Saturday, February 12, 2011


by Jane Austen
(1815 | 268 p)

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."

It has been Emma Woodhouse's distinct privilege to live twenty years with all the high society that her modest village home can provide. From the outset we learn that Miss Woodhouse has no faults other than her sincere conviction that she is, in fact, without a fault. Coddled her entire life by a doting and hypochondriacal father and an ever loving but soft governess -- Miss Woodhouse has little knowledge of anything other than her own perfection. The only exception to this is the critical eye of Mr. Knightley, a family friend whose remonstrations are an ongoing irritation in our heroine's otherwise peaceful existence.

Being a woman of some leisure, Miss Woodhouse decides to pass her time by orchestrating the romantic lives of her friends. Unfortunately for her friends, Miss Woodhouse proves to be a pitiful matchmaker. She is so unaccustomed to failing at any endeavor that she stubbornly tries again and again before eventually seeing the error of her ways.

Jane Austen's works appeal to different people for many different reasons. I find myself attracted to her depictions of daily life in England during the early 19th century. The characters in her story live such simple lives compared to the hustle and bustle of the modern world, but still they resonate with me. I'm also forever amused by the sarcasm of Jane Austen. While the surface of her stories may be all innocence, the undercurrents are thick with sardonic wit. Without being preachy Jane Austen pokes fun at the social norms of her day, many of which left women no actual control over their own lives.

If you've not tried Jane Austen yet, please do. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

P.S. It's certainly not necessary but it's heaps more fun if you read her books with an English accent.

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

2010/192 pgs.

About the Book: In order to save their island schoolhouse, families on Bethsaida Island decide to take in foster children. Tess couldn't be more excited-she's hoping her new foster brother will be like Anne of Green Gables and love the island and her family and want to go out on the fishing boat with her. But when Aaron arrives the only thing he has in common with Anne is red hair. Aaron doesn't like the island, he knows nothing about fishing boats, and most days he just wants to be left alone.

But Tess knows a lot about wishing and maybe with more wishing things will turn out the way Tess had hoped.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I was a big fan of Cynthia Lord's debut novel, Rules, so I had high hopes for Touch Blue. While I don't think it's as good as Rules, I still really enjoyed it and I think Ms. Lord is a fantastic storyteller.

I felt like Ms. Lord had looked into my childhood and wrote this book. I was never as superstitious as Tess, but I did my fair share of wishing and coming up with my own ways to figure out if something would work out the way I wanted. Tess's hopes for her foster brother are exactly what I had hoped for as a child. It wasn't until I was older that my family actually started doing foster care, but we talked about it frequently and her hopes of how her new family would be echoed mine own at that age.

Tess has a great voice and she's a humorous and wise narrator. I listended to this one on audio and there are times I think middle grade books can be hard to listen to because the narrator sounds too old for the character. But Erin Moon does a great job bringing Tess to life and her voice is perfect.

At first I felt like things would be a little too perfect and while the story wraps up a little too nicely than I think might be realistic, it's still a great story of family, hope, and growing up.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

2010/293 pgs.
About the Book: Eleven-year-old Kimberly Chang and her mother are brought to America by Kimberly's Aunt Paula. The transition from Hong Kong to American life is a long and frustrating road. Kimberly picks up on English quickly and adapts to American life easier than her mother. She begins to excel in school and is soon awarded a scholarship to a private school.
Kimberly struggles with excelling in school but constantly being an outsider. She and her mother owe a debt to Aunt Paula for bringing them to America and they work in the skirt factory that Aunt Paula and Uncle Bob run and are barely able to make ends meet. They live in a terrible apartment with roaches and no heat. Kimberly tries to make a better life for herself and her mother by doing well in school. But her feelings for a fellow factory worker named Matt may threaten her future and Kimberly must decide what exactly her future holds.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I don't read a lot of literary fiction, but I was interested in Girl in Translation because it was on the 2011 Alex Awards list. Although an adult title most of the book is spent with Kimberly during her teen years, and I think the coming of age story will hold a lot of teen appeal.
Kimberly is an engaging narrator and her struggles to adapt to life in America are heartbreaking. She's often an outsider and never quite fits in because of her clothes and race and her brain. But she doesn't take things laying down and she fights for herself in her new life which makes you want to cheer her on even more.
The author straddles Kimberly's dual identity skilfully and we see both sides of Kimberly-the shy smart girl at school who wants to rebel a bit and become more American and the girl at home who works in the factory, speaks Chinese, and struggles to hide her living conditions and work life. There is romance with Matt, but this is not a romance-while it's central to the plot, this is a very layered story and the focus is much more on Kimberly and her coming of age and success in school than anything else. The author does a great job of including Chinese sayings but explaining them so they weave into the story without feeling a bit jarring.
Overall the story is heartbreaking and bittersweet. I think this would make a great book club pick. I highly recommend it.
Audiobook note: Early on, as Kimberly is still learning English, the author uses misspellings to show Kimberly's misunderstandings of the language. It took me awhile to understand that since I listened to it on CD. But once I got the print copy it made more sense-the misspellings didn't come through on audio. Other than that, the book is beautiful on audio.

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

Hi everybody.  I just finished this one and it's not too bad.  Kind of like Groundhog Day for kids.  Leo and Amanda are reliving their 11th birthday, over and over again, and they don't know why until they talk to a mysterious little white-haired lady.  Find out if they ever live to see another Saturday in this 2011-2012 Mark Twain Nominee.  It's a quick read and a pretty good story.
Kim F

book jacket

I Love Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style

by Amanda Brooks
288 pages

I admit it. I love fashion books. I don't admit this to my intellectually-inclined boyfriend. We are currently reading Anna K. together. I don't tell him that I sneak home fashion books. Um, I don't have to sneak them home since he lives in Oregon. Hmm. What will happen when we live together??

I read about this book on a blog. The author was recently named the new fashion director at Barneys New York, which the blogger described as a bit of a scandal since she was seen as more of a socialite than a serious figure in the industry. Brooks' credentials include a "career" as a "muse" at fashion house Tuleh. The book's chapters each start out with a bit of fashion history from Brooks. She grew up in Palm Springs and tried out all the fashion trends, from preppy to bohemian to street to ecclectic. I dunno...I didn't really see how a 9-year-old Brooks in a backwards baseball cap exactly made her a expert in street style. I didn't really enjoy any of Brooks' personal style anecdotes. What I did enjoy was the great photos of other people she used to illustrate the different styles. Gorgeous pictures of Diane von Furstenberg, Barbara Streisand, Cher, Ali MacGraw, and Mick Jagger (in women's clothes!) spark inspiration. Brooks does a great job of showing how a photo from, say, the '30s, still looks modern today. There are also some chapters devoted to shopping and getting the looks on a budget.

