Archive for October, 2012

Review of And Then It’s Spring, by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

And Then It’s Spring

written by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin E. Stead

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2012. 32 pages.

As you would expect from Caldecott-winning illustrator Erin Stead, this book is beautiful. This isn’t so much a book for storytime (though it would work for that if the kids could sit up close to see the pictures and the details) as it is a meditative book for sitting with a child in your lap and looking slowly and enjoying the pictures.

This is a book about time passing, specifically the time when winter is finishing up, and you’re waiting for Spring. It’s not particularly a book for southern California (where I grew up), but it’s lovely for more northern climes.

First you have brown,
all around you have brown.

The bundled up boy and dog and turtle (even the turtle has a stocking cap at first!) plant some seeds. They wait and wait. They shed some wraps. It’s amazing how many different scenes Erin Stead makes out of that premise. And the poetry of the lines has its own music.

One page I especially like is:

or maybe it was the bears and all that stomping,
because bears can’t read signs
that say things like
“please do not stomp here —
there are seeds
and they are trying.”

On that page, three bears are in among the plantings, and one bear is scratching himself with the described sign.

On another page, we see creatures that have made tunnels inside the earth as we look at a cross-section, with the boy and a rabbit with their ear to the ground and the dog and the turtle looking at a creature coming out of a tunnel.

and the brown,
still brown,
has a greenish hum
that you can only hear
if you put your ear to the ground
and close your eyes”

But don’t worry! Spring does come.

but the brown isn’t around
and now you have green,
all around
you have
green.

This book has grown on me. The first time I read it, I leafed through it too quickly. This is a book for poring over, for reading again and again, and for sharing with a child.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/and_then_its_spring.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Librarians Help – Tech Tools

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

My library’s doing “Tech Games” — a series of 20 activities designed to teach staff members how to do various things on the internet. One of them is making a blog.

Now, I definitely want to participate. But I do make a point of doing all my blogging on my own time, to reinforce that I do not speak for the library where I work, and neither does the library control what I can say. So I’m writing this on my off time, but will link to this post about blogging.

I am pleased that my library is finally doing Tech Games. The county I worked for before Fairfax did the same thing years ago. It’s highly appropriate for libraries because we want libraries to be places where people come to get information. Since the internet is also about information, it’s a good fit. So it’s best if librarians are knowledgeable about tech tools and know how to use them. The point of Tech Games is to help us learn about any we haven’t used yet.

And the best way is to learn by doing.

And, yes, we can help you download free books to check out on your device, but we can also help in many other areas.

When you think of people who can help you with technology, do you think of librarians? I hope so!

Librarians Help!

In the comments, please mention ways you’ve been helped by a librarian, or a way you, as a librarian, have been able to help someone.

Review of The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer

by Jasper Fforde

Harcourt, Boston, 2012. 287 pages.
Starred Review

Hooray! Jasper Fforde has taken his silliness, his clever quirkiness, and written a fantasy novel for young adults. The world seems fairly similar to ours — only with magic and dragons. And strange, quirky details, like marzipan mines and the poor and downtrodden marzipan addicts.

The front page of the book — right before Chapter One — tells exactly what happens:

Once, I was famous. My face was seen on T-shirts, badges, commemorative mugs, and posters. I made front-page news, appeared on TV, and was even a special guest on The Yogi Baird Daytime TV Show. The Daily Clam called me “the year’s most influential teenager,” and I was the Mollusc on Sunday‘s Woman of the Year. Two people tried to kill me, I was threatened with jail, had fifty-eight offers of marriage, and was outlawed by King Snodd IV. All that and more besides, and in less than a week.

My name is Jennifer Strange.

Jennifer Strange starts out the book managing a house full of magicians. She’s almost sixteen, a foundling, and an indentured servant, and she doesn’t have any magic herself, but their founder has disappeared, and she’s far more practical than any magic-user, so the post has fallen to her.

