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Friday, December 2, 2011

Hugo Movie

So, The Invention of Hugo Cabret has been made into a movie. And it's out in theaters now! I knew it was being made, but didn't realize it was out already. Here's a trailer for you.



Music is sounding a little cheesy to me, but I'm digging the production design -- very much like the book.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from us here at Everead! Now we can stop feeling embarrassed that we're listening to Christmas music. . . . :D There is so much to be thankful for in this good ol' world -- like good books for instance.

Everead is now taking questions and making recommendations! That's right, no matter who you are shopping for we can recommend a good book that might be the next favorite. Why are we doing it? Because we love talking about good books!



So, who are you shopping for?

An example:
What should I get for my six-year-old niece who likes pizza and is very polite? Help!
Answer: Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo!
Why, yes, this example does come from real life. I'm not too worried that she'll be spoiled by this post.  Hopefully she'll like the books -- they're her birthday present tomorrow!


  • How old (ish) is your intended recipient?
  • Male or female?
  • What are some of their interests?
  • What are some books they have enjoyed in the past?
  • Do they prefer fiction or non-fiction?
  • Do they have a lot of time on their hands, or just want to pick up a book now and then?
  • Will they like something everyone's been picking up, or have they read everything already?


Put as many or as few details as you please in a comment and we'll get right back to you (after careful thought of course!).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Froggy Boots Go with Everything!

This cute little board book was sent to me in the mail a couple of months ago. I think a lot of parents can relate to the child who wears one article of clothing until they can't possibly squeeze their body into it anymore, until it totally falls apart, or until it "mysteriously" disappears in the laundry ... For my older brother, it was a flannel grey-and-black-checkered jacket. He's wearing it in at least one of his school pictures. Wouldn't take his jacket off for the camera guy. For me, it was a pink dress-up dress. I have pictures of myself kneading bread, trick-or-treating, babysitting, dancing, you name it, in that pink dress. My littlest brother practically slept in his cowboy boots.

So the premise of Froggy Boots Go with Everything is charming in its familiarity. A little boy jumps in puddles, takes a bath, and plays on the monkey bars in his rubber froggy boots. Added to the fun of the book is the little guide at the end that has you look for the real frog hiding in each illustration as well as other cute hidden objects. My boys, so far, haven't become overly attached to any one article of clothing, but I would not be surprised if one day, this book becomes both fun and applicable to them as well.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck by Brain Selznick

This book is as thick as a brick. And yet, one can read it in a matter of hours.

Brian Selznick, best known for his book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, has done it again.  This time, he mixes two stories, set decades apart. Ben is a boy growing up on Gunflint Lake, Minnesota and dealing with a tragic loss. Rose lives just outside New York City and fights the restrictions that are imposed upon her due to her deafness. Rose's story is told in pictures, Ben's story is written.

Sitting alone in a quiet house and reading Wonderstruck, I almost forgot I could hear. The parallel stories pulled me along from the very beginning; Selznick wastes no time introducing us to the conflict. Elements of mystery combine with themes of parentlessness and finding home in striking simplicity. And I was so happy about the ending.

Speaking of the end of the book, I loved Selznick's acknowledgments. WHEN you read this book, don't skip the pages after "the end."

***
This book is a Cybils nominee in the Graphic Novels category. The above review represents my own opinion, and not the assessment of the Cybils round one panel.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guest Review: Dolphin Tale: A Tale of True Friendship

Today I have a lovely review for you from 8-year-old Joy. She was the winner of our Winter's Tale contest in 2009, and apparently the story stuck with her! She found another book about Winter (the rescued dolphin given a prosthetic tail). Take it away, Joy!


Dolphin Tale: A Tale of True Friendship by Emma Ryan


Guess what! I have the new book based off the movie Dolphin Tale. It is called Dolphin Tale: A Tale of True Friendship and its got extra details. It says who saved Winter and how she got out of the net. A boy saved her with his pocket knife. I really liked reading it. I put my nose right in it because I was so excited! This book will be part of my collection of stuff that I got from your website. I can't wait to get Dolphin Tale: The Junior Novel. (now you push shift and the right pinky, so it will do dot, dot. then you do this one up here, and it makes like a sideways smiley face).  :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

So I enjoyed...

...reading this little chat with Shannon Hale. It officially starts on page two of the comments. Sadly I could not attend, myself, but this was my favorite bit. Says Shannon,

Alvilo, getting my first book published was freakin' amazing. It was a fairy tale. I was not a best seller. I did not make a lot of money (very, very little, actually). I did not win a major award. It wasn't that kind of fairy tale. Not the prince marries you and you swim in gold coins and caviar. It was the kind where you think the bear outside is going to eat you and instead he shows you the way to a secret spring where raspberries are ripe all year long.

Sweet! I could go for ripe raspberries all year long!

Also, as of today, you can bid on having a character in a Shannon Hale book named after you. To benefit the Kids Need to Read charity. Also several other awesome authors are participating. Here is the link for that!
**edit** looks like the auction opens at 3:30 p.m. MST

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post: The Relationship Between Reading and the Brain

So! Here is something new!

Lindsey Wright, a writer for onlinecollegeclasses.com, approached me wanting to write a piece for Everead. I am so flattered! She proposed to discuss the psychology behind online book reading -- a pertinent issue these days. I have read a handful of books in electronic formats, though none on ereaders, and a certain something is different. If you own or have used an ereader, tell me about it in the comments. How does it compare to other forms of reading?


Without further ado, here is Lindsey.


The Relationship Between Reading and the Brain

Since the birth of the printing press, humans have become accustomed to reading printed material. However, with the explosion of the Internet and electronic publishing, more and more people are replacing print text with digital text. For example, students taking online classes are now getting their text books digitally, and there are even websites available that offer classic books such as Great Expectations by Charles Dickens to read for free via the Internet. However one must consider the implications of reading material through technology. For instance – how does the brain react to electronic text? A 2009 New York Times article titled, “Does the Brain Like E-Books?” stated "Initially any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention.