All in all, it's a decent fashion book. Thanks for letting me share my secret obsession here.

Skinny Dip

by Carl Hiassen, 2004, 355 p.

Let me start by stating my disdain for mysteries. If I have to read one more description about a disgruntled reporter/lawyer/detective drinking stale coffee, talking about how they live in squalor because they just don't care, then bagging the "hot broad" that came begging for help, I will turn in my library card.

Thankfully, there is none of that with Mr. Hiaasen, whose personal story is just as interesting as the tales he weaves. Hiaasen masterfully tells the story of Joey, who has just been pushed off a cruise ship by her darling husband, Chaz. And really, things can only get better from there. Joey and a cast of eccentric Floridians weave a humorous tale of adultery, snark, revenge, love, pollution, drugs and a well-placed shamrock...

"Dexter By Design" by Jeff Lindsay

285 pages

This is the fourth book about Dexter Morgan, the somehow-lovable psychopath made famous on Showtime's popular "Dexter" series. In case you've missed it, the basic premise is that Dexter's "Dark Passenger" compels him to kill, but his late father taught him to go after only fellow murderers who have escaped justice. In this particular story, a serial killer is running around Miami creating art with dead bodies and leaving them in public. Of course, Dexter finds himself getting involved and before he knows it, the "artist" is after him--and, even worse, the killer has solid evidence to incriminate Dexter of his favorite nighttime activities.

I've thoroughly enjoyed all of the Dexter novels so far, and this one was no exception. Dexter's dark sense of humor cracks me up, and his narration has me smiling or laughing on every page. I think it's interesting to get into the mind of a psychopath and even more fascinating to discover that I actually like him. My only complaint is that the ending is too rushed and wrapped up too neatly, which is how I felt about the first two books in the series as well.

Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories

by Garth Nix, 305 pages

First off, if you are a lover of fantasy fiction, go read Nix's excellent Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen (if you haven't already). Then you'll be safe picking up this collection, the first story of which is a novella-sized follow-up to the Abhorsen trilogy (the ending of which you DO NOT WANT to spoil). Ignore the cheesy cover art and enjoy!

When I picked this up, it was purely to extend my Abhorsen fix, which the first tale successfully does (almost too much so, as now I want to read still more about the Perimeter and the mysterious kingdom across the Wall, and there doesn't appear to be much else out there...yet?). But I'd no idea what to expect from the rest of the book. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the "other stories" here are all "across the wall" in one way or another in that they each have a fantasy element, whether just a hint or a steeping, and are a fascinating hodge-podge of pieces the author has published in journals and genre collections over the years. Among them, there are two original takes on secondary characters (the Lady of the Lake and Nimue) from Arthurian legend, a modern-day retelling of "Hansel and Gretel", a story written to call attention to the effects of war on children, a supernatural alternate history western, a tale sprung from the author's obsession with lightning, a "science fantasy" piece about a greedy man who thinks he's bought an island, and, of all things, a "choose your own adventure" spoof that had me flipping pages back and forth, snickering, to make sure I'd read every possible option (and even the impossible ones). Nix provides an introduction to each piece, describing its origins in his imagination and why and where it was first published.

If you're just looking for more of the Old Kingdom, you may be sad that it's represented in only one selection here. But if you'd like more time with and insight into Nix's crazy creative brain, then I don't think you'll be disappointed for long.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Set to Sea by Drew Weing

I am both baffled and enchanted by this little graphic novel. Set to Sea is the story of gentle giant who is also a poet. Kicked out of the tavern for being unable to pay his bar tab, he wanders the streets staring longingly into bookstores and libraries as he tries to write the words in his heart. Unfortunately, the beer catches up and he falls asleep on the pier only to wake up on a ship headed to Hong Kong.  Oh, and then the pirates attack!

I could give you the whole plot line but you’d think I was mad. The drawings are deceptively simple and the text minimal. Instead, his story grows on you like any good fable, long after you’ve turned the last page.  We are all complicated creatures often moved into cathartic change by volatile events in life. Our gentle, poet giant is no exception.  2010, 144 pages.

Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle: Volume 18

by CLAMP, 184 pages

The weary companions sit tight as Yûko finally reveals some big secrets regarding the one responsible for their individual and shared plights, but she can't tell them why without breaking the rules of interference (in the workings of fate, the universe, what have you). And soon they are moving on to the next world, still gathering memory feathers, but with the new purpose of chasing after one of their own who has gone on before them, as the battle between fate and free will begins in earnest.

Everyone's emotions are stretched tight and in confusion and I just want to reach in and give them all hugs. I love the dramatic turn events have taken and can't wait to see how the personal and group dynamics change with their altered circumstances.

X/1999: Volume 1: Prelude

by CLAMP, 190 pages

Brother and sister Fuma and Kotori are surprised and happy when they find out their childhood friend Kamui, whom they haven't seen in six years, has transferred to their high school. But when Kotori goes to greet him, he coldly tells her to stay away from him and never speak to him again. Then, on the way home from school, Fuma finds Kamui gravely injured, but just as surly, in the abandoned lot where the boy's house once stood. What's going on? And who are all these seers and magic-users with their eyes on Kamui? Prophecy, destiny, and free will look like they're going to clash in the days ahead, and the fate of the earth itself could hang in the balance.

I'm finding that reading CLAMP's manga is a little like when I was reading Marvel comics, where continuity across titles is important and characters clearly occupy the same universe(s) while their individual stories stand on their own. That consistency in the background and world-building is comforting and makes each new title feel like a familiar old friend from the first page--which is helpful when the present story looks like it's going to be a dark one. X/1999's first volume predates Tsubasa's and XxxHolic's by over a decade, but even with the older style and story content, I'm looking forward to recognizing its influence elsewhere, as well as seeing where it goes in its own right.

XxxHolic: Volume 1

by CLAMP, 185 pages

When unhappy spirit-magnet Watanuki's legs carry him into beautiful Yûko's wish-granting shop, the young man just wants to turn right back around and leave. But his legs, and apparently fate, have other ideas and before he knows it, he's made a wish...and agreed to pay its price. Now he's got to work for Yûko until his efforts are equal to the cost of his wish. In the meantime, he has to cook, clean, and help this weird woman who invades everyone's personal space--physical and psychological--as she runs her shop and goes about her own mysterious business.

