Friday, October 31, 2008

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies

Lynn: A librarian leaves a window open and the word spreads fast - it's Bat Night at the library! Older bats, who obviously know their Dewey, fly right to their favorite shelves. Young bats play with the photocopier and make shadows on the wall with the overhead until the real fun begins. It's story time and a series of delightful images follow with bat-versions of our classic tales like Make Way for Ducklings and Winnie the Pooh that keep bats and readers alike spellbound until the sun begins to rise. Beautiful illustrations draw the readers into the joyous visit and the charmingly drawn bats may convince all of us to leave a window open now and then. A visual treat!
Cindy: This delightful book was a birthday gift from a friend (thanks, Deb!) and it just might be my personal favorite of the year. I collect books about books and libraries (making me a real nerd to my teen daughters) and this one is so much fun. I've enjoyed watching Lynn's twin grandsons eat up books and if they grew wings, they would be in the middle of all the bat fun. Happy Halloween from Bookends! I just ordered Bats at the Beach for my treat!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Cindy: One of my favorite books of the year for its techno-savvy and its in-your-face themes dealing with privacy, safety, and public policy. W1n5T0n is in the wrong place at the wrong time during a terrorist attack on San Francisco and is detained by the Dept. of Homeland Security when he refuses to give up his passwords. When he is released days later he decides to fight back against the folks who want to take away his privacy for the sake of national security. Teens who love technology will eat up this thriller. I got a new license plate after reading it, realizing I could finally get my READ plate (it hasn't been available in my state) by becoming a "hacker librarian."
Lynn: This was a real page-turner for me with an electrifying plot full of twists and turns. There is a lot of very geeky technology that was completely fascinating - and SCARY – but a reader can skip over much of that if so inclined. Doctorow clearly has something to say but he never let it get in the way of his thrilling story or his very well written characters.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mystery of the Fool and the Vanisher by David and Ruth Ellwand

Cindy: I love authors and publishers who take a risk on books and this quirky gem delighted me when I first read it last spring. This one falls into the read-it-again-and-again category because you need multiple reads to figure out what is going on...and even then you aren't sure. The discovery of a chest of artifacts left by a photographer who worked on an archeological dig and claimed to photograph a fairy is the centerpiece of several mysteries and disappearances. What do you think happened? Even if you can't decide, the photographs and collage illustrations will delight, just as the author's 2002 book, Fairie-ality, (also published by Candlewick) did.
Lynn: OK - I get that the pictures are cool and the book design is cooler and we're supposed to feel tantalized and eerily puzzled. Instead I finished the book feeling irritated. It was just not enough for me. It was like getting one lick of my favorite flavor ice cream, finding one shoe in the closet, restoring two sentences of a stunningly written review I forgot to save. I like my fantasies at least 300 pages long and packed with detail! This was just a beautiful tease.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Cindy: From its striking cover to its compelling heroine, readers will root for ex-slave Isabel to one day find her promised freedom. Set in New York City during the summer of 1776, Manhattan as a battleground is vividly realized as Isabel becomes a spy. Her sex and ethnicity help her efforts as she is invisible to the powerful white men around her. Author M.T. Anderson, who explores similar themes of freedom and liberty in his Revolutionary War novels about Octavian Nothing, jokes that some folks think he and Laurie are siblings and that their parents must have influenced these books. There's no genetic relation between them, but the two authors have made admirable contributions to the study of our national family's foundation and philosophy.
Lynn: Cindy and I agree on this wonderful book. For me it is Isabel's strong voice that is the highlight. This is the kind of book that makes history sing out with a voice that brings the time and place to life for young readers. Anderson does a terrific job of weaving the necessary historical information into the story also, never letting that slow the pace. I especially appreciate the accurate portrayal of the very ambivalent feelings most people had about the revolution. Everyday survival was center stage and siding with the eventual winner meant more to most ordinary people than championing a cause, a fact that seldom appears in books for teens. I was captured completely by Isabel and was loathe to end the story. I need a sequel, please! While we have recommended this book for grades 7-10, I think it is perfect to give to younger strong readers.

