Sunday, October 31, 2010

IMM Week 16

I received a TON of books this week! Most were from a giant box of Spring ARCs sent by Bloomsbury/Walker (thank you!), but I did get quite a few others...and Cybils titles haven't even started rolling in yet.

So many books and goodies, it took 4 photos to get them all in. The first, the Bloomsbury/Walker box:

Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors
In the Shadows of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap
Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge
Another Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup
Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Entice by Carrie Jones
My Fairy Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

Then a few picture books:

The Wonderful Book by Leonid Gore
The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett
Ribbit Rabbit by Candace Ryan

Two packages of "Anti-Comet Pills," sent by Macmillan to promote Selling Hope by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb (out in November):

And the rest:

The Other Side of Dark by Sarah Smith
Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder (have heard AWESOME things about this)
Smile for the Camera by Kelle James
Firestorm by Joan Hiatt Harlow
Lipstick in Afghanistan by Roberta Gately
Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel Fattah

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Two new books by favorite authors for you this week!

Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser

So, if you've read this blog long enough, you know what a huge Fancy Nancy fan I am. I love everything from the sparkly covers, to Nancy's fabulous outfits and hairstyles, and her very fancy language...and so do little girls!

Nancy's latest fancy escapades involve having a yard sale opening a fashion boutique, to raise money for a new beautiful lace fan she saw while shopping with her mom. And Nancy being as sweet as she is, uses her proceeds to buy her sister a birthday present instead of the fancy fan she wanted. Ooh la la!

The illustrations in these books are always so detailed and bright and FUN! I love recommending Fancy Nancy to girls who have yet to encounter her fabulousness. And again, the sparkly covers are just fantastic :)

Fancy Nancy and the Fashion Boutique
Jane O'Connor
32 pages
Picture Book
October 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

The Legend of the Golden Snail by Graeme Base

I have such a fan-girl obsession with Graeme Base's art. The Water Hole is one of my favorite books and everything else he has done is magnificent as well. His latest features the awesome art I always look forward to, with an imaginative story. 

Wilbur has a favorite story about a Golden Snail that has been banished to the Ends of the Earth, inspiring Wilbur to start his own journey to claim the Golden Snail as his. He finds interesting creatures, pirates, and friends along the way, and goes riding through the clouds to find the Snail. And after he sets the Snail free from enchantment, Wilbur finds his way home again. 

A beautifully imaginative story, this would make a nice bedtime story for your 5-7 year olds. Amazing illustrations, including several full 2-page spreads, making for a really nice gift book. I can't wait for the next book!

The Legend of the Golden Snail
Graeme Base
48 pages
Picture Book
October 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monsters of Men review

Spoiler Alert!!

If you haven't read The Knife of Never Letting Go or The Ask and the Answer, then stop reading now. Go read those two and then come back :)

Monsters of Men picks up immediately where The Ask and the Answer left off. Todd has let the hated Mayor go, though he had a chance to kill him or at the very least, leave him for dead, but feeling the people of New Prentiss will only listen to the Mayor in regards to battle, Todd releases him and what follows is a horribly violent, scary war between the Ask, the Answer, and the Spackle. 

Todd, at the Mayor's side at all times, is almost beginning to enjoy his company, though the reader can tell that is due to the brainwashing of the Mayor and his tricky tyrant techniques. Viola is working with members of her colony, whose ship has finally arrived, as well as the Mistress Coyle (who has turned into an almost terrorist maniac) and the Spackle are just out to kill anyone in their path for revenge. Everyone is supposedly working towards peace, but only on their own terms. 

Patrick Ness has turned this non-sci fi fan into a lover of the genre with this trilogy. The characters are so amazingly written and the stories are more intense than most things I've ever read. Todd and Viola are two of the most well-developed characters I've come across and their stories are rich with detail and description. Each time I finished a book, I just sat back in contemplation of what I'd just read, almost needing to decompress for awhile...they're that good. 

I've book talked this series more times than I can count and 9 times out of 10, I'm able to sell it. Even if you aren't a fan of "sci-fi" these are almost more dystopian than science fiction. They do take place on a different planet, there are "space ships" mentioned, and the Spackle are some sort of alien being, but those are all such minor aspects of the stories. Definitely start with the first one, read it yourself, gift it to a reluctant reader (boys will eat it up), and then please beg Patrick Ness to start another series pronto!