When a premonition comes up that the Last Dragon is about to die, the whole country (and others besides) is in uproar. Because when a dragon dies, his lands can be divided up, on a first-come, first-served basis. When it turns out to have been foreseen that Jennifer is the Last Dragonslayer, she finds herself in the very center of earth-shaking events.

This paragraph about those who work for Kazam Mystical Arts Management will give you an idea of the style:

Of the forty-five sorcerers, movers, soothsayers, shifters, weather-mongers, carpeteers, and other assorted mystical artisans at Kazam, most were fully retired due to infirmity, insanity, or damage to the vital index fingers, either through accident or rheumatoid arthritis. Of these forty-five, thirteen were potentially capable of working, but only nine had current licenses — two carpeteers, a pair of pre-cogs, and most important, five sorcerers legally empowered to carry out Acts of Enchantment. Lady Mawgon was certainly the crabbiest and probably the most skilled. As with everyone else at Kazam, her powers had faded dramatically over the past three decades or so, but unlike everyone else, she’d not really come to terms with it. In her defense, she’d had farther to fall than the rest of them, but this wasn’t really an excuse. The Sisters Karamazov could also claim once-royal patronage, and they were nice as apricot pie. Mad as a knapsack of onions, but pleasant nonetheless.

When I finished this book, I actually laughed happily. It is highly possible that you have to have a similar sense of humor to truly enjoy Jasper Fforde’s work, but I certainly do. This book definitely stands alone just fine, and the story is complete in itself. All the same, I’m very happy to see “The Chronicles of Kazam, Book One” on the title page, because it will definitely be fun to visit this world again.

I suspect that fans of Jasper Fforde’s books for adults will enjoy this one as well. The quirkiness and esoteric references are toned down a tiny bit, the book is shorter and the protagonist younger, but the flavor is the same. And I do hope that it will capture some fans for him much younger than before. Who says high fantasy has to be deadly serious? This is a book that will make nerdy teens laugh, and I say that with utmost respect.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/last_dragonslayer.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, by Brianna Karp

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness

A Memoir

by Brianna Karp

Harlequin, 2011. 344 pages.
Starred Review

Wow. This book will grab you and keep you turning pages. And I hope it will adjust your opinion of homeless people.

If you’ve ever thought that the homeless are lazy or somehow deserve their fate, consider the words of Brianna Karp:

“I had never thought about how those homeless people ended up there. I had never once thought to ask, ‘Why would a lazy person choose that life?’ It seems like a really hard, scary, uncertain life. It seems like the last kind of life a lazy jackass would choose.”

This book tells how one person ended up there. Yes, she had a difficult upbringing. She did have a job, much of the time, and even a trailer to live in. But she definitely doesn’t fit the stereotypical picture of a homeless person. Reading her story definitely made me think.

I was hoping the book would end with Brianna happily married and living in a house, never to be homeless again. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. But the story of her journey is compelling and moving. She knows how to tell her story so that you feel for her, but don’t pity her. She does show how to be homeless with dignity and self-respect. I truly hope that this book will have incredible sales. Did I mention the story is a page-turner?

As a public librarian, I deal with homeless people every day. I’m sure there are many I don’t know are homeless, but I know that the library is a great place for homeless people, since our services are open to all and everyone is equal there. This book increases my respect for them, and that’s a good thing. And did I mention it’s a great story?

Most of the book is Brianna’s story, but I like this section where she talks to the reader about attitudes toward homeless people:

“The most irritating thing, I found, is when people question ‘luxury’ items like phones, laptops or vehicles. ‘I just saw a homeless person with a cell phone! Guess he’s not really homeless.’ ‘Wait a second, how do you blog if you’re homeless?’ ‘Why don’t you sell your phone and laptop and car and buy food or rent an apartment?’. . .

