Monday, April 30, 2012

Stunning realistic novel

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
Candlewick, May 2012
With three siblings, Fern feels overlooked. Her three-year old brother Charlie is the light of their parent's life and the only one who doesn't find her father's attempts to promote the family restaurant embarrassing. Fern's older brother is concerned about riding the bus to school and his new boyfriend. Her older sister is annoyed at being at home while all her friends are at college. No one except her best friend Ran has any time for her- except Charlie, and his attention tends to be sticky and bothersome. When disaster strikes the family, everyone feels alone, stranded in personal grief and blame. Will anything pull them back together again?

Jo Knowles weaves the difficult issues of coming out, bullying, death, grief, and blame into her narrative. Readers will be swept along by the character's emotions, crying when they do and grabbing on to the moments of hope that break through. At once heart-breaking and uplifting, See You at Harry's is a stunning realistic novel. Ages 12+

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mischief & middle grade

Merits of Mischief: The Bad Apple by T.R. Burns
Simon & Schuster, May 2012

When Seamus Hinckle accidentally kills his substitute teacher with an apple, he's sent off to the Kilter Academy, which promises to reform him. But Kilter Academy is not as it seems. Seamus' roommate is pyromaniac, the students have access to all sorts of trouble-making tools, and demerits are necessary for passing classes. Seamus is different from his peers- his trouble-making acts are accidents. Will he be able to cause mischief on purpose? And just what is the true purpose of Kilter, anyway? If you loved The Mysterious Benedict Society or the Secret Series, Merits of Mischief just might be perfect for covert reading under a desk- whether or not you're a trouble-maker yourself.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Beatles

Baby's in Black Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg
by Arne Bellstorf
First Second, May 8th

Though this is a graphic featuring the Beatles, it is primarily a love story, that of Astrid Kirchherr, a young photographer who discovered The Beatles in a basement club and fell in love with their bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe. Ballstorf captures Astrid's story and The Beatles' early difficulties while hinting at the post-Beatles life Stuart might have had. A glimpse at the beginnings of cultural icons, and an important period of history, Baby's in Black is ultimately the bittersweet tale of a real-life romance.

Bellstorf's black and white illustrations are gorgeous. Black pencil gives his ink lines work tone, texture, and depth. The narrative is occasionally broken by sequences of lyrics from Beatles' songs. For these moments, Bellstorf uses only ink in his frame-less panels and his pale, colorless trees create a dream scape through which Start and Astrid wander,searching for one another. These sequences provide a break from the narrative, a literal expression of someone losing his- or her-self in song or emotion.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A True Fairy Story

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World (a true story)
by Mary Losure
In the 1900s, Elsie and her cousin Frances photographed fairies in the beck behind their house. Adults were astonished by the photographs, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed the fairies in the photos must be real. But were they? Or were Elsie and Frances altering the photos? With references to letters, personal accounts, and containing reproductions of the fairy photographs, Mary Losure presents Elsie and Frances' story in an accurate and accessible way. For those who love fantastical fairy stories, The Fairy Ring is a fascinating introduction to non-fiction, not to mention a fun read if you love fooling adults.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good Fun

Bink & Golly Two for One
by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile
Candlewick, May 2012

Bink and Gollie are back in their second book and I can only hope there are more to follow. This time the duo are headed to the state fair where Bink tries her arm at Whack a duck, Gollie attempts to take part in a talent show, and they both learn what lies in their future. Tony Fucile's animation background is eveident in every illustration. Each character springs from the page, spry ink lines capturing life, energy, and motion. With a heart-warming message and chapters that are milk-out-the-nose funny, Bink and Golly Two for One is a stellar sequel that stands on its own.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fun Summer Read (with aspiring roller girls)

The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford
Scholastic, April 2012

Minty (roller girl name Minty Fresh) and her best friend Paz (or Pax A. Punch) plan on spending the summer hanging out on the block and practicing roller derby moves. But the Mean Boys are monopolizing the street, Paz's little sister is concerned about the Bat-Man, there's unfinished business at the witch house on the other side of the woods, and someone has placed a curse on Paz. Minty's problems escalate when Paz starts hanging out with some older girls and ignores Minty. When Minty stumbles upon a tree full of people's secrets in the woods, she is draw back, as is Raymond, a mysterious new boy in the neighborhood. Together, Minty and Raymond set out to match the secrets with their writers, and maybe solve their mysteries in the process.

Standiford spins an intriguing summer mystery that explores the importance of a neighborhood. Minty is a strong, well-rounded character whose love of roller derby will introduce a new generation to the sport. Cute and quirky, fun and current- with a twist of Maryland flavor- this is a stellar summer novel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fale Apologies

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems
by Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Gail Carson Levine takes William Carlos Williams' poem This is Just to Say and runs with it. Following Williams' format and intent, each poem details what was done, asks for forgiveness, but then offers up a mischievous twist. From false apologies by Rumpelstiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood's Grandmother, and other fairytale characters to apology poems for friends, enemies, and readers, there's something to make everyone giggle. Levine's intro (note: you will not find this at the beginning of the book) explains how she used Williams' poem, making the book a wonderful find for budding poets and teachers alike.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Novel/grapic novel hybrid

The Year of the Beasts
by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell
Roaring Brook Press, May 22, 2012

When Tessa's younger sister Lulu tags along to the fair with her and her best friend Celina, Tessa's annoyed. But when Lulu leaves the curiosity sideshow tent holding the hand of the boy Tessa has a crush on, Tessa feels betrayed. Then Lulu begins to spend more time with Celina, until Tessa feels more like the unwelcome younger sister than Lulu. Not that Tessa hasn't found someone to kiss this summer, but her boyfriend, Jasper, is a strange outcast, and their romance is a secret one. Interspersed between the chapters of this story are chapters rendered in graphic novel format. They seem to take place at a high school for mythical creatures, with Medusa, a mermaid, and a minotaur in the leading roles. As the book continues, it becomes clear who these drawn characters are, and their story begins to show parallels to the written one. The Year of the Beasts is an ultimately heartbreaking novel about first loves, jealousy, and loss. When everything finally comes together, the result is striking. Novel and graphic novel formats unite in this tragically beautiful summer story.