Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal - Frances O'roark Dowell

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'roark Dowell
I've only read two of Dowell's middle grade novels and loved both. Shooting the Moon and The Secret Language of Girls. This is the authors first YA novel. 14 yr old Janie lives on a farm, which was cool when she was younger not so much in high school. The kids on the bus call her farm girl. When Janie accidentally get on the bus with goat poop on her shoe, she has a very bad day. Janie's high school is large, Sarah the best friend, is the only friend from middle school she sees everyday. Janie spends her lunch period in the library. All of her old friends have lunch at a different time.

"Once in a while someone appears who gives you hope a cute boy reading the latest Sports Illustrated or a girl of the normal looking variety thumbing through the book on the This just in cart. Are they cafeteria refugees too? But they never show up two days in a row, and my hopes for finding friendship in the library are dashed yet again. That's my dream, of course. That some regular, everyday people will show up and recognize me as someone who is basically normal, in spite of my Farm Girl mishaps but whose soul is too sensitive to deal with the cafeteria alone."

With some work Janie goes from one friend to three. One is a boy named Monster who teaches her how to play bass. Bass playing Janie doesn't care what other people think of her.

This was a very easy story to fall into. I loved Janie's voice. She's simply trying to find where she fits in. Dowell excels at creating believable and realistic characters you want to cheer for. Ten Miles Past Normal is a very entertaining and fun read.

It's on the younger end of YA spectrum. Perfectly fine for fans of Dowell's middle grade novels. Also highly recommanded for fans of Joan Bauer. Ages 11up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Am J - Cris Beam

I AM J by Cris Beam
Jeni was assigned the wrong gender at birth. In the sixth grade, Jeni starts going by J . Now a senior in high school, J knows he's transgender and wants to begin the transition to his rightful gender. We first meet J going to a party so his best friend Melissa wouldn't have to go alone. Since the party wasn't J's scene, it's not a great place to meet him. I felt the author through J tried to squeeze in as many facts about J and Melissa's family and friendship as possible. It felt forced and unnecessary, since it was only the first chapter.

In his head J refers to his parents by their first names Carolina and Manny*. J relationship with his parents has been very shaky recently. When J realizes they think he's a lesbian, he's beyond frustrated at not being understood. When I got to this point in the story, I couldn't help but think at least J's parents are trying to accept what they believe to be his sexual preference. If I had understood J's a bit more I would've looked at this scene differently.

I thought the author did a good job of allowing the reader to see J for who he really was. A male born in a female body. Beam gets across J's frustrations at being misunderstood and called a lesbian. In the beginning J's a little homophobic. In the end I realized it would be difficult to defined as something your not daily, and then begin to dislike the incorrect label. I wish Beam would've had J explain his aversion to being labeled a lesbian. Since I don't know much about transgender I couldn't understand why being called a lesbian was the worst thing in the world. Though it does seem obivious now.

J starts doing some searches and learns about testosterone shots and binding. J really wants to begin T shots to start the transition. J begins skipping school and binding his chest. When J meets some girls around his age they only see him as J the boy. J loves his new persona. It was nice to see J come into his own but I have a difficult time believing, J never considered binding or testosterone before the internet search. I will admit I midway through I wasn't enjoying I AM J as much as I would've have liked. Then this paragraph that made me happy I kept on reading.

"No," J answered quietly. He focused inside. It felt as if part of the bone had broken free, its sharp edge scraping a piece of rib, then floating on, looking for a new place to root. Could it be that feelings actually did physical damage? Could he really have broken something? Did the pain stem from hearing his mother's words or his own. He remembered what his old swimming coach used to say when the team was aching and groaning but still had more laps to do: "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." I won't suffer, J thought. This may hurt, but I won't suffer. The bone settled."

It was almost midway in and worth the wait. I really started to like J. Maybe I was looking at the story differently but it started to flow a bit better. J was starting to find his own way. He moved in with Melissa and her mother, and enrolled in a school for GLBTQ, teens. I love how J uses his photography to express himself. There's a great wow moment with J taking a photograph of himself, and it hits me how much he's gone through. I thought Beam's describe this scene beautifully.

I am happy I got a chance to read I AM J. And so glad I didn't put it down. There's a lot to take away from this story and J. Don't let my critics fool you, I AM J is a good and worth while read.

*J's mother is Puerto Rican and his father is Jewish. The name, Manny kept confusing me, since I think of it more as a Latino name than a Jewish one, even though its both. I couldn't help but wonder why the author didn't use a different name for J's father. I lot was made of J being a character of color. Puerto Rican cousins and summer trips to PR were mentioned, and a handful of Spanish words though J still didn't feel Latino to me. Though Beam still succeeded in creating a transgender character readers can learn from and a good story.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Nation's Hope: The Story of boxing Legend Joe Louis

A Nation's Hope: the story of boxing legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Pena, illus by Kadir Nelson

Like everything else in 1930's boxing was segregated.