Researchers will agree that the brain reacts to electronic text and printed text in many different ways. Alan Liu, head of the Transliteracies (a group researching online reading practices and technologies) states one's balance of focal and peripheral attention differs greatly when reading an electronic text and print text. When reading print text, one's attention is very focused on the page, paragraph, sentence, word, etc. In standard novels and nonfiction books, there is very little to distract the reader from the material. All print material is different however. With a newspaper, there will be photographs, multiple news stories, comics, and many times all on the same two pages of printed material. Readers will, nonetheless, be more focused on a standard book than a newspaper, and some may suffer from what Liu refers to as tunnel vision when reading a single page, or paragraph.

Although the balance between focal and peripheral attention in print material varies, in most cases electronic text presents an unhealthy balance resulting in the reader lacking a proper amount of focal attention and being overwhelmed by one's peripheral attention. When reading an e-book on an iPad or reading a blog online, the brain is not entirely focused on what it is reading. Whether the brain becomes sidetracked by the ads on the side of screen or feels an urge to switch tabs to check email, the reader struggles to focus on the text at hand. The best reading experience is considered one in which there is a balance of focal and peripheral attention, and many researchers believe reading a printed text many times results in an abundance of focal attention, whereas reading an electronic text results in an abundance of peripheral attention.

Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, believes that the effects of electronic reading are unknown. What researchers and scientists do know is how the brain takes in print material. According to Wolf, it takes the brain approximately 300 milliseconds to comprehend a word and the brain allocates an "additional 100 to 200 milliseconds to an even more sophisticated set of comprehension processes that allow us to connect the decoded words to inference, analogical reasoning, critical analysis, contextual knowledge, and finally, the apex of reading: our own thoughts that go beyond the text." Going beyond the text and entering our own understanding is what French novelist Marcel Proust referred to as the heart of reading. As a neurologist, Wolf's greatest concern with reading through an electronic means is that the "young brain will never have the time (in milliseconds or in hours or in years) to learn to go deeper into the text after the first decoding, but rather will be pulled by the medium to ever more distracting information."

Today, the iPad, Nook, and Kindle are household names. In recent years, e-readers have taken the publishing industry by storm. According to a recent Harris poll, one out of six Americans uses an e-reader, rather than reading books in print, while another one out of six Americans is likely to purchase an e-reader in the near future. E-books and electronic text are here to stay. The way we access text and comprehend language is evolving, and we can only hope that our brains can keep up.



Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Food Allergies for Dummies


Food Allergies for Dummies by Robert A. Wood, MD.

So. Things have been a little wacky at my house lately. We are looking for a new normal since discovering (and admitting to ourselves) that my little guy has food allergies. Most of my reading lately has focused on food allergies.

My top recommendation for educating oneself about food allergies goes to Food Allergies for Dummies by Robert A Wood with Joe Kraynack (because, you know, Dr. Wood has the allergy know-how and Mr. Kraynack has the writing thing down).

It is by far the most comprehensive guide I found to read. And that was what I wanted.  Admittedly, I didn't read the tome cover-to-cover -- that's not my typical approach with non-fiction. But what I wanted to know, it told me. And the book also raised further questions in me and explained them.  It has enabled me to feel competent at the doctor's office discussing allergies and intelligent about what tests are available, which ones I want him to have and how to proceed.

Reading this book was invaluable to me when my son started having a severe reaction to milk (he found his brother's sippy cup). Who do you call? What do you say? When is a reaction serious and when is it deadly serious?

I wish I had found Food Allergies for Dummies sooner. Some of my behavior (*ahem* feeding him allergens because I was in denial!) would have changed earlier.

If you have a little one, and you even suspect that maybe, just maybe, your precious baby has had an allergic reaction to something PLEASE take the time to educate yourself about allergies. Determine what systems your child is reacting on, and whether or not they have a true allergy (an immune system response).

Don't dismiss a reaction as a fluke. If you think something is strange, investigate it now.

Like I said, I wholeheartedly recommend Food Allergies for Dummies. If you can't find a copy quick enough, or if you want to read the story of a young man growing up happy with food allergies (which is what I needed after coming out of denial) I recommend www.allergicchild.com.

 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

StarCrossed

I have to blog about this book, because it's just one of those books that must be blogged about! Know what I mean?

StarCrossed, by Elizabeth C. Bunce (who first wrote A Curse Dark as Gold, another awesome read), follows Digger, an irreverent thief-turned-revolutionary. I'm finding it difficult to summarize this book---like, where do I begin? It's so jam-packed with complex people and plot twists, none of which I want to say too much about, that it's hard to find a footing.

Digger is a professional thief on the run, her partner in crime captured and likely dead already. She stumbles upon a group of joy-riding aristocrats, lies about her identity, and is taken under their wings and turned into a lady's maid for one of them---a young woman, Meri, who's about to come of age, and who hides an extraordinarily dangerous secret: she has magic. Magic is strictly outlawed in the kingdom, and those found with any connection to it are swiftly and brutally dispatched.

Plot twist, plot twist, plot twist, holding your breath, a lot, and then an ending with an ultimate cliffhanger about sums up the rest of the book. There's no love story, as the title might lead you to believe. Just hair-raising action adventure at its finest. And maybe, just maybe a little set-up for a romance in a subsequent book? We shall see. At least, I know I shall---November this year. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Santa Club

*Before you begin reading this post!*

Are you over the age of 12?





Have you and your parent or guardian had a chat about Santa Clause?






If your answer to one or both, especially the second, is Yes, continue.






Okay, so funny this should be such a hush-hush post, but, you know. Santa has a way of being controversial. :) The Santa Club, by Kelly Moss, walks kids who are ready through that troublesome question of the veracity of the Man in Red. If your child is ready for "the talk," I think this book's approach is perfect. After confirming that the reader is accompanied by a parent and has permission to read, The Santa Club poses that singular question, "Is Santa real?" The answer: a resounding Yes! It all began with St. Nicholas, who wanted to honor the Baby Jesus, and the gift giving continues today with millions of Santas all over the world. After reading, the child is admonished to not share this top-secret information with anyone else, especially younger children, and is then officially inducted him- or herself into The Santa Club.

I loved that this book took such a positive approach to what can be a traumatic revelation. I loved that it embraced the true meaning of Christmas---the birth of Jesus Christ. But ... I didn't love the illustrations. :( I'm no judge of art, but the people depicted throughout the book are generally unattractive and occasionally a little scary looking.