Monsters of Men
Patrick Ness
608 pages
Young Adult
September 2010
Borrowed copy

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Properties of Water review

Lace Martin is thirteen-years-old and going through the most difficult summer of her life. Living on the lake in Maine, Lace and her older sister Marnie have practically grown up in the water, spending more time wet than dry, and becoming excellent swimmers. When Marnie has a tragic accident after jumping off Turtle Rock with her friends, Lace is left at home on the lake to deal with the accident and the aftermath, refusing to go back into the lake or to see her sister in Portland.

While Marnie and her mother are away, Lace and her father bring in a housekeeper to cook, clean, and prepare for Marnie's arrival back home. Willa is a strange woman who keeps to herself and causes Lace to become incredibly suspicious about why she would even want to come into their family in the first place. What Lace doesn't realize is that Willa is much more than just a housekeeper... she is also the encouragement Lace needs to continue on with her life, even if it is much different than before. 

Let me start out this review by saying I read it in one sitting (and in the bathtub with my new Lush bath bombs. Yay!). It was engrossing and beautifully written, and author Hannah Roberts McKinnon got the emotional state of a 13-year-old dealing with tragedy perfectly. Lace was an honest character, one that will stick with you for quite some time, and one that will really touch your heart. 

Though tragedy-based stories are common in today's kid lit, The Properties of Water goes much further than simply the story of how to heal. The reader is given a look into the unique aspects of true friendship and true family love, as well as how it might feel to be in Lace's position. I really enjoyed this. 

I do have to make mention of the's the one part of the book that I didn't like at all. I was reading from an ARC, so it may be different on a final copy, but the darkness and blurry girl on the cover turned me away completely. Not sure I would have just picked it up off the shelf.

The Properties of Water
Hannah Roberts McKinnon
176 pages
Young Adult
Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
October 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, October 24, 2010

IMM Week 15

It was a pretty great book week for me! I'm really looking forward to Sparrow Road (not published until next May) and Linda Sue Park is always fantastic. Will this one be another Newbery contender?

Dessert First by Hallie Durand
Just Dessert by Hallie Durand
Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor
Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse
Otis & Sidney and the Best Birthday Ever by Laura Numeroff
Legend of the Golden Snail by Graeme Base

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Better late than never right? I've been enjoying this beautiful fall Saturday with my husband and dogs, cleaning up the yard, shopping, and my favorite thing of all: eating! Here are some fun books I read this week and think you'll like!

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor

Though most of the nursery rhymes in this book won't be new to you, the illustrations are what really sold me on this one. Each rhyme is matched with a fabric scene, stitched with thick, bright threads, and handmade people. Each appears to be made of mainly felt with some metal and wood embellishments, and a sequin here and there. They are SO beautiful! 

"Jack and Jill" is probably my favorite rhyme and fabric scene as the blue sky and green hills/trees are just so well done. There are white geese, a turquoise pond, and even a little wooden house where Jack goes to mend his crown. A note from the author/artist is included, where she explains her techniques for making each page.

Though most people tend to give Mother Goose books when gifting a nursery rhyme book, this one is going to be my new go-to. It's unique, contemporary, and tons of fun to look through. 

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes
Salley Mavor
72 pages
Picture Book/Nursery Rhymes
Houghton Mifflin
September 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Other Goose: Re-Nurseried!! and Re-Rhymed Childrens Classics by J. Otto Seibold

Speaking of Mother Goose...

This book is so incredibly silly, your kids won't know what to do with themselves! Definitely for the older crowd, who already know the original nursery rhymes, these are the same characters in the original rhymes with whole new rhymes and stories behind them. 

Humpty Dumpty has nothing to do with a wall in this book, instead, he finds a bargain on shoes...and then proceeds to get that new shoe stuck in a hole, forcing him to leave it behind. Little Boy Blue blows a tuba, Old King Coal was a dreary old mole, and the old woman who lived in a shoe? No classy shoes for her, this chick lives in a sneaker!

Lots of fun and super silly, each page has bold, abstract, and most definitely modern illustrations accompanying the rhymes. I wasn't quite sold on the illustrations at first, but they ended up matching the rhyming style quite well. Again, great for the older kids who know the original rhymes or even a college student...what a quirky, "moving-up in the world" gift right?