Traction Man Meets Turbodog by Mini Grey

Cindy: I was so excited to get my hands on this sequel to a favorite picture book. This is one that parents and grandparents will not mind rereading and that I found my 17-yr-old daughter sneaking a look at yesterday. Anyone who has lost a trusty friend or a security item, or who has had to dig through a trash bin, will find empathy with poor Traction Man who finds Turbodog a poor substition for his trusty pet, Scrubbing Brush who has gone missing. Evil parents who are more concerned with hygiene than loyalty learn an important lesson here.
Lynn: Anyone who spends more than 5 minutes with me hears about my 5-year-old twin grandsons who spend part of every day with me. They love books and I have loved diving back into the fabulous world of picture books with them. The boys have strong opinions about what we read - hmmm, wonder where THAT comes from - and we all love this new adventure with Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush. The bin creatures are wonderfully weird and we all laughed about Turbodog's watery fate. This gets our Read-It-Again-and-Again stamp of approval. Don't miss Traction Man, always appropriately garbed, in his latest adventure!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Our friend, Walter Mayes, is in Publishers Weekly this week. This is a great article about how teens enjoy getting their hands on advance reader copies, like we provide in our BBYA (Best Books for Young Adults) collection for our students and our BBYA book club.

School Librarians Connect Kids with Galleys

And, our Holland and Grand Haven teens were featured in Publishers Weekly October 16th, for the release of John Green's new book, Paper Towns. They met him and narrator Dan John Miller in July when they came to town for the audio recording of the book, at Grand Haven's Brilliance Audio.

All Ears on 'Paper Towns'

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pretty Monsters: Stories by Kelly Link

Lynn: This wonderful book gathers 9 of Kelly Link’s stories in her first collection published for teens. Most of the stories have appeared in other books but old fans will welcome having them together and those unfamiliar with Link’s work will surely join the ranks of admirers. Her work is truly unique and blends horror, fantasy, and science fiction. While being extremely funny in a dead pan, sneak-up-on-you way, Link has a very sharp eye for human foibles. Whether she is writing about a handbag that holds another world or a mysterious television series called the Library that appears at random, Link’s stories are always captivating, macabre, quirky and often extremely scary. This collection is a rare treat.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Lynn: The premise is simple - a devastating tidal wave brings two young people of widely disparate cultures together on a tropical island. The resulting story is anything but simple; packed with vast and universal themes, mixed with humor and peopled with vivid characters. This has to be one of Pratchett’s best. Like all his stories, the humor and the inventive quirkiness makes for a delightful read yet this is a story that also thoughtfully explores an array of fascinating themes ranging from faith, free will, gender, science, class structure, justice, duty and the nature of the universe.

I completely fell in love with the characters and I also think that one of the most appealing features of this book is the underlying sweetness of it that moved me tremendously. Besides, who can resist the tree climbing octopi and the grandfather birds?

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Lynn: For those who don't know me, let me say upfront that I a major fan of science fiction and fantasy and I might be a trifle outspoken about those genres now and again. It's been a great year for speculative fiction and this exciting book is one of my favorites.

Set on a world settled by colonists seeking a simpler, closer to God life, the story follows a young boy just days from his thirteenth birthday, about to become officially a man in his settlement of Prentisstown. The town has no women, a virus having killed them all when Todd was just an infant. The virus left the Noise, the ability of every man to hear the constant stream of thoughts of all those men around him. When Todd "hears" a strange area of silence, it triggers his foster fathers to send him fleeing the settlement but the other men of the town ride out to track him down.

The idea of the Noise is an integral and fascinating part of this story and Ness raises intriguing issues based on the idea, including the wonderful depiction of how animals sound. While this is a tense dystopian novel, it is also a startling and unique coming of age story asking what does it mean to be a man. Heart-pounding unrelenting suspense kept me flying through this book. This is the first of a series and the cliff-hanger ending left me hanging by my fingernails! Note: There is a lot of horrifying violence in the story and some very upsetting deaths.
Cindy: I stayed up WAAAAAYY too late last night finishing this un-put-downable title and am paying for it tonight. The voice in this novel may be the strongest element in a very fine story that has many strengths. Interesting that it is voice that stands out in a novel that creates chaos and lack of privacy by having too many voices being heard. And, the voice of the dog added humor in a novel that needed that to get us through the rest of the events.