So. The text? Loved it. Fantastic. The pictures? Not my fav. Still, I'll keep this one on a high shelf until my kids are ready for it. A better approach to teaching them about both Santa and his role in the real Christmas, I have yet to encounter.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alysa will join the Cybils 2011 as a...

...judge on the Round One panel for Graphic Novels!

I'm so excited about this! The list of my co-panelists looks fantastic.

I was on this panel not last year but the year before (2009) and it was a fantastic experience. It was Graphic Novel immersion and I learned so much.  This year I'm thrilled to be back with that knowledge.

I'll be working closely with


You (yes, you!) can nominate your favorite graphic novel published in the past year. I and my fellow panelists will read all the nominees and create a shortlist of titles to pass on to the Round Two judges. They'll pick the year's best graphic novels (one for YA, one for Kids) based on Kid Appeal and Literary Merit.

Of course you can also nominate your favorite books of the year that fall in other categories (not just graphic novels).  Nominations open on October 1, and I'll be sure to post a link to the nomination form. (EDIT: Here is the link!)For round one, each book nominated is read by two panelists. They read at least the first fifty pages of the book and evaluate it based on the Cybils criteria -- kid appeal and literary merit. In my experience, nearly all of the books are read completely by more than two panelists.  We have a great time debating the merits of the nominees via emails and group chats, and inevitably come up with a list of stellar books.

Just itching to start,
Alysa

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sophisticated Dorkiness: An interview with Kim

Taking part in the Book Blogger Appreciation Week interview swap has been kind of like having a pen pal! That is to say: awesome! In a get-to-know-you-through-text-only kind of way. I was lucky enough to interview Kim, whose blog is titled Sophisticated Dorkiness. Isn't that a great name for a book blog? Here, Kim answers the interview questions. On her site, you can see my answers to the same.

How long have you been blogging?

I’ve been blogging since May 2008.


Why do you blog?

I started out blogging because I was graduating from college and wanted someplace to talk books, since I’d miss that after I wasn’t an English major anymore. I keep blogging because of the great friendships I’ve developed and because of how the blog has positively impacted my career as a journalist.

If you could meet any author, which one would you want to meet and why?

My initial answer was Margaret Atwood, but if I met her I’d be so tounge-tied I’d have no idea what to say and would look like a total idiot. So, on reconsideration I pick Jon Krakauer, a journalist and narrative nonfiction writer I admire because I’d love to pick his brain.

What is one challenge you frequently face when blogging? How have you tried to overcome it?

I run out of time and energy to blog after a long day at work. I’ve tried to remedy that by writing more posts on weekends, getting up early in the morning to blog, and scheduling posts ahead of time. It only sometimes works!


What is one book you wish everyone would read?

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. This is a truly amazing work of narrative nonfiction that I just love.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what three books would you want with you?

  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace because I read it once and didn’t really get it. I assume I’d have lots of time to read on a desert island.
  • Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood because Atwood is one of my favorite authors and I haven’t read that one yet.
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder because that book gives me hope when I’m feeling down.


Where is your favorite place to read?

I have two places. The first is in my reading chair, which is one of those big 1.5 size chairs I bought used for $100 about a year ago. It’s so comfy. The other place is in a lawn chair facing the lake at my cabin. It’s serene and beautiful.

That sounds lovely! I can just picture myself reading at a cabin on the lake.


If one were to take a sample of the reviews on Everead and Sophisticated Dorkiness, there would not be many books in common. However Kim and I both enjoyed The Happiness Project.


Thanks Kim!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Book Bloggers Appreciation Week!

This week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week!  Seriously. I'm not making this up. There are prizes for book bloggers and special topics you can post about and tomorrow I'm being interviewed and doing an interview in return! It's all so exciting. 


Today, at the suggestion of the BBAW blog, I'd like to "highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience" for me:


Reading Shannon Hale's blog, Stephenie Meyer's blog (which no longer exists), and participating on the forums at the Twilight Lexicon (ah, saying that makes me feel nerdy, it has been a long time) got me thinking about books online.  "Wait. There's an online book community?" I said to myself. After finding interesting information on their books, I started to look up other books online.  The first book blog I began to follow was Bookshelves of Doom


Leila of Bookshelves of Doom embedded a vlogbrothers video, and while they're not strictly book bloggers (or book vloggers) they are doing a Great Gatsby discussion these days. I do believe I have watched every one of their videos. I have been more faithful to their YouTube channel than to any television series. 


Many thanks go to Shannon Hale for highlighting Laini Taylor; I've followed her from Not For Robots to Grow Wings to her current blog.


Then I was a Cybils judge, and I got all kinds of new favorite blogging connections from that!  Melissa over at Book Nut remains a standout, and I can't help loving Sherry at Semicolon


And that's the way these things happen -- one blogger introduces you to another and suddenly your reader (google reader, in my case) is filled with all kinds of awesome author blogs and book blogs, and you have a conglomeration of friends you've never met. People whose lives you get to peek into. People whose taste in books is exactly like your own, crazily different, or to be taken with a grain of salt.  


I'm glad to be part of it. 


Alysa


p.s. I finished reading Jane Eyre yesterday. Love it!
p.p.s. Permission to appreciate Everead in the comments? Granted.






Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Hands Sing the Blues

I received this lovely book in the mail recently, and I sat down to read it to my three-year-old the night it came. My Hands Sing the Blues is a visual journey through the life of Romare Bearden (who, call me uncultured, I'd never heard of before reading this). Romare Bearden, I now know, was considered "one of America's preeminent artists" and was best known for his collage-paintings. The illustrations are inspired by his style, and the text is inspired by the jazz and blues that inspired his art:

Rocking on her creaky swing, we hear the crickets chirp.
We feel the humming Magnolia Mill and hear the crickets chirp.
We gulp down warm tomato slices, trying not to slurp.

The rhythm of the writing is mellow and fun, and the book touches on important historical events that I hadn't considered how to approach with my son yet. This book helped create a good atmosphere in which to discuss segregation and how the world is better today. It's a lovely book.

Friday, September 2, 2011

From the mists of time...

