Saturday, January 29, 2011

Itsy Bitsy and Teeny Weeny by Robbyn Smith Van Frankenhuyzen


About the Book: When a run lamb and an injured fawn both need help, they find each other at Hazel Ridge Farm.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is another animal themed Show Me Readers Award nominee, but thankfully it's light on the sap that many of the animal books come with.

The book never says anywhere that it's based on a true story, but I'm guessing it is, since the author also the narrator and it seems as though she's retelling an experience she had on her farm. The illustrations by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen are well done and they almost look like cross stitch with the subtle lines on every page.

The story has a "message" but it doesn't ever feel too heavy and it never feels like the author was out to teach a lesson, but merely share her story, which I liked. The author also writes as though you're in her living room and she's sharing this story, which maked the book more enjoyable. Animal lovers are sure to enjoy it and I can see this being a popular read off the Show Me list this year.

Finding Lincoln by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Colin Bootman


About the Book: In 1951 Alabama, a young boy discovers the courage to walk into a segregated library to find a book about Abe Lincoln.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is another Show Me Readers Awards nominee. The more I read from the Show Me list, the less impressed I am with the nominees. It seems like the nominees are chosen on what lesson can be taught instead of what is truly an outstanding picture book in writing and illustration.

Finding Lincoln has a great lesson. But the writing is bland and boring and the illustrations are not that great. When there are people being drawn, I want them to actually look like people, not blobs of watercolors. There's not a lot of attention to detail in the illustrations and many of the extra on the pages seem to just bleed together.

The story seems like it's there just to teach a lesson. I wasn't impressed with the writing at all. The author talks down to the audience and I didn't think the story flowed that well. There were some small details thrown out aren't really resolved and the ending sort of leaves the reader hanging-it's not the best resolution.

I can see why this one made the Show Me Readers Award list because of the school lessons that can go along with it, but I wasn't all that impressed.

Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle by Major Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery

2009/42 pgs.

About the Book: Nubs is a war dog in Iraq. One day he meets a group of Marines and befriends Major Brian Dennis. Nubs knows he needs Brian and he begins a journey to find a home with his new friend.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Every year it seems there is some animal story on the Show Me Readers list that is made to tug at your heart strings. This year that book is Nubs.

The story of Nubs and Brian is a good one, but I felt the writing wasn't all that impressive. It really is for younger readers and in some ways I felt the authors talked down to their audience a bit. There are e-mails and letters added which didn't always flow with the text.

I won't deny the story itself is good, I was just a bit disappointed in the writing. I felt like the authors were trying to re-create what they did with their previous book Two Bobbies, but didn't quite succeed. If you're an animal lover, chances are you'll enjoy this story and I'm sure when kids start reading the Show Me Readers Award nominees they'll love the story of Nubs.

The Odious Ogre by Norton Juster, illusrated by Jules Feiffer

2010/32 pgs.

About the Book: A big rotten ogre rules the villages. He's ugly, angry, and always hungry and he doesn't mind wreaking havoc and snacking on the townspeople. Until one day a young girl shows him kindness and the ogre isn't sure how to respond.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: If you're a fan of Norton Juster (The Phantom Toolbooth) and wry humor, you will enjoy this book. The book reads like a fable or fairy tale and it makes a great picture book for older readers. (The ogre does eat people, so if you have sensitive readers, this might not be the book for them.)

The narration is hilarious. The ogre has a large vocabulary "due mainly to having inadvertently swallowed a large dictionary while consuming the head librarian in one of the nearby towns." The ogre's encounter with the young girl is very funny and I think young readers will get a kick out of her nonchalance over having a terrifying ogre visit her garden.

At first I didn't like the illustrations, but the more I look at the book, the more I like them. There are two different styles used-one for the ogre and one for the townspeople. It's somewhat subtle but it does make the ogre stand apart. There are also great expressions on the ogre's face and the two page spread showing the ogre trying to scare the young girl did make me laugh out loud.

The Odious Ogre would be a great read for someone looking for a humorous picture book to read to 3rd-5th graders as I think they would appreciate the humor and the moral of the story.

Little Rabbit and the Meanest Mother on Earth by Kate Klise, illustrated by Sarah Klise

2010/32 pgs.

