Friday, November 28, 2014

The Different Girl Review

The Different Girl

Book talk: Veronika, Caroline, Isobel, and Eleanor have lived on a deserted island for as long as they can remember.  The four girls do everything together and look identical except for their hair color.   Irene and Robbert tell them that their parents all died in a plane crash and do their best to take care of them and provide them with an education.  Despite their tragic circumstances they live a relatively happy and normal life.  Or at least that's what they always believed.  Then one day a very different girl appears on the island who makes them question everything.

I know the language will turn a lot of people off but I absolutely love books that are written in a stylized way or in dialect.  The story is narrated by Veronika and her inability to understand figures of speech and use metaphor is part of what is so intriguing about her character and what makes the narrative so unique.  Her limited knowledge and belief that she is normal creates a delicious tension as little hints are dropped which left me constantly guessing and trying to extrapolate to figure out what was going on.  It's clear from the beginning that something is off both with the world at large and these girls particularly but exactly what is never entirely revealed--even at the end.  It's wonderfully atmospheric and combine that with the science fiction angle and it reminded me of The Twilight Zone.  It makes perfect sense that Veronika talks the way she does and even though it does feel stiff and strange it is hauntingly poetic at times.  What starts as a quiet, introspective novel turns into a tense thriller as the novel approaches its climax and the stakes are raised.  This is not your average YA dystopian thriller.  It is something quiet different and wonderfully refreshing.


Every book its reader:  
Fans of psychological science fiction like the Twilight Zone will love this story.  The difficult language will draw some in and turn others off.  Read the first chapter to get an idea of whether or not you'll like it or see the quotes below for a taste.  Content wise I'd say it's fine for 5th grade but the writing style makes it more likely to be enjoyed by teens.  

Bonus Quotes:

“I hope what I’m telling is what really happened, because if it isn’t--if I’ve forgotten things or lost them--then I’ve lost part of myself. I’m not sure how old I am, mainly because there are so many different ways to tell time--one way with clocks and watches and sunsets, or other ways with how many times a person laughs, or what they forget, or how they change their minds about what they care about, or why, or whom.”

“But we learned she was listening to how we said things, not what, and to what we didn’t talk about as much as what we did. Which was how we realized that a difference between could and did was a thing all by itself, separate from either one alone, and that we were being taught about things that were invisible.’

“I didn’t like everyone looking at me like I was different--because their looking made me different--"

“Her absence extended in lines of numbers made of smoke, backward in memory and forward in futures never to occur.”

Source: ebook from public library

The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

After the End Review

After the End (After the End #1)

Book talk:  When World War III ravaged the world a small group managed to survive in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Juneau is one of the children of these survivors and has learned how to live off the land and tap into the heart of nature to work magic. When her tribe is taken while she's out hunting she ventures out of the safe zone for the first time and what she discovers shakes her to the very core: a whole city, completely untouched. Is everything she was ever told a lie? But her tribe is still missing and she must find them. Now she has to survive in an environment she is completely unprepared for in a world where she has no idea whom to trust.

Rave:  This story is told in the alternating perspectives of Juneau and Miles.  Plum does a great job making Miles unlikable at first.  She contrasts the serious problems Juneau is dealing with to Miles's melodramatic reaction to having to work in a mail room after being caught cheating on a test.  When Juneau first meets him she sizes him up with the quip "a fortunate life, unfortunately for the rest of the world."  At first Miles just plays along with her so he can earn points with his dad for turning her in but as anyone who's ever watched a high school rom-com will be able to predict he soon starts to fall for her.  Despite being a bit cheesy it's nice to watch him gain empathy for Juneau and start to grow as a person and expand his world view (although it would be nice if he could have had empathy for someone without having to fall for them first.)  The pacing is quick and fans of Katniss will enjoy the capable Juneau.  An added supernatural element as Juneau works her nature-based magic will draw additional fans as will Juneau's pets including dogs and a wild bird.  

At one point Miles says "Suddenly, and randomly, I have this flashback to history class, when we learned about how afraid the Native Americans were when they saw the European explorers’ rifles for the first time, calling them magical ‘fire sticks.’" Juneau's group also refers to shoes as 'moccasins' but has no stated connection to any native peoples.  I found it odd and problematic to have these brought up without any commentary or other mention of native peoples.

Juneau uses homeless individuals as a conduit for her magic and I have torn feelings about it.  On the one hand it's clear that Juneau treats them with kindness, values their help, and is saddened by the way society treats them.  On the other hand the author always depicts them as insane, alcoholic, or both: “A hat sits in front of him with coins inside, and empty metal cans with BEER printed on them are scattered around him. I approach. His odor is pungent. Rancid.”

One final warning that the book ends on a complete cliff hanger.  Plum easily could have ended the book a chapter or so earlier and left on a good note while still leaving curiosity over the sequel.  Instead she chose to go on so that it would end on the most dramatic scene possible.

Every book its reader:  I'd recommend this to fans of supernatural and survival stories.


Amy Plum has plenty of extras on her site including a guide to post apocalyptic fashion and interviews with herself and her characters.

Source: ebook from public library

After the End by Amy Plum: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dangerous Review


Book talk:  When Maisie's father gave her the middle name 'Danger' he thought he was being funny. He didn't know how apt it would turn out to be. Maisie has wanted to go to astronaut camp ever since she was a little girl, so when she sees the contest on her cereal box she figures that it couldn't hurt to apply. She is shocked to win and even more so when she's selected to be part of an elite group that gets to visit the space elevator built by the eccentric genius who runs the camp. But what starts as a prize loses its luster when things go horribly wrong. All of their lives will be changed forever as they come to grips with new abilities and try to decide who, if anyone, they can trust.

Rave:  Aliens, superheroes, cool gadgets, and epic fight scenes: this book has it all.  This book breaks the mold in many ways.  The characters excel in science but spout off memorized lines of poetry.  They are multilingual and diverse and resist easy categorization into good and evil.  Maisie actually has a good relationship with her parents and they are willing to drop everything to help her (plus the Dad has a fondness of puns that won me over.)  There is a strong romantic element and a bit of a love triangle but the triangle is quickly dealt with instead of drawn out. Cheesy pick up lines are properly rebuffed (" Do girls usually respond to that kind of talk?"/"You'd be easier to woo if you were dumb.") in favor of emotional engagement and banter involving references to Greek mythology, poetry, and science.  Now that's a trend I can get behind!  ("You be Europa, and I'll be your Jupiter" is my favorite pick up since Eleanor & Park's Bobba Fett analogy)  Even the supporting characters show surprising sides like the muscle-bound head of security singing Opera in a faux soprano when he's alone.