In just this first volume, the creators set up a rich, complex tale and intriguing characters, even without the title's crossover elements with Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. What's the story with Watanuki's mentioned but as yet unseen home life? And does Yûko have a personal agenda, in addition to helping her regular clients? Strange and mystical artifacts from who knows how many worlds spill over every surface in her tapestry-draped, fragrant smoke-filled shop, and the reader feels, even if she hasn't read other CLAMP titles, that each item has a story.

Coolness. More, please. :)

InuYahsa: Volume 44

by Rumiko Takahashi, 186 pages

High school girl Kagome gets dragged down a well at her family's Shinto shrine and is transported back in time to ancient Japan. There she learns she's the reincarnation of a powerful priestess, frees a temperamental dog-eared boy pinned to a tree by an arrow (originally shot by the same priestess), and witnesses the shattering of a dangerously powerful magical jewel. Kagome teams up with the dog boy (a half-demon named InuYasha with a chip on his shoulder) and a handful of friends they meet along the way in order to recover all the scattered fragments of the Shikon jewel before they fall into the hands of evil-doers.

In this volume, InuYasha trains to master his demon sword Tetsusaiga's new powers as Naraku, creeptastic nemesis to all, schemes to get the jewel shards from good-hearted wolf-demon Koga's legs.

InuYasha is a sprawling historical fantasy with a little of everything, from silly slapstick to tragic drama. Twelve books from the end, and I'm not bored yet. Some volumes are more integral to the story and character progression than others, but they all have a role in the larger tale and manage not to feel like filler. Takahashi's artwork is cartoonish and her character designs are somewhat limited (switch out the hair and you might get another character), but her style quickly becomes part of the story's flavor and the characters' unique personalities make it impossible to mix them up. I look forward to seeing how this classic motley crew fulfills its quest to save the world.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

“My love is hot!” The words burst from her. “It’s a burning thing. It boils and churns and runs deep and strong. But all your emotions are cool and spare. You stand on the sidelines where you don’t have to sweat too much. Well, I’m not neat. I’m messy and wild and disruptive, and you have broken by heart.”

So, I threw out a challenge to our book competition in February to read romances which means…drumroll please…I have to read some romances.  First up, Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Meg travels to Wynette, Texas for her best friends wedding to the own’s perfect son. Being there only a few hours she sees what no one else is willing to see-Lucy shouldn’t be marrying Ted.  When Lucy finally agrees she leaves Ted at the altar and flees town.  Meg, who is penniless and jobless is forced to stay behind and face the wrath of a small town who feels like it is all her fault the marriage of the century never happened.  Ted doesn’t make her life any easier but will the mutual animosity grow into something more?

What I like about Susan Elizabeth Phillips is she makes me laugh. Usually, the situations are far out of the realm of possibility for most readers-movie stars, models and football players. But, with each of her characters their humanity and flaws ring through with such familiarity and often bring hilarious results. The language is faithful to the romance genre without being completely over the top. The heroines are fiery, feisty and through the story learn that sometimes the best thing you can do is just lay it all on the line. Sometimes, that is just the kind of book you need to read. 2011, 385 pages.

Oh No She Didn't by Clinton Kelly

Who doesn’t love fashion does and don’t from your best gay friend? What? You don’t have one? Read this book!  Clinton Kelly, best known from the TLC show What Not to Wear, dishes out the top 100 style mistakes women make and how to avoid them. What makes the book fun to read is his funny, sarcastic and down right brutal tone about, well, everything. Grab a cocktail, learn a little(or much my dear librarians) and laugh a lot. 2010, 210 pages.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls

by Steve Hockensmith, 287 pages

In the small town of Meryton, Hertfordshire, people begin to panic as dreadfuls begin to arrive. The only hope for the town is the Bennet Family. Oscar Bennet begins to training is five daugthers to fight the dreadfuls. The town considers this very unlady-like behavior and thinks they are strange. Elizabeth Bennet, one of the main characters is transformed from a naive young girl into a slayer of the undead. On her journey she gains the affection of two men:  Master Hawkswork, a strong warrior and Dr. Keckilpenny, a scientist.

I decided to read this book, because zombies seem to be becoming a popular theme for books, so I wanted to see if they were any good. I found that this book exceeded my expectations and I would suggest other people to read it. There is romance, action, and comedy provided in this book and some really good illustrations.

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff

“I’m always putting pressure on myself, trying to prove myself, be smarter, or thinner, or cooler. When you’re fat, that just comes with the territory. You walk through the door like Babar the Elephant, you have a lot of ground to make up for it.”"

Andy has trouble fitting in-in high school, in his jeans and he sure as heck isn’t making a good impression on the girl of his dreams being the second fattest kid around.  When he finds himself unexpectedly on the football team his dreams of popularity-and the girl-seem closer than ever.

Another addition into the fat lit club for teens but what I took away from this book was the true to life emotions Andy goes through being a fat kid in an unforgiving world. He’s funny even as he’s shoveling in food because it’s the only thing that will make his brain turn off. He’s desperate for something to change and his internal struggle to make this happen is the core of the novel. The emotions run the gamut which makes the books pace and tone uneven. While this bothered me while reading, upon reflection I decided it added a realism to the story that otherwise might be missing. 2009, 311 pages.

Are You Somebody?

by Nuala O'Faolain
p. 215

The sub title to this amazing story is " the Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman."
Capturing the same cold, soggy, dismal tone as Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes"
Nuala O'Faolain revisits her childhood growing up in a poverty stricken family of 9 children in the 1940's. Her father was mostly absent, her mother an alcoholic, Nual
a was left to fend for herself in a culture and era where women were abused and ignored, their life goal only to be married and thus not be alone in such a hostile environment. The institutions that could have saved her, in fact perpetrated much of the abuse; the Catholic church, the Irish School System, and even the government that was torn between the North and South.
The author finds her escape in literature at an early age and uses it throughout her life to keep her fed emotionally, spiritually and physically. Yet it is her deep connection to literary works that I found the biggest barrier in reading her story.
Authors she loved, many of whom she knew personally, monumental epics, poetry,
even her deep abide for classical music kept me at arms length. It was like name dropping only I didn't know the names or their importance to the world. As a producer for the BBC she traveled the world, but I knew little of the places she visited that moved and inspired her. I felt myself skimming over the paragraphs filled with too much detail of things I didn't understand.
The style of her writing was also at times difficult to read. Long meandering paragraphs, followed by one or two word sentences made it difficult to capture the flow of her beautiful Irish lilt. I wanted to scream at times with frustration..."translate please!"
Yet there was something about her woeful tale, her insight gained through such a personal journey, the inherent beauty of her words that kept me going. People write
their memoirs for many different reasons, but there is usually a cathartic effect that takes place as they struggle to understand their own life. For Nuala O'Faolain her journey led her to forgiveness and love. In the last few chapters she fully comprehends how her "accidental memoir" needed to be told. She was not alone in the world.
ult at times, but definitely worth the effort. Excellent discussion book!!!!
She de
serves a Rock, Chalk, Jay (but not the Hawk...sorry Nuala. It just didn't make my final cut).