About the Book: Little Rabbit wants to go to the circus, but his mother says he must clean his playroom first. Obviously, she's the meanest mother on Earth! Maybe little rabbit can find a way to get to the circus if the other animals want to see the meanest mother on Earth.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I picked this one up because Kate Klise is a local author.

This is a cute picture book. Children will relate to little rabbit's anger over not being able to do what he wants and instead having to clean his room. He comes up with a plan to join the circus by selling tickets to see the "meanest mother on Earth." His plan is pretty funny as he comes up with more and more extravagent ways to describe his act, but it's Mother Rabbit who gets the last laugh.

While the story is cute, it was the illustrations that made this book stand out. There are so many details in each page. The pages are colorful and there's an old fashioned cartoonish feel to them.

The Meanest Mother On Earth would be a great book for parents and children to read together (especially if they won't clean their room!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

563 pages

"Beautiful Creatures" is about Ethan Wate, a high school sophomore, who plans to escape his small Southern town as soon as he can. He disagrees with the values that most people in his town have, and things have been difficult since his mother died and his father subsequently became a recluse. Then a strange new girl named Lena arrives. She and her relatives are Casters, beings who have supernatural powers. Ethan finds himself falling hard for Lena, but on her upcoming 16th birthday she will be Claimed for dark or light.

I was confused a lot as I read this book, but I still got into it. I really engaged with the characters, especially some of the ones on the side including Link, Amma, and Marian the Librarian. The romance is a little too "Twilighty" for me--the characters meet, fall in love quickly, and suddenly don't know how they lived without each other. However, this story is told from the guy's perspective, which is interesting, and the characters aren't as whiny or overdramatic as the ones in some other teen romances. I also like how the authors weave a lot of humor into this dark story. What I don't like is the length of the book; a lot feels repetitive and I think a lot could have been cut out. There are 500 pages leading up the climactic battle between good and evil and then the ending is a bit of a letdown, as it seems to be merely setting up the sequel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Conagher by Louis L'Amour

1969/133 pgs

About the Book: Evie Teale has just moved out west with her husband and two children. But the long journey takes it toll on the family and soon Evie finds herself without a husband and a small income. It's only with the help of the drifter Conagher that the Teale's will survive.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I read this for my adult lit class and I can now say that westerns are no my genre of choice! The story started out OK, but I soon found it a bit boring.

The book starts out with the story of the Teale family. Evie and her children are trying to make it in the west and they happen to be settled near the stagecoach which brings passengers here and there with a small income. This part of the story I found interesting enough, but after a few chapters the story changes from Evie to Conagher.

Conagher is a drifter and somewhat of a fighter. He spends a lot of the book being intimidating and threatening the bad guys. Conagher takes a job at a cattle ranch and he starts to find notes in the tumbleweeds written by a lonely woman. The author gives so many hints about how lonely Evie is and how lonely Conn is, I guess he felt there's no need to develop anything between them. We get several chapters of Conn and it's like we've forgotten about Evie and the kids altogether until she randomly shows up in Conn's drifter path again.

The story tries to alternate between Evie and Conagher, but it never pulls it off successfully. It's like we had two different stories going on that never really met. The stories try to come together, but it's so sudden it feels a bit forced.

The end is a bit of a rush and I didn't think there was really any character development at all. It's a simple story with a few fights between the good and bad guys with the good guy winning and getting the girl. For fans of westerns it might be good, but it wasn't for me.

by Brian Michael Bendis, writer; Oliver Coipel, penciler; Mark Morales, inker; Laura Martin, colorist; Chris Eliopoulos, letterer. unpaged.
Norman Osborn, in charge of the safety and well-being of America, sees the immortal city of Asgard as a threat. He sees it as a threat because it currently hovers over a small town in Oklahoma. After an accident at Soldier Field involving one of the residents of Asgard, Osborn gathers his Avengers and declares war on Asgard. Seeing the damage that Norman could cause America, the real Avengers team up with Thor to put an end to Osborn's madness. Which side will be victorious, and will Asgard survive?