Rant:  A few characters are still disappointingly two dimensional like the stereotypical greedy villain willing to go to any length for a profit.  There are some issues brought up that I wish Hale had spent more time with like the abuse in the back story of one of the supporting characters. There were moments where characters die or other horrific things happen that I felt should have had more of an impact and emotional weight than they did because we didn't get to know the characters well enough or the context was sped through.  These were probably sacrifices made to keep the plot moving quickly which plenty will appreciate but given the choice I'd have preferred a more thoughtful examination of these elements even if it meant a slower pace.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to fans of science fiction and super heroes looking for a fast-paced thriller.


Shannon Hale has her own website with more information on the book including a great post on neutral characters and relating to the specific and another on the book's history.

The publisher made a teaser trailer for the book with an endorsement from James Dashner that impressed several of my students:

Bonus Quotes:

"The afternoon was yellowing around the edges like old paper."

"I am looped in the loops of her hair."

"Cheddar is as gouda cheese as you can hope to try. But it’s nacho cheese, so leave my provolone."

"Poetry reminds me of looking at things through a microscope...I examined things I thought I knew--a strand of my hair, a feather, an onion peel. Seeing them up close, they changed."

Source: ebook from public library

Dangerous by Shannon Hale: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Brief Reviews Fall 2014 part 2

Lilith Dark and the Beastie TreeLilith Dark is one of the toughest and most adorable monster slayers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She reminds me of Calvin with a stuffed dinosaur for her Hobbes.  Together they act out elaborate and gruesome fantasies and sometimes they are depicted as Lilith sees them and sometimes the artwork shows that the dinosaur is really stuffed after all.  But thanks to the longer format these fantasies can be much more elaborate and follow a full adventure cycle.  Nothing is what it seems in this world where a cute kitten turns into a monster and a hideous creature ends up being a friend (Spoon, pictured at the left on the cover is actually my favorite character in the comic.)  Lilith of course proves her courage while the babysitter proves clueless and a stinger at the end leaves the truth of the events up in the air in classic fantasy adventure fashion.  While some elements are reminiscent of other stories the comic as a whole stands out.  A treat for those of all ages with a macabre sensibility. Lilith Dark and the Beastie Tree by Charles Dowd: buy it or check it out today!

Second chances: true stories of living with Addison's diseaseI bought this book when someone close to me was diagnosed with Addison's Disease.  I had some basic knowledge of Addison's because our family dog growing up had it but I was still shocked, saddened, and scared when I heard.  As a librarian naturally my first instinct was to research and read everything I could about it.  It was easy enough to find medical facts but I wanted to know what to expect from the future--what living with Addison's looks like after the initial crisis passes.  This book accomplished just that.  Reading the first-hand accounts of 16 very different people not only provided practical advice but helped give me perspective and imagine what the future may now look like.  Hearing from people who had lived with Addison's for decades and found ways to keep doing the things they loved was a great comfort and even reading about the struggles turned them into something concrete that could be planned for and overcome instead of an unnamed lurking fear.  The quality of the writing style varies greatly from chapter to chapter but every story shared something that I found helpful.  I wouldn't recommend this based on literary merit to a casual reader looking for a memoir collection but for those who want to learn more about life with Addison's this is a valuable resource and I'm deeply thankful to Carol McKay for putting it together.  Second Chances: True stories of living with Addison's Disease edited by Carol McKay: buy it

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)I had a few problems with this book.  First of all Cas's cockiness did not win me over.  He acts like a jerk but he believes his actions are completely justified.  Secondly a big deal is made about how Anna is a super powerful ghost and yet she still cowers behind Cas when baddies show up.  Apparently even a practically omnipotent supernatural woman needs a mortal man to protect her when things get scary.  The mortal female love interest at one point complains to her male companion that everyone has some sort of power to fight the ghosts except her and is comforted not by being reassured that she can fight too but by being told she's "the voice of reason." Cas is sometimes compared to Buffy and unsurprisingly he has a low opinion of the iconic, powerful woman and takes it as an insult even when it's meant as a compliment.  Even his mother who is a witch mostly just contributes by washing the special knife and cooking and mixing herbs. It is entirely possible that I am overthinking things but things like this just kept pulling me out of the narrative and prevented me from enjoying it.  Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: buy it or check it out today!

MaddAddam (MaddAddam Trilogy, #3)"There’s the story, then there’s the real story, then there’s the story of how the story came to be told. Then there’s what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too." I was glad I read the third installment of this trilogy so soon after I read the second.  It wrapped things up nicely while bringing up even more interesting questions to ponder.  The theme of storytelling is strong in this installment as the characters are constantly retelling the stories of what they've been through to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and help the survivors learn who they are and where they came from.  Sprinkled throughout the social commentary, various literary styles, and thought-provoking scenes are bursts of humor like the made-up band names: "Luminescent Corpses" and "The Bipolar Albino Hookworms"  if one of these doesn't become a real band name I will be sorely disappointed!  But there's nothing disappointing about this book.  If you haven't read the series start with Oryx and Crake.  MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood: buy it or check it out today!

The Forbidden Library (The Forbidden Library, #1)I found several aspects of this book problematic.  For one thing even for a magical world the internal logic is sketchy at best.  There's one creature for example that is described both in writing and pictures as being like hard tennis balls with long, hard beaks.  They can bounce and roll easily but I'm not sure how--it seems like such long beaks would get in the way.   In this world power is acquired by killing other creatures that then become your minions.  One of said minions points out Alice's hypocrisy in saying that she doesn't want to be mean to her own saying "They’re already your slaves, how much crueler do you need to be" Alice comforts herself by thinking "It wasn’t like slavery, though. Not really. The swarmers didn’t even exist when she didn’t call on them, so it wasn’t like they were waiting around and getting bored. It’s more like...having a dog. One of those clever dogs that can herd sheep and do tricks when you whistle" which misses the point entirely.  This issue is then dropped and Alice continues to use her minions and place them in danger because it's too inconvenient to do otherwise.  Hopefully this will be addressed further in future books but slavery isn't an issue I'd casually mention then drop after coming up with a lame justification.  On top of that the book isn't particularly original or well-written.  There's plenty of stories where books turn out to contain actual magic and the themes of power corrupting and resourceful orphan girls have been well trod.  Even the names are unimaginative from Alice getting lost in the wonderland of the library to the villains Mr. Black and Mr. Wurms.  Having so many of the characters be soulless servants bound to the will of their masters doesn't exactly lend itself to rounded character portraits either.   The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cruel Beauty Review