...I bring you this review that once was lost (among drafts), but now is found. And it's a good thing I found it, too, because I liked it!

Wildwood Dancing by Julliet Marillier. This is a retelling of that classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. While I was recommending it to my sister, I accidentally described it as cute. Then I corrected myself, "actually, it's not cute at all. It's really creepy and atmospheric. I think I called it cute because it has a happy ending." Anyway, the writing is superb -- it imparts a sense of place better than any other fairy tale I've read. I also really enjoyed that I was able to piece together parts of the big reveal at the end, but not everything. I stayed up late reading this one, and want to read its sequel/companion novel, Cybele's Secret.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cinammon Baby

Cinnamon Baby by Nicola Winstanley, illustrated by Janice Nadeau.

I love this book.

I checked it out from the library after finding it recommended on PlanetEsme. And her review is worth a read. (That Esme's so eloquent.)

Cinnamon Baby is a gorgeous picture book (watercolor, graphite pencil & paper collage) about the beautiful baker Miriam. Every day, she bakes. She saves the cinnamon bread for last, always, because it is her favorite.  She marries Sebastian, and they have a baby. A beautiful, wonderful, baby who will. not. stop. crying.  Are there any parents out there who are relating?

Oh! I just love Miriam, Sebastian and that baby! They love each other so well.

The text is straightforward and romantic: "After that he bought a loaf of bread every day for a year. Then he asked Miriam if she would marry him, and she said yes." Sigh. Love it.

The pictures are intricate and enhance the story so well. Sebastian is a violinist, though you wouldn't know it from the text. Like Esme, I adored the scenes of Miriam walking the crying baby around town.

I can't lie. I choked up on the last line -- I was reading it aloud to my boys, the first time I read it -- but it was okay because it was the last line, so I didn't have to read after it. This may be my go-to book for baby showers from now on.   (Though I still adore Marla Frazee's Walk On! for that purpose.)

Highly recommended, especially for parents.

Edited: I've now collected all my favorite books to give at baby showers in one convenient post. You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Boyfriend is a Monster #1: I Love Him to Pieces


My Boyfriend is a Monster #1: I Love Him to Pieces
by Evonne Tsang illus. Janina Goerrissen

Ah, this one was so silly!

So I got the recommendation from a School Library Journal Article that highlighted some graphic novels. I went into it with some trepidation, monster romances not being my typical thing, but I ended up really liking it! It grew on me, you might say (har har).

We open the book in a very normal high school, following Dicey, a cute girl with awesome baseball skills. We watch her do a school project, just kind of getting to know her, and then watch her fall in love with her boyfriend. It takes quite a while for the whole "monster" thing to come up, in fact. At first I was like, "Okay, where's the monsters? Lets get to the good stuff!" But after reading the book, I say it is paced just right.  The slower beginning and everyday feel really let the climax pack a punch. If we had started with monsters, well, it just wouldn't have been as exciting!

Anyway, this one was silly and funny, and . . . also somewhat violent, but not graphic. The style of the art is fairly detailed, and I appreciate that the violence was not detailed. It kept the focus of the book on the characters, and didn't make me want to gag.  

I'd say recommended for 12 plus, have fun with it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cybils season! +Hunger Games teaser trailer

Hey everybody! Here is the link to the Cybils site, just in case you want to volunteer to be a judge. I've loved it, three years running.  Crossing my fingers for four.

Also here is a link to the Hunger Games teaser trailer. Just in case you haven't seen it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Understanding Comics

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

So this was really interesting!

Since I have been reading a lot of graphic novels lately, I've been wondering about the technical terms for things. Like "Is there a name for the scribbling over the top of someone's head, to show that they're mad?" Well, I still don't know the answer to that one. But the spaces between panels are called gutters, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, Understanding Comics is less a primer of terms and more a discussion of the question "What is Art?" and how comics fit into art. Graphic novels, webcomics, and picture books all fit into McCloud's definition of "comics." Also lots of other sequential images.

The book itself is written as a comic -- very effective for it's purpose.  It expounds the history of comics according to McCloud and talks about Eastern (especially Japanese) comics vs. Western comics. Their conventions, the things that artists do to get their point across. It delves in to how images can represent the passage of time, and all sorts of other interesting theoretical and practical stuff.

It will definitely be helpful to those (like me) who want to learn more about comics, how to read comics critically, and understand why an artist does something a certain way. More than that, it is consequential as a  commentary on art in general. I'd call it a must for those who want to write comics.

I heard about Understanding Comics from author Gretchen Rubin's blog. She's not even interested in comics, but found it fascinating. I heard McCloud has written two follow-ups. Anybody read them yet? I think I might like to chew on those, next.
_________________________
p.s. I now have some affiliate links available for you! If you make a purchase (any purchase) through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! Thanks for supporting my geekery!
B&N affiliate link
 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A World Without Heroes

The latest and greatest Brandon Mull book (author of the Fablehaven series and The Candy Shop War) hit the shelves not too long ago. I've read all of Mull's books, and I must say, after I got about halfway into Heroes, I enjoyed this one best. For whatever reason, it wasn't grabbing me from the get-go. Maybe I'd gotten out of the habit of reading. Maybe it's impossible to get into a book when one has only two-to-five-minute snatches of time in which to read. Maybe I wasn't convinced that I was ready to invest myself in learning about and caring about a whole new middle-grade fantasy world (this is the first book in a slated trilogy). In any case, I (eventually) enjoyed the fast-action pacing, the likeable (if somewhat unbelievable) main characters, and the plot twists that kept me guessing until the last chapter.

The book has a very strangely quirky beginning for what turns quickly into a serious story. Jason, age thirteen, works at a zoo. Cleaning by the hippo cage one day, he hears music coming from ... inside one of the hippos? Leaning closer to investigate, he falls in, gets swallowed by the melodious water horse, and ends up in another world, where he suddenly finds himself on a seriously dangerous quest, accompanied by another young "Beyonder," Rachel, to recover all the syllables of the one word that can undo the purely evil magician/dictator who rules it.

I say the characters are slightly unbelievable because they are a little too well-spoken and mature for your average thirteen-year-old. Which is not to say that thirteen-year-olds aren't either of these things. These kids just come across as college professors on occasion.

