Friday, April 22, 2011

Library Wars: Love & War: Volume 4

by Kiiro Yumi (story and art) and Hiro Arikawa (original concept), 203 pages

Ever resourceful, even in the midst of a hostage situation, Iku and the Director secretly communicate information about their location to Dojo and the other Library Forces personnel. But dealing with government-sanctioned armed terrorists doesn't faze Iku nearly as much as the prospect of an imminent visit from her parents, who disapprove of her being involved with soldiering and believe her to be no more than a clerk at the central library. Can she count on Dojo to watch her back in her personal as well as professional crises?

The little nuances of character and the refreshingly strong (but not invincible) female lead make this series an enjoyable read. I also like the fact that Iku's several inches taller than her male counterpart (and Dojo's not overly self-conscious about it, either, which is equally refreshing). Also, love and defense of books, reading, and access to knowledge = woot! The generous helping of cheeze just makes it more fun.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Daughters by Joanna Philbin

2010/304 pgs

About the Book: Lizzie, Carina, and Hudson didn't ask for fame, they were born into it. Lizzie is the daughter of a famous model, Carina's father is a multi-billion dollar entrepreneur, and Hudson's mom is a famous singer. Together the girls support each other and navigate the world of being celebrity children.

The first volume is primarily Lizzie's story. Lizzie's mom is a world famous model and the most beautiful woman in the world. Lizzie has long lived in her mother's shadow and doesn't feel like she lives up to the beauty everyone expected her to be. Instead of being a model, Lizzie has a talent for writing. When the chance arises for Lizzie to be a model with a an "ugly model" agency, Lizzie wants to go for it, but her mom says no. Will Lizzie find her talent and her true self or will she forever be overshadowed by her mom?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: The Daughters is typical chick lit. It's light and fluffy, there's some conflict involving the character's self-esteem, there's a boy who is a bit too perfect. But I can pretty much forgive all that because the book was fun and a cute read.

I loved that this one had rich, celebrity girls without the gossip, backstabbing, cliques, and snobbishness. There is a group of girls like that, but the daughters ignore them and aren't friends with them. Instead, these three have a great solid supporting friendship that's great to see.

The story is predictable and there are lots of misunderstandings. But the character is young (freshman in high school) so I could forgive some of the naivety. This one is the start to a series, and I would recommend this one to younger teens looking for something light and with romance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Superman/Batman: Night and Day

by Michael Green, Francis Manapul, et al.


Superman and Batman face their greatest challenges in this collectionof stories as the two heroes struggle to escape the mysterious composite city of Gothamopolis and fight to free the world from the villianous clutches of Gorilla Grodd. Even the icons' proteges get in on the action as Robin and Supergirl team up to stop a riot in Arkham Asylum, learning more about themselves and their mentors in the process. Also included is a tie-in to...Blackest Night, as Bizarro and Man-Bat battle the Black Lantern, Solomon Grundy! (from the back cover)

The Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt

by Joe Kelly, Fred Van Lente, Phil Jimenez, et al.


The Gauntlet has concluded. Now, the grim hunt can begin! The dark forces behind the relentless onslaught of Spidey's most deadly foes now come into the light with one target in their sights: Spider-Man! the first family of the hunt--the Kraven tribe--has gathered to coordinate the last stage of their unholy plan, one that requires the death of Peter Parker and the rebirth of one of his oldest foes. (from the back cover)

"Zombiekins" by Kevin Bolger

207 pages

Fourth-grader Stanley has always been kind of a wimp; his friend Miranda is the one who is tough. And yet Stanley is the one who decides to buy Zombiekins, the creepy-looking stuffed animal in the crazy Widow's garage sale. Despite the Widow's warnings, Stanley throws the instructions away and brings Zombiekins to school to show the other kids. But after they're exposed to Zombiekins, strange things begin to happen to Stanley's classmates and, with Miranda's help, he has to learn to be brave.

I loved this book! The tone and style reminded me of "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda," which I thought was fantastic. I really like the illustrations that are scattered among the text. The kids are wacky and funny, while the adults are completely clueless, which was the way I viewed things when I was in fourth grade. The plot itself wasn't especially clever or special, but the characters charmed me so much that I didn't care too much.