Cruel Beauty

Book talk:  Before Nyx was born her father made a deal with the ruler of their cursed kingdom.  He has many names such as the Gentle Lord or the Sweet Faced Calamity, but despite his handsome face he is centuries old and rules the kingdom through terror and tricks.  Only the desperate or the foolish bargain with him because it always ends in tragedy.  Nyx knows this all too well.  The price of her father's deal was that one day Nyx would marry the Gentle Lord.  While Nyx's sister grew up coddled and loved Nyx was raised as a weapon crafted to destroy the Gentle Lord when her wedding day finally came.  So Nyx steeled her heart to her purpose and prepared to marry a monster.  But when she finally comes to live in his enchanted castle killing him proves harder than she expected and the Gentle Lord is not the monster she anticipated.

Rocks my socks:  I love a good Beauty and the Beast story and have long been a fan of Greek Mythology so I was glad to see them combined in such a creative way.  The tension between the Gentle Lord and Nyx is palpable and their banter all I could hope for.  Speaking of the Gentle Lord is it just me or is he basically Benedict Cumberbatch? ("Sharp nose and high cheekbones framed with tousled, ink-black hair and stamped all over with the arrogant softness of a man just out of boyhood who had never been defied.")  The twists of the enchanted castle and the plot provide an interesting puzzle to solve while the characters struggle to overcome their pasts and see the world complexly.

Rocks in my socks:  
Sometimes I wanted to shake Nyx by the shoulders and say "We know!  Move on already!"  Her life growing up was legitimately messed up but after a while I grew tired of hearing about it and the constant mention of the word 'monster' and how she's bound to a monster or married to a monster or eating breakfast with a monster grated on my nerves.

Every book its reader:  
I'd give this to fans of fantasy, romance, greek mythology, and fairy tales retold.  Fans of Beauty and the Beast will particularly enjoy the dynamic between Ignifex and Nyx.


The author has a website  and the publisher has made a trailer for the book:

Bonus Quotes:
"No honest people ever bargained with the Kindly Ones...Only the foolish. The proud. The ones who believed they deserved the world at no price."

"I had been the bride of the Gentle Lord for half a day already, and there had been strikingly little torment."

"They avenge the wronged, when it suits them. Strike bargains with the desperate, when it suits them. They love to mock. To leave answers at the edges, where anyone could see them but nobody does. To tell the truth when it is too late to save anyone. And they are always fair."

Source: ebook from public library

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wandering Son Review

Wandering Son: Volume One

Book talk:  When shy Shuichi meets the outgoing Yoshino both their lives change.  Yoshino's mom is always buying dresses that she doesn't want while Shuichi secretly longs to try his sister's clothes on.  Then Yoshino gives Shuichi one of her unwanted dresses and it starts them both on a journey to self discovery.  This sweet slice-of-life comic follows their ups and downs at school and home as they learn to embrace their identities and find the strength to share them with the world.

Rocks my socks:  First and foremost this is a great school story following two fifth graders as they navigate the emotionally fraught waters of puberty.  Their relationships with friends and family are shown with great humor, realism, and empathy.  Additionally it tells a story that doesn't get much attention in the media--what it is like to be a transgender youth.  This is particularly remarkable because it isn't a special episode of a show that has one narrative arc and is finished or something happening in the background to a minor character.  Both the main characters are transgender and the comics go on for many volumes portraying many different types of stories and allowing a more natural pace instead of one artificially simplified and condensed to fit a short story line.  This quiet but powerful comic touched my heart and its characters will stay with me.

Rocks in my socks:  Several of the characters look similar and distinguishing between them can get a bit confusing.  It got much easier with each volume though as the personalities become more clear and I got to know them better.

Every book its reader:  I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet slice-of-life school comic.

Source: school library

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Brief Reviews Fall 2014 part 1

The StorytellerFans of The Storyteller tv series or anyone who enjoys folklore and comics will like this collection of new, old stories.  Each story tells a classic tale with the distinct style of Jim Henson's Storyteller and his faithful dog.  The style of writing and artwork varies from one story to the next but they are all of good quality.  I especially enjoyed the extra artwork with quotes from the original series.  My favorite part of the collection was the final story based on an unproduced Storyteller script.  It's a delightfully disturbing Russian folktale about a witch baby.  Another highlight was the gorgeous artwork in the Puss in Boots adaptation.   Jim Henson's The Storyteller edited by Nate Cosby: buy it or check it out today!

Jane, the Fox, and MeI enjoyed this evocative Canadian comic about a lonely girl who finds solace in Jane Eyre.  Helene struggles to survive school while being teased by her former friends.  Then her class goes to nature camp which holds even more horrors in store.  There she meets a fox and befriends another girl relegated to the fringes.  Most of the story is told in shades of brown and black except for the scenes from Jane Eyre.  The art is simple but expressive. The most detail is to be found in the portrayal of nature in the backgrounds.  The end isn't of the Hollywood variety but it is happy in a quiet and realistic way which makes it all the more moving.  Jane, the Fox, & Me by Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault: buy it or check it out today!

The Reason for DragonsThis comic builds tension by walking the line between fantasy and reality leaving the reader guessing if the characters have really seen fantastic creatures, if they're delusional, or both.  Northrop has a lot of fun playing with the conventions of Renaissance fairs and it shows up in creative touches like the faux brochure at the front of the book.  The artwork is gorgeous and the color palette does a great job creating atmosphere. The Don-Quixote like knight provides plenty of humorous breaks.  There's some fun short stories at the end by guest writers and authors.  It's a nice quick read for fans of fantasy, humor, and ren faires.  The Reason for Dragons by Chris Northrop and Jeff Stokely: buy it or check it out today!