"Savvy" by Ingrid Law

342 pages

In "Savvy," Mississippi "Mibs" Beaumont tells the story of her 13th birthday, which she has been anxiously waiting for...not because she is especially excited about being a teenager, but because each member of her family receives a unique power when she or she turns 13. Her grandpa can shift the earth; everything her mother creates turns out perfect; one brother controls the weather and the other has power over electricity. A family emergency the day before Mibs' birthday makes discovering and adjusting to her new skills even more complicated, and she decides to take matters into her own hands. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. The story that follows is funny and touching, but the characters are what really stand out to me about this book. I love the way that Mibs (the narrator) looks at the world, and I fell in love with her entire family as well as a couple of people they meet throughout the book. They are all so warm and lively that I felt like I knew them and felt at ease with them even though they're not real. This is one that adults and children can enjoy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Batgirl Rising

by Bryan Q. Miller, writer; Lee Garbett, Tim Levins, pencilers; Trevor Scott, Sandra Hope...[et al.], inkers; Guy Major, colorist; John J. Hill, letterer; Phil Noto, original series covers. 164 p.

There's a new Batgirl in town. After failed attempts at being a superhero, Stephanie Brown takes upon herself the mantle of Batgirl from the second lady to wear that cowl, Cassandra Cain. Seemingly born without a clue and constantly getting into trouble, her new role might prove too much for her. But with the help of Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, she just might pull it off. Will she succeed, or will she fail miserably? Only time will tell.

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic I: Remnant
by Sean Williams and Shane Dix
413 p.
With the tide starting to turn in the Yuuzhan Vong war, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa Solo take on different missions away from the frontlines.
Leia, with her husband Han and daughter Jaina, embarks on a journey to restore communications to various star systems that have been cut off from the Galactic Alliance. In the process, they discover a new tactic of the Yuuzhan Vong that could endanger their lives.
Luke, with his wife Mara and nephew Jacen, go on a quest to the Unknown Regions to find the long, lost, living planet Zonama Sekot. On the way, they pay a visit to the Imperial Remnant in order to gain information about the Unknown Regions and Zonama Sekot. Little do they know that the Yuuzhan Vong have also paid a visit to the Imperial Remnant.
And lastly, Jedi Knight Tahiri Veila, who had previously been tortured by the Yuuzhan Vong, begins having nightmares about a creature with her face relentlessly chasing her. Could this be related to what the Yuuzhan Vong have done to her, or is she just going crazy? The action, danger, twists and turns don't let up in this installment of the Star Wars New Jedi Order series.

The Furies of Calderon

Book One of the Codex Alera

by Jim Butcher, 440 pages

Jim Butcher’s other fantasy series is the Codex Alera. This is more traditional fantasy, or high fantasy. Set in the realm of Alera, the story follows several characters, each section written in a different character’s viewpoint.

The setting is the Calderon Valley, a frontier outpost of the realm of Alera. Tavi, a young shepherd, makes what he perceives as a tiny mistake. However, this minor lapse in judgment has grave consequences for the people of the Valley and the realm itself. A hoard of cannibalistic savages is poised to invade Alera. Treachery within the kingdom itself adds even more danger. The future of Alera is poised upon a knife edge (I had to get in a Tolkien reference somewhere!).

Amara, a young Cursor (Messenger) from the First Lord’s Household, is dispatched to the Valley. She and Tavi join forces to try to stop the savages from invading their land. Tavi’s Aunt Isana and Uncle Bernard also fight against the traitors already in the Valley. Even the mountains and storms themselves seem to conspire against the Alerans.

Why I liked it: Butcher creates an interesting world where the people are bonded with “furies”, more commonly called “elementals” in other fantasy lit. Each person’s fury is different, though the elementals do fall into basic categories like wind, water, earth, fire and metal. So a person with a water elemental is called a WaterCrafter, and so on. Like the daemons in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, the furies add another dimension to the characters' personalities.
Caveat: Since Butcher uses multiple viewpoints and storylines, it can be kind of unnerving when he leaves one character in a cliff-hanger situation and moves on to another character. It can be a bit of a wait to find out what happens next.

Bottom line: I would recommend this series to anyone who reads Epic Fantasy (especially if they are still waiting on George R R Martin. Good luck with that). There are six books out in the series at present. While I enjoyed the book, some characters seemed more vivid, and I am glad that many of them will continue on in the series. Butcher lives in Independence, Missouri, so he is a regional author.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Samurai Deeper Kyo: Volume 35-36

by Akimine Kamijyo, 370 pages

Bounty hunter Yuya thinks she may have snagged the wrong guy when she picks up flirty but harmless wandering medicine man Kyoshiro. But when his personality switches to that of a fiery-eyed, crazily-grinning master swordsman when the two are attacked by a third party, she realizes she has the right man, after all. But if the notorious Demon Eyes Kyo is sharing a body with a helpless dope like Kyoshiro, will she still get the reward? Money, however, quickly becomes the least of Yuya's worries, as she's drawn into the complex and deadly mystery of how the two men came to share the same body...and how that dual occupation will ultimately come to an end.