Other Goose
J. Otto Seibold
80 pages
Picture Book/Nursery Rhymes
September 2010
Review copy provide by publisher

Friday, October 22, 2010

Loving these fall days...

Though I know I'm blessed with a pretty wonderful life, I've been feeling extra blessed lately. Random bouts of happiness are always a fabulous thing and I'm glad they're happening around here!

What's been making me so chipper lately?

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies brought in by a coworker. Delicious and wonderfully seasonal!

Cool fall weather. I love the smell and the feel of the air, and I really do enjoy all those leaves floating around, even when it means I have to rake them.

My dogs snuggling with me each night when I get home from work. I hate leaving them, but they can sure make a woman feel special with all the commotion they cause when I walk in the door!

Soup! Who doesn't love a delicious bowl of soup when it starts to get chilly outside? I've made chicken noodle, tomato and rice, and butternut squash just in the past 3 weeks.  

A new hair cut. I will admit, I'm a hair stylist snob. I don't want to pay a lot, but if she/he doesn't do a great job even once, I won't go back again, so finding a place here in the D.C. metro area has been VERY difficult. I finally found one today, after about 8 months, and have a refreshing new hair cut. Yay!

Modern Family. HILARIOUS show! Aaron and I are about halfway through season one and I seriously do not stop laughing the entire show. It may even be surpassing my Big Bang Theory/Office love.

Pumpkin Spice lattes. Though I am a Starbucks regular, I recently had this drink at Caribou and it knocked Starbucks out of the water. If you're a fan of the famous pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks, try Caribou's and I think you'll be quite surprised!

What are YOU loving lately?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Forge review

If you didn't read Chains, I definitely recommend running out right now and buying/borrowing it. Like RIGHT now. However, even if you haven't had the chance to read it, you can still read Forge without a problem. More of a companion than a sequel, Forge follows Curzon, the boy Isabel freed from slavery in Chains, as he joins up with the Patriots and begins to fight a long, sad war, while trying to also keep his slave status quiet.

Spending a horribly long winter in Valley Forge and battling against the British at Saratoga, Curzon's story has amazing historical information, mixed perfectly with a young man's feelings and emotions regarding life, war, friendships, and women (namely, Isabel). The conditions endured by the soldiers were horrific and something I wasn't previously aware of before reading the story. So intense, yet SO educational.

I really enjoyed Curzon's story and couldn't wait until Isabel came back on scene. She's one of the fiestiest historical characters I've ever come across and with Curzon, Laurie Halse Anderson was able to create her perfect counterpart. I was really glad that Forge was told through Curzon's eyes, so those readers that DID read Chains would have another perspective on everything that previously happened between Isabel and Curzon. 

Kids interested in history will definitely be all over this book, but even those that aren't too sure about historical fiction will enjoy the intensity, the fast pacing, the amazing character development, and the truly interesting and exciting plot. I can see this (and Chains) being used in classrooms as learning tools. Ms. Anderson, please write faster! 

Laurie Halse Anderson
304 pages
Middle Grade
October 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Revolution review

Andi Alpers is one of the most depressing characters I've ever come across. Truth be told, she IS clinically depressed and prescribed a myriad of anti-depressants to help her to deal with the death of her little brother,
but nothing seems to be working at all. She's doing terribly in school and only finds peace while playing her guitar or studying music. And to top it all off, her father forces her to go to Paris with him on a business trip, wherehe's performing a DNA study on a preserved human heart to see if it's the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Andi knows she is going to be bored and eager to continue her plan to end her life.

In Paris, she's supposed to begin an in-depth study of a French composer for school, but instead of focusing on that, she can only focus on the diary she finds, written by Alexandrine, a young companion to (guess who??) the son of Louis and Marie Antoinette. Quite the coincidence right? And in the midst of discovering more about Alexandrine and her life during the French Revolution, Andi also meets a boy. A special boy that starts to transform her attitude about the world. 

I am not one who has previously read Donnelly's work and marveled over it as so many of you have, Revolution was my first experience with her writing. I was very impressed with the incredible amount of detail on every page and the fact vs. fiction aspects of the story. Obviously the French Revolution was real, as were the people referred to in the book, yet the seamless weaving of a contemporary fictional story and with  historical fact was amazing. 

