Monday, October 31, 2011

Breadcrumbs - Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
I've heard great things about Breadcrumbs and there's something about the cover that I really like. This story was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen. One of the things I loved about Breadcrumbs is one doesn't have to be familiar with Snow Queen to lose themselves in this story. It's simply very well done and lives up to the early praise. Hazel and Jack her best friend because he's the only one who gets her. In the fifth grade at a time when boys and girls no longer hang out Hazel and Jack are still good friends. Then one day out of nowhere Jack is mean to Hazel. Soon after Jack's parents tell everyone he's went to live with an elderly aunt no ones heard of. After hearing a story about Jack's where abouts no one else but a dreamer like Hazel would, she sets out to rescue the boy that was once her best friend. Hazel enters the forset filled with wolves in search of woman made of ice who has Jack. I could feel the danger as soon as Hazel entered the forest.

"The air was a tangible thing, rushing into Hazel's lungs as she breathed, touching her skin like a curious ghost. It carried with it the smell of old leaves and wide open sky. She was in the wood at the end of the world, or perhaps at the beginning. She looked behind her, to remind herself of the place she came from but it was gone. The wood stretched out in every direction. It was as if she had sprouted there. She had stepped into the woods in the park and landed in an entirely different place. She knew this might happen. She'd been to Narina , Wonderland, Hogwarts, Dictionopolis. She had tessered, fallen through the rabbit hole, crossed the ice bridge into the unknown world beyond. Hazel knew this world. And it should have made it easier. It did not."

This is one of those stories that one knows will be good after the first page. One of the things I truly appreicated is that the author reconginzes that the small moments are as in important as the big one. There was a lot of care put into this very enjoyable story. There are a few beautiful illustrations sprinkle throughout the story.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Darth Paper Strikes Back - Tom Angleberger

Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger
This is the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda which I enjoyed but not as much as most. Though I loved Darth Paper Strikes Back. It just clicked for me. All the same kids are back including Dwight with his origami Yoda. Dwight is a little awkward, never knowing the right thing to say but for some reason his origami Yoda which he wears on his finger gives great advice. Now in the 7th grade, everyone is looking forward to getting Yoda like advice when needed, but everything goes wrong when Dwight's least favorite person Harvey makes a Darth Paper, that's far from nice. The school isn't big enough for two origami Star Wars characters. Soon after Darth Paper appears Dwight is kicked out of school.

Tommy, Sara, Mike and some of the other kids open a new case file to prove to the school board that Dwight should be let back into school. Everyone shares a story about how they were helped by Origami Yoda. Like the first book, the story is filled with some wonderful illustrations. (great choice for Wimpy Kid Fans) The origami Yoda is so adorable. The narrator is a boy named Tommy. One of the books many strengths are the voices of the kids who support Dwight. Once again it was nice seeing the weird kid as the main character. The chapters are short with great names like Origami Yoda and the Body Odor in Wonderland. The ending was so unexpected and I absolutely loved it. Now I am all about the Origami Yoda books. In the back there are instructions on how to make an origami Yoda and a darth paper.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Silhouetted by the Blue - Traci L. Jones

Silhouetted by the Blue - Traci L. Jones
Serena will be starring in the school play The Wiz even though she's only in the 7th grade. She lives with her dad and younger brother Henry. Serena's dad has a very bad case of the blues forcing Serena to take on more responsibilities at home. Living by the code of what happens at home is no one's business, everything soon becomes too much for Serena.

I loved Serena's voice and this story. This is the first YA novel I've come across that truly explores the topic of depression. The author handles it with beautiful skill and care. Silhouetted by the Blue could've easily become an issues book but Jones did excellent job of developing Serena's world. The readers gets acquitted with the many sides of Serena - one loves the theatre, and is able to escape the pain through acting. Another has wonderful memories of her mom, another is doing her best to hold her family togehter. And yet another falls for a boy who is always there no questions asked.

This is Jones third Young Adult novel, her debut Standing Aganist the Wind was my favorite until now. The only thing I would change is the cover, it doesn't do the story justice.

Read an excerpt

Monday, October 24, 2011

Galaxy Games - Greg R. Fishbone

Galaxy Games by Greg R. Fishbone
For his 11th birthday, Ty Sato's Japanese's relatives named a star after him. Ty's father an astronomer, takes Ty and his friends to the observatory to see his star. Soon it becomes clear that Ty's star is something else but no one knows what. As Ty Sato moves closer to earth at a very fast speed everyone begins to panic. Ty doesn't like all the attention from his name sake.