This samurai fantasy action epic is filled with fictionalized historical characters, complex longstanding rivalries, life-or-death fight after life-or-death fight, and more numbered hierarchical groups than you can shake a stick at (if The Four Emperors, The Sanada Ten, The Five Stars, and The Four Elders are more than you can shake a stick at).

Honestly, this 38-volume story probably could have fit into about half the number of books if the author had just trimmed the excessive number of repetitive, over-the-top, formulaic fights (rarely complete without breathless play-by-play from friends and foes on the sidelines). It is all a bit ridiculous, really.

And yet here I am, one bundled volume away from the long-awaited conclusion, having stuck it out despite all my complaining. For this, I blame the characters. For all their posturing and bickering and bellicosity, they still manage to be endearing. Good guys, bad guys, whose-side-are-they-really-on guys--they all have a story. Rash Benitora is a naive sweetheart. Smooth goof Yukimura is secretly a soft-hearted, calculating, wicked-skilled swordsman. And then there's the whole complicated Kyo-Kyoshiro dynamic. After hanging out with everyone for so long and watching their at-first-little family expand and bond, I can't help but want to see them through to the end. It helps, too, that the actual plot is intricate and intriguing enough to make me read through all the chest-pounding and one-upmanship in order to see how it all plays out.

SDK isn't for everyone--and wouldn't normally be for me--but if you don't mind being sucked in for the long haul despite your better judgment, it can't hurt.

Till Death Do Us Bark

Till Death Do Us Bark by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise.

Book 3 in the 43 Old Cemetery Road series.

The Klise sisters have done it again -- paired the fresh and whimsical illustrations of Sarah with the mirthful word play of Kate, culminating in a fun romp with the residents of Ghastly, Illinois, America's favorite ghost town. 43 Old Cemetery Road, also known as Spence Mansion, is home to 11 year-old Seymour Hope, who illustrates the books written by Mr. Grumply, a famous author, and Olive C. Spence, a "ghost" writer. Mr. Grumply and Olive have adopted Seymour, and he's happy living with them. The only thing missing is a dog. And then, Noah Breth, the town's beloved millionaire dies. And the same day, a large Irish wolfhound follows Seymour home from the Ghastly Public Library. But if Seymour is honest with Mr. Grumply and Olive, they will make him return the dog to the Breth mansion. And if he's not honest with them, what kind of son is he? And the only folks at the Breth mansion are Noah's estranged son and daughter, who fight endlessly about who should inherit Noah's estate.

Till Death Do Us Bark features the signature Klise style, with the story unfolding through a series of newspaper articles, letters and other documents, sprinkled throughout with illustrations that bring all the characters to life.

Once the mystery of Noah Breth's missing millions is solved, the residents of Spence Mansion have a new dilemma -- how can they get their serialized novel (titled "43 Old Cemetery Road," of course!) out to the subscribers in a timely manner? The solution involves mailing invitations to their subscribers. Here's where Kate and Sarah pay their respects to SGCL: the invitation addressed to "Subscriber, 4653 South Campbell, Springfield, MO 65810."

SGCL has been immortalized in a novel!

Have fun reading this one and the rest in the 43 Old Cemetary Road series. This one is set to be published in May 2011.

144 pages.

Someone Like You by Susan Mallery 379 p.
Big city lawyer Jill Strathern has come home to collect herself after finding her husband with another woman. Thinking she will just stay with her aunt for a short time until she finds a new job and a new place to live. Then Mac Kendrick her high school heart throb shows up and all bets are off.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman

2010/29 pgs

About the Book: What happens at night? 12 poems explore animals and plant and their nighttime activities.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This book wasn't even on my radar until it won a Newbery Honor and I'm glad it won which forced me to pick it up and read it.

I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of poetry, but Ms. Sidman's poems are very enjoyable. She has a very lyrical style and I can easily see this poems being read aloud to all ages. The illustrations are detailed and done in a linoleum-block printmaking technique that stands out. It gives the illustrations a dark, atmospheric feel and you feel as though you are in the woods with the animals.