Swim! Swim! by Lerch

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: Lerch is a goldfish is who is lonely. He swims throughout his tank trying to find a friend, but is unsuccessful. The bubbles and the gravel don't talk to him and the cat thinks he's lucnh! But a friend is on its way for Lerch!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Swim! Swim! is a funny picture book that made me smile. I would recomend it to readers (and librarians) who weren't big fans of The Pout Pout Fish as it's the same sort of idea, but I think this one has more humor. Kids will get a kick out of Lerch's quest for a friend. The text is large and the illustrations are colorful and look a bit like a comic. This could be a cute storytime book and the reader could encourage interaction with kids by asking if the various objects will be friends to Lerch. A fun picture book!

Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann, illustrated by Janet Lee

2010/128 pgs

About the Book: In a place called Anorev, where no one over the age of 11 is around and time is gone, machines and humans aren't working together. CHildren live underground and machines above ground, expect for Ayden, a human boy and Zoe a robot girl. One day the sky fills with 314 dapper men. They float down in pinstripe suits and umbrellas. A dapper man known as 41 takes Ayden and Zoe under his wing and helps them remember the things they've forgotten.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says:I had high hopes for this one after seeing it on Booklist's Top Ten Graphic Novels for Youth and then Lynn and Cindy reviewing it and loving it their Bookends blog. Add to that a fantastic intro from Tim Gunn (yep, that Tim Gunn) and I thought I was going to be swept away and fall in love with this book. Sadly, The Return of the Dapper Men wasn't for me.

It's a book that tries to pack itself full of philosophy. It seems like it tried to have some big message or idea, yet it always fell short and nothing is really answered and questions are hardly explored. We're told at the start we'll get answers about where the adults went, but we never do. I still don't know what the significance of anything in the book was and I ended the book with more questions than answers. I guess I just didn't get it and I was expecting something different.

The bright side is the artwork is pretty cool! Overall I was left feeling letdown and confused-not a great feeling when you finish a book.

"Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word" by Raczka

43 pages

This is a collection of all kinds of poems--funny to serious--each of which is composed using only the letters from the title. Here's one of my favorites, as an example:


a short storm

worms here

worms there

wear shoes

I love the idea of rearranging the letters to make a poem! It takes a lot of creativity and makes the poetry feel clever and fun. This book would be great for an older-kids program, as they could read the book and then write their own "fresh-squeezed" poems.

Meet Julie : an American girl ~ 1974

By: Megan McDonald, 92 pp.

Girls can play sports too, and Julie Albright is out to prove it! Julie's parents get divorced and Julie's sister and her have to move with their mom to an apartment above her mother's store.

Julie is finding a hard time to fit in with the kids at her new school until she meets T.J. Her and T.J. bounce the basketball around in the gym after school. T.J. mentions the sign up sheet for basketball players that is to be posted outside Coach Manley's office. However, when Julie goes to sign up, she is told that no girls can play sports. "Sports are for boys."

Julie is so upset, she decides to get signatures on a petition. She gets the petition idea from her mom's friend, Hank, who is a vet petitioning for the veteran's center to be opened back up.

Julie gets 150 signatures just to have Coach Manley throw it away! She worked so hard! Julie decides to dig it out of the trash and go to the school principal. The principal tells her he will have to bring it up to the school board and get back to her....... Will she get to play? Or are sports really just for boys?

At the end of this book, there are stories of real girls wanting to do the things that only were meant for boys, but they work towards changing those rules and become famous!

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker
p 290

Rarely a book and movie coincide so deeply that they become one, but in the case of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" I cannot separate the two. Having seen the movie first, I naturally gravitated to the movie characters when I first picked up the book. The casting seemed too perfect not to seamlessly input their faces onto the written page. Yet with all good literature, only Walker's beautiful and at times poetic words can bring them to life.
As a Book Club choice, I was not sure I was ready to re-read this book - mostly because I had just read it in the last few years. Yet with each reading or watching of the movie, I glean a little more from the characters and the heartbreak and joy they experience. The relationship between Shug, Celie and Mister is at the core of this story, and with this reading I found myself focusing on how their love for each other somehow overcomes all the hurt and pain they brought to one another.
This redemptive quality resonated throughout the book. The story deals with the difficulties of black Americans in the 1930's, particularly black women. Celie's story is written in letter form first to God, then to her sister Nettie. This personal approach gives her the opportunity
to try to explain, if not make sense of her world. She is an uneducated, poor, abused black woman in the south, yet Walker creates within her letters a full and glorious story of hope.
This book is easily one of my all -time favorites. If you haven't picked it up, do it - then watch the movie.
Rock, Chalk, Jay, Hawk x 100!!!!

