Monday, February 27, 2012

Non-Fiction Monday: What We Wear

I think it is incredibly important for us as parents, librarians, and teachers to instill a quest for knowledge about other cultures into our children. Our world is not nearly as large as we think and it's such an amazing benefit when we learn about something different from what we're comfortable with or used to. Better to start young! 

What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World
is a Global Fund for Children book, meaning a "portion of the proceeds will be donated to support innovative community-based organizations the serve the world's most vulnerable children and youth." Awesome right? Well, the content is awesome too. Gorgeous photographs illustrate different style of dress from all around the world, worn by children. Each photo is labeled with the country it's from and what the clothing is specifically for (school, festivals, sports, etc.)

Great for toddlers to just flip through and look at different faces from around the world, but also excellent for use in a classroom to add to a unit on different cultures. The back of the book provides information on learning about our heritage and discovering different cultures. 

I highly recommend this one for classrooms and libraries. And if you're interested in learning more about what the Global Fund for Children does, make sure to visit their website!

What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World
Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, Cynthia Pon
32 pages
February 2012
Review copy

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Picture Book Saturday

Chopsticks by Amy Krause Rosenthal 9781423107965
In a very silly companion to the popular Spoon, we're introduced to Chopsticks, a pair of best friends that do absolutely everything together. No one has ever seen them apart! When one of the pair is incapacitated, they must learn to function separately, though neither can imagine what he could possibly do alone. A sweet friendship tale mixed with wit and loads of puns, this one will please a child of any age!
Amy Krause Rosenthal
40 pages
Picture Book
February 2012
Review copy
Otto the Book Bear by Katie Cleminson
Otto is a book bear, but he also has a secret. He comes to life when no one is looking! When Otto is out on an adventure, his book is accidentally taken away and he has to find a new home. After much searching, Otto comes to a beautiful library where he makes wonderful friends, has fantastic adventures, and has lots of new readers! A lovely story for any book lover, young and old. Cleminson's illustrations are beautifully soft, making a wonderful book to share. 
Otto the Book Bear
Katie Cleminson
32 pages
Picture Book
February 2012
Review copy

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Humming Room review

Roo, an orphan sent to live with her strange, wealthy Uncle on an isolated island, is stubborn, a bit snotty, and more than a tad eccentric herself. The house is filled with secrets and lots of delicious ghost stories, all with a sense of darkness and tragedy lingering in the walls. A perfect house for Roo, who tends to be curious in nature, but everyone else living there seems to want her to keep her nose out of anything not having to do with studying. 

While Roo searches for answers to the mysteries of Cough Rock Island, she also begins to grow into her own person, slowly shedding the rigid exterior she has so carefully built up throughout her rough life. As new characters are added into her story, she grows and readers will cheer as she makes progress both personally and in her mission to bring life back to the house she now calls home. 

Fans of The Secret Garden will appreciate the similarities in plot, but also the freshness Ellen Potter brings with Roo's spunky personality. Readers will cheer for her, while becoming utterly engrossed in the mysteries surrounding this eccentric family.

I was definitely excited to see a novel inspired by one of my favorite classics of all time and after reading the first chapter, where Roo creates a beautiful garden made of stolen objects (hidden under a trailer of course), I was hooked. A great family read!

The Humming Room
Ellen Potter
288 pages
Middle Grade
Feiwel and Friends
February 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fever...falls a bit short of Wither

No need for a synopsis with this one...I think enough of you have read it to know what it's about! Just a quickie review.

Picking up right about where Wither left off, I was able to fall right back into Rhine's story and her flight with Gabriel. I found the portions of the plot taking place at the carnival exciting and up to par with the emotional level of Wither, but after that, I felt the rest of the book fell a bit short. The story felt choppy and rushed and almost as if the author had to force the plot along to get to book 3. I almost want to compare it to Mockingjay, where Katniss was constantly injured or in the hospital or sick. That was the entire book and Fever felt somewhat like that. Not a whole lot happening after the carnival.

Though Rhine is still a great character and I'm super intrigued by what will happen to her and the story, I was slightly disappointed in this middle book. I'm crossing my fingers that the third will rev things back up and I'll be flying through the pages like I was while reading Wither.

A quick note on the cover...I am SO not a fan. I loved the cover of Wither, but this one is just weird. I feel totally horrible for the cover model, wondering how long the photographer made her stay in that awful position and the styling just gave a strange vibe, rather than the subtle beauty that Wither's cover conveyed. We'll see what book 3 brings!