Boxers & Saints Boxed SetThis work of historical fiction examines the Boxer Rebellion from two perspectives.  Not only does it do an excellent job of educating readers about an event that usually gets very little attention in American history classes but it does a fine job entertaining them as well.  The characters are rounded and intriguing, the pacing quick, poignant moments are balanced with humorous ones and some scenes are evocative of super heroes in a way that is sure to draw many readers in.  Whether you're looking to educate yourself or for engaging entertainment this two-part series is an excellent choice!  Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang: buy it or check it out today!

Cleopatra in Space #1: Target Practice (Cleopatra in Space, #1)The premise for this comic is absolutely absurd but its execution is so darned delightful that I do not care.  A young Cleopatra sick of studying plays hooky with a friend and ends up accidentally time travelling to the future.  She was apparently expected by some sort of shadow government made up of talking cats.  Cleopatra quickly acclimates to her new life in outer space and starts getting in the kind of harmless hijinks you'd expect from any outer space school story.  Of course it turns out that she's a crack shot and withstands unreasonable tests of her ability with grace while insisting that she's not the savior everyone thinks she is fated to be.  The plot is standard but its juxtaposition with such a unique setting made it enjoyable.  The charming artwork and sassy cat sidekick might have played a big part in why I liked it so much. A quick, light adventure story for anyone who ever wondered what famous historical figures would look with a ray gun.   Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Economix review

Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work), in Words and Pictures

Book talk:  Wars, riots, revolutions--they can all be explained by economics.  In this entertaining comic Michael Goodwin will take you on a tour of history from the beginnings of capitalism to the modern day and explain the economic causes of every major event from the American Revolution to the Great Depression.  Along the way he pulls out the wittiest lines, goriest details, and most amusing anecdotes.

Rocks my socks:  
Economics was never my favorite subject but I absolutely loved this graphic novel!  By describing various economic theories chronologically and placing them in historical context the importance of the topics is clear and the information much easier to remember.  Michael Goodwin also has an excellent sense of humor.  Some of the details seemed too insane to be true (like the part about the Dutch Prime Minister being eaten--but I doubled checked and found that not only is it true but there's a famous painting of it that I immediately regretted finding.)  It seems that economics is stranger than fiction.

Rocks in my socks:  nothing

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for an entertaining nonfiction comic or anyone seeking to understand the economy better.  I'd say it's fine for 7th grade and up.


There's a whole website for the book at

Source: school library

Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn't Work) in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thief Lord review

The Thief Lord

Book talk: Is there somewhere you've always wanted to go?  For Prosper and Bo, that place is Venice.  Their mother always told them stories of this magical city and after they become orphans and are forced to run away from their cruel aunt it's where they decide to hide.  But life as a runaway is not as glamorous as they thought.  Things are looking pretty grim until they meet Hornet, another runaway who introduces them to The Thief Lord and takes them to live in the abandoned cinema she calls home.  Life still isn't easy, but at least they have a roof over their head.  Their problems only get worse though as their aunt and uncle hire a private detective to track them down and The Thief Lord takes on a dangerous job.

Rocks my socks:  As with any heist story the plot is tense as the young thieves plan their strategy and avoid getting caught.  The lure of the magical carousel that can turn adults into children and vice versa is potent.  The real attraction of this novel though is the characters.  From the private eye with the mustache collection to the self-styled thief lord himself the book is full of memorable individuals. This isn't your typical thief with a heart of gold story though and as identities are revealed and characters become more complex the plot takes multiple twists and turns.

Rocks in my socks:  I wasn't entirely happy with the ending and as delightful as the magical age-changing carousel is, it isn't introduced until fairly late in the novel.  It seemed a bit odd tacking this in at the end of a book that was otherwise realistic.  I wish more of the fantastic elements were introduced earlier on and woven throughout the narrative.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to 3rd to 5th graders looking for an adventure story with a hint of magic.  Especially for anyone with an interest in Venice.


The author has a website that is too fancy for me to have the patience to navigate it but you can explore it to find unknown wonders if you so wish:

There's a page for the novel on the Cornelia Funke wiki:

The book was made into a movie, the trailer can be seen here:

Source: Oxfam Books in Aberdeen, Scotland

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Brief Reviews Summer 2014 part 2

The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) Another excellent installment to the Gentleman Bastard series! The story is split between time spent together as an acting troupe in the past and political intrigue among the Bondsmages in the present.  It was full of all the sneaky tricks, witty banter, and child-inappropriate humor that I've come to expect of the series. On a related note I saw Scott Lynch at the Nine Worlds convention in London this summer and he was just as hilarious in real life as he is in his stories.  He represented wizards on a panel pitting them against representatives for dragons, vampires, and werewolves.  He didn't have the winning or the most well-researched argument but he certainly had the most entertaining one! The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch: buy it or check it out today!

Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter, #2)The sequel to The Madman's Daughter is full of the same delicious tension, dark science, and deadly threat as the first.  The Island of Doctor Moreau was covered pretty completely by the first one but this one manages to pick up the same characters and add a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde twist. The next one will apparently incorporate bits of Frankenstein and I hope it comes out soon because this one ended on a complete cliff hanger!  The love triangle is once again played for everything it's worth but as long as you're willing to go along with it, it's a fun ride.  Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd: buy it or check it out today!

Golden Girl (The American Fairy, #2)Bad Luck Girl (The American Fairy, #3)

I loved Dust Girl and the second and third books in this series did not disappoint.  Golden Girls follows our intrepid heroes as they navigate the dangerous ground of Hollywood and the temper of a Shirley Temple-esque child star while Bad Luck Girl explores Chicago and the delightful Halfers--creatures that result from magic mixing with everyday objects like paper.  These personified objects further the exploration of what it means to belong and how those that don't fit neatly in one box are treated by society.  The historical details are just as fascinating as the fantastic ones and while there are competent adults fighting alongside them, the teens remain in the spotlight as they make tough decisions and decide what is right for themselves instead of just accepting what they've been told.  Golden Girl & Bad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel: buy it or check it out today!

The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy, #2)I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a sequel to Oryx and Crake, even if it had been so long since I read it that this book lost me several times along the way.  This post-apocalyptic dystopian novel follows two characters who are left alive after a plague wipes out most of humanity.  Both were at one point members of the same cult lead by Adam One.  One is living in the ruins of the spa she used to run while the other is locked in the night club she used to work at.  The narrative is lyrical, the vision of the future terrifying yet prescient and the societal issues presented relevant and complex as you'd expect from an Atwood novel.  The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood: buy it or check it out today!

