Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fabulous, flavorful, middle grade

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage 
Dial, Penguin, May 10th, 2012

Mo (or Moses) LoBeau received her name when she was rescued from a river after a hurricane. The Colonel who rescued her lost his memory in the storm and his past and Mo's are shrouded in mystery. Since then, Mo has been trying to find her upstream mom-- when she's not helping Miss Lana out at the Colonel's cafe or running about with her best friend Dale. But when a local man shows up dead, Mo decides to tackle a mystery besides her past. With delightful Southern flavor and just the right amount of quirkiness, Three Times Lucky is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery that will have readers guessing right up to the end. Shelia Turnage's voice brings the tale to life, her accent transporting the listener directly to the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC. A great choice for readers who enjoyed Pie by Sarah Weeks or The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I love Oliver Jeffers' books [part 2]

The Hueys in the New Sweater by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel, Penguin, May 24th, 2012

I'm so glad the Hueys will have their own series! The Hueys are simple creatures who all look alike and who all like to do the same things (though they may do them differently). But when Rupert knits himself a bright orange sweater, the Hueys suddenly have to deal with something different. But when everyone decides to be different, what does different even mean? Jeffers has created a deceptively simple book that questions what it means to be unique. For classrooms or storytimes, try pairing it with Mo Willems' Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.

*Just so you know, I always fall for fabulous British names. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

I love Oliver Jeffers' books [part 1]


This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel, Penguin, November 13th, 2012

When a moose comes Wilfred's way, he knows it was meant for him, so he names it Marcel. While Marcel only follows Wilfred's rules when he wants to, Wilfred thinks he's a pretty good pet-- that is, until someone else claims the moose is really hers.Instead of his usual minimalist backgrounds, Jeffers mixes it up, using old prints and paintings to set the scene. Oliver Jeffers is brilliant and This Moose Belongs to Me is humorous, quirky, all-around fun for children and adults alike.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

YA Thriller


Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan 
Candlewick, September 11th, 2012

Daniel and his father are spending their vacation at Leisure World, a sports-themed vacation complex. Daniel has no interest in sports or spending time with his depressed and often drunk father. While hanging out by the pond, Daniel sees a mysterious girl who swims beautifully. But each time he sees her, she seems to have accumulated more bruises and cuts-- and her watch ticks backwards. Daniel is drawn to her, and soon he finds mysterious cuts and bruises on his own body. Who is this strange girl? Where did she come from? And is she even alive?

Daniel is a complex character with realistically rendered emotions. Hogan deals with heavy issues including assault, murder, and bullying, so I do recommend ages 14+, but his treatment of these issues is through the eyes of of a teenager, allowing readers to come to terms with them as Daniel does. Gripping and terrifying, Daylight Saving is a thriller you won't want to miss-- or read alone at night.

Not the sort of thing I normally read, but once I started, I couldn't put it down!

Monday, June 18, 2012

New novel from Rebecca Stead


Liar & Spy 
Wendy Lamb Books, Random House, August 7th, 2012

When Georges (named after the painter Georges Seurat) moves from his house to a new apartment, he meets Safer, a strange, Sherlockian boy, who inducts him into a spy club. Safer is obsessed with the upstairs neighbor, Mr. X, and convinces Georges that Mr. X is up to something sinister. But Georges already has his own problems. His father is trying to start new business after losing his job, his mother is never home, and two boys are bullying him at school. Safer's spy activities are getting more and more serious, and they have Georges worried- can he stop spying and risk losing his only friend? Only the advice of his namesake- stepping back to look at the larger picture- will help Georges solve his problems.

A New York City setting, quirky yet believable characters, and true friendship make Liar & Spy a great read for those who have enjoyed Stead's Newbery Award winner or RJ Palacio's Wonder. Like When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy ends with a twist and a turn you won't see coming; it'll make you want to read it all over again.

Friday, June 15, 2012

From Lauren Oliver, a portal fantasy

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver 
Harper, September 18, 2012
One morning, Liza's brother Patrick is different. Her mother and her father don't notice anything, but Liza is certain that the Spindlers, wicked spider-creatures who live underground, have stolen her brother's soul. While Patrick may annoy her, Liza will do anything to get him back. Liza braves darkness and things that go bump in the night to journey below. There she meets Mirabella, a rat who prefers clothes, who agrees to guide Liza to the Spindler Queen. Readers will be amazed by the sights Liza sees and the creatures she meets, from the gnome-like Troglods who barter with lost items from Above, to the palace of the fairy-like Nids. But can Liza best the terrifying Spindler queen? Or will she lose her brother's soul-- and her own? Lauren Oliver has created an inventive portal fantasy full of fascinating characters and classic challenges that is a fantastic read-aloud for families.