Lauren DeStefano
368 pages
Young Adult
Simon & Schuster
February 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week in Review

This week I posted a review of one of my favorite reads of last year, A Good American by Alex George.

I also reviewed Lisa McMann's Dead to You.

My friend Lisa tagged me in meme! I'm not usually one to participate in them, but this one was a lot of fun. I'm choosing not to tag anyone, only because I really don't know anyone who would respond.

1 You must post the rules.
2 Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3 Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.

4 Let them know you’ve tagged them!

1. Could you eat the same thing for lunch every day?

-Probably. I'm a huge soup fan and usually make up a big batch on Sundays and it lasts me the work week. If we're talking the exact same thing every day, I could still probably do that. A big spinach salad and half an avocado would work.

2. How many library books do you have checked out right now?

-Only two! It's amazing. I still have The Kitchen Daughter, which is due tomorrow and just picked up Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler.

3. Do you feel strongly about a specific type of music? Or more of a music in general type of person?

- Well, I mainly listen to contemporary Christian music (if I don't have an audiobook or NPR going), but I really like all types. I'm a huge fan of Mumford and Sons, Van Morrison, and Boyce Avenue. Love anything that makes me want to run or reminds me of home, which usually means country.

4. What is your favorite brick and mortar retail store?

-If we're talking bookstores, my local indies, Hooray for Books! (which also employes me ;) and One More Page are definitely my favorites. I'm also a Target junkie.

5. What is your favorite online store?

-Bookstore? Powells. Clothing/other retail? Probably Old Navy, because they have great sales, even if their clothes are super cheap in quality. It's all I can afford, so I that's what I buy. I love to browse Anthropologie though...and dream.

6. What is your favorite moment of heartstopping romantic tension? (Book, movie, music, tv, real life, art, anywhere)

- Goodness, this one stumped me.  I really have no idea. My book choices generally don't have high levels of romantic tension and my music choices definitely don't! I tried thinking of a tv episode or movie, but I'm stumped.

7. What is the first book you can remember reading? 

-To myself, the first I remember reading is probably Ramona Quimby. I do remember my mom reading Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and it's still one of my favorites.

8. Are you creative in any way? 

- Welllll....some people would tell you yes, but I really don't think so. I desperately want to be creative, but I'm just fairly good at "borrowing" ideas from other people. That's what Pinterest is for right?

9.  Not counting your family, pets, and vital personal documents/pictures, what one thing would you save in a fire? 

- My mom's hope chest. I am SO not a stuff person, but it's the only thing I kept of her's when she passed away.

10. What is your favorite type of vacation (museum, beach, cabin, mountains, theme parks)?

-To be honest, I love both the beach and a cabin in the mountains. We take a vacation to the Outer Banks once a year and love it, but the mountains are just as awesome.

11. What is the most surprising or unexpected thing you've done in the past 12 months?

- Had a baby! We have had many, many struggles with trying to have a child, but we found out we were finally expecting in May and had Elliott in November. Hooray!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dead to You review

Talk about suspense! I'm starting to think Lisa McMann is the queen of teen suspense, because she really does get me every time. I'm a big fan of her Wake series and this new stand alone was quietly creepy and definitely a page turner. 

Ethan was kidnapped as a child, but has somehow found his way back to his family, years later. His parents, of course, are absolutely thrilled that he's home, but his younger brother isn't quite sure what to think. He finds it strange that Ethan can't remember simple events that happened when they were little and finds tiny inconsistencies in the story Ethan tells about his kidnapper. 

Determined to prove he is ready to be the kid everyone remembers, Ethan tries to make friends with the group he's told he hung out with as a young boy, attempts to be a great big brother to the little sister that arrived after he had been abducted, and even tries to get along with his brother, without success. Something is wrong and Ethan's brother knows it. 

If you read a lot of books, you'll probably figure out the ending, however, the way McMann gets us there is pretty awesome. Even though I was pretty sure I knew what was going to happen, I still had chills on certain pages and still really wanted to be able to read faster to find out if I was right and what was going to happen to Ethan and his family. 

I think this would be a great choice for a reluctant reader or someone that needs a quick page turner to get into a story. 

Can't wait to see what's next from Lisa McMann! Whatever it is, I'm sure it will make my heart beat a little faster. 