Getting Organized in the Google Era

by Douglas C Merrill

If "getting organized" makes your News Years resolution list every year, this might be a book worth checking out.
Douglas C Merrill, former chief information office of Google puts together a useful, contemporary guide for organizing our lives with all of today's useful (and sometimes overwhelming) technology. Naturally it stands to reason that someone with Mr Merrills qualifications would be an expert in all the technological gadgets at our disposal t
o keep us on track, on time, on course. He unashamedly admits to using Google as the prime example because during the time he spent with that company the employees were "expected to eat their own dog food." Yet he continues using many of their programs today because they fit his particular needs in keeping organized. Best of all he gives many different options for achieving your own specific organizational goals.
I am not a "techie." Never will be on the cutting edge of anything, much less technology. But this books offers insight and direction in the constant search for organization. Filing has been replaced by filtering, and the way we filter all the information that is now at our finger tips is the key to using it properly and most effectively.
In addition, he has a fresh and engaging approach to the genre of "self help" books. He uses a very conversational and at times "cheeky" tone in his writing that I loved. He "encodes" basic concepts he describes at the end of each chapter. Best of all the book is full of wonderful quotes to illustrate points - all taken from popular song lyrics......who knew Coldplay could be so relevant!

So this year I might actually get closer to my New Years Resolution! I'll give the books a Rock, Chalk, Jay!!!

Touch of Fire by Linda Howard 312 p.
When Rafe McCay and Dr. Annie Parker meet up, things begin to happen. Neither of them were looking for love, but that is what comes of their most unlikely relationship.

The Duke's Night of Sin

By Kathryn Caskie 345 pages

Ahhh...romance.  This is a genre that is not ashamed of an implausible premise.  Take for instance, the idea of seven misunderstood siblings unfairly labelled by society as the seven deadly sins.  As a defense mechanism, each sibling agrees to embrace a sin, a plan which works well until their father, disgusted with their behavior, decides to cut them off unless they reform.

Meet Siusan Sinclair, also known as Sloth.  Afraid of being found out after a tryst with the Duke of Exeter, she runs away to be a teacher at a girl's school in Bath.  Siusan soon finds that teaching agrees with her, but her position comes with the peril of keeping secrets from everyone at the school, and most especially from one of her student's handsome guardian.

This is an entertaining story sure to appeal to historical romance fans with a good suspension of disbelief.  Fans may want to pick up the two previous novels in this series which are already in print.

What Happens in London

by Julia Quinn, 372 pages

Jenny already reviewed this, but I haven't read her review yet. So I will dive in on my own...

A Regency historical, What Happens in London brings together ex-soldier Sir Harry Valentine and his new nosy neighbor, Lady Olivia Bevelstoke. Sir Harry is a reluctant "intelligencer" (as Diana Gabaldon would say) so Olivia can't help wondering what the notorious man is up to in his study every day. What on earth is so absorbing about those piles of documents? Surely the man is up to something. And what about the bizarre hat he sometimes wears?

When Sir Harry catches Lady Olivia in the act of spying on him, he's justifiably annoyed. The two have a "cute meet" at a Regency party, and the sparks start to fly. What follows is an intricate dance of outrage, suspicion and intrigue. This is a romance, after all, so of course the couple reluctantly fall in love with each other despite their better judgment.

Malicious forces put the couple through heart-pounding danger. Can the new lovers survive brutish kidnappers, or worse: the disapproval of the ton?

While the plot was mostly predictable, Julia Quinn adds enough quirkiness and whimsy to her characters to make them likeable. Ms. Quinn also gently pokes fun at the Regency taste for outrageously bad Gothic novels. All in all, I found the story to be light, funny and entertaining. I would definitely pick up another of her historical romances when I am looking for romance, humor and a dash of adventure.

My only caveat: I don't think Ms Quinn ever explained the hat. Did anyone else figure out what that was all about?

When Beauty Tamed the Beast

by Eloisa James 374 pages

Linnet Berry Thrynne is a beauty whose sudden loss of reputation leaves her without marital prospects.  Before she can mourn her new status, she is packed off to Wales with instructions to woo Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant and a veritable beast.  Piers is happy with his bachelor doctor status and in no mood to change it.  Until Linnet's arrival turns his world upside down.

Eloisa James is one of my favorites for historical romance.  She mixes smart, unconventional characters with witty dialogue and sharp historical details.  That being said- this book is clearly a Ode to Fox's House. (see the author's note if you don't believe me!)  Since I share this TV crush, I'm willing to forgive James for borrowing a few character traits.  If you're looking for a fun romance, give this one a try.

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff

One word-awesome!  The book had a slow start for me but by the end, I was rooting for Andy, the hero of the story.  This is an honest look at high school, family and being a fat kid but it isn't preachy, cheesy or fake.  It's a Gateway Nominee for 2011-2012 and I definitely think it's a contender.
Here's a bit about the story:  Andy is fat.  A sophomore in high school, he weighs 307 pounds.  His mother is a caterer-hello, easy access to fabulous food.  His parents are getting divorced, his dad had an affair, his sister might be developing an eating disorder of her own and he's not the most popular kid in school.  Then something happens that changes Andy's prospects, and then something else happens that nearly ruins them, and then he decides for himself if he even wants what's been offered and in the end...well, there's a girl at the end.  Read this book!
pp 311
Kim F

Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck


About the Book: Kerry is a sophomore who feels invisible. When the most popular girls in school recruit Kerry to join their group, she'd ecstatic-she finally feels like she belongs. But the popular crowd aren't exactly what they appear to be-and staying popular may take more than Kerry is ready for.

Sarah Teenlibrarian says: It's hard to really review this book because saying too much will give away the spoilers-and it's a fairly short book, you don't want any spoilers or it ruins the whole thing.