I liked that not only are there poems about animals, but the moon, trees, and plants. Accompanying each poem are short factual paragraphs about the subject of each poem. The information is never overwhelming and the author never talks down to the reader.

I would recommend to all ages and for readers of poetry and non-fiction. After devouring this collection of poems, I think it is very deserving on a Newbery Honor!

"Oh No She Didn't: The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them" by Clinton Kelly

Professional stylist and co-host of TLC's What Not to Wear, Clinton Kelly guides the reader through the top 100 style mistakes women make and discusses appropriate ways of remedying each one.
I would wager that of all of the women I know - we have all committed AT LEAST three or four of these fashion faux pas. I found myself laughing out loud throughout the entire book. Kelly's writing style flows very well and each fashion violation is accompanied by a descriptive graphic and a hilarious bit of text. It was a very quick read and it left me inspired to update my wardrobe!

Monday, January 24, 2011

"The Lost Hero" by Rick Riordan

557 pages

I didn't want to get my hopes up about this Percy Jackson sequel series, but I loved it! It's got all the silly humor and exciting action of the original Percy Jackson books, and I think Riordan does a good job of letting us readers know what the original characters are up to as well as introducing us to some very likeable new characters. The ending is clever and has me hooked, ready for the second book ("The Son of Neptune," which comes out this fall). My only complaint is that there is a lot of running around in the middle that was hard for me to follow, but it didn't last very long.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

451 pages

I initially didn't have a lot of interest in "The Help" because it seemed too touchy-feely for me, but I'd heard tons of good things about it. Plus, I felt like I had to be a "good librarian" and read it since there's been so much buzz about it. As I read the first few chapters, it bothered me that the white author was writing a book from a black woman's perspective and making her sound like Mammy from "Gone with the Wind." But the story captured my interest and I soldiered on, and as I read more I found that she uses a lot of different voices for the different characters--including the black characters--which eased my mind a bit. Now I'm so glad that I finished the book! I grew to love the characters; the story kept me guessing; and there were moments of humor as well. Best of all, it really made me think. It's hard to believe that such horrendous prejudice existed such a short time ago, but it's good to remember that so we keep moving forward to a more enlightened way of thinking about race and social class (and gender, for that matter, though that's only very briefly mentioned in the book). A great book to discuss!

"Matched" by Ally Condie

369 pages

I really got into this book at first, but I became more disappointed as I read. The world that serves as the backdrop for the story is not original--it has elements of "The Giver" and other dystopian novels--but it still captured my interest for some reason. In "Matched," The Society is designed to control all aspects of citizens' lives: where they live, what their job is, what they eat, whom they marry, even when they die. This is supposed to enable the Government to create perfect lives for everyone. Cassia is 17 and has just been matched to her best friend, which means they will get married when they turn 21. But then she starts to fall for a different guy who makes her question everything about the Society and the way they operate. Pretty standard plot for a dystopia, with more romantic appeal than usual. It felt a little like "Twilight" to me in the way that Cassia falls hard and fast for Ky and the romance feels kind of shallow at first, but I like her more than Bella because she isn't as overdramatic and seems more sincere. Anyway, I don't think "Matched" lived up to all the buzz that it had going, but I'm definitely interested enough to finish the series.


endgame By: Nancy Garden, 274 pp.

This YA book is sad, scary, and yet good. It is a lot like the real story of Columbine, however it is fiction.
Nancy Garden tells the story from a 14 year old boy's point of view. You really feel sorry for the "bad guy" in this story.
Gray Wilton is a troubled boy and no matter what he does, it seems he cannot get the attention of his father who just doesn't understand or sympathise for Gray.
Gray is picked on in his school by bullies; yet no one seems to bother noticing. Then his father tells him they are to move, and Gray thinks this is going to make things all better for him.
Well, not exactly... His home, school, and kids might be different, but the bullying just starts all over again; and bad turns to worse in this thrilling story of a kid who just can't figure out how to make things better, other than to bring his father's semi-automatic to school one day.

"The Chosen One" by Carol Lynch Williams

The premise:
Thirteen year-old Kyra Leigh lives with her father, three mothers and twenty brothers and sisters on an isolated polygamist compound in the Utah desert. In this community, pleasures of the modern world are seen as directly from Satan, women are completely subservient to men, and everyone is under the direct control of Prophet Childs. When Kyra is "chosen" by God to be a wife to her 60 year-old uncle, she must decide whether to stay on the compound and face a life of abuse or try to escape to an unknown life apart from her family outside the compound in the "real world".