“I can understand potentially taking issue with government money being misspent — if a homeless individual is receiving housing funds for a very specific, designated purpose from an assistance program, and spending them elsewhere. But personal income? It’s yours, you’ve earned it, and if you want to use it to buy a cell phone or a laptop or a book or a necklace or even a goddamn pack of cigarettes because you feel that any of the above will improve the quality of your life or just plain make you feel a little happier or more humanized for a short while, then good for you. I will never be the one to demand to know how much it cost you or look at you askance and mutter about how you wouldn’t be homeless if only you didn’t buy A, B or C. It’s basic respect, and I don’t think that basic respect and the right to privacy end when you lose your home. . . .

“Sustainability is the key to any lifestyle. Sure, I could sell my phone and my laptop for the price of a few hamburgers. But, then, the hamburgers would soon be gone, and so would my phone and laptop. I would have absolutely no phone, so an employer could contact me. And without a laptop, I would only be able to search and apply for work online during the hours that the public library was open.”

This book will entertain you, but it will also make you examine your own attitudes.

girlsguidetohomelessness.com
harlequin.com
@tGGtH

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/girls_guide_to_homelessness.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Sonderling Sunday – Chapter 11 – Costumed Elephants and Schwenkery

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

It’s Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when we play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. You do not have to speak German to enjoy these, and you do not have to read the books. In fact, not having done these things might well make the chosen phrases more bizarre, and thus more fun for those of us with a Sonderling sense of humor.

As I’m writing this, I’m about to experience my very first hurricane, and I find it frightfully funny that it is named Sandy. No wonder she is raging — she ALMOST got a really great name! Now, it didn’t happen that Sandy struck Sondy on Sunday, but I do have Monday off. Here’s hoping that the only way Sandy will affect me is to get some extra time off work to read. But we shall see. Anyway, I can stay up late tonight writing Sonderling Sunday and tomorrow sleep late!

This week, we’re back to the original Sonderbook that started Sonderling Sunday, James Kennedy‘s The Order of Odd-Fish, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge. We left off on page 124 in English, Seite 158 auf Deutsch.

Some truly useful phrases:

“still in a state of numb shock” = noch immer wie betäubt von dem Schock

“studded with chrome spigots” = mit Chromzapfen gespickt war

“breezed through the room” = fegten aufgescheucht durch den Raum (Hmm. Google translates that translation as “swept scared through the room”)

“a lavishly costumed elephant” = einen prachtvoll kostümierten Elefanten

“stables” = Stallungen

“dazed envy” = gedämpften Neid (“dampened envy”)

Ah! Shorter in German:
“overstuffed chairs” = Plüschsessel

“The Prancing Gobbler!” = Der Stolzierende Schlinghals!

“engaging in rampant Schwenkery” = in schwenkischen Eskapaden ergangen

“as I tossed and turned” = während ich mich in meinen Bett gewältzt (“as I in my bed waltzed”)

“all due respect” = bei allem gebotenen Respekt

“Municipal Squires Authority” = Städtischen Knappenbehörde

“trailed by a group of curious squires” = eine Gruppe von neugierigen Knappen im Kielwasser (“a group of curious squires in her wake” — her “keel-water”)

“snorted” = schnaubte (That’s a good one.)

“frowning at Nora” = schaute Nora missbilligend an (“looked at Nora disapprovingly”)

“earshot” = Hörweite (“hear-far”)

“You look sick.” = Du bist plötzlich so grün im Gesicht (“You are suddenly so green in the face.”)

Now, didn’t you want to know how to say this?
“bristling . . . with claws and spikes and goo-shooting tubes” = mit Klauen und Dornen und Drüsen besetzt ist, aus denen irgendeine Flüssigkeit spritzt

Well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop in the middle of a section. I’m feeling strangely dizzy tonight, and I’m guessing it’s a vestibular migraine starting from the extreme low pressure in the approaching hurricane. (Drat that Sandy!) Here’s hoping that I can sleep it off!

Meanwhile, can you use one of these phrases in a sentence? Maybe translate into a different language yet?

As for me, I guess I stopped because ich bin plötzlich so grün im Gesicht. I hope the sounds of the storm won’t have me waltzing in my bed tonight! I will try to sit out the storm tomorrow in Plüschsessel.