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family ThriveThis was my school's summer read for teachers and parents.  The book was surprisingly practical and concrete in its suggestions and re-stated everything multiple ways to show how these principles could be explained to children and applied to your own life as an adult.  There were plenty of mini-comics and illustrations so it was a very fast read. There were some things in there that I will definitely apply to my own life and how I interact with my students but this book is mainly aimed at parents.  They even have an appendix that you can refer to over time that shows how the concepts apply at different ages as your child grows up.  You get a lot of useful insight and techniques for a small time investment.  I'd definitely recommend this to any parents out there.  The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson: buy it or check it out today!

Paper TownsThe main thing I kept thinking while reading this book was that it felt very John Greeny.  From the themes it explores to the traits of the characters to the patterns of speech.  I can see how this might annoy some people and why they might think that the teens and the way they speak is unrealistic.  But the thing is I really believe that this is how John Green talked as a teenager.  It reminds me of a friend of mine used to mock Gilmore Girls for its unrealistic dialogue until my mom came to visit and he saw us talking to each other.  Which is to say that the average teen does not talk or act like the characters in Paper Towns but that doesn't mean that it's unrealistic.  Paper Towns by John Green: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Ruby in the Smoke review

The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart Trilogy, #1)

Book talk:  Have you ever asked a question and had someone warn you to leave it alone?  That's exactly what happens to Sally.  When she tries to uncover the mystery of what happened to her father she only encounters more death and danger and people telling her that a proper lady should just stay home.  But life with her aunt is insufferable and she can't rest until she knows why she became an orphan.  With a few trusty friends, she just might be able to discover what a cursed ruby from India has to do with her past--or she might just doom them all!

Rocks my socks:  This is a great mystery set in Victorian England. Sally and her friends from the young photographer to the enterprising urchin are all wonderful characters, the villains are positively Dickensian, and the mystery unraveled in a suspenseful way full of clues and puzzles to work out.

Rocks in my socks: zip

Every book its reader:  
I'd give this to fans of mystery and historical fiction 6th & up.


Apparently there's a BBC adaptation of the book starring Doctor Who actors Billie Piper and Matt Smith!

Source: The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Haroun and the Sea of Stories Review

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Book talk:  Did you ever wonder where stories come from?  Haroun has asked his father the storyteller many times.  Each time he replies that he has a special tap into the Sea of Stories that he draws his inspiration from.  So when he freezes up at a major event, Haroun knows where he must go to fix things.  After tricking a genie Haroun sets off on a trip on the back of a strange bird and embarks on a quest to save not only his father's job, but the Sea of Stories itself.

Rocks my socks:  Haroun meets all kinds of fantastic creatures during his adventure from shadow warriors to floating gardeners.  The book is chock-full of word-play, wit, and aphorisms.  The plot is that of a classic adventure story with a boy setting out from the real world to discover a magical one, meet new companions, and save a world while learning something about himself in the process.  There's a reason this type of story is popular and this is a particularly good example of it.

Rocks in my socks:  The stylized writing felt a tad stiff to me at first but once I got into it I didn't mind at all.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to kids looking for a classic fantasy adventure like The Wizard of Oz. There's plenty for adults to appreciate, and I'd say it's fine for 4th grade and up.  It would make an excellent read-aloud.

Source: Symposium Books in Providence, RI (

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Daughter of Smoke and Bone series review

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2)Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)

Book talk:  You may think that your family is weird, but Karou's isn't even human.  She has a pretty normal life on the surface: she goes to art school, hangs out with friends, copes with a break-up.  But those closest to her wonder why she has a habit of disappearing at a moment's notice.  They never suspect the truth--that she goes through secret doors to a workshop filled with monsters that send her all over the world collecting teeth.  These are no baby teeth either.  They are ripped from animals of all sorts and collecting them can be dangerous work.  Karou doesn't know how she came by this odd life, but she loves her monstrous family.  Then an angel with wings of flames comes into her life and Karou finally begins to unravel the story of her dismal past as she prepares to face an even more dangerous future.

Rocks my socks:  The world-building in this series is phenomenal.  Laini Taylor creates a unique and complex world that weaves together not only different countries but parallel universes.  The creatures that live in this alternate universe are creative part animal part human hybrids.  As Karou discovers more about her history, the complexities of the society are slowly revealed.  That's what I liked best about this series.  Nothing is simplified to black and white.  The characters are layered and develop and change over the course of the series, the society is complicated and different perspectives on its history are explored, and the decisions the characters are faced with are genuinely difficult.

Rocks in my socks:  
Perhaps because I read all three back to back I got frustrated with Taylor repeating herself and summarizing previous plot points.  In a similar vein, the constant references to gazes full of electricity conveniently interrupted to draw the tension out seriously wore on my nerves by the time I was reading book three.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to fans of urban fantasy like The Mortal Instruments series.   Both the romance and the violence can get pretty intense at times so I'd save it for 8th grade and up.


Laini Taylor has a website:

The series has a website with a cool map and other downloads:

There's a series of trailers to introduce the series and the main characters, I'll put the first here:

Source: school library & ebooks from SF public

The Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dodger Review


Book talk: Dodger earned his nickname for his ability to dodge out of danger and he's stayed true to his name.  He makes a living by finding coins, jewels, and other debris in the sewers of London.  One night as he's coming out of a drain he sees a lady in distress and rushes to her aid.  This sets off a chain of events that leads him to meeting Charles Dickens, getting a close shave from Sweeny Todd, and even attending a posh dinner party.  But when an international assassin is hired to kill him, will he be able to dodge him too?

Rocks my socks:  This book is chock full of interesting facts about Victorian London from Dickens and Disraeli to toshers and cockney rhyming slang.  Dodger somehow finds himself rubbing elbows with a variety of famous and infamous people from the era as he woos a damsel in distress and finds his way out of the gutter.

Rocks in my socks:  The characters are all caricatures rather than fully fleshed out individuals.  I'm sure it was a conscious decision on Pratchett's part, but it just didn't work for me.  I didn't really connect with any of the characters--which is surprising considering how much I like tricksters and kind-hearted thieves.  It was a pleasant and at times entertaining read but it wasn't a particularly moving or memorable one for me.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to fans of Pratchett or anyone looking for a fast-paced romp through Victorian London.