"Beyond Exile: Day-by-Day Armageddon" by J.L. Bourne

277 pages

In this second "Day by Day Armageddon" novel, the young narrator and his small band of zombie-apocalypse survivors are just trying to get through each day. Then a loosely organized military squadron invades the group's fortress, and, as a result, our diarist ends up on a mission in "the outside" that leaves him alone among the zombie hordes. Along the way, he encounters another mysterious military organization and discovers some information about the cause of the zombie plague.

I enjoyed parts of this story even more than the first book, but some sections in the middle were repetitive and didn't hold my attention. Also, I got a bit annoyed as the characters rely primarily on firepower to keep the zombies at bay and always seem to have plenty of ammunition that just sort of appears from nowhere--everyone knows that blades are better because blades don't need reloading! There's not a lot of character development in this book, and I'd like to see more of that. Still, it was worth my time, and the cliffhanger at the end left me anxious for the next book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

by Dave Eggers
p 437

Part memoir, part catharsis, HWSG (acronym for title) is a journey into the life and mind of Dave Eggers. Admittedly I did not know who Dave Eggers is, but after the first few chapters he introduces his family and the tragedy of losing both parents in less than a year. While struggling to get his magazine (MIGHT) off the ground he finds himself guardian for his younger brother. Together they struggle to survive the ordeal of caring for the sick and dying, then totally abandoning their past lives to move to San Francisco. While this may hardly seem like a light-hearted subject, Eggers deftly moves from the darkness to the light as he examines grief, loss and becoming a man in a way that is profound and profoundly humorous. His writing gives his internal dialogue a voice that is brutally honest, intensely aware, richly crafted and wildly entertaining. HWSG has received literary praise and awards, rightfully so. It lives up to it's title so check it out!
This one gets a full blown Rock, Chalk, Jay, Hawk!!!!!

How Do You Read To a Rabbit by Andrea Wayne von Königslöw

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: How do you read to a rabbit? Or what about a kangaroo or a boa? Surely they enjoy books too? A humorous look at reading, the young narrator tries to read to various animals.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This book is a bit of a reading version mixed with If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. Everytime you try to read to a new animal, something goes wrong! A boa would try to hug you too tight. A kangaroo would jump, bats want to be upside down, and rabbits-well, there's just too many of them to keep up with! I can see this one being a good storytime book and I think young readers would get a kick out of the various problems they would face with different animals. Of course, we learn the best place to read is with your parents, so it has a sweet (and a bit sappy) ending. The illustrations weren't anything that really stood out, but they were colorful and fun. Overall, this is a silly book about reading.

Mercy Street

by Mariah Stewart, 302 pages

A small Pennsylvania town is shocked when two high school students are killed in a park and two others go missing.  When the police begin to suspect the missing teens of the murder, the missing boy's grandmother decides to hire a private investigation to find him.  Father Burch who runs the school that the teens went to convinces his billionaire cousin, Robert Magellan to fund the investigation.  He hires former police detective Mallory Russo who joins the hunt for the teens with the help of her replacement on the police force, Detective Charlie Wanamaker. 

I actually downloaded this one and listened to it.  Joyce Bean reads it and does an excellent job.  This was billed as romantic suspense which might be why the ending was fairly easy to pick out early in the story.  The story moved quickly and there were several side-stories going on along with the main plot of the missing teens, so I expect those will play out later in the series.  It was an entertaining read and not really "romancey" which might be a bonus for some and a drawback for others.

There Was An Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Frog by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Gray

2010/40 pgs

About the Book: In the jungle a monkey with a huge appetite can't stop eating every animal he comes across.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Taking the familiar tune of "There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" this monkey eats everything that comes into his path. Some of the animals are strange indeed, so this could be a great book to use to introduce unique jungle animals. How often do you see sloths or toucans show up in stories? But overall, I wasn't all that impressed with the book. All the animals just sort of hung out in the monkey's stomach as he eats each one. It's a funny book and I'm sure kids will like all the eating and burping, but it wasn't my favorite version of the familiar tale.

The Sticky Doll Trap by Jessica Souhami

2010/32 pgs

About the Book: An adaptation of the folktale of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. Hare tricks the other animals who are looking for water and selfishly gets the water for himself. But the animals have had enough and they're going to get Hare back with their sticky doll trap.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a nice retelling, but nothing new. The illustrations didn't stand out to me at all and the story was funny, but just OK. I'd recommend it to readers who enjoy folktales, but I don't know if it would be one that would stick out as a must read.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfishes: A Very Silly Alphabet Book by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Betsy E. Snyder

2006/32 pgs

About the Book: Explore the alphabet with silly rhymes.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Peanut Butter and Jellyfishes is a fun, quirky alphabet book. The rhymes are cute, but nothing that really stand out. I found myself a bit annoyed that some letters had lots of words that featured them where others had a small offering. It wasn't consistent. At times the rhymes seemed to be a bit of a stretch too. But it's a funny alphabet book and kids looking for a silly alphabet book are sure to enjoy it.