I was a bit disappointed in this book. I didn't think the characters were that well fleshed out. We don't really know why the popular girls pick Kerry, we can guess it's because she's easily manipulated, though I don't think that will be clear to younger readers. We also don't really see Kerry interacting with her new friends all that much so it's not always clear why exactly she wants to be friends with them-other than they're popular, which for me, wasn't enough character development.

The twist is creepy but it takes awhile to get the full explanation and when we do it's a bit rushed and not as developed as I would have liked.

For middle school readers wanting a creepy story that reads like a scary story meets Gossip Girl, this might work. It might also be good for fans of Mary Downing Hahn or Lois Duncan.

Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors


About the Book: Alice Amorous is the daughter of the Queen of Romance, so she knows a lot about romance, even if she's never really had a boyfriend. Everyone is waiting for the Queen's next novel, but the Queen is actually away in a hospital dealing with a mental illness, a secret that Alice is trying to keep from the public. When Heartstrings publisher's writes that the latest book is due-or else, Alice knows she has to deliver something.

While at a book signing for her mother, Alice meets Errol, a strange boy who claims to be Cupid. He tells Alice he has the ultimate love story to tell and that he needs her to write it. Could this be the story she's been looking for? And is Errol really the god of love or is Alice going crazy?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I was drawn to this book because of the Cupid storyline. It reminded me a bit of the TV Show Cupid, which I watched in high school and loved.

While there is a plot with Cupid, this is more about Alice growing more confidant and learning she doesn't have to hide her mother's illness. A good portion of the book is about Alice's mother and her bipolar disorder and Alice learning how to live with it and realizing she can't always fix everything. I think this issue was handled well and it might appeal to readers who typically shy away from issue-driven novels since it's woven in with other plots.

I did feel that there was too much happening at times in the plot and that prevented things from really flowing. There were pieces that I felt just didn't fit or weren't as developed. I wanted more with Alice and her possible new love interest, Tony. I also wanted more with Errol and about Cupid's story since the parts that were there I really enjoyed. I did enjoy some of minor characters like Mrs. Bobot and Archibald-they were well done and fun to read.

Overall, it was an OK read. I think it would be a good pick for readers who might want romance, but don't like the typical gushy romance or readers who want a contemporary issue novel that's a bit lighter than the usual fare.

The Villa

by Nora Roberts 421 pages

Sophia Giambelli and Tyler MacMillan have just been named heirs in the newly merged Giambelli-MacMillian wineries.  Their inheritance hinges on their ability to lead the company successfully into the future while holding on to the tradition valued by both families.  This task becomes complicated as corporate sabotage and murder threaten everything the families hold dear.

Nora Roberts is usually a sure bet for romance fans, and she doesn't disappoint in The Villa.  This is a complicated tale of friendship, family and fighting together for what matters.  The love stories weave through several generations as do the lies and deception.  The Villa is the perfect story to enjoy with a glass of wine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Romance Challenge is ON!

I'm throwing out a challenge for the month of February. Considering Valentine's Day is just around the corner, if you read an adult romance in the month of February you will receive one additional participation point.

If that romance is a RITA award winner (list available at you will get another bonus point.

What a great reason to read a romance! Need another reason? Only 14% of romance readers nationwide get their books from the public library. The reasons why are numerous but we can do our best to raise our numbers by knowing the genre and supporting the readers of the genre.

Go romance!

When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead, 199 pages.

When a reader starts this book they may think it is simply another story of a young girl and the aspects of her life, and it is. At first. At first, Miranda is a normal girl living in New York City in the seventies. She deals with typical things, like trying to figure out why her best friend Sal stopped talking to her; and some not so typical things, like her mom going on $10,000 Pyramid. But then things change. Miranda starts receiving strange notes, not in the mail but hidden in odd places. Stranger still, whoever wrote the notes seems to know things that haven't happened yet. Add to that the fact that the book is written as a letter to the unknown person, and we have a quite a mystery on our hands. Entertaining, mysterious, and just creepy enough, this is a great recommendation for kids who like to dabble in mystery stories.

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

By Robin McKinley, 247 pages.

This is a beautifully told version of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty is a young woman whose life changes dramatically when her father's business fails suddenly and her family moves to the countryside. After living in their new home for a while, her father returns one night with a terrifying story of encountering a beast in an enchanted castle. Worse still, he must return there to remain the beast's prisoner. Beauty refuses to allow it and insists on taking his place. Upon arrival at the castle, mysteries abound, not the least of which is the mystery of her host's true identity. I found this story mesmerizing, it is familiar but McKinley lends plenty of herself to the story making it firmly hers. A must-read for anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings.

House of Stairs

By William Sleator, 166 pages.

Five orphans are suddenly taken from their institutions and find themselves in a strange environment that is completely white space and stairs. The five teens have to figure out how to survive in this odd place with no instruction; how will they get food? Water? And more importantly, why are they here? As the characters try to make sense of their situation, they also learn more about each other which it turns out might be the most frightening of all. While the concept is intriguing, the characters are stereotypical and the ending leaves much to be desired. It's a quick read, so if you are a sci fi fan it might be worth your time.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

2003/592 pgs.

About the Book: A memoir about teenage Craig, his first love, faith and art.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Blankets is a book I would give someone who says that graphic novels are easy reads. At almost 600 pages, Blankets takes some time to read. Sure, it's a graphic novel, so it reads faster than a 600 page novel, but there are lots of details in the artwork that the reader wants to savor while reading.

Most of the story is about Craig's first love with a girl he meets at a winter church camp, but there are flashbacks to his childhood. Craig is struggling with his art and figuring out what to do after graduation. At camp he meets Raina and the two begin exchanging letters. Craig visits Raina and they spend two weeks together, falling in love, exploring the excitement and nervousness of first love and dealing with the impending end of childhood.

I was easily pulled into the story and read it in one sitting. Thompson's writing style is conversational and the story transports you back to when you were on the cusp of becoming an adult. I felt the ending was lacking a bit-I wanted a bit more resolution, but since this is a memoir, I'm willing to forgive that. Maybe the author hasn't come to any more resolutions or grand realizations so couldn't write about them.

A fantastic graphic novel!

Save the Date by Jenny B Jones

2011/320 pgs

About the Book: Lucy Wiltshire has her dream job running a non-profit home for girls who have aged out of the foster care system but still need help getting on their feet. But her investors have been pulling out and the city wants to take over her building and build a parking lot.