The ending was as much a cliffhanger as Lynn promised, and I can't STAND waiting for sequels when the ending leaves you hanging as badly as this one does. I mean, really, what am I supposed to do between now and the Fall of 2009 while characters' fates hang in the balance? If anything happens to the girl in this book, maybe Todd can hook up with the girl in Graceling by Cashore--they have the same incredible survival endurance, whereas I'd be dead by page 43. More than hating to wait for sequels, I can't stand to not read exciting books that people are talking about. Count me a fan of this one and recommend it to readers who liked The Hunger Games by Collins.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka

Lynn: My house is overflowing with Y chromosomes but this laugh-out-loud book is for anyone who is a guy or knows a guy! Jon Scieszka's tales of the 6 little boy Scieszka's growing up in Flint, Michigan is guaranteed to to make the crankiest grump feel better. I prescribe reading one of these short chapters after work/school every day to induce instant laughter. Caution - readers exposed to only a few pages may experience an overwhelming impulse to read the stories aloud to companions or even perfect strangers! I'm not sure what is funniest but it may be a tie between the chapter about 4 little boys all "crossing swords" or the chapter with the car trip, a Stuckey's pecan log and a barfing cat! I do know I laughed so hard that I got the hiccups!
Cindy: OMG. I am married to a knucklehead! He came from a family of six children, attended parochial school, and tried most of these stunts, I'm sure. The only saving grace for him (and me) is that four of his siblings were girls. I'm buying copies of this for all of them, and his mother and brother, for Christmas. Our family photo albums look just like Jon's photos. This is a guaranteed hit for reading aloud and would be a great stepping off point for journal entries or writing and storytelling assignments. The book design from the comic book format of the cover to the silhouettes of little green army guys scattered throughout is fabulous. I hope that little boys are still spending their summers being "wild explorers of the land" and are not parked in front of video games all summer--their stories just won't be as much fun when they are older otherwise. My husband is going to read this next, but I've already read half of it aloud to him. It won't matter, it'll be just as funny the second time around.

Delicious: The Life & Art of Wayne Thiebaud by Susan Goldman Rubin

Cindy: How can you not love an artist who focuses on desserts? Rubin's artist biographies are always a delight and this one is no exception. It celebrates an artist who had a happy childhood and wants to create joyful art. That's a rare combo with artists! I've always loved Thiebaud's food paintings, but I now am fascinated by his farm geometric landscapes and would like to see more of his work. And, I'd love to see him draw Popeye with both hands simultaneously like Rubin reports he can do.
Lynn: Rubin does her usual outstanding job of bringing her subject to life for young readers. It was cool that she got to actually interview Thiebaud.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith, illus. by E. B. Lewis

Cindy: I missed the prequel to this, The Way a Door Closes, when it first published, but hunted it down and read it, too, after reading this new sequel. 13-yr.-old C. J. struggles with a full range of emotions when his father returns to the household after a long absence. The poetry is very fine, the illustrations exquisite, and the story will touch the hearts of all who have had someone reinsert themselves in their lives. One of my favorite spreads is the one where the dad and son know that the house is no longer big enough for both of them. The illustration shows who is winning that fight. Caldecott committee, are you keeping the night watch?
Lynn: We're conjoined souls on this fabulous book! The evocative poetry goes right to the heart and the wonderful illustrations extend and enrich the poetry for a powerful combination. This is a poetry book that will make converts out of people who think they don't like poetry. I love how this book speaks to the issue of changing family roles. So many of us have experienced that whether it is a traveling spouse, shift changes, divorce, stepfamilies etc. and this captures the complexity of emotions that lies beneath the question of who locks the door at night. Now I'd never tell an award committee what to do but....:-)

Paper Towns by John Green

Cindy: Which cover art do you like best? The sunny smiley yellow one or the somber blue cover? Margo Roth Spiegelman, like many of us, has many sides to her personality, but which one is the real Margo? Quentin has known her for years but doesn't really know her. After a night of pranks that involve the daddy-sized Vaseline, dead fish, and The Club (steering wheel lock) among other implements of destruction, Margo disappears. Quentin follows the clues she left that lead him on a path to Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and on a hilarious road trip with his friends. Just as funny and smart as his first two Printz winners, this one has teens raving already. John Green fans may want to check out his vlog created in tandem with his brother Hank at Hank's song, "Accio Deathly Hallows," is worth checking out.