All of the good things aside, I thought the book was way too long and the mood so dark I could only read the book in small doses (which isn't necessarily a bad thing, just something I wanted to note). Donnelly obviously does her job as an author quite well, as I honestly felt depressed after reading the book. Andi's sadness just pours off the page and her emotional state is ultimately transferred the the reader. Well done, but hard to read in long stretches. 

Again, way too long for my taste, but an impressive novel. 

Jennifer Donnelly
496 pages
Young Adult
October 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

IMM Week 14

I'm in home NY this weekend, enjoying some fabulous family time, a wine tour in the Fingerlakes, pretty fall colors, and lack of traffic/people/noise and am loving it! As for what I got in my mailbox, I got some great goodies!

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Taking Tree: A Selfish Parody by Shrill Travesty
Play All Day Long

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Rain School by James Rumford

The story of children in Chad and how they must first build their school before they can learn. Using mud bricks, the children and their teacher build the small school, as well as the desks the students sit at and then spend the next several months learning all sorts of exciting subjects and facts. The school year is over when the rainy season comes to Chad, as the school literally falls apart due to rain. Before next year, the children and teachers will build it up again, readying themselves for a new school season. 

I loved this book for so many reasons! The story is simple, with just a few sentences on each page, yet the impact is great. Children in this country are often not excited about learning and going to school daily, but after reading this story, they may just realize that children around the world aren't lucky enough to have a permanent school building to go to all year round and they are dedicated to creating a learning place. 

The illustrations are bright and bold, fabulous to look at. A fantastic choice for classrooms and libraries.

Rain School
James Rumford
32 pages
Picture Book
Houghton Mifflin
October 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Shadow by Suzy Lee

I'm have to admit, I'm not one of those people that love wordless picture books. They're really hard to convince a lot of parents to pick up and read/buy, though the ones that get them, love them. Shadow is the latest by the author of Wave, which got rave reviews last year...and I think I like it even better. This one does have one sentence in it, so it's not completely wordless, but close enough!

A little girl, possibly the same one from Wave, has a great time with shadows cast from a light in an attic/storage room. She plays with all the shadows until dinner is ready, finding a forest of animals and turning herself into a ballerina. She entertains herself completely with the shadows, which is quite obviously a big change from out techno-savvy kids today.

Done completely in black, white, and yellow colors, the book is pretty fabulous to look at and even more fun to page through. Even if you aren't quite convinced about wordless picture books, try this one out and see if your children have fun with it. It just may inspire their own active imaginations to turn into overdrive!

Suzy Lee
44 pages
Picture Book
September 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai

I loved Snow Day. Absolutely loved it! This one follows the same little rabbit with a huge personality, as he decides he is VERY mad at his mommy. She never lets him watch his shows, instead choosing her own shows, she always yells for no reason, she never remembers to wash his clothes, and most of all she says she won't be able to marry him, even when he gets bigger. SO unfair!

His mommy, of course, loves him no matter how mad at her he is and the story ends with the two snuggling down under the covers, anger gone. A very sweet story, with bits of silliness. Great illustrations and a good toddler-vibe. I'm loving Sakai's work and can't wait to get another book!

Mad at Mommy
Komako Sakai
40 pages
Picture Book
Arthur A. Levine
October 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Trap a Zombie review

Halloween is almost upon us and what better way to celebrate than a monster hunter book? In A.R. Rotruck's fun new book, your kids will learn all sorts of fun and silly activities to inspire their inner monster hunter. From how to distract a goblin to how to fight a medusa and use invisible ink, you'll have the makings of a perfect monster hunting party on your hands!

All the activities are easy enough for younger children, but complex enough that older kids won't feel like it's all really easy. Parents should be around to supervise, as always, but many of the activities can easily be done alone, like garlic water filled balloons to throw at vampires, the origami enchanted vessel, and many others. 

If you're planning a Halloween party, this would be an excellent resource, as it covers games for multiple kids along with the "single player" puzzles and such. You could even theme an entire party around the book as a whole and just have a Monster Hunting Day. Fun!

I wasn't totally impressed with the illustrations, but the book really is more instructional, so it wasn't a big deal. You'll definitely walk away from this one knowing more than you ever thought necessary about hunting and capturing ghosts, vampires, and all their friends, but your kids will have a blast with it!