There's a well-produced book trailer for the book:

Source: Bookshelf store in Truckee, CA

Dodger by Terry Pratchett: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Brief Reviews Summer 2014 part 1

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic CodeNonfiction is not my favorite genre, but I really enjoyed this book about genetics.  The information is conveyed through a series of interesting anecdotes that I found myself bringing up in conversation often because they were too good not to share.  The scientific explanations that accompany the stories are all told in accessible language that left me with a much better understanding of DNA than my university biology class did.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining and informative popular science book. From John Fitzgerald Kennedy to Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec and from Einstein's brain to Polar Bear livers, this book has it all! The Violinist's Thumb by Sam Kean: buy it or check it out today!

We Were Liars I avoided reading anything about this book before I read it because I had so much faith in the author that I knew I'd like it.  I assumed from the cover and the author's previous books that it would a light-hearted, witty summer romp.  Perhaps I should have researched it more because boy howdy was I wrong!  I had an emotional ending to the school year for various reasons, so I was glad to read something light.  Then I was completely blindsided by the traumatic ending.  The tone (and genre) turned on a dime.  If you had asked me if I liked the novel at any point before the big twist I would have said I was loving it and I did read it in one sitting.  But I disliked the ending so much that it cast a pall on the whole novel.  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: buy it or check it out today!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingAs an introvert, I loved this book for naming and normalizing so many things that I do and feel.  It contained a lot of great advice on how to live a happy and healthy life as an introvert.  All of the descriptions of the horrible experiences a lot of introvert children go through made me call my mother to thank her for being awesome.  Even if you're not an introvert, this is a great book to read because chances are you'll have to teach, manage, raise, date, or befriend an introvert at some point in your life and this will help you understand why they act the way they do.  The pace was a bit slow at times, but the information contained in it is excellent.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain: buy it or check it out today!      

Longbourn This novel is set during the events of Pride and Prejudice, but focuses on the world of the servants and what is happening to them as the Bennet girls are buffeted by the winds of love upstairs.  My feelings about the novel are torn.  On the one hand this is a well-researched look into the life of Regency era servants and I enjoyed reading about all the gritty details.  The servants themselves are faceted characters and I cared about their stories.  On the other hand I don't like the way the original characters are portrayed and in some instances changed completely by adding twists to their back stories.  The tone of the novel is very modern with its focus on the social injustices of the era.  There's even an extended tangent on the horrors of war.  It has none of the sparkling wit of Austen and doesn't even attempt to imitate her style.  Which makes me question why this story was even set in Pride and Prejudice.  I would have enjoyed it much better if it was the story of Regency servants of a household invented for the novel.  As is I found myself longing for an Austen sensibility that just wasn't there.  Still, if you can put the original aside when reading it and take it on its own merits it's an interesting and compelling piece of historical fiction. Longbourn by Jo Baker: buy it or check it out today!

The Whistling SeasonThis was a great summer read for a teacher.  I borrowed it from my aunt & uncle and read it while relaxing in a lounge chair on their back porch.  The narrator is looking back on his childhood as a homesteader in Montana attending a one-room school.  The book is full of the evocative nostalgia you'd expect from someone recounting beloved stories from their childhood.  The characters are all well drawn and the period details are fascinating.  The story is at turns moving and humorous but always well-written.  The narrator was an intellectually curious child so it's full of random tid-bits that he discovers.  I wasn't a big fan of the ending, but the lessons learned in this one-room school house will stay with me for a long time.   The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Brief Reviews Spring 2014 part 2

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1-2)I enjoyed reading this graphic memoir for the perspective that it provided.  I read volume one and two for my book club and while I'm usually not a fan of memoirs, I appreciated the glimpse this one gave me into a culture and events that I knew very little about. There were many poignant and humorous moments in this coming of age story full of acts of defiance and attempts to understand the world that anyone can relate to.  There's a reason this book has received so much acclaim and it largely lives up to the hype.  Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: buy it or check it out today!

Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff The kingdoms of Spiff and Spud couldn't be more different.  One values fashion above all else while the other prides itself in its more humble and mismatched tastes.  But not everyone in Spiff rejoices in uncomfortable fashions.  The princess would much rather read in her pajamas than go to some stuffy ball.  When Prince Puggly of Spud and the Princess of Spiff meet up they hatch a plan to teach the Spiffians a lesson in blindly following trends.  This book is pure, entertaining froth.  The light and humorous rhymes pair up with the creative typography and the fanciful situations and characters (such as King Dandy von Fop) to create an amusing tale that would be fun to read aloud. The theme of individuality as expressed by fashion is well-worn, but the way the story is told with its jaunty rhymes and playful layout is perfectly charming. Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff by Robert Paul Weston: buy it or check it out today!

Domovoi TPBThis comic starts off with a full page spread of a sassy talking cat, so it was basically love at first sight.  But after the initial excitement of attraction wore off, I found that we didn't have much in common.  Most of the characters are never fully introduced and many situations are left unexplained. The narrative was disjointed and confusing moving from one scene to the next seemingly based more on what would be pretty to draw than what would add to character or story development.  The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and just flipping through for the pictures alone is worth it.  As a story I just didn't connect with it though.  Another disappointing pretty face.  Domovoi by Peter Bergting: buy it or check it out today!

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)  This book is difficult for me to review because I can't go too far into why I dislike it without revealing major spoilers.  I absolutely adored the first book and perhaps it's because I grew so attached to the protagonist that I was so upset by the ending of this book.  Let's just say that I am apparently not as quick to forgive as he is.  I was so upset by the ending that it was all I could talk about for days to anyone who would listen.  Even before the final twist I didn't like this book as much as the first.  There was a lot of planning out war and tedious descriptions of battles and whether or not stores will last which is fascinating to some but not my cup of tea.  I much preferred the heist theme of the first.  The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner: buy it or check it out today!