And for what it's worth. I like the yellow cover best. The model has a very mischievious glint in her eye that intrigues me.
Lynn: I find the yellow cover more eye-catching but I think the blue cover reflects the atmosphere of the book better, which had a slightly melancholy undertone for me. I love books about road trips and smart practical jokes so this started out dynamite for me. It kept on being dynamite but the mood shifted so much after Margo leaves and felt like a much different and more serious book. Exceptionally well done was the portrayal of that sense of passage that many teens feel so strongly as they graduate high school and look to begin their adult lives. I again found myself really enjoying the secondary characters - in fact I think I liked them better than I liked Q - and the dialog between the friends was dead on! I'd really like to reread this and take more time with the themes and imagery which was so intriguing. I do have the audio and can't wait to listen. I think Green's writing is getting better with each book and this one is his best yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Lynn: Tamora Pierce blurbs this book saying, "Here's a WOW of a book," and that sums up my feelings pretty well. Kristin Cashore has created an intensely interesting world and peopled it with characters that sparkle with complexity and life. The terms fast paced and compulsively readable can't be used often enough here. There are moments in the plot that literally made me gasp out loud but the core of the book is the naturallly evolving development of the characters who take control of the reader's heart. Teens are going to be standing in line for this one and storming the librarian's desk demanding more the minute they finish the last page.
Cindy: This is a fabulous first novel and I was with Cashore for most of the trip. The plot bogged down a little for me at the end starting with Katsa trekking through the snowy mountains with no coat, no sleep, and no food, but hey, I like my Gortex... I'll be interested to hear what others think of the final chapters. (Throw us a comment!) I'll definitely be booktalking this and am eager for the next installment myself!

Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson

Lynn: "I suddenly saw it, the clue that changed everything." Scott Nelson's journey to discover if John Henry was a real person makes for exciting reading in this beautifully designed book. He takes the reader step by step through the research process, from dead ends and roadblocks to the hard work and inspiration that helped him to solve the problem. Young readers get a taste of what it is really like to do historical research and along the way they will learn a lot about the time, the events and forces that shape our world.

This is the kind of nonfiction that inspires and motivates and is fun too! The endnotes are fascinating and the section by Marc Aronson on "How To Be a Historian" is also very well done.
Cindy: I'll never hear the ballad of John Henry again that I won't think of this wonderful book. Teachers should have success using this book to illuminate the research process, but teens who give it a chance will be sucked into the mystery from the first page. A must purchase for school and public libraries...and a darn fine holiday gift book as well.

The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes

Lynn: I love a good ghost story and here is a collection of 5 creepy and beautifully written ghost stories that is also a tribute to the wonderful writing of Edith Wharton. First Deborah Noyes rewrites the classic story Kerfol from the perspective of a young maid in the household, then she takes the framing device of the original story as a spring board for the second ghost story, ladling up large dollups of Wharton's atmospheric prose. Three more stories follow, moving forward in time but all set in the same location and with visitations from the many ghosts that haunt the house.

I started by rereading the original Wharton but that is because I am just compulsive that way. Teens won't have to do that as the first story beautifully retells the story but I expect that many teens will hunt up Wharton's writing when they finish this book! The stories that follow are eerie, the narrative styles skillfully reflective of their time period and completely satisfying.

Noyes is a MUCH under-appreciated writer and this is a book that I hope will get the attention it deserves. Besides it is a really really scary!
Cindy: I liked all of the stories in this unique collection, but the one set in the 80s with the Kerfol mansion being a tourist attraction that inspires a couple to sneak in and spend the night might be the one with the most widespread teen appeal. I hope teens are inspired to riff on their own favorite short story. What's happening now in Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" town? Or, who is making a wish on a monkey paw this Halloween? This book is a natural for inspiring creative writing projects. What would you sacrifice to buy your boyfriend/girlfriend the perfect Christmas gift? Let us know what YOU come up with.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson

Lynn: Astonishing indeed. The brilliance of this book overwhelmed me. The characters and themes are etched in my soul and the deeply ironic injustice portrayed in the story broke my heart so that it will never completely mend nor should it. Anderson has given us a masterpiece that should be required reading in every senior English class in America.