My take:
I can't imagine a much more horrifying thought for a thirteen year old than the threat of being married off to your 60 year old uncle - especially at an age when sexual confusion is at an all-time high and self-esteem at an all time low. What Kyra endures is abuse, plain and simple, and she is faced with a decision that any girl her age may one day face - stay or escape. She is a highly realistic and relatable character for young adults and serves as an excellent role model to a reader who may be facing a similar situation.
To a reader unfamiliar with the polygamist underground, this story would easily read like complete fiction and wouldn't have the same impact as it does on those who know the historical context. It's important to the story that the reader know that Kyra's situation is a reality for a lot of young women. I wish there had been an addendum to the text that spoke of this for the sake of the reader.
Overall, I enjoyed being along for the ride as Kyra came to realize she was being mistreated and decides to do something about it. Definitely a worthy contender for the Gateway Award.

Favorite passage:
(Kyra, speaking of her secret trips to the bookmobile) "But oh, how my life changed with his stopping. My life changed when I started reading. I was different with these sinful words."

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

2011 (out in April)/128 pgs.

About the Book: Lost & Found is a compilation of three previous Shaun Tan stories, The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, and The Rabbits, that were previously released in limited release.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: The three stories collected here are a perfect example of Shaun Tan's creative (and sometimes a bit odd) artwork and storytelling style. The obscure creatures and world that Shaun Tan's characters live in is like a darker Dr. Seuss. The drawings are intricit and even though the text itself is easy to breeze through, you want to spend your time taking in the details on each page.

The first story, The Red Tree, almost reads like an inspirational story, ala The Blue Day Book. While this might be a turn off for some readers, the artwork is what makes this story stand apart. Although there's an inspirational point to the story, it never gets too sappy or preachy and instead feels a bit more bittersweet.

The Lost Thing is my favorite entry in this collection. We hear a story about the day a young man found a lost thing and what he does with it. In some ways it reminded me of what would happen if Pixar teamed up with David Wiesner. Again, this one has a moral to the story, but it's subtle and it leaves the reader with lots to think about.

The Rabbits (written with John Marsden) is a history lesson on imperialisim with rabbits. This is one I can see being used in classrooms and I think it would work with a 5th grade and up audience, where I think the other two stories might be a bit lost on readers that young.

A great collection of three fantastic tales. I would recommend Lost and Found to those who might be a little shy to pick up a graphic novel as the format and stories are a introduction into the genre.

Black Cat: Volume 14: Alliance

by Kentaro Yabuki, 182 pages

In order to take advantage of information sharing, Train and his gang pass a rather silly recruitment "test" and join up with a loose alliance of other sweepers dedicated to capturing Creed. The intel on the villain's location is proved accurate, but not in a pleasant way, as the sweepers' numbers are quickly reduced.

This may be a fluffy series, but it's a fluffy series with some sharp, prickly bits that pop out and remind you why it has an "older teen" rating. The bad guys are not nice.

Black Cat: Volume 13: Dear Friend

by Kentaro Yabuki, 192 pages

Train finally sits down and tells his partners Sven and Eve about his history with Creed and the friend, Saya, he lost to the madman's twisted logic. Deciding Creed's just too dangerous to avoid any longer, the three sweepers vow to track him down and bring him to justice.

It's good to see that Train has grown up enough to no longer desire to carry out that justice himself. He's not an eraser anymore. And besides, bloodlust is exactly what Creed is desperate to see in Train's eyes again. I don't think it would bother the baddie terribly to know it was directed at him, either, loony evil person that he is.

The Boys by Jeff Newman


About the Book: A new boy has moved to town, but he's too shy to join in the baseball game.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I love this little picture book! It's a wordless picture book (the only words are the days of the week) and it's the story of one boy's week and his desire to play baseball in his new town.

The illustrations are cute, although at times felt a bit undone. (There's a bird on one page that appears to missing a head!) The storyline may be a bit hard for younger kids to follow, but with the help of adult guiding them, I think they would enjoy it. I'm not sure if kids would get the humor as much as kids, but I found it hilarious!