Stay safe!

Review of Ordinary Magic, by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Ordinary Magic

by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Bloomsbury, New York, 2012. 276 pages.
Starred Review

Abby Hale lives in a world where it’s normal to have magic. She’s the youngest of five children, and her two older sisters and two older brothers all came out as having very high levels of magic at their Judging.

But Abby? She’s twelve years old and ready for her Judging. And it turns out she has no magic at all. She’s completely ordinary, called an Ord by “normal” people.

Ords are considered barely human. However, they do have one skill in this magical world — magic doesn’t affect them, so they can walk right through charms and protective spells. Because of this, Adventurers like to have an Ord along to make treasure accessible. And they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get one.

Fortunately, Abby’s family would never sell her, ordinary or not. In fact, her sister works at a school established for Ords in the capital city, a school that’s supposed to keep them safe.

But staying safe isn’t easy in a world accustomed to thinking of Ords as having no rights.

This book was a lot of fun, especially all the ways it was exactly the opposite of Harry Potter. Instead of learning she’s a Wizard in a world of Muggles, Abby finds out she’s an Ord in a world of Magic Users — normal people.

I love the way the author conveys what’s normal in that world. For example, Abby’s complaining about the “realistic” fiction she has to read in class:

All the authors we read are boring. All the stories we read are about people hating each other and being miserable. And there aren’t even any carpet chases or magic fights or somebody turning somebody else into a toad. There are no dragons. How realistic can you be without dragons?

In another place, parts of their house have been unmagicked, so that Abby can get around in it.

I knew it was a pain for my family at first — to have to use little knobs to turn on the water in the bathroom instead of just poofing the perfect pressure and temperature, and having doors open to just one room instead of whatever room it was you wanted — but nobody said anything.

At school, they’re trained in self-defense, because there are so many people out there who would like to capture them and use them, or, in the case of red caps, eat them. I laughed at this section, where the teacher is explaining why they have to learn more languages than normal people do in their schools:

Here language was required every single year. We were going to learn a different language each year, and in order to graduate to the next grade we’d have to be what Mr. O’Hara called “functionally fluent.”

“Why? So we’re ready to be bought and sold?” Peter muttered under his breath.

“In case you’re bought and sold,” Mr. O’Hara answered so everyone could hear. “I think you’ll find escape much easier if you know the local language.” And then he spent the rest of the class introducing us to Astrin and teaching us the tourist basics, like hello, good-bye, please, thank you, and help, I’m being kidnapped!

In general, this book is a whole lot of fun. It beautifully shows you Abby’s affection for her loving, quirky family. It’s a little weaker in showing her friendships at school. That’s the point where it begins to pale in comparison to Harry Potter. There are also two places where the author destroys the suspense by telling you right up front that Abby gets out of it:

What happened next was my fault. I just want to say that straight out. I know Olivia blamed Peter, and Alexa blamed, you know, the actual people responsible, but I should have known better.

Once she’s said that, at the beginning of the chapter, you just can’t think that she’s going to be away from Olivia and Alexa (her sisters) for very long at all. If they’re arguing about who’s at fault, we know she gets out of the situation before too long.

In another place, we read, “King Steve told me later that they modeled the alarm system on the cries of real-life banshee.” That takes the teeth out of a sentence on the very next page which includes the phrase, “if I got out of this and saw King Steve again…”.

I also wasn’t completely satisfied with where it ended. In the Harry Potter books, I always scoffed that these adventures took precisely one school year. In this book, though there is a climax, the adventure doesn’t feel complete. We have some very important loose threads left hanging. The book ends at the end of the school year, but it feels like a random place to end.