While still perfectly reflecting Octavian’s scholarly writing style in the first book, this book is perhaps more accessible than the first with vivid battle scenes and short vignettes of the soldiers of the Ethiopian regiment. There is such depth and richness to this narrative and Anderson never loses control of a single element. I am not on the Printz committee nor have I reread as that group is doing, but this book tops my personal best list this year.
Cindy: This book and its prequel leaves me speechless. Well, almost. I'd love to see a gold Printz sticker on this come January. This duet makes us reflect on liberty, freedom, and property and to view our nation's history through a slightly different lens. Teens looking for a challenging but rewarding read will not be disappointed. I'll never forget Lynn's story of the 8th grader who heard her booktalk this and took a chance on it. When he returned it, he said, "Finally, an author who knows that teens have a brain!"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A River of Words:The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jennifer Bryant


This is Just to Say...

I have eaten
the words
that were in
this biography

and which
were so beautifully
for devouring

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so filling

This is a beautiful book from end paper to end paper. The simple biography of how this physician made time in his day to write poetry is perfectly illustrated with Melissa Sweet's collages. I love the inclusion of his poetry drafts typed on his prescription pads. I hope those were authentic! This would pair nicely with LOVE THAT DOG and the newly released HATE THAT CAT by Sharon Creech. Of course, it is also for poetry lovers of all ages.
Lynn: Yes! We agree completely here.This enchanting book succeeds in so many ways. As a biography of Williams it is informative, interesting and inspiring. As an introduction to Williams' poetry is it provides wonderful examples in unique ways that yield an almost irresistible impulse to run to the library for more. Visually this book is a gem, with treasures to be found on every page. It is a book that inspires a reader to linger.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Lynn: Wow! I am a rabid fan of Lanagan’s short stories and I was really excited to read this new full-length novel. It is a fantasy and uses a fairly conventional narrative style so it may be more accessible to more readers. It is still a very demanding book and will challenge readers in a different way. The emotional wallop is extremely intense, especially in the first 70 pages of the story. It is the tale of a young girl, 14, in some Middle Ages type place, living in extreme poverty. Since the death of her mother, Liga’s father has sexually abused her, aborted the children she conceives and completely isolated her. After her father dies, she gives birth to a child and is gang raped. In anguish and despair, she decides to kill herself. When something magical intervenes, Liga finds herself living in the place of her dreams – where nothing would ever hurt her again. But what price must she pay for her safety? The writing is brilliant and I am sure that rereading will yield treasure. The characters are beautifully developed; world building is extraordinarily rich as Lanagan plays cunningly with form and genre. Her trademark unique use of language is also present.

The subject matter and bawdy sexuality will make this a controversial book and I am sure it will be much debated. It is definitely for mature readers but should not be missed! This is one of my top three for the year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Big Game of Everything by Chris Lynch

Cindy: This book was a hoot. I've read all of Chris's more recent, darker titles, and definitely need to go back and read some of the earlier funny titles that I've missed. Two brothers have summer jobs helping Grampus with the family golf course. There are only 13 holes so far, but Grampus is slowly working on developing the course, so to get in 18, you have to repeat a few holes. It's the kind of book that has such great characters and comic moments that you don't care if it even has a plot. And then, Lynch, twists a little knife in your heart as Grampus is forced to contemplate THE BIG GAME OF EVERYTHING. Loved it.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

Lynn: Here's a book that ticked my funnybone from the very first where we learn that the despicable Willougby parents "frequently forgot they had children and became quite irritable when they were reminded of it," to the end when the children become old fashioned orphans - and heirs - at last! I loved the Nanny who disguises herself as an alabaster statue and the eventual demise of the parents. The glossary is fabulous. It seemed to me that Lowry was having a terrific time laughing affectionately at the whole body of classic children's literature and I laughed right along with her. Terrific fun!
Cindy: Would someone tell me who this book is for? I like what Lowry is trying to say about classic children's literature not always having the best interests of children at heart, and part of this book was hilarious, but parts made me very uncomfortable. The jury is still out for me.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Cindy: I read this book months ago in manuscript and it haunts me still. Find it, read it, talk about it.

Lynn: This wins the page turner of the year award. Teens will love this and I want the sequel NOW.