Libri Dilectio: September 2011

20 September 2011

Book Review: Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick
(Gr 3-5)
Scholastic, Sept 13 2011. Reviewed from library book.

“Set fifty years apart, two independent stories—Ben’s told in words and Rose’s in pictures—weave back and forth with mesmerizing symmetry. How they unfold and ultimately intertwine will surprise you, challenge you, and leave you breathless with wonder.

Ever since his mom died, Ben feels lost.
At home with her father, Rose feels alone.

He is searching for someone, but he is not sure who.
She is searching for something, but she is not sure what.

When Ben finds a mysterious clue hidden in his mom’s room,
When a tempting opportunity presents itself to Rose

Both children risk everything to find what’s missing.”

I read, and loved, The Invention of Hugo Cabret for my Materials for Youth course in graduate school. Since I have become a librarian it has been both my salvation and one of my biggest heartaches. Salvation because it is the perfect book to give to a reluctant reader who does not want to be embarrassed by carrying around a small “baby” book at school. Hugo has enough appeal, pictures, and pages to satisfy even the most anti reading child. Sadly, after they finish it, that’s when the heartache sets in. Inevitably mom will be so happy that little insertnamehere read a whole book, and such a thick book too, that she will immediately head back to the library searching for anything similar to try to recreate her own little miracle. The sadsad librarian will then have to tell the elated mother that there is nothing exactly like Hugo Cabret. Yes, there are tons of other illustrated novels, there are even great ones, but nothing like Hugo. He is unique, which is part of what makes his story so wonderful. Poor mom will then leave the library with a handful of good, but not quite Hugo, illustrated novels and hope that at least one sparks some sort of interest with her anti reading child. That was the end of the story – until now! I know many other children’s librarians will join me in rejoicing that Brian Selznick’s new book is out and it is WONDERFUL! Finally, finally, something to keep those Hugo fans reading!!

Ben lives on a lake out in the middle of Nowhere Minnesota. His mother has just passed away and he isn’t ready to move on. He doesn’t know anything at all about his father, until the night he gets struck by lightning. Rose lives an equally secluded life, but in a big house overlooking New York City. She dreams of getting away and finding the movie star she most admires, but Rose is deaf. Her story, told entirely in pictures, is about overcoming disability and proving that everyone wants a chance to really live. These two characters, living a lifetime apart, are both wonderful, believable, and the kind of kids every reader will want to root for.

This story lacks none of the imagination and magic that made Hugo Cabret so exciting to young readers. It has all the elements of a great story; runaway kids, big city adventures, and life in a museum. Oh yeah, you read that right, life in a museum! Kids will likely need little encouragement to pick up Selznick’s newest book, even though it has some serious heft to it. They know what to expect from a book like this, and they can’t wait to dive right in. Thank you, thank you Brian Selznick for easing my librarian heartache and for writing a book so awesome, that all 12 copies I bought for the library are already checked out.

19 September 2011

Book Review: Goliath

Goliath, Scott Westerfeld
(Gr 7+)

Out TOMORROW! 20 September 2011
Simon Pulse. Review copy provided by publisher.

“Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies.”

The war between the Clankers and the Darwinists is well under way, but Prince Alek still believes it’s his destiny to end it and he’ll do anything to make that happen. His best friend, Deryn, who he knows as Dylan, the midshipman aboard the airship Leviathan, is a little less certain that destiny exists or that the war can be stopped. We first met Alek and Deryn in Leviathan and followed their adventures into Istanbul in Behemoth, now, in the end of this amazing trilogy, the stakes are higher and all their secrets are bubbling to the surface.

I have loved this trilogy from the start. It’s imaginative, exciting, and full of amazing illustrations (some of which I’d very much like to frame on my wall!). Goliath needed to bring everything together for me, no loose ends and no disappointments – and it actually did pretty well. When we first meet back up with Alek and Deryn they are still aboard the Leviathan and not entirely sure where the ship is headed next. Alek hopes it’s to Europe, to the center of the fighting, so he can step up and end the war, but they seem to be heading farther and farther away. Deryn is just following orders, she doesn’t mind where the Leviathan takes them next, but she does want Alek to stay aboard and for her secret to stay hidden. At least until she’s ready to tell Alek herself, but just Alek.

Fans of this series will be happy to see all their favorite characters back in action and history buffs will be pleased to meet a few new famous faces. Deryn is just as strong and tough as always, but she’s started to find a little bit of a softer side. Don’t worry, she’s still fiercely independent and the bravest midshipman serving on Leviathan (male or female). Alek grew a lot as a character in this book. He started to make his own choices and be less of a reactionary character. I wasn’t sure how I felt about him after Behemoth, but he made up for all his prior character flaws in Goliath. Oh yeah, in case you were wondering. It’s not all character growth and relationships, this book (like the previous two) is chock full of action, adventure, and suspense!

The one big hurdle in this series is for the teen readers. I’m not sure how much they know about World War I to begin with, so the re-imagined history might not resonate as much for them. I have book talked Leviathan a lot lately, since it’s nominated for the state book award, and many parents have said some variation of, “He has no idea what happened during World War I” or “She has never heard of Darwin and won’t understand genetic engineering.” I try to explain that the series can be enjoyed without a full understanding of either science or history and that it might prompt further study, but both parents and kids have been put off by parts of this trilogy. Does anyone have a solution to this problem? Although, the kids who have picked it up have all loved it and come back for more! I’m excited to get Goliath on the library shelves and start passing it out to teens who aren’t afraid of a different kind of story!