However, these were minor details in a delightful debut novel. This book is full of good-natured teasing between a family who loves each other. It pokes fun at conventions of fantasy stories by turning them on their heads. And along the way, it creates a credible imaginary world and fleshes it out with details. As well as looking closely at how it feels to be on the wrong side of prejudice. I definitely want to read the next book just as soon as it comes out. I want to find out what happens to the loose ends left hanging, and, especially, I want to spend more time with Abby Hale and her family.

www.bloomsburykids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/ordinary_magic.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Sonderling Sunday – Momo

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time when I use children’s books to give interesting and enlightening translations of phrases that must be useful — they’re used in a children’s book! This is intended to be interesting even for readers who don’t speak German, but who find words even a little bit fascinating.

I wanted to look at a book originally written in German, and of course the first book I thought of was Momo, by Michael Ende.

Momo was the first book I ever purchased from Book-of-the-Month Club, and worked out so well, I blame it for my subsequent addiction. Momo was, I believe, the first book my husband-to-be and I read aloud to each other. We later read it aloud to our boys. A copy of Momo, in the original language, was my very first purchase when we moved to Germany in 1996, along with a hiking map of the area we moved to. Even if I couldn’t read it yet, I wanted to own it. I can’t quite put Momo above Anne of Green Gables in my list of all-time favorite children’s books, but I consistently call it Number Two.

Besides being a good story, Momo is mythic. Gray men come stealing people’s time. They convince people to save time — and then they steal it. Momo is the only one who can see them, since she has a gift of listening. My then-boyfriend and I were finishing reading this book aloud during Finals Week in college. We knew we “didn’t have time” — but it’s not a book you can use that excuse not to read!

This book is only slightly longer in German than in English, unlike some others. However, my English edition uses much larger print than the German one, so that may be a factor. It is 227 pages in English, translated from 285 pages in German.

I don’t have much time left of Sunday, but let’s see if I can make a start into Chapter One. Part One, Erster Teil is called “Momo and Her Friends” in English, translated from Momo und ihre Freunde. Erstes Kapitel is titled Eine groβe Stadt und ein kleines Mädchen, which means “a big city and a small girl.” I like that much better than the English chapter title, “The Amphitheater.” Here are the two different chapter title pages:

I love it! I looked at the front matter more carefully than before, and it turns out that the German edition has a subtitle on the title page. The English edition does not. It goes like this:

MOMO

oder

Die seltsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zurückbrachte

This roughly translates to: “MOMO, or: The Strange Story of the Time Thieves and of the Child Who Got the Stolen Time Back for Mankind”

Now I’ll go to some phrases from the first chapter. This time, since the original language is German, I’ll begin with the German, then tell how it was translated.

breite Straβen, enge Gassen und winkelige Gäβchen = “broad streets, narrow alleyways, and winding lanes”

goldenen und marmornen Götterstatuen = “idols of gold and marble”

aus Steinblöcken gefügt waren = “built entirely of stone”

Die Sitzreihen für die Zuschauer lagen stufenförmig übereinander wie in einem gewaltigen Trichter. = “Seats for spectators were arranged in tiers, one above the other, like steps lining the crater of a man-made volcano.”
(Longer in English! Google translates gewaltigen Trichter as “mighty funnel,” and the translator’s choice does seem more descriptive.)

With the intricacies of word order, it’s easier to give this complete sentence:
Es gab prächtige, mit Säulen und Figuren verzierte, und solche, die schlicht und schmucklos waren. = “Some were resplendent with columns and statues [Säulen und Figuren], others plain and unadorned [schlicht und schmucklos].”

unter freiem Himmel statt = “open to the sky”

plötzlichen Regenschauern = “sudden downpours”

leidenschaftlicher Zuhörer und Zuschauer = “enthusiastic playgoers” (“passionate hearers and viewers”)

haben die Steine abgeschliffen und ausgehöhlt = “worn away and eaten into the stonework”

I think this sentence is a little more poetic in the original language:
Im geborstenen Gemäuer singen nun die Zikaden ihr eintöniges Lied, das sich anhört, als ob die Erde im Schlaf atmet. = “Crickets now inhabit their crumbling walls, singing a monotonous song that sounds like the earth breathing in its sleep.”