Dead to You
Lisa McMann
256 pages
Young Adult Fiction
Simon Pulse
February 2012
Review copy

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Good American review

Since my husband and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day, I thought it would be appropriate to give some book love to one of my favorite reads of last year. I LOVED A Good American when I read an advanced copy last Fall and now that it's available to the masses, I'm telling you all to go out and grab a copy. You won't be disappointed! And what a great Valentine's gift to yourself right? Much better than the roses that will die in a week!

Alex George tells the story of a Frederick and Jette and their plight for a happy, successful family in the heartland of America. Surrounded by memorable characters, the pair's story is not a simple one, but wonderfully complicated and rich in detail, history, and love. Spanning generations, there's a lot of "stuff" going on, yet the heart of the story is intimate and familial. 

There's humor, heartbreak and sadness, lovely interactions between characters, a few fights, and the plot totally had me both laughing and tearing up multiple times. It's one I want to hand to men, women, and even older teens. 

I'm also drooling over that beautiful cover! Another winner from Amy Einhorn.

Go grab a copy from your local indie store...Happy Valentine's Day!

A Good American
Alex George
400 pages
Adult fiction
Amy Einhorn Books
February 2012
Review copy

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week in Review

These posts seem to come later and later each week, but I really am trying! At least they get done at all, right?

Such a busy week in these parts. In addition to having a relative in town, these are just a few of the things that occupied my time:

I had a delicious dinner in D.C. with several of my fellow indie booksellers in honor of Jess Rothenberg's new YA release, The Catastrophic History of You & Me.

For Non-Fiction Monday I reviewed A Little Book About Feelings.

I reviewed Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran.

Guest post from Brie Spangler. Awesome illustration included!

I went to see a friend's play, Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers. Absolutely fantastic! Wonderfully creepy. I highly recommend going to see it if you're in the D.C. area (or in NC as they'll be traveling there in March). Check it out! So much talent it's ridiculous.

We provided childcare for our church's Grouplink event. I had 16 4-6 year olds. Best birth control EVER.

We got Elliott's first REAL smiles. That almost negates my previous birth control statement...but not quite.

Another crazy week is upon us. Another author dinner tomorrow, small group Tuesday, friend coming in from out of town on Wednesday, husband gone Thursday night and Friday night, doctor's appointment, dentist appointment. I'm tired already. Have a great week everyone!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Guest Post: Brie Spangler and The Wizard of Oz

I'm sending a huge welcome to Brie Spangler, author and illustrator of adorable picture books. She's giving us a super unique look into The Wizard of Oz, via the art of Lisbeth Zwerger.

An illustrator’s review of The Wizard of Oz
Written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Published by North-South Books, 1996

            We catch the first few frames on TV and we’re hooked. There’s Judy Garland, clutching Toto and surrounded by Munchkins, wearing those iconic ruby red slippers and preparing to follow the yellow brick road. It’s as ingrained in our pop culture as Coca-Cola and as beloved as baseball and if we’ve seen it once, we’ve seen it a hundred times— The Wizard of Oz.
            With all the visual imagery we’ve memorized since birth, the amazing Viennese watercolorist, Lisbeth Zwerger, does the amazing and brings new life to a world previously set in stone and canonized. Rich fields of color allow for whimsy and bring a jewel-like quality to the story. Tinman, Glinda, and Scarecrow look nothing like how we’ve been taught, but we love them all the same. The book even comes with green tinted glasses to put on once you reach the Emerald City, nice touch!
            Having bought a copy a few years ago, it’s one of my favorite things to read aloud to kids because they’re rapt with wonder at the words and fall easily into the illustrations. The freshness of these fanciful paintings makes the hundred plus year old title burst anew. Zwerger is a master at her craft but what makes her interpretation such a joy is the absolute whimsy for the world of Oz and all its inhabitants. And even while she imagines an enchanting world, she remains faithful to the text. Dorothy’s slippers are their original silver!
            It’s a piece of cake to heap praise on Zwerger, she’s one of the all-time greats, but what she brings to The Wizard of Oz is special. There’s a reverence she embeds that this is not just a book but a keepsake, a time to build memories. Every nightstand should be graced with a copy from these two masters, Baum and Zwerger.
Thanks to Brie for stopping by! Though she's written/illustrated a variety of books for children, my favorite is still Peg Leg Peke. My husband even loves it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Madame Tussaud review

If you're looking for a rich, incredibly detailed story, I highly recommend picking up this one up. SO engrossing and actually taœ¢∑ught me quite a bit.  Telling the story of Marie Tussaud, creator of gorgeous wax figures that fill her Uncle's museum, her relationship with the royal family is incredibly unique. Spanning from the time when political strife first begins to invade Paris, all the way through the Reign of Terror, Marie is forced to do thing she would never think of to stay alive, using this amazing talent of wax sculpting. 