Still, entertaining book. I'll definitely read the sequel, but I won't be dying for its release.

Monday, August 15, 2011

...Well, whaddaya know, it was!

So I wrote a little story for the aforementioned contest.

The Princess and the Robot

If you like it, register for the site (which is simple, and not spammy) and "heart" it so that I have a chance to win. There are nearly 200 entries, so it is a little daunting, but I only have to get in the top 15 to be considered for the grand prize.

Personally, I think I did a fantastic job. Ashley helped me with the editing.
"Bellissima always gets her way. But when a suitor comes calling during the robotics fair, it could throw a wrench in her plans."
Remember, if I win the awesome prize (books by Shannon Hale and an Amazon Gift Card) I will give the books away here on the blog! :D

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Whew! & So this looks fun.

Hey, weren't those guest posts awesome?  Whew, they took more work to put together than I originally thought they would, but of course the hardest work was done by their authors. And it was totally worth it! Many thanks to those who left comments on them. We were featured on the homepage of the Center for Children's books, did you see?

In other news, doesn't this contest look fun? Basically write a less than 1500 word story about a prince or princess and you could win awesome Shannon Hale prizes. Y'all know how I feel about Shannon Hale prizes. So I'm going to enter! And, since I already own the two Shannon Hale titles that are part of the prize, if I win then I will do a giveaway here! I've already got a start on my story...

Alysa

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Guest Review: Monkey Truck

Monkey Truck by Michael Slack
AD

Book Review by Mohammad J. (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews)

Monkey Truck is a superhero that helps the animals in the jungle. The monkey truck has four wheels and is a half monkey, half truck. He is brave.

The monkey truck book is a good book to read to kids ages 2-5 because the words tell what the monkey does.  It has a lot of action pictures that are fun to look at like when the monkey truck does something. Every thing the monkey did was well drawn in the book. All the pictures show a lot of facial expressions.

Note from Alysa: I seem to remember two camps among the students when it came to Monkey Truck -- those who thought it was awesome and those who found it so-so. Mohammad falls into the latter category, I think.  But it is worth mentioning that the text rhymes and the illustrations, which have a kind of Cartoon Network feel, expand the text and give the story fullness. Read and (hopefully) enjoy!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guest Review: Doors

Doors by Roxie Munro
R

Book Review by Marcus Taylor (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews)

Doors is a perfect book for kids around the ages of 6 to 12. I say this because it has a decent length of words for the kids to read, and lots of color and texture as to where they won't lose attention. Within the reading the children are asked to find an apple and a hat or other random stuff  from different scenes as you turn the page.  The opposite page has little doors, or pop-ups if you will, for kids to lift and find these items. So, over all this book is an attention-grasping, worth-your-time book to read; and I give it a R.

Note from Alysa: Ooh, this sounds fun! My older son no longer wants to rip the flaps off of books like this, I wonder if he'd like it. That reminds me that I've been meaning to read Press Here by Hervé Tullet, which sounds similar. Thanks for letting me read (play?) Tullet's other book, The Book With A Hole, with you!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Guest Review: You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman.
R*

Book Review by Clorisa Mainor  (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews).

The book I read was You Read to Me, I'll Read to You by Mary Ann Hoberman. I want it to be an all star book. It's short fables that have really good morals at the end.

I believe this is a great book to start off reading to children because the morals will teach them wisdom and the illustrations are really on point. The pictures can tell the same story as the writing in the book. I think the pictures are for the children who can't read yet so they won't be missing out on anything. They will be reading alone but through pictures. I also love this book because it rhymes and I know children love books that have a rhythm.

Even as a 17-year-old this book appeals to me. So not only is it for children, but adults can also have fun reading along. Most of the fables in the book I heard when I was young, and I really like that they are still being told and in different patterns. I really love to read to children; my little cousins, their friends, even random kids I see in Douglass library when I go. And I really think the theme "you read to me, I read to you" gives the child to time to read along and be engaged instead of sitting there and watching and looking at the pictures.

I think more books like this should be made for a child's imagination. This book should be recommended to all elementary schools and all libraries.

Note from Alysa: One thing Clorisa didn't mention is that the narrative inside is split into two parts -- presumably so that two people can read it together.  Of course one person could read both parts, or more than two people could rotate. I think it would be fun to use this book for choral reading. In the workshop we also talked about the interior design of books and this one has a great design that makes it easy to use.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guest Review: Chester

Chester by Melanie Watt.
R*

Book Review by Christina Coleman (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews).

I really enjoyed this book, it was creative and cute. It had nice pictures, the concept was understandable and held my attention.

The book was about a cat named Chester that is self centered and rude, and takes over the author Melanie Watt's book. He re-writes the book with a red marker and doodles on it too. He really just wants the story to be about him and not about what she's writing about. Also kids will enjoy a laugh.

What I liked about the book, was that the author was having problems with her own character, and really couldn't handle him. There was nothing that I didn't like about the book.

I recommend this book to young kids ages 7- 10 years of age. Also this book would be great as a read aloud and a read alone book.


Note from Alysa: Hmm, a character who takes over your projects, doodles on things with red markers, and wants everything to be about him? Sounds like parents of toddlers will enjoy a laugh, too! I'll definitely pick this one up soon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guest Review: The Little Red Pen

The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens

Book Review by Jessica Heath (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews)

In the book a red pen takes on the task of completing a huge task alone but in the end only bad comes from the situation.

There are many characters in this book. There is a pen, a stapler, a highlighter, a ruler, a yardstick, an eraser, and other basic office supplies. This is a helpful book because it shows the value of teamwork. It also shows that not one person can do a job that requires many.

This is a good book to read to children because it shows the different dialog by using different colors and font type for each different character. This can allow the reader to use different voices to entertain the children or audience that they are reading to.

The illustrations are good in the book also. They have a lot of color and even though the characters are inanimate objects you can still see the facial expressions.

Note from Alysa: I haven't read this one yet, but I'm guessing it plays on the story of The Little Red Hen. Sometimes I identify pretty well with that bossy chick, so I'll have to pick this one up!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guest Review: Mirror


Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Book Review by Jonathan Diaz (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews).

There are two different places that create two different stories. One family lives in the country of Australia and the other family lives in Morocco, North Africa.