The world waits for Joe Louis to take the ring,
take center stage
White men wait standing beside Black men, but standing apart
Jim Crow America

In the 1938 rematch against German fighter Max Schmeling, Louis was looked upon as a nation's hope because of the impending war. This is the fight that de la Pena leads readers to, though first we are introduced to a young Joe Louis.

He didn't speak until he was six,
and when he finally spoke he stammered
and was ridiculed
Words spinning just beyond Joe's grasp,
and with black skin he passed through childhood in the shadows
Yet there was something about his hands, so big and powerful
Nights he'd stare down at those hands and dream

Nelson's image of a young Joe Louis to the right of Pena's text is strong, gorgeous and focused. Nelson easily captures the strength of Louis's hands. It's one of my favorite panels in the book. The same goes for Pena. Author and illustrator were very in sync.

Pena's text has a great rhythm to it, very fitting for a biography on a boxer. Nelson's illustrations are lovely as always. I do wish the author would've included some back information. There isn't even a timeline or author's note.

Though A Nation's Hope is a still nice introduction to Joe Louis, the second Black heavyweight champion. After reading this I wanted to learn more about Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and that lead me to this, was quickly sucked in and watched all nine parts.

I have Pena and Nelson to thank for my desire to want to know more about Louis. I believe readers of all ages will be moved to do the same.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday - A Little of Everything

I got a very nice unexpected gift . Edi sent me an authographed copy of
A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Pena, illus. by Kadir Nelson. Edi shares some pictures from a recent conference, where she meet a few authors including Matt de la Pena.

On Monday, my Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month post went up. If you haven't already check it out, Women of Color Make Their Presence Known It turned out really well. I loved my beginning.

Much of the credit goes to organizers Margo Tanenbaum and Lisa Taylor. I am very happy they didn't listen to my suggestion about which covers to show. What they did is so much better. I never would've thought to include the video interview with Paula Yoo. The link to the video, yes. That one extra step could mean the difference of someone buying Shining Star.
Author Esther Friesner's Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month post - Haunted by History Friesner has an historical fiction novel coming out called Threads and Flames about the 1910 Triangle Fire, which killed over 140 workers thanks to unsafe working conditions. Friday, March 25 was the anniversary of the fire. On Friday morning I read Friesner's Haunted by History

In the evening I read author Zetta Elliott's post about the Triangle Fire Elliott links to the PBS film and I will do the same here . After reading two separate post about the Triangle Fire, I didn't hesitate to watch the film.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Time Traveling Fashionista - Bianca Turetsky

The Time Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky
12 yr old Louise Lambert loves vintage fashion. She buys all of her clothes at thift shops. When Louise recieves a mysterious invitation to a traveling vintage fashion sale, she goes in search of the perfect dress for a dance.

The traveling sale is run by two very strange woman. Louise finally finds the perfect dress, trying it on takes her back to 1912. Louise wakes up on a cruise ship, everyone is calling her Miss Baxter. Lousie has no idea wants going on but decides to enjoy her time on the ship that seems to have everything, even an elevator. When Louise finally realizes she's on the titantic, it's time to go. She must figure out a way and fast. The Time Traveling Fashionista was so much fun. I love when an author allows the reader to feel their main characters passion for whatever it is they like. Turetsky, did just that with Louise and fashion.

"When Louise wasn't scouring the two local thrift stores, she was online researching different designers and eras. A well worn copy of Shopping for Vintage: The Definitive Guide to Fashion, a surprisingly perfect birthday gift from Grandpa Leo, was conveniently placed on her bedside table, so that if she dreamed of a particular outfit, which she often did, she could look it up before it disappeared from her mind's eye. The book also gave her lots of tips for collecting vintage and a directory of all the best vintage stores throughout the world. She would read through the shop listings on nights when she couldn't fall asleep. It was much more effective than counting sheep."

It wasn't the great fashion description that pulled me in, it was Louise. She's a very likable character. The author takes the time to development Louise's storyline before she's transported back in time.

When I first heard about The Time Traveling Fashionista, my first thought was, how smart could this girl be if she didn't know she was on the titantic. I had some serious doubts if this could be pulled off. Once Louise travels back, I am quickly proven wrong. The cruise is only refered to as The White Star Line. It's only after Louise finally catches a glimpse of the word titanic on an invitation that she knows what's about to happen. Before that Louise was having a great time as Alice Baxter, a teenage silent movie star. She flirts with a young Guggenhiem and meets a few fashion icons like Lucy Duff-Gordon.