Alex and Lulu: Two of a Kind by Lorena Siminovich

2009/32 pgs

About the Book: Alex and Lulu are best friends. They like a lot of the same things-swings at the park and jumping. But Alex and Lulu are also very different. Alex likes to build things and play outside, Lulu likes to paint pictures and play indoors. One day Alex begins to worry that the two are just too different to be friends. Can friendship overcome such differences?

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Alex and Lulu is a wonderfully cute picture books perfect for the preschool crowd on up. As kids start to enter school and get a bit older, they discover that friends can like different things and many like Alex wonder if they can even stay friends. Alex and Lulu discover that friendship is at it's best when the friends are indeed different because they can share their hobbies with each other and have fun. A great message for kids that never feels heavy handed. I adored the retro feel of the illustrations. A fun read that's perfect to add to the list of ever growing books on friends.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed From A Single Word

2011/43 pgs

About the Book: Poetry can be squeezed from one single word. Taking one word and rearranging the letters, Bob Raczka creates poems ranging from funny to serious in a fantastic poetry collection.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Lemonade has library program for tweens written all over it! I first heard about this book during a upcoming book release webcast and knew I had to get my hands on it. I'm a big fan of Raczka's book, Guyku, and I was intrigued with the idea of taking one word and creating a poem.

The poems are fantastic! I love the layout of the book which lets the reader see how the poems were made and what letters were used. On the next page, the actual poem appears. This would a be a great tween program and I plan on using it in the writer's workshop programs I run for tweens and teens.

Sometimes it is a bit of a stretch to make the poem make sense, but it's the creativity that really counts for me. I loved it and I hope we get more Lemonade poems soon!

While I loved several of the poems, I think Vacation is my favorite:

Bob Raczka, from Lemonade, 2011


Renegade by Diana Palmer 297 p. The police chief of Jacobsville Texas is Cash Grier. The spoiled starlet that was first introduced in Palmer's novel Lawless, is Tippy Moore. Both are certain they don't want anything to do with the opposite sex. Cash was badly hurt by his first wife and Tippy had been abused by her stepfather, so they both have lots of baggage from the past. Tippy is raising her little brother and ends up staying with Chief Grier for protection. They fall for each other and end up married.

Dreaming Of You

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas 405 p. Having been abandoned by his mother, Derek Craven came up through the slums of London. He has become very wealthy and is the owner of a famous gambling club. Sara Fielding is an aspiring young author doing research for a new book when she meets Mr Craven. As is usually the case, love sparks between them and even though there are worlds between their two lives, they fall in love and all ends happily.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack" by Chuck Sambuchino

106 pages

This book is exactly what it sounds like--a survival manual for dealing with gnomes. The author urges readers not to discount the "psychotic" lawn ornaments and insists that each and every one of them wants nothing more than your ultimate demise. Here, he outlines things to watch for, prevention strategies, home fortresses, and methods for defending an actual attack.

As anyone who has read many of my reviews knows, I like ridiculous, random books. This one is a little too much even for me, and this is coming from someone whose favorite shirt has a gnome and "Say hello to my little friend" on it. A lot of it is repetitive; I felt like I was ready the same joke over and over. On the other hand, it's a very quick read and there are a few funny parts, so I didn't feel like it was a complete waste of time.

"Jane Eyre: The Graphic Novel" by Charlotte Bronte and Amy Corzine

144 pages

I enjoyed the original Jane Eyre, but I last read it in high school. I thought I could use a refresher, and the graphic novel seemed like a great way to jog my memory. It's the same tale: Poor orphan Jane is adopted by her Aunt and Uncle Reed, but the death of Uncle Reed allows her unpleasant aunt to send her away to a grim charity school, where life continues to be hard for her. When she grows up, she becomes a governess and falls in love with her pupil's father. It seems that he loves her too...but he also has a secret that will turn their lives upside down.

I enjoyed the graphic novel version of "Jane Eyre"; although it's not the type of story that typically appears in visual formats, it tells the same good story in simpler, less dense way. One thing I wasn't crazy about were the illustrations, which I didn't think were anything special. Overall, though, a good read.