This, too, sounds better in German:
die Hütten und Häuser immer armseliger werden = “the houses became shabbier and more tumbledown” (Google translates it as “the cabins and houses are always poor”)

Pinienwäldchen = “a clump of pine trees”

Altertumswissenschaft = “Archaeology” (“antiquity knowledge craft”)

These are simply fun to say:
grasbewachsenen Sitzreihen = “grass-grown tiers of seats”

knipsten ein Erinnerungsfoto = “took a couple of snapshots” (literally: “snapped a memory-photo”)

man beim besten Willen nicht erkennen konnte, ob sie erst acht oder schon zwölf Jahre alt war. = “no one could have told her age” (literally: “one with the best will couldn’t tell if she was eight or maybe twelve years old”)

einen wilden, pechschwarzen Lockenkopf = “unruly mop of jet-black hair”)

bunten Flicken = “patches of different colors”

reichte ihr bis auf die Fuβknöchel = “ankle-length” (literally: “reached to her foot-knuckle” I like that word for ankle!)

deren Ärmel an den Handgelenken umgekrempelt waren = “with the sleeves turned up at the wrist”

I like this one:
aufgeschnappt = “picked up”

rostiges Ofenrohr = “rusty stovepipe”

(This picture is from the English edition.)

ein ausgedientes, mit Schnörkeln verziertes Eisenbett = “a decrepit iron bedstead adorned with curlicues” (literally: “an unused, with scrolls decorated iron bed”)

steinernen Loch = “stone cell”

Bühne der Ruine = “stage of the ruined amphitheater”

This doesn’t sound like what it is to me:
behagliches kleines Zimmerchen = “snug little room”

einen kleinen Brotwecken = “a hunk of bread”

The last sentence of the first chapter:
So begann die Freundschaft zwischen der kleinen Momo und den Leuten der näheren Umgebung. = “And that was the beginning of her friendship with the people of the neighborhood.”

Now, for a little fun. Can you use any of these phrases in a sentence? How about translating them into some other language? How do you say “ankle” in Chinese, for example? Or “snug little room” in Spanish?

My favorite phrase from tonight’s chapter was knipsten das Erinnerungsfoto, because I did lots and lots of that all over Europe during the ten years we lived in Germany. But I also have a jacket that I wear deren Ärmel an den Handgelenken umgekrempelt waren. Now when I do so, I will think of Momo.

Review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

by Rae Carson

Greenwillow Books, 2011. 423 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Morris Award Finalist

This is an impressive debut fantasy novel. The author builds a complex, realistic world, and stands a few fantasy conventions on their heads.

For example, where usually you have the heroine not wanting an arranged marriage because the intended is old and ugly, here’s how this book opens:

“Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom. The Scriptura Sancta lies discarded, pages crumpled, on my bed. Bruises mark my knees from kneeling on the tiles, and the Godstone in my navel throbs. I have been praying — no, begging — that King Alejandro de Vega, my future husband, will be ugly and old and fat.

“Today is the day of my wedding. It is also my sixteenth birthday.”

Elisa is the Chosen One. The whole world knows because of the Godstone in her navel. And her god communicates with her through the Godstone. There are prophecies about her.

One thing I like about this is that no one agrees on what the prophecies actually mean. That seems completely realistic, after all. If there were a prophecy, isn’t it likely that whole factions would have different beliefs about what that prophecy means, about what the Chosen One can do for them?

Elisa’s an unlikely heroine, too. She loves to eat, and is overweight and lazy, at least until circumstances force her to change. This book involves war, state politics, danger, adventure, romance, and even religion.

The biggest thing I didn’t like about this book involved my personal prejudice against present tense novels. Most of the time, the story was able to overcome that so I didn’t notice, but not all the time.

Still, Rae Carson built a fascinating world with this book, and the story is clearly not finished. I will definitely want to read this book again when the sequel comes out and spend more time with these characters.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/girl_of_fire_and_thorns.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Splendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy Schlitz

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Splendors and Glooms

by Laura Amy Schlitz

Candlewick Press, 2012. 384 pages.