The author surrounds Louise with great characters in the present and the past. In the present Louise's has her best friend Brooke. In the past she befriends Alice Baxter's maid Anna. There are some great fashion skectches included. I am reviewing the unfinished copy so the color is still to come. Though there is still much presence with the black and white drawings. It's a very nice extra for a wonderful story. Ages 10 up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dark Goddess - Sarwat Chadda

Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda
Billi SanGreal is the only female member of the Knights Templar. In this sequel to Devil's Kiss the action begins right away. Billi and another Templar are hunting a werewolf who is killing humans. Billi keeps the werewolf from killing Vasilisa, a little girl. They are known as Polenitsy - man killers, ancient warrior women of Eastern Europe. Vasilisa is Russian and a very powerful oracle. The Polenitsy want to sacrifice her to their goddess, Baba Yaga.

The Templars are able to keep Vasilisa safe for a few weeks until she's kidnapped under Billie's watch. The Templars go to Russia to try and get Vasilisa back. Once there they seek the help of the Bogatyrs, they've been around as long as the Templars. Billi wants to trust Alan the youngest member, and the future leader but doesn't know if she can.

This was a great page turner thanks to all the action and fight scenes. Plus I just really like Billi. She has a lot of internal and external struggle that feel real. I've been looking forward to this follow up for over a year, and it was worth the wait.

I highly recommend starting with Devil's Kiss. (which is out in paperback) And kudos to David Eustace and Jennifer Jackman for a wonderful cover

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dragonbreth:Lair of the Bat Monster by Ursula Vernon

DragonBreath: Lair of the Bat Monster by Ursula Vernon
This is the fourth book in the Dragonbreath series. I enjoyed this one as much as the others. I loved it.

This time best friends, Danny a dragon, and Wendell, an iguana find an injured bat at pool. They take the bat back to Danny's to see is his mother can help. She tells them to take the bat to Danny's cousin Steve, a bat expert. Steve lives in Mexico, so once again Danny and Wendell will be taking the very reliable and unexplainable bus system all dragons use.

Steve's patches up the bat and teaches Danny and Wendell some nice bat facts. They even get to see the bat cave. A gigantic bat monster comes out of nowhere, scary everyone including the other bats. The bat monster takes Danny back to her lair. She thinks he's her son.

The author always keeps things interesting by changing it up a bit. In the third story Danny and Wendell didn't have to get on the bus, that was a first. In this one the Danny and Wendell were split up for the first time.

The back and forth between the best friends is one of the books many strengths. Yet Vernon decided to spilt them up it worked very well. Also it was a nice surprise to see that Wendell had to be the hero.

Even without the illustrations, this is a visually fun read. There's just the right amount of danger and laughs. Fans of Dragonbreath series will love this new addition. A great choice for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Silver Sparrow's Crossover Appeal

Besides this, my personal blog, I also contribute to Color Online,* a blog that focuses on promoting the works of female authors of color. On occasion I will rerun a young adult or middle grade review. Though for the most part there isn't much over lap. Since I tend to review fiction at Color Online.

Though I never know what to do with novels that have Young Adult crossover appeal. Should I review them twice? And write each one to fit the target audience? Last year I came across four such titles

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans CO interview(loved Evan's answers)
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

All were reviewed at Color Online but not here.

I recently finished Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. The book comes out at the end of May. I requested a copy with hopes of reviewing it over at Color Online. It didn't take me long to realize two things, 1. I absolutely loved the writing. Its so beauifully done. 2. The story has some serious crossover appeal.

Set in Atlanta in the 1980's. Its the story of James Witherspoon a man with two wives. Each with one daughter. The second wife and child knew about the first family.

Part I is Dana Lynn Yarboro (the second daughter), Part II is Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon (the first daughter)

"My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother. In 1968, she was working at the gift wrap counter at Davison's downtown when my father asked her to wrap the carving knife he had brought his wife for their wedding anniversary. Mother said she knew that something wasn't right between man and a woman when the gift was a blade. I said that maybe it means there was a kind of trust between them. I love my mother, but we tend to see things a little bit differently. The point is that James's marriage was never hidden from us. James is what I call him. His other daughter, Chaurisse, the one who grew up in the house with him, she calls him Daddy even now."

Silver Sparrow is one of my favorite novels of the year. It can be pre ordered at Amazon for 40% off.

A review of Silver Sparrow at Reads4Pleasure

The other contributors -
Ari, Tarie, Terri, Nathalie, and Vasilly

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Can't Wait - Ashley Hope Perez

What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
Marisa, a high school is trying to make plans for the future. She's torn between family obligations and going after what she really wants. Marisa works at a local supermarket giving more then half are pay check to family expenses. She has even more responsibilities when her not so great or smart brother in law is in an accident. Marisa must babysit her niece Anita, leaving her even less time to study. Marisa has always been a straight A student and her parents have never acknowledged this.