Fool's Errand (Tawny Man, #1)Golden Fool (Tawny Man, #2)Fool's Fate (Tawny Man, #3)

Now this is a fantasy series that did not disappoint!  It's the third trilogy set in this world and I was glad to get an update on Fitz and the Fool.  Each book is over 600 pages, but I wanted them to be even longer.  I care deeply about these characters and there wasn't a single false step to jolt me out of the story.  I read them all in less than a week--one when I was working.  I normally sit with colleagues at lunch but that week I couldn't help finding a corner to myself where I could read on my break.  I even read on the bus despite it making me nauseated--it was worth it!  Even when I wasn't reading the books the moment my mind was free to wander it would travel to the world of the series and play out different scenarios and try to predict what would happen next.  The world building, the complex characterization, the moral and philosophical questions, and the action scenes are all superb.  I couldn't ask for better. If you haven't read the series start with Assassin's Apprentice and thank me later.  The Tawny Man series by Robin Hobb: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Thief Review

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)

Book talk: Gen is chained up in a dungeon, with shackles chaffing against his wrists as he slowly starves.  But he isn't concerned.  Gen is an experienced thief, which is what got him into prison and what will get him out.  There isn't a prison that he can't steal himself out of and he knows he'll be free of this one soon...somehow.  He isn't surprised when the King's Magus brings him out for a consultation.  He has a job that only a thief can do.  It will be dangerous and difficult and he may not make it out alive, but the Magus assures him that he will definitely die if he doesn't go along with it.  So Gen agrees to go with the Magus and steal an ancient treasure from the Gods.

Rocks my socks:  I am a sucker for any story involving sly thieves with hearts of gold--the sassier the better!  Gen does not disappoint on this count.  He takes pleasure in annoying the rest of the party throughout the novel, but when the going gets tough is quick to display his skill and cunning.  The world-building and invented mythology is interesting and their adventures on the road keep the pace moving admirably.  The characters are believably portrayed with flaws and layers and grow over the course of the novel.

Rocks in my socks:  There's a lot of energy put into creating a twist at the end that was ultimately fairly predictable.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to fans of fantasy and stories about thieves.  5th grade and up.


Megan Whalen Turner has a website:

There's a jaunty trailer for the book:

Source: school library

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: buy it or check it out today!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Vine Basket review

The Vine Basket

Book talk:  What would you do if you were not allowed to go to school? Ever since her older brother left, Mehrigul has to accompany father to market and watch the stall while he goes away to gamble and chat with friends.  At home she often has to take control of the household chores while her mother is laid out with headaches.  She misses school, and she misses her brother even more, but at least if she works hard perhaps she can keep her younger sister in school and make a good life for herself.  Mehrigul never thought that she had anything special to offer the world anyway, until an American lady sees a vine basket she made and buys it.  She promises to return in a month and buy any more baskets Merigul can make.  Her father doesn't approve, so she has to hide her basket weaving in between chores.  Then things go from bad to worse when the local authorities realize that she's no longer in school and threaten to send her away to work in a factory.

Rocks my socks:  I had never even heard of the Uyghur people before reading this book, so I was excited to learn about a new culture.  The details of how they have adapted to life in their harsh climate were fascinating, but the reason I love this book so much is Mehrigul.  She is a completely endearing character and is so fully fleshed out that she felt very real to me.  All of her insecurities and guilt over small transgressions are laid bare.  She works so hard to achieve her goals that it is heartbreaking when she encounters set backs.  I enjoyed the descriptions of what it felt like to make the baskets with her own hands from the frustration when something wasn't working out to the pride she felt over the finished product.

Rocks in my socks:   I can be leery of books about an ethnic group written by someone from outside that group, but La Valley really seems to have done her research and was careful to consult Uyghur people as she worked on the novel.  Mostly I am just glad that this story that may have otherwise never been told was written.  The fact that it's an American lady who has to come in and save someone from another culture is a bit troubling, but given the circumstances seems realistic and at least the American only plays a periphery role, helping Mehrigul to make her own life better.

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for a contemporary novel set in another culture or those looking for a heartwarming story of a girl overcoming difficult odds.  The conditions Mehrigul live in are harsh but there's no graphic violence and no romance.  I'd say it's fine for 5th grade and up.


Josanne La Valley has a website with more information about herself, the book, and the Uyghur people:

Readers might enjoy this video of Uyghur artisans at work:

Source: school library

The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gum Girl Review

The Gumazing Gum Girl! Book 1 Chews Your Destiny

Book talk:  Have you ever had gum stuck in your hair? How did you get it out?  Gabby's mother uses peanut butter to do the trick, but she warns Gabby to stop her constant chewing.  But Gabby just can't resist and after all, how would her mother ever find out?  Then she blows a giant bubble that touches the telephone wires and electrocutes her.  This turns her into the gumazing gum girl!  At first Gabby just wants to get out of the sticky situation, but she soon realizes that being the gum girl has its advantages.  Will Gabby save the day--or will she just get busted?

Rocks my socks:  This quick read is packed full of laughs and classic super hero tropes.  There are ample illustrations in black, white, and bubblegum-pink that show off gum girl's special powers and crime-fighting action scenes.  The occasional Spanish word is used and introduced in ways that are easy to understand.  There aren't many early chapter books starring Latina characters, so I was excited to find this one.

Rocks in my socks:  
The plot and characters are a bit cliche, but it makes the story easy to follow which makes sense for an early chapter book.  Especially considering that this is at the easier end of the early chapter spectrum with many pages only containing a few words in dialogue bubbles.

Every book its reader:  
This is an excellent early chapter books for fans of superheroes and humor.  A fast, engaging read for those just diving into chapter books.


Rhode Montijo has a blog where you can find early sketches for the book:

Source: school library

The Gumazing Gum Girl by Rhode Montijo: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before Review

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)

Book talk:  What would you do if everyone you've ever had a crush on got a letter from you pouring out everything you felt for them at the time?  That is exactly what happens to Lara Jean.  Every time she had a crush on a boy and she wanted to get over it she would sit down and write a letter.  She'd pour her heart into it because no one else would ever see it.  Or so she thought.  Then one day her special hat box that held her letters is taken to the Goodwill by her father on an overzealous housecleaning spree.  Someone puts them in the mailbox, and suddenly a guy she had a crush on years ago comes up to her in PE asking her about a strange letter he just received.  It gets worse.  One of the guys she had a crush on is now her older sister's boyfriend.

Rocks my socks:  The first time I heard the plot of the book described I had a visceral reaction to it.  I'm sure there are more mortifying situations than having to come face to face with every boy you've had a crush on, but I am hard-pressed to think of one.  The romance this creates is certainly unconventional and I enjoyed reading about it.  What kept me feverishly turning the pages until I finished it though was not the romantic relationships, but the ones between the sisters.  After all love triangles (or in this case, polygons) are a dime a dozen in YA fiction, but it's rare to find such well-developed relationships between sisters.  The tensions between them really drove the plot as much as the romantic tension did, which was refreshing.  I also connected with Lara Jean in a lot of ways, for example her quite sensible fear of driving (which I have overcome by moving to the Bay Area and no longer owning a car, pro tip!)  I can't wait for the next book!