How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hands-On Activities for Monster Hunters
A.R. Rotruck
80 pages
Middle Grade
Wizards of the Coast978-0786955480
September 2010
Review copy provided by Kids Can Press

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's been 9 months since the earthquake...

Hopefully no one is forgetting the devastation caused and the crisis that is still very much occurring over in Haiti. Many of you will remember that my husband took a mission trip with our church in March, heading to Port au Prince and spending a week doing IT work, setting up internet and satellite connections for an orphanage and school. We still pray daily for those people and that country and hope that all of you have talked to your children about what happened and continue to remember the people. 

I wanted to showcase two books today, each of which I got for review a couple of weeks ago and would work very well for continuing to educate our youth (and ourselves) as to what the situation was and is over in Haiti. 

The first, Earthquake in Haiti by Miriam Aronin, is part of Bearport's "Code Red" series and features photographs of the devastating aftermath, as well as personal stories of those injured in the quake. Some of the photos are graphic (showing blood and hospital situations) and there is talk of amputations, death, and other difficult topics, but that is what the true situation does. 

Bearport always handles their non-fiction books in such a manner that you really learn things, but are not bored to death with endless facts and dry information. Lots of photos and fact boxes break up the pages and a glossary is included for a bit of vocab help. 

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat and illustration Alix Delinois is an absolutely beautiful, fictionalized account of what a child trapped for eight days in the rubble went through. This little boy explains what he did in his mind during those eight days...from playing soccer with a friend, to teasing his sister, to trying for a solo in choir, he did not give up hope. 

The tears definitely came while I was reading through the book and looking at the magnificent, vibrant illustrations. The author caught that childlike nature of the boy, yet got deep into the emotions that he just may have been feeling. It's a beautifully done book and great for introducing young children to what may have happened to children over in Haiti. 

Check out these books and any others you can find about the disaster. Just please, do not forget simply because months have gone by. 

Earthquake in Haiti
Miriam Aronin
32 pages
Bearport Publishing
August 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti
Edwidge Danticat
32 pages
Picture Book
Orchard Books
September 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Monday, October 11, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat

As a kid, I remember thinking it was so funny when adults would talk about "the olden days" when they were young and how things were so much different in terms of safety, health care, technology, playtime, etc. And when I saw this book, it totally reminded me of that! We may think that the manner in which people "cured" ailments long ago was strange, but who knows what the future generations will say about our methods today!

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures is by Carlyn Beccia and features a range of cures used way back when, some of which actually helped and some that are just plain weird!

Coughs in Ancient China, for example, were "cured" by caterpillar fungus, while Ancient Native Americans preferred to use cherry bark (which was a true cure). In Ancient Greece, wounds were cured by puppy kisses (yay!), while in Ancient Egypt they used moldy bread. And for fevers? Ancient Romans preferred to shock you with an electric eel, while the Ancient Greeks just poured mustard on your head. Prehistoric man just put a hole in your head....I think I prefer the previous two! 

A whole lot of fun for those kids that really like the gross stuff for entertainment, as well as history buffs that think the methods of ancient humans are just plain interesting. I had fun reading through the book and looking at the illustrations, but beware, some are definitely gross!

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures
Carlyn Beccia
48 pages
October 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Sunday, October 10, 2010

IMM Week 13

I didn't receive any books this week. Can you believe it?? I can't remember the last time that happened, however, I'm actually a bit grateful for the lull. Cybils season is upon us and I have lots of reading to do for that, my schedule at work this month is quite busy, I'm heading home to Upstate NY this coming weekend for some much needed family time, and I've hosted a baby shower, had a sick dog, needed car repairs, and about a million other things that have been preventing my reading from being up to par. A slow week in mail was just what I needed!

I did want to mention that you still have until the 15th to nominate favorite book titles from this year for a Cybil Award. I'm on the YA first round panel and though we already have a whole ton of great books nominated, I don't see a few really good ones on the list (Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee being one of them). If you have a favorite book head over the the Cybils site to see if it's been nominated and if not, nominate yourself!

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

It's been two weeks since my last Picture Book Saturday (hello busy life!) and I'm glad to be back with a few fabulous choices for you this week. Hopefully you'll find something to enjoy with your family!