The chapters alternate between Ty Sato in Nevada, his cousin Daiki in Japan and an alien girl named M'frozza. Ty Sato is a silver spaceship from M'Frozza planet, Mrendaria. M'Frozza is desperate to protect the honor of the Mrendarians in the galaxy games and she needs help from the primitive planet of earth. The galaxy games are universally accepted competition amongst kids to settle all conflicts. Ty Sato is unknowingly becomes a part of the galaxy games.

Fishbone created great characters with excellent dialogue and chapter transitions. The three main characters - Ty, Daiki and M'Frozza are all well delevoped and likeable. There are a few illustrations sprinkled throughout the novel. Galaxy Games was a lot of fun and very well done. An excellent choice for reluctant readers.

An excerpt

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dear Baobab - Cheryl Foggo, Qin Leng

Dear Baobab by Cheryl Foggo illus. by Qin Leng
Maiko misses the giant baobab tree in his African village when he has to go live with his uncle and aunt. At his new school Maiko is teased about his ears. Maiko finds comfort in a young spruce tree under the mailbox. When he discovers that the young tree is about the same age as him, Maiko begins to confide in it.

"After that, Maiko would say, " Hello tree, same age as me," on his way out and on his way in. Sometimes, he sat on the step and shared secrets that he told to no one else. He talked of his village and the baobabs, and how he missed his friends at the school where he had gone after his father and mother died. He told of how lonely he felt as the wind blew him across the wide ocean in an airplane, and how strange it was, at first, to sleep in the red brick house."

When Maiko learns that his uncle and aunt plan on chopping down the spruce because they're worried about the houses foundation, Maiko does everything he can to save it. This is a wonderful story and I love the connection the author makes with Maiko and the spruce. Both find themselves rooted in an unexpected place.

The cover art didn't grab me nor did it do the interior illustrations any justice. Once you open up the book, Leng's illustrations are a very good match for the story. Dear Baobab is text heavy making this great story, perfect for young listeners or readers ages 5 up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nerds:Cheerleaders of Doom - Michael Buckley

Nerds:The Cheerleaders of Doom by Michael Buckley
This is book three in National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society series or simply Nerds. Five fifth graders who are teased and bullied are secret government agent. Each member has their weakness tweak by a super computer and turned into their greatest asset. This time Matilda Choi aka Wheezer takes the lead on the case. Wheezer suffers from very bad asthma. Her enhanced inhalers give her many advantages including the ability to fly.

Gerdie Baker a former Nerds members has invented a device that allows her access to alternate realities. The machine is causing many dangerous rips, the end result the different earth come into contact with each other which could mean the end of all the worlds.

The team needs to find Gerdie before she uses her invention one too many times. Choi must go undercover has a cheerleader to flush out Gerdie who has completely changed her physical appearance. One of the things I love about this series, each case challenges the point team member in some way that allows them to grow.

Wheezer sees herself has a very tough, karate and wrestling loving type of girl. The thought of wearing pink or cheerleading makes Wheezer cringe. In the end Wheezer discovers there are no limits to who she is or can be. I truly appreciate that Buckley doesn't beat the reader over the head with lessons learned. It's seamlessly included with all the action and suspense. Fans of the first two books will enjoy this third enstallment just as much. This series can be read out of order. Though this series is so good, I would highly recommend starting from the beginning. Plus the first two books are out in paperback.

Read an excerpt

Monday, October 17, 2011

Waiting for the Biblioburro - Monica Brown, John Parra.

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illus. by John Parra
Ana loves to read and owns one book that she reads again and again. Ana and her family live in a small village without a local library. One day a man and his burros brings a library to the village. The children rush to meet the man and his two donkey's. When the librarian leaves Ana can't wait for him to return. The text and illustrations allow the reader to feel Ana's excitement.

"When will he come back?" she asks her mother, who smiles and says, "Go read, Ana."
"When will he come back?" she asks her mother, who smiles and says, "Go draw, Ana."
"When will he come back?" she asks her mother, who smiles and says, "Go write, Ana."

This story is a wonderful inspired by Luis Soriano Bohorquez, the librarian who started the Biblioburro Foundation. It depicts how much joy Bohorquez's traveling library gives to readers living in remote areas.

Waiting for the Biblioburro is textually and visually very beautiful. I am a huge fan of Brown's and it was pleasure to lose myself in another one of her stories. Parra's artistic style is a perfect fit for this tale. Like the text the illustrations are fun, playful and imaginative. I loved the dignified look on the faces of the burros, as if they know they have an important job.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book support Luis Soriano Bohorquez's Biblioburro program.