I love how involving this story is and how much detail the author goes into. I totally became involved with the characters, following them through five whole years. I loved Marie and her complex character...her story was just fascinating. 

Not just a fictional story, this really felt like a history lesson and I really took a lot from it. I'm a huge fan of historical fiction and the more detailed the better. Madame Tussaud was definitely detailed and was filled with all the gossip, dresses, politics, and rich characters that I love.

Michelle Moran just keeps getting better and better!

Out now in paperback. 

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution
Michelle Moran
480 pages
Adult fiction
Crown Publishing
December 2011 (paperback)
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, February 6, 2012

Non-Fiction Monday: Feelings

I think well-written books on feelings are really hard to find. Lots of books on feelings out there, but those aimed at kids aren't always really for kids if you know what I mean. When A Little Book About Feelings and its accompanying activity book showed up,  I was a little apprehensive, because the television show wasn't one I had ever heard of, but it ended up being really adorable and totally appropriate for kids. 

The story was really basic, going over who has feelings, what they are,  and how it's ok to have all kinds of feelings. Loved the writing. I'm not in love with the pictures, but apparently they're of the show characters, so if the reader was familiar with the show, they would probably appreciate them more than I did. 

The activity book is great, filled with all sorts of stuff that encourages kids to express their feelings. It starts off with fill-in-the-blanks on the "author's" family and home and goes on to have activities on several different types of feelings that kids may have trouble identifying. Stickers, coloring pages, and other activities help them to express pride, shyness, frustration, etc. I think teachers and librarians would really appreciate having something like this available, as would parents. 

Again, not a huge fan of the photographs, but maybe if I saw Ruby's Studio, I would appreciate them more. 

A Little Book About Feelings
32 pages
The Mother Company
October 2011
Review copy 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Picture Book Saturday

Randy Riley is a genius and loves robots and science, but the poor kid just can't seem to hit a baseball. When looking through his telescope one night, Randy sees a big fireball heading straight towards Earth and knows he needs to save everyone! Using his smarts and his love of baseball (even if he isn't very good), Randy devises a plan that will surprise everyone and just might save the day. 

Chris Van Dusen is one of my favorite picture book authors and his latest is lots of fun. Filled with excellent rhymes, super silly illustrations, and a great story, I can definitely add it to the hit list of 2012. We read it to the kids at my small group and it was a huge hit!

The pacing of the book is absolutely perfect for a read aloud and the large, bright illustrations will definitely hold the attention of those being read to. The rhymes had everyone laughing (adults too!) and the consensus was that Randy should stick definitely stick to robots. 

If you like this one, make sure you check out The Circus Ship.

Randy Riley's Really Big Hit
Chris Van Dusen
32 pages
Picture Book
February 2012
Review copy provided by publisher

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Survival Kit review

Rose, a formerly bubbly, popular teen with a spot on the cheerleading squad, has fallen into a deep depression after the death of her mother a few short months ago. She dropped cheering, stopped hanging out with her friends, and refuses to listen to any sort of music, afraid she'll cry as soon as she hears any lyric at all. Her long time boyfriend, Chris is even getting frustrated with her, confused as to Rose won't even try to feel better. 

When she finds one of her mom's famous Survival Kits, made especially for her, at first Rose can't even open it. Once she does, she knows it's time to begin the healing process, using the items her mother placed in the kit. With the help of her best friend and a guy who she never noticed before, but can't seem to stop thinking about, Rose starts to open up her heart again, though the process of feeling is anything but easy. 

The first thing I noticed once I got into the book a little ways, is how real the dialogue felt. Major plus! I have so many pet peeves when it comes to unrealistic character dialogue, but Frietas hit it spot on. I felt Rose's pain and heartache and her need to do things in her own time, rather than when and how everyone else expected her to. 

Will had me swooning, I'll definitely admit that. He was that perfect quiet guy that so many girls dream about. Smart, sensitive, hardworking, always says the right thing, ya know. Well, except when he doesn't say the right thing, but I forgive him. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and the emotions evoked by the characters. I'm a huge Sarah Dessen fan and would definitely recommend it for readers that like her work. It's a hopeful contemporary read that will leave you itching to make your own Survival Kits. 

The Survival Kit
Donna Frietas
368 pages
Young Adult
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
October 2011
Library copy