Ok, so please don't shoot me for this first one. I know that celebrity authors are typically a big no-no among us librarians/teachers, however, I really do like the children's books that Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell create. Sweet (and a bit sappy), they're just cute and fun. Not excellent read alouds, but really nice for a one-on-one read or for bedtime.

Their latest, My Mommy Hung the Moon: A Love Story, is the telling of a little girl who truly loves her mommy and believes she can do absolutely anything in the world. Not only does her mommy hang the moon, but she writes all the books in the world, grows all the food, made tv, and brings down the rain. Mommy does everything!

Cornell's illustrations are beautiful and the writing is tender and love-filled. The story definitely sounds child-like and is quite possibly just what most children believe of their mommies! A really nice choice for a bedtime reading or for a baby gift.

My Mommy Hung the Moon: A Love Story
Jamie Lee Curtis
40 pages
Picture Book
September 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer

Woohoo! Another Olivia! I've always been an Olivia fan and though this one isn't my favorite of the series, I thought it was definitely worth mentioning, especially for those that aren't familiar with the cute little pig.

In this latest adventure, Olivia and her family head to Venice where she is surrounded by pizza, gelato, and beautiful sites. The reader is treated to all the famous places in Venice, like the Grand Canal and the Piazza San Marco (and even the pigeons!), all while Olivia is on a mission for the perfect souvenir.

Olivia is a charming character and a strong-willed personality that little girls AND little boys will relate to. Falconer's mixed-media illustrations are awesome as usual, though on one page Olivia is sleeping and she has "Xs" for eyes making her appear dead. Not a fan of that page. Other than that, superb!

The Olivia series is great for toddlers and preschoolers!

Olivia Goes to Venice
Ian Falconer
48 pages
Picture Book
September 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

And my favorite selection of the week? Birdy's Smile Book by Laurie Keller.

I had a huge smile on MY face while reading through this adorable book. Birdy tells us all the ways in which having a smile on your face is important...and in such a silly way that you can help but giggle your way through the pages. We learn about the way Birdy's friends smile and what smiles mean to different people. Ohhh...and the best part? Broccoli is the only thing in the world that will wipe a smile off your face. In case you were wondering!

Such a fun, cute book, with great illustrations. A mirror is include on the last page for little ones to practice their own smiles. Birdy is kind of all over the place with her thoughts on smiles, but I thought that was part of the fun of it. Lots of puns, quirkiness, and fun.

Birdy's Smile Books
Laurie Keller
40 pages
Picture Book
Henry Holt
September 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Lost Dogs, a review and some biased opinions

As many of you know, I am a pit bull owner and lover of the breed as a whole. I think they are misunderstood and often misguided into lives that they certainly do not deserve, but which ultimately leads to terrible stereotypes. That being said, I wanted to give you an unbiased, honest review of this book, rather than insert my own strong opinions into the review, but unfortunately, being that this is a subject so very close to my heart, it just isn't going to happen! First, I give you a review of the book in terms of detail, writing, and fact-giving, and after, you'll get my loud and ranting opinion. :)

If you are a dog lover or an animal lover of any sort, you must read this book. It will probably rip your heart into pieces, but it is such an important book, needing to be read, passed around and understood. Jim Gorant takes us through the process of investigating football player Michael Vick for his role in a dog fighting operation in Virginia, the subsequent seizing of over fifty dogs, and follows the rehabilitation of almost all of the dogs taken from Vick's property.

From Vick's early friendships from his hometown of Newport News, to his years of getting into trouble prior to being drafted into the National Football League, we are able to see the issues brewing long before his involvement in creating one of the biggest dog fighting rings in history. Gorant investigated the case exceptionally well, giving us background on the detectives involved, as well as the rescue workers that took in dog after dog, determined to give them a second chance, no matter how long and challenging the road to rehabilitation, rather than simply euthanize.

The amount of detail is staggering, especially when describing the living conditions of the animals while still owned by Michael Vick and the end some of the dogs met, but also in the manner of which each dog was actually rehabilitated. Extensive research was done into the history of the breed and the current stereotypes surrounding them. It was obvious that Gorant wanted to not only break stereotypes of pit bulls, but also to open the readers' eyes to the fact that in almost every case, no matter what has happened to a dog, they still have love to give and lessons to learn. In the beginning, these dogs were terrified of absolutely everything, didn't understand the meaning of play or toys, and often didn't want to be touched. What they ended up as is amazing family pets, loved by children and adults alike, and full of life. A gracious second chance was all they needed.