Alex Sinclair is a former football player who is now running for congress. He has money, but his money, good looks and charm aren’t enough to buy him a seat in congress. So his campaign manager suggests a plan-he get engaged. After a paparazzi snapped a photo of Alex and Lucy talking at a benefit, the tabloids seem to think they’re a real couple.

Alex has money, Lucy needs money. So they decide to fake a relationship and engagement to help Alex’s campaign and save Lucy’s girls home. But will their fake relationship turn into a real one?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I read Jenny's blog regularly and I'm always impressed with how her books read the same way she writes her blog (and the same way she is in real in life!) Her books reflect her sense of humor and are full of laughs and pop culture references.

Save the Date is a cute romantic comedy and even though it's fairly predictable, it's still fun to read. Lucy is a SF/Fantasy nerd and she has a group of friends that meet monthly called "The Hobbits." Small details like this made Lucy an endearing character, although at times she was a bit frustrating with her lack of self-confidence. Alex is a charming, sweet and funny gentlemen and their relationship has a nice push and pull to it.

This is Christian fiction, so it does get a bit preachy. But overall it's a fun light read.

Let's Count Goats by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jan Thomas

2010/40 pgs

About the Book: A creative counting book with goats

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a fun counting book! The author encourages to reader to count the goats on the various pages. The goats are engaged in a variety of activities, like flying airplanes and throwing snowballs. This is a bit more complex than your typical counting book because the author never gives a clue as to how many goats are supposed to be counted or mentions any numbers. There are also parts where readers are supposed to find specific goats in specific activities. But it's fun to count the goats on each page. The illustrations are hilarious and colorful. Who knew counting goats could be so much fun?

Birds by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

2009/32 pgs

About the Book: A young child's thoughts on birds.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This isn't a book that relies on an overarching plot, but instead is told in small vignettes and various thoughts on birds from the young child that narrates the book. There are observations about the size and color of various birds she sees, as well as wondering where birds go in the winter when all the food is gone. The illustrations are pretty and compliment the text very well. I love the pages about how when a large group of birds fly away from a tree it looks like the tree yelled "surprise!" A cute book and a great starter for a conversation on the world outside for a young child.

How to Be Alone: Essays by Jonathan Franzen

278 pages

I live alone. I've lived alone for the last 10 years, really, except for a three-year period after which I decided to, again, live alone. I moved to Springfield 6 months ago, totally alone. It's amazing how un-alone you can feel after only 6 months. Yesterday in yoga class, I ran into my grocer. Connections are being made.

It's no surprise, then, that the title of this set of essays caught my eye. The fact that it was written by Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom, THE most talked-about/reviewed book of 2010, was another plus. Also, Franzen was a friend of David Foster Wallace, whose Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself I'd recently read. (I became interested in my now-boyfriend Matt because he was reading Wallace's Infinite Jest. He had hefted it all the way to Korea, where we met teaching English. I'd placed the book on hold right before leaving Korea, thinking I would take it, but after gauging it's thickness, decided...naw.) Strangely, I haven't actually read anything by either author, but feel a connection with them.

Reading this set of essays is all about connections. Franzen is from St. Louis, so I feel some kind of Missouri fellowship with him as he tells his stories. Personal essays about, his father's Alzheimer's alternate with investigations of the banal worlds of the Postal Service and a penitentiary in Colorado (he interviews Tupac's dad). You feel Franzen's true passion, however, in his essays on fiction and its importance in culture, or rather on its declining importance in our culture. This book was published in 2003, with many of the essays from the mid-90s, that quaint, pre-Google time...dial-up modems,, phones that just, well, make phone calls. (Franzen writes about not wanting to let go of his rotary phone.) And besides, fiction is still alive and well, right? We read, just on a Nook now, right? Or not? Are kids banishing books for video games? For picture books that get electronically read to them on their iPad instead of by their Dad? Is the general public as obsessed with reading as we librarians are? Franzen is a great writer, and his writing about writing and reading, even if antiquated, are great.

I didn't get any tips on how to be alone. But Franzen gives many examples of how reading connects you to a larger circle of readers and to the rest of the world. To bring it full circle, Franzen even mentions a conversation on an airplane with a woman from Springfield. I guess I'm lucky to work in a library, full of books for finding connections that make me feel not so alone. (plus my coworkers are awesome.)

The Avengers: the Kree-Skrull War

by Roy Thomas, writer; Sal Buscema...[et al], artist; Sam Grainger...[et al], inker; Sam Rosen...[et al], letterer.
various paging.

What does it mean when a superhero android comes running into your building yelling, "Three cows shot me down! Help me!"? One thing is for sure, the Avengers are going to be involved. In this collection of comics, the Avengers learn that an interstellar war between the Kree and the Skrulls, two alien races that loathe humanity. The main battleground for this war just happens to be Earth. It's up to the Avengers to stop these two vastly superior races from destroying the Earth and everything around it.

"The Girl Who Fell From the Sky" by Heidi W. Durrow

264 pages

If you dislike sad books, I don't recommend this one. It's about an 11-year-old girl named Rachel who is trying to restart her life after a horrific event that destroyed her family. On top of that, she's adjusting to life in a new city and trying to find somewhere to fit in as a half-black, half-white girl in the 1980s. About half of the story is told from her perspective and the rest from the perspectives of various other characters, including her mother, her father, her mother's former boss, and the young boy who witnessed the tragedy that changed her life.

This story held my interest throughout because it's not clear what really happened to Rachel's family and there are hints that build the suspense. However, I didn't really connect with the characters and that prevented me from enjoying the book more. Rachel blocks off her feelings about all that has happened, which makes sense but made it difficult for me to relate to her. On the other hand, this book made me think a lot about guilt, race, identity, and more, and that's always a good thing.