Each story has many differences and maybe some similarities -- just like some things in families are the same for each family. The book Mirror describes and shows the differences between how people live in each country; how they cook, eat, getting to places, what transportation they use, their different lifestyles at home, different religious views, and many other differences in life using pictures side to side.

As a critic, I think this book was very useful to any age. It was realistic and creative. The story was realistic and simple because it did not use words; it just showed images to describe each action the picture creates. This book would be useful to any person and it makes you think of how different each person’s life is.

Notes from Alysa: This was a favorite of several in the group, and there was some discussion about how it would be great for classroom use. It is not constructed like a typical book, so when my 11 month old opened it up he got frustrated. :D Within the cover are two books that open up side by side, to show the parallel lives Jonathan talked about. Check it out!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Guest Review: It's Christmas, David!

Today I'd like to introduce to you the first of our guest reviews in a new series! It comes from high school student Jazzlyn Carter. Fun fact: Jazzlyn and I share a birthday.

It's Christmas, David! by David Shannon
R (see note*)
Everyone loves the David books. The little boy does various bad things and gets yelled at over and over again.

I feel the opposite. David books are all the same. He does everything in the book to defy the rules, and every page says, "No, David." He's constantly yelled at but never in real trouble, and there's never really a full story. By the end everything's fine and everybody's happy- until the next David book comes.

In It's Christmas, David, David steals cookies, peeks at gifts,breaks ornaments, and everything else there is. But once again, he is forgiven when it's all over. While he books are very repetitive, I will say they touch on things children do everyday, and the responses they normally get. They are bright and colorful, and very realistic. David is the typical little boy, and it's good for kids to know that at the end of the day they'll always be loved.

Because of the positive side of the never-ending "David" collection, I recommend this book to young kids around 1st grade. They can read it, understand it, and they won't get bored too easily.

-Jazzlyn Carter

*Note: R stands for "Recommended." This review is part of a series of guest reviews by students in the Tap In Leadership Academy.  Read more about this series of guest posts, here!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Upcoming Guest Reviews

Over the next week or so, we'll have several guest reviews! These come from high school students that Alysa has been working with at the Center for Children's Books at UIUC. The students are part of TAP In Leadership Academy. 

Here is what one student, Jazzlyn Carter, has to say by way of introduction.

TAP In Leadership Academy is a summer enrichment program for grades 5-12. The program focuses on different cultures to broaden the mindsets of children to things they may not be familiar with. Each week TAP In highlights a different country and does projects relating to the culture. There is also a strong literary piece. Over the past 6 weeks, the high school scholars of TAP In have delved deeper into the world of literature. They have read books upon books, done mock review, and even created awards for books chosen by them. They have learned to look beyond the colors of the cover and analyze true literary merit. It has been a real learning experience, and they've gotten information that will forever change the way they read.

So! We will get to peek at some of those reviews and get a taste for the "books upon books" that they've read.  As a note, TAP In reviewers rated the books they reviewed according to the guidelines that The Bulletin (the review journal published by the CCB) follows:
R* (Recommended book with special distinction)
R (Recommended)
Ad (additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area)
M (Marginal Book that is so slight in content or has so many waknesses in style or format that it should be given careful consideration before purchase)
NR (Not recommended)

Update: You can now find all of these guest reviews under the Tap In label, here!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If I Stay / Where She Went

I finished reading both books in what I assume will just be a 2-book series (duet? combo? pair? am I missing a two-book-series word here?) a couple days ago. I read both of them really, really fast, not because I was in any hurry---just because I could not put them down.

First, the first. Mia, a talented cellist, stands on the brink of change. She's a senior in an Oregon high school and has (almost certainly) been accepted at Julliard. But her boyfriend, Adam, whose band is on the rise, won't be coming. These are the thoughts weighing on her mind when she goes for a drive one snow-day morning with her parents and her little brother. But her world comes to an abrupt end when her father swerves into oncoming traffic and everyone in her car is killed---everyone except for Mia. With her body lying in the hospital, Mia must contemplate the all-consuming question before her: If I stay ...

And the second ... Well, I can't really say much about it without revealing important plot points from the first, but I will say that it's told from Adam's point of view and concerns the aftermath of the tragedy of the first.

Both are told through a series of flashbacks, which sometimes I find annoying, because I just want to know what's happening now, darn it! But this was definitely not annoying. Moving, tragic, and yet hopeful, these books are both great reads.

For me, the beauty I found in these books was in Mia's loving family and in her love for classical music. I will add a warning, though: there is lots of language and some mild sexual references and a touch of gruesome imagery. The bad language is so casually used---just like I remember it in high school. So I guess it's accurate. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. :) Anyway, older teen to adult audience recommended.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Micro-reviews: Graphic Novel Edition!

My best waiter voice says: Today we have here a delicious sampler of graphic novels to choose from. They are in order from my least favorite to my most favorite.


The Lightning Thief Graphic Novel, by Rick Riordan. If I had picked this up to see what the series was all about I wouldn't have read further. Annabeth, age twelve? Looked like she was a woman from the nineties. The jokes were lost because so much of the humor is in Percy's voice as the narrator of the series. He still "narrates" the graphic novel, but his voice isn't preserved and neither are the laughs. My take: Read the original, instead.

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel. This was a graphic novel by a dancer, for dancers. There was so much distracting name-dropping that I couldn't get into the story. What there was of one. The dialogue was to little and too flat to hold up the story. I almost think there should have been none at all? I don't know. Can't say shoulda. The art was good and interesting, with great use of color. Done in watercolors. The other GN memoir I've read is Persepolis, and it is much broader in scope, more detailed, longer in timeline, etc. So this one didn't compare favorably. Thankfully it didn't get bogged down talking ballet terms, at least. My take: ballerina's could like it.


Crogan's March by Chris Schweizer. Follow up to Crogan's Vengeance, not a sequel but a story of a different ancestor. As with the first, this one begins with a modern setting and compares it with a tale from the past. I don't feel like the question that it set out to explore was really explored, though. Mmm. Maybe I was distracted? Still an enjoyable read. My take: I'll keep following the series. 