Splendors and Glooms has been nominated for consideration in two groups I’m part of: Capitol Choices, and the Cybils Awards. I’d already heard speculation about it for the Newbery Medal on Heavy Medal blog. So I wasn’t surprised to find excellent writing. The story, however, isn’t up my alley.

We’ve got a sinister gothic horror tale, beginning in the fogs of London in 1854. There’s a creepy puppeteer who bullies the boy and girl who live with him. There’s a poor little rich girl who lives among memories of her four dead brothers and sisters. And there’s a dying witch, living removed from London, who desperately wants a child to steal her magic fire opal so that she can give it up, so that she won’t be consumed by its fire.

Fans call the book “atmospheric.” I found myself calling it “creepy.” Now, the creepiness is wonderfully crafted. We feel the sinister squalor in which the children live with Grisini, the puppetmaster. We feel the impending doom of Clara’s obsession with the puppets.

Here’s a conversation between the children who live with Grisini after the rich girl, Clara, has disappeared.

Parsefall grabbed her wrist and squeezed it warningly. “We can’t tell the coppers,” he hissed. “There ain’t nuffink to tell. We don’t know nuffink.”

“We know that Grisini knew two other children who disappeared. It must mean something,” hissed Lizzie Rose. “Perhaps the coppers could find out what it is. It might help them find Clara!”

“Grisini would kill us,” Parsefall said desperately. He dug his fingernails into her hand. “If we peached on him, he’d kill us. You don’t know ‘im the way I do.” He heard his voice rise and lowered it again. “Promise me you won’t go to the coppers.”

Lizzie Rose gave a little shiver. She wasn’t promising anything.

So the story is spooky, with slow-growing realization that these children are in the thick of something bad, something dangerous. But on the other hand, the plot is very slow-moving, and by the end the revelations have been foreshadowed so many times, they’re rather anticlimactic. The characters aren’t very likeable, and I found the book awfully easy to put down along the way.

What do you think? Many are lauding this book as a prime Newbery candidate. Laura Amy Schlitz certainly uses language richly and creates a setting where you can almost feel the fog clinging to your clothes. For the Cybils, I’m not sure I can recommend this book as one having kid appeal. But perhaps I’m simply the wrong audience, since in general I don’t like creepy books. I know lots of kids do. If you’ve read the book, I’m curious if you thought the heavy foreshadowing was a flaw or a strength. Feel free to discuss spoilers in the comments.

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/splendors_and_glooms.html

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

The Mighty Miss Malone

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Wendy Lamb Books, 2012. 307 pages.
Starred Review

The Mighty Miss Malone is a companion book to Christopher Paul Curtis’ Newbery Medal-winning book, Bud, Not Buddy. I read Bud, Not Buddy so long ago, I didn’t really remember it, so I can confidently say that did not in any way reduce my enjoyment of The Mighty Miss Malone. Bud makes a very short appearance in this book, but mostly this one is just set in the same time period of the Great Depression. This book is all about Deza Malone.

Deza Malone is the smartest person in her class, and she knows it. She wants to be a writer, so of course she uses her dictionary and thesaurus a lot — too much, according to her teacher.

In the first chapter, Deza shows us an essay she wrote about her family. About herself, she says:

“My most annoying trait is that some of the time I might talk a little too much, I can be very verbose. I exaggerate but that is because I come from a family of great storytellers which is not the same as great liars.”

Deza’s excited about getting extra teaching from her beloved teacher. But then her father loses his job and her family loses their home. Her father goes on the road to find work, and they in turn try to find him.

Along the way, we see Deza, her brother Jimmie with the voice of an angel, and her parents interacting with lots of laughs and lots of love.

Deza’s family has a motto: “We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful.” I’m glad I got to go along for the ride.

ChristopherPaulCurtis.com
randomhouse.com/kids

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/mighty_miss_malone.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!