An excerpt

A starred Kirkus Review

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Cheshire Cheese Cat - Carmen Agra Deedy, Randall Wright

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright drawings by Barry Moser
Stories will talking animals are hit or miss for me (usually miss) I can't articulate why only a few work for me or what it is I like but I know it when I see it. Like Underneath by Appelt or Whittington by Armstrong this hits the mark.

The Cheshire Cheese Cat is co-author Deedy's first early reader and an excellent one at that. The story is a fun hat tip to Charles Dickens featuring a cat named Skilley with a secret. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is an inn known for having the best cheese in London. They also have a mouse problem. Skilley the only street cat that doesn't have a taste for mice bought into to Ye Olde to kept the population down. This is perfect for Pip, the mouse in charge. Pip and Skilley make an arrangement so everyone is happy. Everything is going well until Pinch a very vicious cat is hired. Pip and Skilley have to be extra careful that their secret isn't discovered.

When I started reading this I couldn't put it down. It's one of those books that makes me wish I had a fireplace to read by. Moser's illustrations which are sprinkled throughout are lovely. Along with the short chapters make this a great choice for a read aloud. There's another layer to this story involving a Raven that makes it that much more intigruing. The Cheshire Cheese Cat has everything, adventure, unlikely friendship, danger. and beautiful language.

"Scat, cat!" A broom came down hard out of London's cold and fog. Startled, Skilley leapt sideways and the broom whiffled empty air. The cat however, refused to scat. He eyed the dead fish then the broom, calculating the distance between the two. "Off now, you thieving moggy," the fishmonger shrilled. As if reading his thoughts, she kicked the fish under her stall and cocked the broom for another swing. Fishwives. the curse of London cats. With a flick of his peculiar tail, Skilley turned his back to the woman, putting all the disdain he could muster into the sway of his hips."

Deedy and Wright have collaborated to create a wonderful story. A 2011 favorite that I believe is a serious contender for the Newbery.

Three Starred Reviews - Kirkus, School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Worthy But Not Yet Nominated Cybils Titles

This is the sixth year of the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary- (The Cybils). I always look forward to Cybils time. In 2009, my middle grade fantasy pick, The Prince of Fenway Park by Baggott was a finalist.

For the most part(difficult to do in poetry genre) I only nominate books that feature kids of color or a diverse cast because they need the exposure. Even if a nominated title doesn't move beyond the first round, it still got into the hands of seven readers, all of whom are bloggers and book lovers. The judges who like it will tell others about it, increasing the books visibility.

Below is a list of some eligible yet to be nominated titles. The books in bold are ones I really want to see nominated. Since I am doing this as an independent, its okay if I play favorites. Nominations are open until Oct. 15th, so there's still a little time to do a quick library run.

Picture Books
My Hands Sing the Blues by Jeanne Walker Harvey
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match by Monica Brown
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown - nominated
The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say - nominated
Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson - nominated
One Love by Cedella Marley
Dear Baobab by Cheryl Foggo

Non Fiction Picture Book
Play Ball Jackie by Stephen Krensky
Before There Was Mozart by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Short Chapter Books
Almost Zero by Nikki Grimes
Zapato Power:Freddie Ramos Zooms to the Rescue by Jacqueline Jules - nominated
Invasion of the Potty Snatchers by Dav Pilkey

Middle Grade Fiction
Alvin Ho: Allegric to Dead Bodies, Funreals and other Fatal Circumstances by Lenore Look
How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over by Julia Alvarez
With the Might of Angels by Andrea Davis Pinkney
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly by Joyce Hansen

Middle Grade Fantasy
Nerds: The Cheerleaders of Doom by Micheal Buckley
Dragons Silk by Laurence Yep

Young Adult Fantasy
The Boy from IIysies by Pearl North
The Death Cure by James Dashner

Young Adult Fiction
Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones
If I Could Fly by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez
Glitz by Philiana Marie Boles -nominated
Skatefate by Juan Felipe Herrera
Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger -nominated
Blank Confession by Pete Hautman
A Good Long Way by Rene Saldana Jr.
My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

Middle Grade/YA Non fiction
A Girl Named Faithful Plum by Richard Bernstein

I thought this wonderful book trailer for One Love tied in perfectly and couldn't resist sharing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Burnout - Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Burnout by by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
After being clean for months, Nan wakes up the day after halloween on the subway and can't remember anything. Nan knows the police will simply take her for another teen drug addict, so she decides to figure out what happened. Retracing her steps while experiening contast blackouts, she tries to put the pieces together.

This intense dark tale has a wonderful pace and is very good. I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting. It was such a pleasure to read a YA novel that goes for the less is more approach. Under 200 pages, the author makes every word count. Much of the stories beauty lies in the belivablity and likeibitiy of Nan.