By no means an easy read, but an important one.

Now for my own, biased opinions. Ready? It is not for me to judge Michael Vick in his actions, though I do believe he should be seeking help for whatever troubles have plagued him enough to believe that fighting dogs is a normal way of bringing in money. Vick, like these dogs, has been given a second chance. He has been re-signed to play NFL football, though this current contract states that he can be let go at anytime without repercussions. Everyone, people, dogs, etc. can be rehabilitated and I just hope that Michael Vick will, at some point, take the steps necessary to right his wrongs against animals.

As for stereotypes about pit bulls and their companion breeds of American Pit Bull Terrier (which is what my Shae happens to be) and American Staffordshire Terrier, I say that it is exactly like stereotyping people for their race or upbringing. Every culture, every town, every race, every religion has bad people, but not every single one of those people are bad or unable to be rehabilitated.

"Most people have been led to believe that pit bulls are mindless attack machines, and while they can have the inclination to be aggressive towards other dogs, the reality is that free of negative influences, they're not much different than any other breed (104)."

"There are few breeds in the world that thrive more on human attention. The desire to please, to get the pat on the head, is part of what drives them to persist in the pit (110)."

All quotations were taken from a galley copy of this book. I have yet to see a published copy to check to see if the pages are the same, however, I felt they were important to include.

The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption
Jim Gorant
304 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
September 2010
Review copy borrowed

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Positively review

Emmy has not only just lost her mother to AIDS, but she is also dealing with being a teenager infected with HIV. She's angry, confused, and in the middle of a grief process that few could possibly understand, as she knows that she may face the same fate at some point in the future. 

After moving in with her father and stepmother (another fact that Emmy just despises about her new life), she is sent to a summer camp that specializes in girls with HIV and AIDS, where her parents are hoping she will learn to deal with her emotions and her grief over losing her mom. 

At Camp Positive, Emmy learns that she is not alone in her world of always being the "sick girl." All of these other girls have to take pills multiple times a day, constantly get their blood counts checked, and deal with the pity that people constantly send out because of a health status. She returns home to her dad and stepmom with an entirely new outlook on life. 

I've been wanting to read this book for quite awhile and I'm so glad I finally was able to get to it! Author Courtney Sheinmel has tapped into a subject that is not written about nearly enough, especially for children. Though the story is a little slow to start, the message is received loud and clear and Emmy's character is shown as strong, even in her weakest moment. 

I was totally impressed with the knowledgeable writing regarding living with HIV and AIDS and the manner in which Sheinmel is able to explain very complex emotions of grief and anger to tweens/teens. It's a good story, but an educational one as well, one kids living with HIV/AIDS can enjoy and learn from AND kids that are not living with either can enjoy and learn from. 

Courtney Sheinmel
204 pages
Middle Grade
Simon & Schuster
August 2010 (paperback edition)
Review copy received from publisher

Monday, October 4, 2010

Full schedule!

I'm apologizing for lack of a Non-Fiction Monday post this week, as well as my failure to post a Picture Book Saturday post this weekend. Saturday, I just completely forgot, no good excuse, and today I'm just simply not prepared. I've been a bit overwhelmed lately, getting settled in at my new job and attempting to squeeze in some reading time each day, which is proving to be quite difficult!

With any luck, I'll get into some sort of routine with the Cybils now being upon us and my reading pile growing by a huge amount every day. For now, bear with me as I forgot to do regular posting!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

IMM Week 12

I had another great week for books in my mailbox. I'm going to try my best to get all of these read in the next week or so (fat chance of that happening), because lots of Cybils books are going to need to be read!

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai
This is written by the author of Snow Day, one of my favorites of last year and continues the story of a cute little rabbit.

Birdy's Smile Book by Laurie Keller
I've already read through this one and it's absolutely adorable!

Rain School by James Rumford
The illustrations are beautiful. Can't wait to read the story!

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby
A creepy mystery middle grade story with a fabulous cover.

Drought by Pam Bachorz
I loved Candor and can't wait to see what Bachorz next book brings!

The Miracle Stealer by Neil Connelly
Sounds pretty sad, but definitely intriguing.

Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick
Sounds like a thriller...maybe?

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.