I fell into this one from the very beginning thanks to Marisa's voice. Marisa does are best to do what's right for her family and herself. Perez makes it easy for readers to grasp Marisa's dilemma. Author has created a very realistic and likeable main character. Marisa could easily carry a stilted story though thankfully that was never an issue. Perez's writing is solid and smooth.

One of the great things about this story is its realness, everything that happens has the ring of possibility from the dialogue to the the fallout Marisa's has with her father when she finally had enough.

What Can't Wait is simply a great book all around and a wonderful debut. I didn't do this book justice so please go read the excerpt via the author's site.

Perez will be signing at Boxcar Books in Bloomington, IN on Sat. March 26. I will go a step further and say this is a debut signed first edition you want in your election. Trust me, its that good. I am looking forward to reading many more books from Ashley Hope Perez in the future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interview with Melina Marchetta

This month Melina Marchetta's latest novel Piper's Son was released in the United States. My review. I don't have the words to express how much I love this author's writing. So I am very honored that the author took the time to answer a few questions.

Hi Melina, Can you tell us a little about The Piper's Son?

The Piper’s Son is about the Finch-Mackees, especially Tom Mackee and his aunt, Georgie Finch. It’ s about how the family come back together again aftertwo years of grieving and it’ s about their friends and redemption and romanceand love and it’ s funny and it’ s sad, but it’ s very hopeful.

Thomas made his first appearance in Saving Francesca. The two novels are written years apart. and Thomas has a bit part in the first one though I got the feeling that Thomas was simply waiting his turn.

Did you ever consider writing a novel around one of Francesca's other friends?

Not really. I tend to think my novels are finished when they go to print so Tomcoming back to me five years later was a big surprise. I mean, a big one. If any character was going to come back it would be Tara Finke or even Will Trombal.I knew it wouldn’ t be Francesca, although I’ m so happy with the part she played in Tom’ s journey. In Saving Francesca, Tom was one of those characters that truly began as an annoying guy in her class, but he just grew on me and I had to fight hard to shove him out of the spotlight. Perhaps now it’ s not so surprising that he found his way into his own novel.

In Piper's Son the narrative alternates between Thomas Mckee and his aunt Georgie. What drew you to these two characters?

Before I wrote Finnikin of the Rock, I wanted to write about a woman my age named Georgie Finch who had to travel to France to retrieve the body of her brother who died there in a bomb blast. That’ s all I knew about the story at the time. It wasn’ t going to be a story about terrorism, but the impact it had on a family. Then Finnikin came and Georgie just became an idea. A year later,Tom came calling and in true surreal fashion he whispered his family’ s story to me and explained that Georgie Finch was his Aunt. That’s how it began.

It doesn’ t usually begin that mystical, but Tom and Georgie were a bit of a gift in that way. These two characters are twenty one years apart in age, but they are going through the same emotions, the same relationship stuff ups, the same issues with friends who they’ ve kept at arm’s distance because of their grief.

I stuck them both under one roof and watched them dance around each other and when I thought they were both getting strong enough, I let the rest of the Finch-Mackee circus into that house. They are two of the most flawed characters I’ ve ever written, but they have a great capacity to love. It was a joy having them live in my head for those eighteen months.

The Finch- Mackees know a lot about loss first a father was left behind in Vietnam then an Uncle is killed by a suicide bomber. The grief could've easily overwhelmed the storyline but its simply another layer in a beautiful crafted novel. There's so much heart in Piper's Son.

How did you keep Thomas and Georgie from drowning in their families losses?

Strangely, I think they are my funniest characters. Really dry dark sense of humour. What I also did was make sure that within all that grief, other trivial real life stuff was irritating them like Georgie complaining that her partner’ s exgoes shopping without using environmentally friendly shopping bags and all those wry conversations you have with your friends. I made sure I had them interacting with people who had a light to them.

Like the exchange between Tom and his thirteen year old sister who had moved interstate with his mum. I knew I had to introduce his email to her early in the piece so the reader wouldn’ t think he was all anger and brooding. I mean,someone whose email address is I mean,someone whose email address is has to be halfway decent and have a sense of humour.

Do you ever wonder what happens to your characters after the last page?

I think of them, but I don’t wonder too much. Regardless of everything that’s happened to Taylor in Jellicoe, and Finnikin and Evanjalin in Skuldenore and Tom and Georgie in Sydney, as far as I’m concerned they get what they want at the end so I’ m happy to let them go. Of course they live through other people’s feedback. The character I think I’ ve cared about the most and thought of the most is Francesca Spinelli. It’s a personal thing with her.

All of your novels have been published in the United States. Your last two Finnikin of the Rock (loved it) and Piper's Son were both published by Candlewick Press.

Do you think you've finally found a U.S. publisher to call home?