The whole book reminded me of a Pixar short. Definitely worth looking at.

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon


About the Book: Five vignettes tell background stories on Penny, Captain Hammer, Moist, the ELE, and of course, Dr. Horrible.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I am obsessed with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog. The songs are pretty much in a constant loop in my head, I watch the DVD on a regular basis, and as any devoted fan, I will take any bit of Dr. Horrible I can get until Joss Whedon hopefully decides to bring us more. So of course, I had to check out the Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories comic.

The stories are perfect for fans. Since they are written by Zack Whedon, who was also one of the writers of the webisodes, so I trusted he could give us some fun insight into these characters. We get a look at Captain Hammer and his view on heroes (Captain Hammer: Be Like Me!), some background info on Moist (Moist: Humidity Rising), and a look into Penny's life before that fateful day with the van (Penny: Keep Your Head Up). While these three comics were good and I enjoyed reading about the characters, there were two comics that stood out and had the feel of the web series.

Dr. Horrible starts with an early look at Billy as a child and gives us a glimpse at what might have sparked his interest in supervillinay. It also gives us an early encounter between Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer and goes well with the series as it sets up Captain Hammer as Dr. Horrible's nemesis.

The story about the ELE (The Evil League of Evil) was my favorite of the collection. The league characters cracked me up and I thought the story was full of the quick-witted jokes that are one of the reasons I love Dr. Horrible in the first place. This story is worth picking up the collection for!

Overall the stories go well with the web series and it's a great addition for Dr. Horrible fans. While the artwork at times isn't my favorite, the stories make up for it. If only it too came with a soundtrack, the comics would be perfect! Highly recommend to any Dr. Horrible fan and will leave you wanting more Dr. Horrible. Please Joss, give us more?

Sarah's Child by Linda Howard 335 p.
Rome Matthews is struggling with the loss of his wife and two little boys in a tragic car accident. Can Sarah Harper, his wife's best friend help him through this crisis. And should she tell him, she has been in love with him for years. This all makes for a heart wrenching love story.
The Hate List by Jennifer Brown, 407 p.
In light of recent shootings and the rise of bullying in schools, this is an interesting look at the struggles that teens face, but also questions how each of us perceive the world and our place in it. Brown doesn't give any easy answers or lay blame, but points to the need for communication, compassion and forgiveness to begin the healing process.

The book begins after a shooting at Garvin High School perpetrated by 16 year old Nick Levil. Told through the eyes of the shooter's girlfriend, Valerie. Through a series of flashbacks we experience her past and current struggles to not only move past the horrendous act, but also to come to grips with the realization that Nick, the boy she thought she knew could become this monster everyone now despises. The interesting twist is that Valerie is seen as a possible accomplice due to the hate list that she and Nick created of all the people who were mean and cruel to them in high school. Although she dove in front of Nick, getting shot herself in order to stop the shooting spree, even Valerie's parents doubt her innocence in the affair. As Valerie struggles to return to school and pick up the pieces of her life, she begins to wonder herself. How could she not have know what Nick was planning?

Brown's book is an amazing look at a sensitive subject. When does teasing cross the line to bullying? Who in high school hasn't been made fun of or laughed at? Why does it roll off some and not others? What responsibility does each of us have to ourselves and to each other as we all struggle to fit in? This book is compelling enough to force you to continue reading but it also has the substance to make you think how things could have and should have been different.

Mackenzie's Mountain by Linda Howard 375 p.
Old maid school teacher Mary Potter thinks she will persuade Wolf Mackenzie to let his son return to school. Little does she know that this missison will change her life forever. She and Wolf fall hard for each other. But, the town's prejudice against Wolf's indian blood and his past conviction for something he didn't do cause all kinds of trouble.

Call Me Irresistible

by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, 387 pages

Meg Koranda is only doing what's best for her friend, Lucy, when she convinces her not to marry Wynette, Texas's golden boy Ted Beaudine.  Unfortunately, the town along with the families of both the bride and groom don't quite see it that way.  She'd like to be out of town fast, but a promise to Lucy keeps her around for a few days... not to mention the fact that she's completely broke and out of options.