Rocks in my socks:  nothing

Every book its reader:  I'd give this to anyone looking for a realistic school story with a touch of romance.  Those looking for stories about sisters or stories with Asian-American leads will also be glad to find this novel.  The romance never gets too heated.  I'd say it's fine for 6th grade and up.


Jenny Han has her own author page with more info on her books and FAQs:

Source: Book Passage (I attended an event for the author and got her to sign my copy!)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Catch a Bogle Review

How to Catch a Bogle (Bogle #1)

Book talk:  Bogles are good at hiding.  You might never see one.  The only hint of where one is might be that children keep disappearing.  There are those as don't believe in bogles, but Birdie knows better.  She's been a bogler's apprentice for quite some time and she's helped her master to catch many monsters.  But how could a young girl help a man catch a bogle?  Well, bogles love children, so they make excellent bait.  All Birdie has to do is stand in a circle of salt and sing.  What could be simpler than that?  It's a lot better than many of the other jobs orphans take.  Except of course that a moment's hesitation or a stumble could very easily mean that her apprenticeship will be terminated in the jaws of bogle.

Rocks my socks:  How could I resist a story about a Victorian orphan girl fighting monsters?  Birdie is wonderfully strong-willed and independent as she fights to be recognized for the hero she is despite people constantly underestimating her.  The other characters are fun to read about as well from the artful dodger-like Ned to the indomitable Miss Eames.  The bogle-catching interludes provide plenty of suspense while the overarching story provides a mystery to be solved.  The gruesome ballads that Birdie sings to attract the bogles are deliciously macabre and Jinks, as usual, finds ways to slip humor in throughout the story.

Rocks in my socks:  I enjoyed the story and all the period details immensely, but the characters didn't come alive for me on a visceral level.  They felt more like archetypes than fully fleshed out humans.

Every book its reader:  
I'd give this to fans of supernatural stories and historical fiction set in Victorian London.  For a story about child-eating monsters it isn't particularly gory and there's little romance.  I'd say it's fine for fourth graders and up looking for a scary story.


Catherine Jinks has a website with more information about herself and her books:

The publisher has a book for the series complete with lyrics to one of Birdie's bogle-catching songs:

I love the trailer for this book:

Source: school library

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sir Gawain the True Review

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True (Knights' Tales, #3)

Book talk:  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be one of King Arthur's knights?  Have you imagined dressing up in a suit of armor, slaying dragons, and battling giants?  If so, you'll love this story about Sir Gawain.  The Green Knight shows up at the round table one night and offers anyone the chance to hit him with an axe if he will allow the Green Knight to do the same in one year and one day.  Sir Gawain volunteers and beheads the Green Knight, but the Green Knight just picks his own head up and reminds Gawain to meet him again in a year.  Should Sir Gawain keep his promise and let himself be killed by the Green Knight, or should he use the year to run as far away as he can?  What would you do?

Rocks my socks:  This book had me laughing along to a skilled retelling of a familiar tale.  Fans of knight tales in general and King Arthur specifically will enjoy this fresh new version of the story.  In addition to all of the humor and action this story contains a lot of wonderful lessons about why vows were so important in Sir Gawain's time and why Arthur valued manners in knights as much as their fighting skills.  The ample pictures portray the action and provide additional humorous touches.

Rocks in my socks:

Every book its reader:  This is a wonderful early chapter book and would also make a great read-aloud.  I'd give it to fans of humor and adventure and particularly fans of knights.  2nd grade and up.

Source: school library

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True by Gerald Morris illus. by Aaron Renier: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Snarked! Review

Snarked Vol.1: Forks and HopeSnarked Vol. 2: Ships and Sealing WaxSnarked Vol. 3

Book talk:  The kingdom is in trouble.  The king has been missing for three months.  People are getting restless and the king's trusted advisers have turned out to be scheming villains.  When Scarlett discovers their evil plot, she decides to take matters into her own hands and lead a rescue party to find her father the king.  But the only men she can find to help are the Walrus and the Carpenter, the infamous tricksters who lured unsuspecting young oysters onto their dinner plates.  Will the young queen, two con artists, and her baby brother Rusty be able to survive mad pirates, evil assassins, and a dreaded snark to save the king?

Rocks my socks:  Reading these comics filled me with laughter and a light-hearted sense of adventure.  They are just plain fun.  The nonsense world of Lewis Carroll is expanded in a most delightful way by Langridge.  He takes up all the portmanteaus and fantastic scenarios and blends them seamlessly while creating something quite new.  I reveled in all the Caroll references and had fun spotting them.  I enjoyed seeing the new directions Langridge took the characters while retaining the flair that made them so endearing to begin with.  The verse narration peppered throughout kept the material closely tied to the nonsense poems it is based on.  Langridge clearly had as much fun writing and illustrating it as I did reading it and it shows in the small, humorous details such as the ad for tea on the inside cover of the first volume ("you don't have to be mad to drink tea - but it helps!") and the creative panel layouts.

Rocks in my socks:  There probably were some minor flaws but I was having far too much fun reading the comics to notice them.

Every book its reader:  You'll get more of the jokes if you have a knowledge of Lewis Carroll, but even if you don't there's still plenty to entertain and amuse here.  There's abundant amounts of jokes aimed at kids, adults, and everything in-between making this great to read as a family.  I'd give it to fans of nonsense and humor.


I always liked the Walrus and the Carpenter sequence from the Disney Alice in Wonderland movie:

Apparently there's a musical version of The Hunting of the Snark by Mike Batt starring Billy Connolly, which brings to mind two questions: Where has this been all my life, and where can I find the rest of it?

You can find an early version of the musical presented in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in its entirety on YouTube.  It stars Billy Connolly, John Hurt, and Roger Daltrey.  I feel like I have done something right and am being rewarded even though this production has apparently been around for as long as I've been alive.  Seriously, where has it been all my life?  There goes my productivity for the next hour!

Source: school library

Snarked! by Roger Langridge: buy it or check it out today!