Yes, I definitely have. I love my editor Deb Wayshak and the whole Candlewick team and I’ m honoured they’ re going to be publishing my next two novels, the Finnikin sequels. But I also know that Saving Francesca was loved dearly by its U.S. editor, Michelle Frey at Knopfs and Jellicoe would never have been published if not for Farrin Jacobs at Harper Teens. I’m grateful to them all because I don’ t think I’ d have any profile in the U.S. if not for them.

From Trisha , I heard about a debut called The Returning by Christine Hinwood.

Like Trisha I want to read a novel that moved you enough to blurb it. Did it really make you cry?

Yes, and it just received a fantastic starred review from Kirkus. When you readit, don’ t try to place it in a particular time or place. If you do, you’ ll miss out on the beauty of it. I think too many times when someone is reading a fantasyor historical novel, they need to recognise the world. Sometimes it’ s a pre-requisite, but when you’ ve been given wonderful characters and wonderful themes, go with that gift. Also, it’ s not the type of novel to skim read. I read it word for word.

Melina, thank you so much for your time and for another great novel. On Sunday March 20th the author will one of 44 teen authors signing at Books of Wonder.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Piper's Son - Melina Marchetta

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
Ever since Thomas Mackee's uncle was killed by a suicide bomber, he hasn't been the same. Thomas is also coming to terms to what his father's violent actions did to his family. Thomas spends his days and nights drinking too much. All that hard living finally lands Thomas in the hospital and that's where the story begins. His roommates, who weren't real friends to begin with have kicked him out. No where else to go Thomas goes to stay with his aunt Georgie Finch. The story alternates between Thomas and Georgie. Though they are the two central characters the story is about the whole Finch Mackee family.

When I finished The Piper's Son the first time I was content and thought it was good. I figured the time had finally come that Marchetta wrote a book I didn't love and I was okay with that. I thought it was bound to happen eventually. Sure the odds are aganist the authors great streak of writing books I love continuing forever but it won't end with The Piper's Son.

The second time through it was a whole different story. I loved it. The first time in, I rushed it and didn't take the time to appreciate the nuances of the language. Once I slowed down I was able to fully connect with the characters and their emotions. Thomas and Georgie both feel very real. The fully developed friends and family add another dimension. Marchetta doesn't rush the story it simply unfolds naturally and that's where the magic comes from.

If you haven't read Marchetta before begin anywhere, you won't be dissappointed. If your a fan read Piper's Son. On Sunday March 20th, Marchetta will be signing at Books of Wonder along with 43 other YA authors.

Looking this over, I realize this isn't the best review. I simply don't want to break the story down too much, I like it whole. I am selfish like that.

More reviews

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday - A Little of Everything

The School Library Journal Battle of the Books, begins on Monday.

The competition pits 16 of last year's best books for young people against each other. And we've gathered an impressive lineup of judges made up of some of your favorite authors, such as Karen Hesse, R.L. Stine, Karen Cushman, Pete Hautman, and Grace Lin, who'll read and eliminate books as they get closer to the grand prize winner. I am very excited. I've read 10 of the 16 books. Though not reading all of them didn't stop be from making first round guesses. I've also entered, Blogger Eric Carpenter's Battle of the Books bracket challenge a la March Madness style.

Edi has being doing a lot of great post about Women of Color in honor of Women's history month. I am glad Edi started with Sweethearts of Rhythm by Marilyn Nelson because it was the perfect ending for the post I wrote for Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month. I really like how it turned out. Now I just need to come up with a title. It will go live on March 21st.

Check out Ari's great interview with author Neesha Meminger about her most recent novel Jazz in Love. It reads a bit like a conversation.

On Monday, I will be posting my review of The Pipers Son by Melina Marchetta. I love Marchetta and this newest one is no exception.

If you have never read this author you are seriously missing. Marchetta is ridiculously good and very gush worthy. I am beyond psyched to be posting an interview with the author on Tuesday.

On Sunday March 20th. 44 teen authors will be signing at Books of Wonder . I am not going to start listing names because there are too many great ones. So just check it out for yourselves.

Both Meminger and Marchetta will be at the event. If you had any intention of buying either one of their books or any of the other authors consider calling up Books of Wonder and getting a signed copy. An autographed book would make a great gift and they could send it directly. Sure Amazon can offer free shipping but will the book be autographed. No. Besides Brick and Mortar stores need the support. * You don't have to wait until the day of the event to purchase your book. You can phone your order in early so you don't forget.

If your a blogger spread the word about this event and highlight one or two authors you like. The more books an author sells at a signing the better it looks. And yes I know that seems "duh" obvious but its still very true. Its the one time publishers can truly track the sales. Going into any event, bookstores and publishers always do a rough estimate of how many books might be sold. After the event numbers are checked. It truly sucks for everyone if only a few books are sold. It would be nice if some of these authors sold more then what was expected.