I still like Liesl and Po best, but think Laika should make of movie of this in the same style as Coraline.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Even though I'm not an animal person...

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts
Candlewick, August 14, 2012
Kizzy Ann Stamps speaks her mind. So when she's asked to send a letter to her new teacher at the formerly white school, Kizzy expresses her concerns at being one of the students integrating the school. But what starts as letters evolves into an extensive journal when school begins. With her teacher's encouragement, Kizzy pours her thoughts, problems, and puzzles onto the page. In addition to navigating the shifting social order at school, Kizzy worries about the glances her scar attracts, the neighbor boy who hangs around, and her collie, Shag. While writing gives her a chance to process the changes in her life, training Shag to be a herder gives her a purpose and the chance to make new friends. Jeri Watts has created a strong protagonist whose questions about race and friendship will inspire readers to consider the world around them. When you finish, you'll wish you had your own Shag to walk with you through life.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Remember Lulu & the Brontosaurus?

Lulu Walks the Dogs by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith
Finally, a follow-up to the fantastic Lulu and the Brontosaurus! While Lulu's run-in with Mr. B may have stopped some of her brutish behavior, Lulu is still a demanding and determined girl and this time she wants a special something. (And I won't tell you what it is because I don't want to ruin the surprise.) So when her parents tell her she'll have to earn the money to purchase this special something on her own, Lulu decides on the perfect job: dog walking. Unfortunately, the dogs are as difficult as Lulu. Neighbor Fleishman offers to help, but he's worst than the dogs with his perfect little goody-two-shoes ways and all Lulu wants to do is stomp him (I think you will, too). This quirky sequel will have kids (and their parents) rolling with laughter and singing money songs. With short chapters and hilarious illustrations by Lane Smith, Lulu Walks the Dogs can be read aloud to patient listeners, or tackled by strong new readers. Now I just have to come up with a clever rhyming song to cajole Ms. Viorst into writing another Lulu tale.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tell Me About Your Day Today

by Mem Fox, illustrated by Lauren Stringer
Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), September 4, 2012
Mem Fox is a genius when it comes to picturebook text. Her text is sparse, with just enough repetition, room for illustrations, and it begs to be read aloud. Tucked into bed, a young boy asks each of his toys what they did that day. As each toy answers, the illustrations reveal how his story connects with the others, culminating in how the boy's actions brought about each toy's experiences. A wonderful new bedtime book from a picturebook master.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Small Gem

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen
W.W. Norton, September 2012

This is a gem of a novel. Gorgeous imagery, philosophy, and art combine to make a novel that may be enjoyed by adults, teens, or precocious twelve year-olds. Minou lives on a small island, one that can be walked around in under an hour. In addition to Minou and her lighthouse, there is her father, a priest in the church, Boxman and his dog, No Name, in the barn, and, before she vanished, Minou's mother. One year ago Minou's mother disappeared. Though it is believed that she died, Minou knows she didn't- and can rationally prove it. Her father's devotion to philosophy and her mother's love of art and imagination combine in Minou. When a dead boy washes up on the shore, he brings with him the smell of oranges and questions both physical and philosophical. It will take both her understanding of philosophy and her mother's love of art and imagination for Minou to process the visitor.

Like Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, reading the The Vanishing Act is like peering into a snow globe. Though I can imagine what characters are thinking, I am removed from them, observing their strange, miniature world, my nose pressed right up against the glass. And like an intricate miniature, I want to carry this gem around, to peer into the world Mette Jakobsen has created whenever the mood strikes. The Vanishing Act doesn't disappear with the turn of the final page, but has stayed with me, alternately haunting and niggling my mind.

In the end, I wanted a little more information about the experiences Minou's parents had during the war and about where her mother might have gone. I think the postcard was a wonderful suggestion that Minou has found her philosophy, but I wanted it to (at least momentarily) enlighten her father, too. But despite these desires, I still adore the book and want a copy to carry in my pocket.

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Marla Frazee!

Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee
Simon & Schuster, October 9th, 2012
More Marla Frazee! I love her work. Adorable doggies Boot & Shoe like to do everything together, except that Boot spends his days on the back porch, and Shoe on the front. But one day a rambunctious squirrel has Boot & Shoe running all around in a game of chase. Dizzy and disoriented, the two dogs end up separated. Unable to sleep alone, the two doggies wait all night for the other to return, Boot on the front porch, Shoe on the back. Frazee has created two adorable characters whose antics (and adventure) will have children clamoring "read it again!"