Phillips is always great with the romantic comedy.  Meg is about at rock bottom, and it's amusing to watch her struggle to pick herself up and make a life for herself.  She doesn't let the hatred of the entire town get her down, and she's not cowed by an angry Ted Beaudine.  Phillips is fond of bringing back characters from previous novels, and in this one, her fictional name dropping gets a bit distracting, but the core story is worth a read.


by Ally Condie, 369 pages

Cassia lives in a society where every decision is made for her from what she eats to the person she will marry to when she will die.  The system is perfect, so she doesn't question it until a technical glitch from her Match card throws her life into chaos. 

This was one I had to stay up late to finish.  The story was compelling from the beginning.  Condie creates a rigid world where characters have little room to break the rules or make any choices for themselves.  She raises questions about the value of free will and the ability to create.  I'm recommending this one to anyone who will  listen with the warning that the end will leave you waiting for the sequel.

Baron: The Cat Returns

by Aoi Hiiragi, 213 pages

Haru is having a bad day. But after she saves a cat from getting hit by a car, her life just gets plain weird. Her school is suddenly surrounded by fields of cattails. Boxes of canned mice are delivered to her house. And the air is heavy with catnip. And then there's the whole being engaged to the King of Cats' son....

With help from new friends Baron (a dapper cat doll come to life) and Muto (a cat as grumpy as he is plump) and others, Haru tries to convince the hilariously lazy and single-minded King of Cats to let her out of the last part of her "reward" before it's too late and she's trapped in the Kingdom of Cats forever.

This cute, funny all-ages manga was also made into an animated film (The Cat Returns) in 2002.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dick and Jane and Vampires

Dick and Jane and Vampires by Laura Marchesani. 144 pages.
See publisher. See publisher watch market for vampires explode. See publisher see niche for retro added to vampires. See publisher uncover old illustrations of Dick and Jane and add poorly illustrated vampire.
It's hard to say who the audience is for this campy book; the reading level is definitely for new readers, ages 5 or 6, but the humor and creepiness are definitely for an older audience. This will appeal to folks who also love the takes on classics featuring zombies, vampires and sea monsters.
In my efforts to learn more about this author, I found that in addition to writing Dick and Jane books, she has also authored such masterpieces as My Little Pony Easter Celebration Sticker Book and Fisher Price All About My Day Baby's First Scrapbook.

Real: Volume 5

by Takehiko Inoue, 210 pages

Three lives linked by tragedy and basketball.

Hapless delinquent Tomomi Nomiya drops out of high school following a motorcycle accident from which he walked away but which left his passenger without the use of her legs. Never more than a mediocre student with a love of basketball, now he finds himself unemployed, directionless, and incapacitated by guilt. But when he stumbles upon a wheelchair basketball practice, he's inspired to challenge one of the players and maybe start facing his own demons.

Togawa Kiyoharu, once a star sprinter, has lost one of his legs below the knee due to a bone disease and is now trying to learn to love wheelchair basketball the way he once loved running. The pressure he puts on himself and his teammates is high, but so are the goals he's aiming for.

Takahashi Hisanobu is a popular student, top of his class, and captain of the basketball team. When an accident leaves him paralyzed from the chest down, he loses his identity and his faith in himself. Always a harsh judge of others, he turns his scathing criticism inward and is demoralized by what he sees. If he's going to face his physical hurdles head-on, he'll have to overcome his emotional ones first.

Strong character development is the heart and soul of this series. As the three young men deal with their pasts, presents, and as-yet-unknown futures, they have to dig deep to find the determination and confidence to move forward and to recognize and hold onto people they can trust, be they family, friends, physicians, or each other.

This is not a soft-edged, sugar-coated after-school special. These characters' lives and struggles are realistic and hard. They cry, they swear, they throw punches. The scenes of Hisanobu's grueling, humiliating physical therapy sessions are painful to witness. When Nomiya pushes through his debilitating fear to finally get his driver's license, you want to cheer. I've lost count of the number of times this series has made me cry. Luckily, there's also a healthy dose of humor (much of it thanks to earnest Nomiya's tactless honesty). And Inoue's expressive art is as realistic and affecting as the stories it conveys, with or without words.

A sportswriter and basketball fanatic, Inoue has written about the game before (in the long-running, teen action / comedy Slam Dunk), but here the sport takes backseat to the complex interior lives of the characters who love it and need it.

Real won an Excellence Prize at the 2001 Japan Media Arts Festival. The judges' citation stated that although they gave Inoue the award, what they really wanted was the next book. It's good. Read it.