"I'm wearing a dress. It's pink, strapless and it's cut too low in the boobs and too high in the thighs. There is a tear on the right side where it couldn't hold me in. I think it's made out of plastic. I'm not supposed to describe my body as burly because mom says that's hate speech, but that's what I am. I am a burly girl testing the seams of a too small plastic dress. I would never wear something like this on purpose. I can feel the train seat on the bare backs of my upper thighs and my skin crawls."

Burnout is an under the radar book that should not be missed.

A starred SJL review
A starred Kirkus review
An excerpt

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ruby's New Home - Tony & Lauren Dungy, Vanessa Brantley Newton

Ruby's New Home by Tony and Lauren Dungy illus. by Vanessa Brantley Newton
A family is very excited about getting a new puppy named Ruby. Everyone loves Ruby. Jordan, Justin and Jade all want to make her their own. The mother encourages the three kids to take turns playing with Ruby. This was a fun early reader, with straight forward enjoyable text. The lesson of sharing fits nicely into the story and doesn't take away from the joy or excitement of a new pet. As always Newton's illustrations are wonderfully colorful.

glimpse a page

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Belated Congratulations And I Revisit More Latino Authors Please/Necesitamos mas autores Latinos

I've been awhile for minute and it that time the winner of the NerdsHeartYA, a tournament for underrepresented YA was announced. Congratulations to Renee Watson, who won for What Momma Left Me, one of my favorite reads of 2010. It was up against another 2010 Favorite of mine, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. Each year the tournament accomplishes its goal of bringing some much needed and well deserved attention to all nominated titles. NerdsHeartYA is in its third year, and I've yet to be disappointed or underwhelmed by a winning title.

We are right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month which started on Sept. 15 and runs until Oct 15. There are a lot of great blogs including Latin Baby Book Club and Bookjoy Ever year there seem to be more mainstream Spanish/English picture books which is a very good thing. I only wish that same increase could be seen with early readers, middle grade and young adult novels. As it is now there simply aren't enough books by Latino authors or featuring Latino characters to sustain a blog that isn't centered around picture books.

Last year I did a feature called More Latino Authors Please/necesitamos mas autores Latinos only 15 middle grade and young adult Latino authors were published last year. Initially it was 16 but Guadalupe Garcia McCall's debut, Under the Mesquite with pushed back to this Sept. (loved it) Only 15 authors is beyond ridiculous and lets not forget that's combining middle grade and young adult. There are 15 White young adult authors published any given Tuesday.

When I did that feature I was a bit worked up, seeing the hard facts of a marginalized group having less then 20 authors published in a year its difficult not to feel the injustice of it. But I kept my emotions in check.

Authors Alex Sanchez, Jennifer Cervantes, Christina Gonzalez, Caridad Ferrer and Francisco X. Stork were all kind enough to answers a few question about the issue. I learned something from all of their answers, if you missed it the first time around, the link to all of the authors answer can be found here

This year there were 13 novels published by Latino authors. I could've missed a few but even if one did a margin error of 5 that's still less then 20 titles. I am absolutely loving the fact that two of my favorite debuts are by Latina authors, What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez and Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

For whatever reason the gatekeepers are doing their best to keep Latino authors out. So it pleases me to no end to see Hope Perez and Garcia McCall bring it hard. Like what? You can't deny my goodness.

The first chapter of What Can't Wait, my interview with the author

An excerpt from Under the Mesquite, the author's interview @ Bookjoy

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred - Samantha R. Vamos, Rafeal Vamos

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos illus. by Rafael Lopez
This story was as beautiful as I thought it would be. With some help from the farm animals the farm maiden makes Arroz con Leche. This is not a traditional bilingual story, with two languages, lado a lado.

This is the pot, that the farm maiden stirred,

This is the butter that went into the cazuela that the farm maiden stirred

This is the goat
that churned the cream
to make the mantequilla
that went into the cazuela that the farm maiden stirred.

Rather then have the two languages side by side, Vamos will use a word once in English and replace it with it's Spanish counterpart in the next stanza. It's a very smart way to learn a few new Spanish words. This is a tribute to the nursery The House That Jack Built and it keeps the same quick pace rhythm.

I love the movement of text. The stories beautiful flow and Lopez gorgeous illustrations make this a wonderful read aloud. Lopez is not afraid of color and knows how to use it. The illustrations pop off the pages. Vamos and Lopez come together to create a wonderful story that screams "read me aloud and share me with others" There's a recipe for rice pudding in the back and a glossary of Spanish terms.