Maybe I will get some good karma for mentioning this event and a few big spenders will come into the store I work at. As opposed to the people who sit all day and read for free. Some have the nerve to want to talk to me. Dude, I am not your friend. Actually, I hate you so much right now.

Friday, March 11, 2011

How to Help Japan (Avoid Scams)

When I woke up this morning the first thing I learned about was the massive Tsunami that hit Japan.

The morning after Japan was struck by the most powerful earthquake to hit the island nation in recorded history and the tsunami it unleashed -- and even as the earth continued to twitch with aftershocks -- the disaster's massive impact was only beginning to be revealed. -CNN

If you would like to help the Attorney General lists a few well known charities ready to take your donations and warns against charity scams.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Big Splash - Jack D. Ferraiolo

Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo
This novel first came out in 2008. I thought the story was great. I simply couldn't sell customers on it no matter how hard I tired. I think Ferraiolo was ahead of the curve with this mystery noir type novel for middle schoolers. Or maybe it was the cover. I like the hardcover edition. Though what's important is what the customers like and I couldn't get them to bite on the HC cover. It was finally released this month in paperback. My original review.

I had a lot of fun reading this novel. Ferraiolo does a wonderful job . Its Dick Tracy meets Half Moon Investigations Eoin Colfer meets Codename KND.

Matt Stevens is a detective and in the seventh grade at Franklin Middle School. Matt's school is a war zone, the hallways are patrolled by Hall Monitors. Vinny Biggs is the big man on top. He controls the sugar supply, forgeries- report cards doctors notes, etc and gambling. Kids are packing water guns just waiting to put another kid in the Outs. A kid is put in the Outs when they are sprayed below the belt.

"The Outs- This club had a highly undesirable method of initiating new members humiliation. Vinny was marking the kids that he wanted taken out of the school social system, and the pee stain was the perfect symbol for this. Most kids knew the pee wasn't real, but it didn't matter. Kids laughed at the victims anyway."

Big Splash opens at the beginning of a new school year one of the most feared shooters Nikki Fingers has retired from Vinny's organization.

"Nikki Fingers was a dream girl the kind who caused nightmares. She was twelve but could have easily passed for fourteen. One glimpse of her bright red hair and luminous green eyes made you freeze like a package of fish sticks, and that was all the time she needed to shoot so much water on the front of your pants it looked like your bladder exploded."

Vinny hires Matt to get a hula figurine back from Nikki for him, and in the process Nikki is put in the Outs.

"I heard a quick two pump behind me. Before I could turn around, two giant bursts of water caught Nicole square on the front of her pants, right below the waist. The surprise and the force of the water jolted her backward , causing her head to slam into the locker doors. She slid to the ground butt first, legs splayed, eyes glazed over in shock."

Matt Stevens is on the case. Nikki Fingers put many kids in the Outs so there are alot of suspects. Big Splash was a joy to read. Matt Stevens is a likeable and smart detective- like any good detective he has his own mystery to solve. Ferraiolo has created a very believable world where the kids are front and center while the adults merely make appearances. Big Splash is a fun mystery noir. There are some great twist and turns at the end. Big Splash is a great book for mystery fans or fans of fun and silly books set at school.

Reading Rants review
The NERDS series by Michael Buckley is very popular at the store I work at. It's hard to find similar recommendations but Big Splash is perfect. Its also great for older fans of the Wimpy Kid series.

I like the paperback cover of Big Splash but more importantly the customers like it. So far everyone has been very receptive to it. The other day a boy came in with his father, looking for the new Big Nate novel, which isn't out yet. Since he was reading Big Nate, I assumed he already read the Wimpy Kid series. So I recommended three other titles,

Dark Life by Kat Falls - I know this is nothing like Big Nate but the customer also liked
Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells and yes I know this doesn't have much in common with Dark Life either. But Falls debut still felt like a good suggestion.

Much closer to Big Nate I also suggested NERDS and Big Splash. One thing I enjoy doing is standing back and watching a customer decide what book to go with. The boy went with Big Splash. I think the new cover made all the difference. The Jeff Kinney blurb on the front probably didn't hurt.

An excerpt of Big Splash

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March New Releases

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown illus by Julie Paschkis - starred kirkus review

Mama and Me by Arthur Dorros illus by Rudy Gutierrez

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee - I can't wait to read this one. Lovin the excerpt

I Am J by Chris Beam

Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle (paperback)

Exposure by Mal Peet (paperback)

What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez - Ari's review - This was very good, looking forward to reviewing soon.