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford  pp313
book jacket

This title is a 2011-2012 Gateway Award Nominee.  It's the unlikely story of 18 yr old Christopher, a smart, cute guy who lives more in his head than out in the world.  Christopher gets a job the summer before college and it's an unusual one.  He'll be cleaning the local morgue.  On his first day, he stumbles upon a mystery.  The dead man, whom the coroner has called "a suicide" has five bullet holes in his chest and there's a bunch of money in the coroner's drawer.  Christopher sets out to find out what really happened.  It's one of those stories that you could like if you suspend your "Yeah, right!" tendencies and I bet parents won't like the fact that 18 yr old Christopher is hanging out with an older woman, and popping open cans of beer with his friends with no real negative consequences.  But, the mystery itself is a pretty good one.  I usually figure out who done it way before the writer tells us but it took me longer this time.  That's a good thing.  Not my favorite cover and I don't think it's going to appeal to that many Gateway readers but what do I know?  So far I haven't gotten a single Gateway prediction correct-and I'm pretty good at predicting the Mark Twains. 
Kim F

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

This is the book discussion title for Republic Branch Library in February.  One of Wharton's best, the unidentified narrator tells the story of Ethan Frome and the tragedy of his life.  Ethan was a bright young man who dreamed of a bright future but the illness and subsequent deaths of his parents brought him home from school early and his marriage turned out differently than he imagined.  The one bright spot?  His wife's poor relation, Mattie, who comes to live with them when her own parents die and leave her destitute.  If you like stories with happy endings, do not read this one.  If you like deeply nuanced tales of life's vagaries and endings that remind us that happy endings are more often fantasy than reality, then by all means, pick up this book...and join us to discuss it on Thursday, February 10 at 1:30 at the Republic Branch Library!  Large type edition is only 120 pages!
Kim F

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Our competition!

While reading some reviews on one of our competitors blogs, I came across this! Makes you smile doesn't it?
"Keep up the good work, we are definitely going to achieve my personal goal of reading more than Springfield Greene County.  ;)"

Froggie Went A-Courtin by Iza Trapani

2006/32 pgs

About the Book: A new version of the folk song about a frog and his courting of various animals.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I originally picked this book up to see if it could work for my storytelling class (we have a unit on folk songs). It's a cute version of the story, but it really needs the pictures to help tell the story.

Poor Froggie keeps asking animal after animal to marry him, and they keep rejecting him. But Froggie doesn't give up and it's when he meets a lovely Frog that he knows he's found his true love.

A fun retelling with adorable illustrations.

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan with Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: Lily and Salma are best friends who do everything together. But every day at lunch, Lily eats PB&J and Salma eats pita and hummus. The girls each think the other's sandwich looks strange and the day they tell each other to stop eating yucky sandwiches is the day things get out of hand. Can sandwiches bring the friends back together?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I had seen this book reviewed in many places when it first came out last year, so when I saw it on the children's new shelf, I decided to read it.

As far as celebrity/politician authored picture books go, this one is actually pretty decent. It's a fairly simplistic story, but it's a cute one and I can see it easily being used in classrooms to inspire a pint-size International Potluck. The watercolor illustrations add to the sweetness of the book and muted color palet makes it feel like a nice gentle read.

It's a cute story and a sweet reminder of friendship.

Silly Tilly by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by David Slonim

2009/32 pgs.

About the Book: Silly Tilly is a goofy goose whose crazy antics are frustrating the other farm animals. But if Tilly isn't silly anymore, who will make them laugh?

Sarah Teenlibrarian says: Oh, Tilly, you're just too cute! This book is told in rhyme and the illustrations add to Tilly's humor. I'm sure this one will have kids laughing as they read about Tilly taking a bath in apple juice and wearing a pancake for hat. It's a perfect Amelia Bedelia sort of book for young readers. I expect this one to do well in the Building Block Award voting and I think young readers will fall in love with Tilly and her antics.

Housekeeping, please read!

Thank you to everyone who is participating in the Missouri Book Challenge! We are doing an awesome job and I love getting to read what everyone is reading and their opinions. It is like a mini book club for each title. We have 49 staff registered for this blog and while that is incredible, it takes some time to keep track of everything. Please help me out by doing the following.

1. Please tag each of your posts with your id name. This is how I track your posts. One of the committee members has to go through and tag each post without a name tag.

2. Please turn in your monthly stats at the end of each month. (You can find this form in the Rules) Only 10 people turned in their stats for January. This meant hunting down the information for each person and then logging it in the form. I'm not above bribery for this! Chocolate is on its way if that is what you require. 

3. Don't forget to include the page numbers in your reviews.

Keep in mind even if you don't read the most you can gather extra participation points pretty quickly by doing a review in Coolcat or reading award winners.

Thanks much and happy reading!

January Winners!

January 2011 Winners

Most books read:
Jenny E. 44
Sarah B.T. 15
Pam H 11

Most pages read:
Jenny E. 10,247
Pam H. 3961
Sarah B.T. 3787

Participation points:
Jenny E. 44
Sarah B.T. 17
Nancee D.S. 14

Random Drawing Winner:
Kay C.  

As a group, we read a total of 150 titles and 45,883 pages.  Congratulations to everyone for a great first month! 

Karakuri Odette: Volume 5

by Julietta Suzuki, 189 pages

Odette is a very lifelike robot (or karakuri) who wants to know what it's like to be human, and her indulgent creator and guardian, Professor Yoshizawa, lets her find out.

Odette may be a little odd, but she's just as human as those around her (and more so than some). In this volume, she gets frustrated with her adopted brother Chris (formerly Chris Number Seven and a robot suicide bomber sent to kill Yoshizawa) because his understanding of human emotions is not as advanced as hers. But just because he doesn't know what to do with them doesn't mean he doesn't feel them. And now that his avaricious, unscrupulous creator has returned and set his sights on co-opting Odette's technology, the little family's happiness will face a much greater threat than sibling communication problems.

This series is sweet, smart, funny, and touching. The author doesn't hit the reader over the head with her messages, instead letting the artwork and subtle relationships show, rather than tell, how Odette is growing and how those around her are, too. The characters clearly care about each other--and the reader cares about them.

The preview says the next volume is the last one?! Noooo!

Alice in the Country of Hearts: Volume 5

by Soumei Hoshino (art) and Quinrose (story), 141 pages

Alice and Blood come to verbal (and automatic weapon) blows at Vivaldi's ball. Can they work out their issues before somebody ends up dead? And why is Peter acting so weird (that is, serious)?

Secrets and suppressed memories are the focus of this volume. Also, the dangers of accidental binge drinking (or just of drinking with Ace).

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Fallout" by Ellen Hopkins

665 pages

This is the third and final book in the popular Crank series. It jumps to twenty years after the conclusion of the second book and shows how the children of the original main character are dealing with the consequences of their mother's drug abuse.

I can't decide how I feel about the Crank series. I think it's great that that the books show how bad drugs can be and how they can destroy the lives of abusers and their families. I also like the setup of "Fallout" because it allows us to see what has happened to Kristina while getting the fresh perspectives of the new characters. On the other hand, there's too much teen angst for me in this one, and I don't particularly like the format (which is the same for all three books). I think the author writes in verse to to make her books stand out and draw in kids who shy away from dense pages of text, but it was distracting for me at the parts where it reads more like regular prose but just has weird spacing and line breaks. But despite the distractions and angsty drama, the series held my interest throughout.

Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come, Part One
by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, and Dale Eaglesham. 151 p.
You may have heard of the Justice League of America. Well, this is the other superhero team, the Justice Society of America. While rescuing civilians from a burning building, an unexpected visitor makes an appearance. Somehow, the Superman from Earth 22 (the one from the Kingdom Come saga) has arrived on the main Earth. How and why he showed up is a mystery, but not near as mysterious as who keeps murdering superhumans claiming to be deity. Will the Justice Society figure this one out?

Testing the Ice by Sharon Robinson illustrated by Kadir Nelson

2009/40 pgs.

About the Book: Sharon Robinson recalls a childhood memory of her father, Jackie Robinson and the day they went ice skating.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I really enjoyed this book! Sharon Robinson's writing style is beautiful. She never talks down to the reader. She's written a book that has a message without it ever feeling too preachy. Instead, it comes across as her telling a childhood tale. The image of Jackie Robinson stepping out onto the frozen ice, even though he's afraid because he can't swim is also a great metaphor for him stepping into the world of baseball and breaking the color barrier. But this metaphor is worked so well into the story that it never comes off as a lesson.

The artwork is amazing, of course, since the book is illustrated by Kadir Nelson (aka my children's literature boyfriend). His artwork always amazes me! Each page looks so lifelike and it's obvious he takes great care with his subjects. He used Robinson family photos to help create the illustrations in this book, which I think adds to the lifelike feel.

One of my favorite Show-Me Readers Award Nominees I've read!

Desert Rose and Her Highfalutin Hog by Alison Jackson, illustrated by Keith Graves

2009/40 pgs.

About the Book: Desert Rose just bought the biggest hog and she plans to win at the state fair. But this is a highfalutin hog and getting to the fair isn't going to be easy.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Finally a Show-Me Readers Award Nominee that I liked!!

The text in Desert Rose is very cute and it feels as though it should be read with a big Southern accent and yee-haw. Poor Rose is only trying to use a shortcut to get her hog to the state fair, but the hog won't take a drink, the coyote won't bite the hog, the snake won't scare the coyote, and so on. This is a circular story and Rose keeps trying to find someone or something to help get her hog to the fair. Readers will enjoy seeing how Rose gets everything to work and the funny "moral" at the end is too cute. The artwork is bright and engaging. It might be a bit long for storytime, but if you have older readers who can sit through longer books, this is worth giving a try.

Stars Above Us by Geoffrey Norman illustrated by E.B. Lewis

2009/32 pgs

About the Book: A little girl and her father find a way to combat her fear of the dark.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is my least favorite nominee on the Show-Me Readers list and honestly, I'm not really sure why I didn't like it.

I thought the story was a bit boring and not that well written which is maybe why I wasn't a big fan. Amanda is afraid of the dark and her dad helps her put glow in the dark stars on her ceiling. Then he tells her that she can look at the North Star when he's away.

We're never really told why Amanda's father is away or that he's in the Army, but we see that in pictures. I think I felt like the whole book never really seemed to flow-it just went from one story idea to another and didn't fully come together.

Minnow and Rose by Judy Young, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

2009/37 pgs.

About the Book: Two young girls meet along the Oregon Trail.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is another typical Show-Me Readers nominee. The writing is OK, the illustrations are so-so, but there's an easy lesson that can be tied into the book so it's on the list.

I will say that it is one of the better books on the Show-Me Readers list, but I think the audience for this one is a bit limited. I think 2nd-3rd grade girls who love frontier tales and Little House on the Prairie are going to be the ones who like this book.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein


About the Book: Little chicken won't go to bed without her bedtime story, but she keeps inerrupting.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a cute little story, but I had a couple of problems with it. Interrupting Chicken was a Caldecott Honor Book this year so I think I was expecting some amazing artwork. And while the illustrations are good, they didn't really stand out to me and say "yes, this is a Caldecott Honor!" I did like the varying illustrations to alternate between little chicken and her father and the storybooks they're reading. And the author/illusrator does a good job of expressing emotions in Papa chicken's eyes showing how tiring little red chicken is. I think anyone who has had exprience with precocious preschoolers will appreciate that minor detail. I liked the artwork, I just think I was expecting a bit more.

My other problem with the book is probably me just getting on my librarian soapbox. I'm not even sure if the average reader would notice. But when Papa chicken tells a story, little red chicken likes to interupt (hence the name of the book) and tell her own ending to the story. It's pretty funny and cute, yet Papa chicken seems to be very bothered by this. At one point he tells little chicken "don't get so involved." NO! Isn't that what we want kids to do? Get involved with the story and get them excited about books and stories? I mean, one of the goals of ECRR is narrative skills which is all about kids re-tell stories as well as tell their own stories. So maybe I read too much into it, but that part really bugged me. And OK, maybe it can bring on a discussion with kids about how they can write their own stories. But really, Papa chicken needs to head to a library storytime or something!

It's a cute, funny, quirky book and I think parents will have fun reading it with their kids and I know the kids will laugh and think it's hilarious and love it. Maybe I just need to let go of the librarian mindset sometimes when it comes to reading.

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen Illustrated by Dan Hanna


About the Book: A pouty fish won't share a smile, but another fish helps him see that pouting isn't his destiny.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: The Pout-Pout Fish won the Building Block Award this year which is why I picked it up. Overall the book was pretty meh for me. It's an OK story and I see the kid appeal and it can work great as a read aloud. But it's not one that I enjoyed as an adult. The sparkly fish that helps Mr. Fish change his mind comes out of nowhere. Maybe I would have liked it better if Mr. Fish had learned a lesson and that's what made him happy-like it feels good to laugh and he doesn't need to be so pouty or something like that, instead of a sparkly random girly fish making him change his mind.

Gin Tama: Volume 1: No One With Wavy Hair Can Be That Bad

by Hideaki Sorachi
200 p.
Aliens have invaded Japan and have taken over. Samurais have been outlawed and theirs swords banned. So what's an unemployed, former samurai to do? Whatever he can to make money. That's exactly what Gintoki "Odd Jobs Gin" Sakata intends to do. In this volume, Gin meets a new sidekick in Shinpachi Shimura, a poor lad struggling to help his sister pay off a massive debt inherited from their father. Later Shinpachi and Gin meet an alien girl who is super strong, super hungry, and doesn't speak Japanese very well. I've got to say that this is one hilarious manga as the jokes and prat-falls keep coming.