 Joey Fly 2: Big Hairy Drama by Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman. Joey Fly, a fly, and his scorpion sidekick must solve the mystery of the missing diva, a painted lady butterfly. Full of details that make it fun. Silly similes and metaphors, artistic detail. Appropriate for all ages and great for a read aloud. My take: Gotta get these, for when my sons get older.

Babymouse: Mad Scientist by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. Babymouse works on a science experiment, for the science fair. We love Babymouse around here. Our favorite was the Star Trek bit of this one.  I thought it was particularly funny because Jacob tried to grow mold on bread with the scouts once and it didn't work out the way he planned.  My take: Not my all-time favorite of the Babymouses, but fun. 

Library Wars: Love & War by Kiiro Yumi. What can I say? This is a new favorite series of mine. It's got loads of awkward hilarity (love) and enough action (war) to move the story along. It's manga (read it backwards, from left to right!) and the premise is that Japanese librarians have an army of their own to protect books from the censor-happy government forces. As a tall woman, I find the pairing of Kasahara (tall) and Dojo (short) particularly entertaining. I'd recommend this one for high school on up especially if you're looking for something that's light but not fluffy.  My take: The best new guilty pleasure, low on guilt. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Read it before you see the movie!

ETA: another link from Shannon Hale!

I am very excited about this!  Austenland is being made into a movie. Fer reals. You know, Austenland? By Shannon Hale? My favorite living author?

Shannon Hale's announcement, and some more details

Article at The Hollywood Reporter

Google Pics for your perusal:
Keri Russell
JJ Field
Bret McKenzie


My first review of Austenland

My re-read of Austenland


So I have to tell you: I went to this thing, in September 2009, where I had dinner with Shannon Hale and a bunch of my friends and some of her friends, too, and my mom, and she mentioned this. She and Jerusha Hess were working on the script together at the time. She said that if it happened, (and it was a big if at the time because you know how these movie things go, they have to be funded they have to be done right, everyone has to be doing things and things) she really wanted Jennifer Coolidge for Miss Charming.  I'm so excited that she got her wish! Hurrah! And I also remember Shannon saying that she was dying laughing about some of the new stuff that she and Jerusha had put in. So. You know. New stuff! Fun!

Also maybe you didn't notice that Stephenie Meyer is producing? Well that is no surprise to me (it's news, just not surprising) because she's producing on Breaking Dawn and because she blurbed Austenland. And I heard that she loves it. Reads it all the time. (Yep, that's Stephenie Meyer hearsay!)
Oh, here the Twilight Lexicon comments.

Also maybe you didn't know that Midnight in Austenland is coming out? Like a companion book? Not with the same characters, but also set in Austenland. Just look at this pretty cover. 

Anyway, I have a couple copies of Austenland. One that is currently at my house. So. If you need to borrow...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Micro-reviews: Teen girl edition!

I have been on a great reading streak! You wouldn't know it from the blog, though. Here are some short reviews of books I've been reading lately, and there are more to come later... all book covers are affiliate links, which means if you buy them, I get a small commission at no cost to you.



Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.
This, my friends, is a YA romance. I thought I should tell you, because for some reason the romance took up more of the book than I thought it was going to. It kind of reminded me of The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks (which is a compliment), due to the boarding school thing. Also Twilight, because of the pasty guy. Just kidding. It's funny, though. I could have done with a little less swearing, but I thought Anna and Etienne were very believable characters. I particularly loved Anna's germ phobia. Recommended for fans of chaste romance, ages 14+. 


Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol.
Inruiging. I liked the style and coloring.  Anya has a bad attitude, a self-centered outlook, and a smoking habit -- she's easy to hate. When she falls down a hole and meets the ghost of the girl who fell down it before her, her life begins to change. I thought the plot and art both well executed. It was just creepy enough for me, and has a great ending. Recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman (his blurb on the front reads, "a masterpiece!"), ages 12+.

Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls by Bennett Madison.
Lulu Dark is not a girl detective. And she cannot see through walls. But someone thinks she can. And someone wasn't counting on her love for that gaudy knock-off purse when they lifted it from her. And what the heck happened to the girl with the shark tattoo? The fun is in the snark, with this one. The portions I read aloud to Jacob made him laugh. And about halfway through the mystery really grabbed me. Three or four instances of swearing, so tread lightly if you're reading aloud. Recommended for fans of mystery novels and chick flicks, ages 14+.



Saturday, June 18, 2011

Page by Paige

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Paige is a small town girl moving to the biggest of the big cities, New York. (Is New York the biggest city in the U.S.? I have no idea. But, it's the biggest of the big cities, regardless, don'cha know.) She purchases her first friend at a bookstore -- a blank sketchbook, and begins to build a new life.

Page by Paige is a mix of the narrative that is Paige's story and the artwork that is her sketchbook.  It's very meta -- drawing about drawing. It's almost less of a graphic novel, and more of a narrative sketchbook. But "narrative sketchbook" is not a genre. Yet. So.

When we discussed this one at the graphic novel book club, Barratt put her finger right on the thing that makes this book so unique. That is, the majority of graphic novels portray the action in the book in pictures (and the dialog in words). This book portrays Paige's emotions in pictures as much or more than any movement of people. Which makes sense because there's not a whole lot of exciting action in the typical day of a high schooler.

This could make it a good pick for those interested in practicing their graphic novel reading skills. (I'm serious, there are different skills involved.)  After finishing this book, I felt a sense of accomplishment: "Wow! I'm getting good at reading graphic novels, this one didn't give me any trouble at all!"  Of course, credit is due to thoughtful crafting on the part of the author as much as to my previous practice in reading pictures.

The drawing is fantastic. Exceptional. About the plot, I feel lukewarm. It was never surprising. It's been done. It could be accused of being trite. But that is very much forgivable, as the art kept me fully engaged, and keeps me flipping back through it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A couple of links

I quite enjoyed reading what Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 had to say about possible award winners this year.  I haven't the foggiest about who will win this year, but going through her picks I just kept adding titles to my TBR (To Be Read) list.

I also quite enjoyed entering this Crossed giveaway, hosted by the author. Cuz I know I want to read it! (everead review of book 1: Matched)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

So I'm in this book club. I call it the "Over the Years" book club, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who does. Anyway, it's been meeting monthly since 1993, so "over the years" is apt. Well the book for July is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I put it on hold at the library and it came in pretty quick, so I've just finished it.