07 September 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Scorpio Races

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

Coming 18 Oct 2011
The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis from Goodreads:

“It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.”

06 September 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Wisdom’s Kiss

This is a weekly meme run by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for other Teaser Tuesday books. Here’s how it works.

1) Grab your current read

2) Open to a random page

3) Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
(make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

4)Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Coming 12 September 2011

“When I am ancient and writing my memoirs I shall entitle this chapter, ‘The Puking Path.’ Or perhaps, ‘The Retching Road’–that’s more accurate as the Alpsburg Pass is quite clearly a decent road when it’s not full of mud.” –Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. pg. 47.

02 September 2011

Book Review: Divergent

Divergent, Veronica Roth
(Gr 8+)
HarperCollins Children’s Books, May 3rd 2011. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Beatrice “Tris” Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth’s dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger.”

Warning: When I’m excited I write a lot of run on sentences.

I have heard people at work raving about this book all summer, and yet I still waited until last weekend to finally pick it up. Silly silly Becky, when will you learn? When tons of librarians are obsessed with a book, it’s probably super awesome, and this one is super duper awesome. It was the first book I’ve read for awhile that I could not put down, and that I couldn’t stop thinking about when I did, unfortunately, have to put it down to go do work. Grumble grumble, kids needing books and homework help, don’t you know I have a book to read?!

There are a lot of dystopias out there. A LOT. Yet, I am still not sick of them. I’m not sure I ever will be. They are awesome and I love them, and I want to read more. Obviously this book was starting with a distinct advantage with me. Also, it’s set in future Chicago! Speaking as someone who has spent most of her life living in the Chicago area, I was ridiculously excited to read a book set in my own hometown! It was awesome to know where the characters were, like really really know. They go to the Sears Tower, (not Willis. Seriously Willis?! C’mon Chicago, why don’t you just rename it the Penis Tower?!), Navy Pier, the Hancock Building – obviously none of these places are the same as they are today, but their presence made the story so much more real for me.

Okay, now that I’ve aired my biases I can actually say what I thought of the book. First off, I loved Tris. She is a perfect dystopian heroine. She is comfortable with the world the way it is…to an extent. She questions her place within her own family, but believes there is a place for her in the world. She is not fighting against the status quo or leading a rebellion, she’s just a teenage girl trying to figure out who she is. In this way she is a relatable character to most readers, even those not living in a future world governed by five factions. Tris takes risks, has strong morals, and more raw gumption then is good for her. I think she’s awesome! Also, speaking of characters; I have a crush on Four, want a friend like Christina, and had my heart broken by Al.

The plot moves along at a nice pace, not too fast, but quick enough to keep me ravenously turning pages. I lovelovelove what Veronica Roth said on her website about this trilogy, “Just so you know, my goal is to make each book feel A. like a complete work in and of itself and B. absolutely necessary.” Isn’t that awesome? You know, as a reader going into this trilogy that, even though the story isn’t over after the first or even the second book, you will finish the novel with a sense of satisfaction and completion…while still desperately wanting the next book to come out! Other series authors, take note, this is the best way to write a continuing story.

Obviously, I loved this book. I can’t say enough good stuff about it, really my only complaint is that the second book won’t come out until May! What will I do until then?! Probably read some more books that all the librarians are raving about…lesson learned.

01 September 2011

Book Review: Pregnant Pause

Pregnant Pause, Han Nolan
(Gr 9+)

Coming 19 September 2011
Harcourt Children’s Book. Review copy from publisher.

“Nobody gets away with telling Eleanor Crowe what to do. But as a pregnant sixteen-year-old, her options are limited: move to Kenya with her missionary parents or marry the baby’s father and work at his family’s summer camp for overweight kids.

Despite her initial reluctance to help out, Elly is surprised that she actually enjoys working with the campers. But a tragedy on the very day her baby is born starts a series of events that overwhelms Elly with unexpected emotions and difficult choices. Somehow, she must turn her usual obstinance in a direction that can ensure a future for herself—and for the new life she has created.”

I originally picked up this book because of the author. I’ve heard lots of great things about Han Nolan’s books, but I’ve never read one for myself and thought it was about time. She did not disappoint me!

Eleanor is the type of character who felt really real because of her changing and evolving personality. She starts out as a rebellious teenager who makes a lot of wrong choices and ends up in big trouble, yes in the 50’s sense…she’s pregnant. After she decides, against her parents wishes, to marry the baby’s father and live with his family at their weight loss camp, she starts to find another side of herself. She realizes that she can connect positively with the young campers and provide them with a shoulder to lean on. Even as Eleanor starts to find her feet in her new life, her new husband is losing his.

I loved that nothing happened like I thought it would in this story. It’s part of what made it feel so real. There was no idealistic teen family playing house for reality TV cameras – there was just a lost, confused girl rushed into a marriage, about to give birth, and stuck with only an ugly orange dress that fits her. Elly managed to stay strong during some things that would have broken just about anyone. I think she’s a great character for high school girls to read.

Yes, there are a LOT of books out there about teenage pregnancy, but this one adds some elements I haven’t seen before. This would be a good book to use to start a discussion with teenagers about safe sex and NOT ending up in Elly’s situation. It is not an easy book to read and so I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone, but, in the hands of the right readers, this book will be a welcome find.

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