The Boy is Mine by Charmaine White Face

Illegal by Bettina Restrepo - Ari's interview with the author

Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin (paperback) I love this story and the new cover

Amigas: Playing for Keeps by Veronica Chambers

Subway Girl by P.J. Converse

The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango

Truancy Origins by Isamu Fukui

Karma by Cathy Ostlere

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon - Really looking forward to this one. I loved Silver Phoneix, which is out in paperback

Monday, March 7, 2011

Play Ball Jackie by Stephen Krensky, illus. by Joe Morse

Play Ball Jackie by Stephen Krensky illus. by Joe Morse
I'll admit my first thought when I saw this book was " another book about Jackie Robinson" I wasn't even sure if I wanted to read it. Don't get me wrong I love #42, but I still couldn't help but think there are a lot children's books about Robinson out. I am glad I didn't let this one pass me by, I loved it.

Matty and his dad are at Dodgers opening dayfor free, after someone refused to go because Robinson was playing. Matty can't understand why anyone would pass up opening day. The two have a conversation about Robinson being the first Black player in the majors. I really liked the interaction between the father and son. Sometimes diagloue meant to teach can come across as stiff and forced. That was not the case here.

Krensky also does an excellent job showing the action on the field. He's found a nice balance, letting readers understand the importance of Robinson integrating baseball and enjoy the game.

Morse's detailed illustrations make this story pop. Robinson picking the ball in the deep web of his gloves inches off the ground was just beautiful. My favorite panel shows Robinson bunting then running down the first baseline. After reading Play Ball Jackie, I had to see more of Morse's work This is only his second picture book but it won't be the last.
Krensky and Morse have come together to bring something new to very well known story of Jackie Robinson's first day in Majors.

I've linked this post to non fiction monday. This weeks round up can be found at Picture Book of the Day

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday - A Little of Everything

On Monday, I nominated four titles for Nerds Heart YA including three I mentioned in a previous post. The other book I nominated was What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson. You until March 7th to nominate books for Nerds Heart YA

Congratulations to author Shaun Tan for winning an Oscar for best animated flim for The Lost Thing. If you've never read Tan your missing out, his work is ridiculosuly good.

Author Neesha Meminger stopped by The Book Smugglers this week.

My biggest inspirations and influences were feminist writers. But wait – let me go back a bit. When I was younger, I really loved the tikki-tikki-tembo story. It’s the first story I remember really loving. I heard it in the library when I was, maybe, in third grade. The librarian read it aloud to the class and I was absolutely immersed. Could be because the story was about a boy with a name no one could pronounce, a name that was long and weird and foreign (like mine), but I completely related to that boy in the story.

If you plan on buying Jazz in Love please don't buy a used copy. The author doesn't get any credit for that resale. Self publishing is hard enough without authors having to contend with people selling a book for a profit. Jazz in love is only $11.00 new. Yet some people are selling their copies for more then that.

Don't forget to stop by Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month , to read the daily post by authors and bloggers.

So far my favorite post was by Colleen,

Since then I have read about many women involved in aviation; one of the most obscure (and interesting) was early 20th century parachutist Elizabeth Shepherd. "Dolly" was a waitress at the Alexandra Palace in London when she met balloonist Auguste Gaudron who was looking for a girl parachutist for his act. In 1904 being a parachutist meant rising in the balloon basket to at least 2,000 feet then dropping down over the side and hanging from a trapeze bar to which she was attached with a safety strap. When she was ready to let go (and Dolly liked to go quite high) she would let go of the bar, releasing the strap. At that point all of her weight would be placed on the ropes attaching her to the parachute which hung limp from the balloon. If all was right, the parachute would open and Dolly would fall slowly back down to the ground.

There's a recent article at the School Library Journal called The Civil War: Beyond the Battlefield. Several titles are recommend. I was very disappointed that A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott wasn't one of them. Even more so when I noticed there was a section called Looking Backward: History, Crafts, and Time Travel . In A Wish After Midnight, 15 yr old Genna loves to make wishes, one wish transports are back to civil war era Brooklyn.

I know its an irrational thought but I couldn't help but wonder if only I did a little more for A Wish After Midnight, the right person would've heard about it and it would've been included.

I recently finished and loved Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry. I picked it up because of the cover by the second chapter, I wanted to hug the book. It was my kind of mystery. I even left a fan gush comment on the author's blog. Something I don't do often. read an excerpt

One YA novel I am really looking forward to reviewing when it gets closer to the release date is Huntress by Malinda Lo. It was so good. I loved it. For once a story lives up to its beautiful. cover.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Women's History Month

In honor of Women's History Month, two kidlit bloggers, Margo Tanenbaum and Lisa Taylor founded Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month

This blog was founded in order to commemorate Women's History Month across the kidlitosphere, the community of bloggers specializing in children's and young adult literature. This inaugural 2011 celebration is organized by bloggers The Fourth Musketeer, a library science student, and Shelf-Employed, a children's librarian. Why celebrate women's history and children's literature? Not so long ago, women's history was virtually ignored in the K-12 curriculum. To address this situation, “Women’s History Week” was started in California in 1978; the observance became national in 1981 with a joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming National Women’s Week, which was extended a few years later into Women’s History Month.