I was excited to read it because my friend Lindsay mentioned it on her blog, and talked about how Rubin's "Spend out" principle really resonated with her. I just love the photo.

This is a well written book. It is organized beautifully. Reading through it, I got the feeling that Gretchen Rubin likes to be organized -- a woman after my own heart! Not only is the book well organized but her thoughts are well articulated within it, and many of the resolutions she made over the course of her year-long happiness project were about becoming more focused on things that matter.  I found it fresh and insightful to look at the small things that we can change to make us happy -- those of us who are already happy with our lives, for the most part -- and in that way keep the good that we have and deepen our current happiness.

I almost snapped my fingers and said "yes!" several times as I was reading the book. Near the end, Rubin highlights the distinction between resolutions and goals, and that was a particularly enlightening section to me. Goals are set and met. Resolutions are decided upon and you continually strive to meet them. Both are good, of course.

Resolutions? Yes please. I will be making some of my own very soon. I've got a nice list of books I want to read, now, too. She keeps recommending them, you see, and making them sound so fascinating.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

I spent a good part of May re-reading and thinking about The Goose Girl.  It was my pick for book club, and whoever picks has to lead the discussion, you know.

I hadn't read The Goose Girl since my college childrens' literature class days, when I loved it.  I must say, I still love it! I love it all over again!

Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee is the crown princess of Kildenree, next in line for the throne. However her early attempts to try to speak with birds (encouraged by her aunt) are less than undesirable according to her mother, the queen.

I really hesitate to say much more (though other plot summaries will) because I love the unfolding of the plot in this book.  It is a retelling of a Grimm's fairy tale, and personally I find those always have some elements of surprise.

Ah, but I love this book! I credit it with turning me back onto reading, and with helping me realize that authors are living people, not just dead people.

And I love the element of romance in the book. It's so nice to get to see people actually get to know each other and fall in love, you know? Rather than the inexplicable love at first sight thing that happens sometimes. The writing is lovely, the plot well paced.  

Two thumbs, five stars, glittery hearts and all.  Recommended for girls and boys, men and women. If you want to borrow this book, I've got four copies. :-D

Monday, May 23, 2011

North and South (high, fluttery, girly sigh)

I fell totally in love with this movie the first time I saw it. I was hesitant to read the book ... I'm sure you've had the feeling at some time---you know it won't be the same, and it might change the way you enjoy the movie, and maybe you'll end up being mad at the way the movie was made, wishing it could be more like the book, etc., etc. But read it, I finally did, and I quite enjoyed the book. (But the movie's better. IMHO. :)

Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South has nothing to do with the American Civil War. We'll just clear that up from the get-go. But it is about the struggle between two geographic areas and their conflicting ideals and worldviews. Margaret is from the South of England. Her father, a pastor, loses faith in the church, quits his job, and moves his family off to the North of England, to Milton, a place as different as possible from the idyllic and countrified Helstone they used to call home. There Margaret has to overcome her natural prejudice against the industrial people and way of life she encounters---a way of life totally embodied by the leading man: Mr. Thornton.

In typical 1800s style, the book has lots of long stretches of character monologues, and a couple of the main characters are Northern mill workers whose accents were often difficult to parse. So the reading was kind of slow going. Even so, this is a lovely, complex book, very Pride and Prejudice in its themes and character development, I thought. Feel free to chime in, anyone else who's read the book/seen the movie. It's so girly. I loved it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

15 Minutes Outside


15 Minutes Outside: 365 ways to get out of the house and connect with your kids, by Rebecca P. Cohen

So this book is a little outside of our usual kids/YA fare, but it is a book that could potentially alter kids' lives (dude, heavy, I know) if their parents were to read and adopt its practices. The back of the book asks, "What could happen if you and your kids went outside, every day, for just fifteen minutes?"

This book was sent to me by its publisher to read and review, and as I've read it, a little at a time over the past month or so, it has proven itself a fabulous motivator. There have been a number of those pulling-my-motherly-hair-out moments when I've suddenly remembered this book and have cried, "Boys, we're going outside! Get your shoes on!" And every time I've done it, it has changed our cabin fever into happy outdoor family time.

My main question when I began reading was how the author was going to manage the fact that some of her readers will reside in Phoenix, AZ, while others will live in frozen winter tundras like Illinois. She does a good job of giving a variety of outdoor-activity ideas that can be adapted to different climates at different times of the year. And since she gives a different idea for every day of the year, I'm sure kids wouldn't notice if the warm-climate-resident parents skipped ahead to the summer chapters in January. Many fun ideas here, and while I haven't gotten my kids outside every day, I am definitely a believer in the value of the great outdoors. I'd especially recommend this book to parents of kids in the 5-12-year-old range.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hidden

Hidden by Helen Frost

Wow. Fascinating, and intricate.

This novel is written in poetry, and from the perspective of two girls.  The one on the left of the cover (which cover I really like a lot) is Wren Abbott. On the right, Darra Monson.

The premise is this: Darra's father steals a car. What he doesn't know, is that Wren is in it. Accidental kidnapping.  Things get sorted out, but both girls are still affected by the kidnapping when, years later, they meet by chance at a summer camp.

Dah! It was so cool! It was the best kind of suspense novel: the kind in which your imagination is running wild.  The way that Helen Frost crafts the story allows the reader to have an experience that is tense and riveting, but not frightening, no matter the age. People, this is good writing.  And you may think, "could I ever give a book about kidnapping to a/my child?" well I would recommend this one.

Okay, so I read it -- it reads very quickly, 142 pages and stanza breaks aplenty -- and then I read the author's Notes on Form and I was amazed all over again. Because Helen Frost has hidden another poem within the poems of the book, (sort of a reverse acrostic? she invented the form herself) where some of the last words in one set of poems is another poem. How did she DO that? This is craft.


So, yeah, I was very impressed by it. It goes on sale May 10, 2011 (I was given a proof to review). I hope you read it, then we can talk about how cool it is, okay?

____
previously reviewed: Diamond Willow by Helen Frost, Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalist 2008.
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