. When I read too many teen books, I start to lose patience with books for younger readers, but many of them are just as good or better.

This is a unique, fun story that lots of kids will enjoy. The plot is not particularly fast paced, but, for those who like a little magic with their realistic fiction, 11 Birthdays will be a fun book. The sequel, Finally, just came out and has been really popular with my library’s patrons. I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up, but I enjoyed this book.

05 May 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Guardian of the Gate

Waiting on Wednesday is masterminded by Breaking the Spine. Check out her blog for more upcoming releases that bloggers are waiting patiently for.

Coming 1 August 2010
Guardian of the Gate, Michelle Zink

Description from Goodreads:
“The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she’ll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister’s role in the prophecy, and that’s not the only thing she wants: There’s also Lia’s boyfriend James.

Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn’t know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.”

I can’t wait to find out what happens next with Lia and Alice! I really loved Prophecy of the Sisters and I have so many questions that I need to have answered! The only thing I’m not super excited about is the cover. I liked the creepy Gothic statues on the first one and was hoping they’d keep that theme going on the covers. Oh well, guess they had to do the model with mouth half open, wearing time period inappropriate clothes to pull in new readers. I can’t begrudge this great series some new readers, and I already ordered my copy!

04 May 2010

Book Review: Eyes Like Stars

Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev
(Gr 7+)

Synopsis from Amazon:

All her world’s a stage
Enter Stage Right
Beatrice Shakespeare Smith (Bertie): Our heroine.
Nate: A dashing pirate who will do anything to protect Bertie.
Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed, and Peaseblossom: Four tiny, mischievous fairies, and Bertie’s loyal sidekicks.
Ariel: A seductive air spirit. Disaster follows in his wake, but Bertie simply cannot resist him.
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the characters of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. The actors are bound to the Théâtre by The Book, an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of the actors, but they are her family. And she is about to lose them all because The Book has been threatened, and along with it the Théâtre. It’s the only home Bertie has ever known, and she has to find a way to save it. But first, there’s the small problem of two handsome men, both vying for her attention. The course of true love never did run smooth…”

I’ve meant to read this one for a really long time, but I managed to put it off until it came out in paperback! Yay, self control! The story was totally worth the wait. Bertie is adorable character, the fairies cracked me up, and I had a crush on Nate.

Not sure if I’m a big enough theater geek for this one though. There was a lot of terminology that I wasn’t following and I’m pretty sure there were some inside jokes for theater people. Lisa Mantchev did make the story accessible to everyone. I felt like I was a theater insider by the end. Actually, now I want to go be a big star on Broadway. Goodbye librarianship, hello super famous actress…well…maybe only in my dreams.

The English major in me did love all the Shakespeare references. When a scene is set on the stage that has any water at all, Ophelia comes wandering in to drown herself! Hilarious. She was one of my favorite secondary characters. Bertie can’t even take a bath without Ophelia being drawn to the water. I loved seeing the Shakespearean characters as (sort of) real people. It will make re-reading my favorite plays more interesting. My Norton Anthology of Shakespeare is going to get a lot more use over the next few weeks!

My only issue with the story was that it wrapped up really quickly. We spend the first few chapters learning about the people who live in the Theater and what life is like. Then we are faced with problems and possible villainy, but then, once the conflict really starts, it suddenly ends. Bertie fixes everything super quickly, well almost everything. The story does end with lots of unanswered questions and something of a cliffhanger, that I’m afraid will be fixed equally as quickly in the sequel. BUT…that did not stop me from ordering a copy of Perchance to Dream! So much for waiting for the paperback!

If you’re interested in reading a unique fantasy, check this one out! Especially if you are as big of a Shakespeare nerd as yours truly.

03 May 2010

Book Review: Forest Born

Forest Born, Shannon Hale
(Gr 7+)

Synopsis from Amazon:

“Rin is sure that something is wrong with her…something really bad. Something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest homestead where she’s lived all her life. Something that is keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all. When her brother Razo returns from the city for a visit, she accompanies him to the palace, hoping that she can find peace away from home. But war has come to Bayern again, and Rin is compelled to join the queen and her closest allies—magical girls Rin thinks of as the Fire Sisters—as they venture into the Forest toward Kel, the land where someone seems to want them all dead. Many beloved Bayern characters reappear in this story, but it is Rin’s own journey of discovering how to balance the good and the bad in herself that drives this compelling adventure.”

Yes, more Shannon Hale, seriously I can’t get enough. Although, this is now, sadly, the last of the Books of Bayern. Man! That is ridiculously depressing.

I’ve been waiting for a new character to take the lead in these books. Yes, I know that each book in the series is narrated by a different character, but so far they’ve all been characters that the reader already knows. We may not have been inside their heads before, but we, well I, already loved them. Rin is an entirely new character and much different than the others. Isi, Enna, and Razo all experience a certain level of fear and self doubt, but it seems like that’s all Rin feels. She is overwhelmed by guilt and uncomfortable with who she is, so she takes on the personality and mannerisms of those around her. She is an interesting addition to the Bayern family. One that, at first, didn’t seem to fit.

Rin’s story is one of self discovery and acceptance. Similar to that of the previous three main characters, but different because most of Rin’s turmoil is locked within herself. She doesn’t worry about how her actions will effect a whole country or the outcome of a war, but how she effects her friends and family. She is a smaller character and somehow also a broader one than any of the others.

My only complaint is that the book dragged a little towards the late middle. I was pretty sure I knew where it was going and got a little frustrated that it didn’t get there sooner. Although, that did allow me more time in Bayern and since there aren’t any more Bayern books to read, I suppose I should be happy. Still, I think I needed a little more action. Maybe Rin should take up sword fighting in the future. Just sayin’, you can’t go wrong with a good sword fight.

Overall, I really enjoyed my latest trip to Bayern. That country sure is always getting wrongly attacked! In the first book miscommunication almost led to war, in the second book it did lead to war, in the third oops, almost back to war, and in the fourth, yipes border skirmishes! These people really need to invent telephones… soon.

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