I first heard about this thanks to a Non Fiction Monday in early Feburary. Margo and Lisa were looking for bloggers who wanted to participate. I quickly jumped at the chance, I knew if I thought too long all the spots would be filled. Sure enough, there were only a few dates left open.
Here is the full line up.

March 1 Shelf-Employed
March 2
Kathleen Krull - author
March 3 Chasing Ray
March 4
Ann Bausum - author
March 5 Pragmatic Mom
March 6
Jan Godown Annino - author
March 7
Tanya Lee Stone - author
March 8
Carolyn Meyer - author
March 9
Tami Lewis Brown - author
March 10 Marissa Moss - author
March 11 Teach with Picture Books
March 12 Heidi Hemming
March 13
Audrey Vernick - author
March 14
Holly George Warren - author
March 15 Abby the Librarian
March 16 Say it Rah-shay
March 17 Diane Browning
March 18 Great Kid Books
March 19 Linda Brewster
March 20 GreenBeanTeenQueen
March 21 The HappyNappyBookseller
March 22 Books of Wonder and Wisdom
March 23
Erica Silverman - author
March 24
Tonya Bolden - author
March 25
Esther Friesner - author
March 26 Marthe Jocelyn - author
March 27 Waking Brain Cells
March 28
Sue Macy - author
March 29
Anita Silvey - author
March 30
Candace Fleming - author
March 31 Children's War
April 1 The Fourth Musketeer

I am very honored to be a part of this inaugural launch. It's nice to know that long after Women's History Month is over, all of these post will still be waiting to be found by even more readers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Revisit The Line Up (Loaded From Top - Bottom)

Since baseball season is quickly approaching, I decided to rerun a feature I did last year. Originally it ran in late March but I am hoping to do something new to open the season and I didn't want the two things to collide. I am still working out what I might do though I know this Line Up can not be topped so this is a one time thing.

This is still one of my favorite features. Again much thanks to the author's for their time and wonderful answers.

The Line Up

1 Change-up: Baseball Poems by Gene Fehler SS -
This was my 2009 Cybils choice for poetry. Check out this nice review at My World - Mi Mundo. Baseball fans will love this collection of poems.

2. Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park 1st
In this novel there is talk of the classic 1951 pennant race between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. For baseball fans that should be more than enough reason to pick up this wonderful book. Reviews via author's site

3 Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta 2nd
12 yr old Roy was one of my favorite male protagonist of 2009. I loved that he read Their Eyes Where Watching God to impress a girl. Named a top 10 sports books for youth in 2009 by Booklist. More honors and reviews via author's site

4 The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz CF
I had picked this novel to get a shiny Newbery sticker and I wasn't the only one. Named a top 10 sports books for youth in 2009 by Booklist Reviews via the author's site

5 The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott RF
This was my Cybils choice MG Fantasy for 2009 and a Cybils finalist. Reviews via author's site. For all the baseball fans who love the history of the game the author mentions Curt Flood. Curt Flood named in a middle grade novel, I was like WOW

6 Six Innings by James Preller 3rd
Preller doesn't waste time with the regular season. He goes straight to the Little League championship game. Named a top 10 sports book in 2008 by Booklist . Also in 2008 made New York Public Library Top 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing List. 2009 ALA Children's Notable Book

7 The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith LF
I couldn't find contact info on Smith but I wasn't going to give up. If you've read this book you know why. Praise via publishers site. I have author James Kennedy to thank for getting me in touch with Smith.

8 Painting the Black by Carl Deuker C
I find it very fitting that Deuker the veteran for sports novels for young readers is behind the plate. He has won six state awards. If you are in need of a great sport novel check out Deuker's site

9 The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane P
Reviews via author's site. One of four spring books recommended for young readers by USA Today in 2009. I still remember the beautiful Haiku in this novel.

Here's how its going to work. I asked the authors 12 questions. The first nine questions are inspired by their books. The final three wrap up questions I thought of tie it all together. It will be broken up into 4 days, 3 questions a day.

I love the gender balance amongst the authors and within the stories themselves. This is more so for baseball fans but I do hope everyone gets something out of it. I hope that non baseball fans will have a better appreciation and respect for novels centered around sports after reading all the answers.

If you know any baseball fan please let them know about this. It's rated PG and appropriate for young baseball fans who may get a kick out of finding out the favorite teams of nine authors and other baseball related tidbits

Older fans will love the talk of the game and being able to a find few great books to share with young baseball fans.

Questions 1 -3
Questions 4-6
Questions 7-9
Questions 10-12