Archive for November, 2012

Review of The Search for WondLa, by Tony DiTerlizzi

Friday, November 30th, 2012

The Search for WondLa

by Tony DiTerlizzi
with illustrations by the author

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010. 477 pages.
Starred Review

The Search for WondLa is an illustrated adventure tale written in the style of The Wizard of Oz. I had the wonderful opportunity to have dinner with the author at ALA Midwinter Meeting, and he said he wrote The Search for WondLa for his ten-year-old self. He succeeded beautifully.

The story, like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is about the search for Home. Also, like Oz, our heroine meets fantastical beings, both friends and fearsome enemies, along the way. She must journey across a strange and foreign landscape in quest of Home and someone like herself.

Eva Nine has been raised in an underground Sanctuary under the supervision of a kind robot called Muthr (Multi-Utility Task Help Robot). But Eva feels constrained, always protected. She has explored parts of the Sanctuary that she wasn’t supposed to know about. She found something that gives her hope:

When she’d discovered this item more than a year before, Eva had tried to identify it with her Omnipod, but the device had concluded that, “There is insufficient data. Not enough information to make an identification.” Eva had determined that it was likely a small piece of tile or even paneling, possibly a sign of sorts, as it was square shaped. On it was an image (a broken one, since it no longer moved) of a little girl holding hands with a robot and an adult.

The only item in Eva’s secret collection not given to her by Muthr.

The only item in her secret collection not identifiable by her Omnipod.

An item another human had left for her, here, by this sealed door.

Proof.

She couldn’t make out who exactly the adult in the image was. The scorched damage obscured the face in soot. However, she could see two letters on this worn piece of paneling: L and a. There was a second, smaller piece to this puzzle, which she had discovered as well. Eva had glued this missing fragment to the top of the panel. It, too, had fancy letters printed on it: “Wond.”

“WondLa,” Eva had dubbed it. She studied the picture in her hands. The girl was smiling. The robot was smiling. Eva was certain the adult was likely smiling too as they all walked together in unison through a field of flowers. Moving as one. As friends. Exploring the forests above.

But Eva’s robot would not allow her to explore. She wouldn’t even let her leave the Sanctuary.

When Eva’s Sanctuary is breached by a monstrous creature looking for new species, Eva is suddenly thrust out into the outside world. But nothing is as Eva expected it to be. The Omnipod can’t identify anything. And among all the creatures out there, there is none other like her.

As Eva tries to escape the horrible huntsman, she makes friends with other creatures in his clutches. But none of them are like her.

So Eva travels through a strange and wondrous world, looking for a place of safety, looking for Home.

The many detailed pictures make this an enthralling adventure tale all the more ready to lure in readers. And it’s only the first volume, so although this book stands alone well, readers can find out what happens to Eva Nine next.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/search_for_wondla.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 Blood Spirits, by Sherwood Smith

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Blood Spirits

by Sherwood Smith

DAW Books, 2011. 488 pages.
Starred Review

It’s hard to talk about this book without saying too much about its predecessor. Yes, you definitely should read Coronets and Steel before you read Blood Spirits. When we left Kim, she had found out a world of information about her grandmother’s secret life. She’d been kidnapped more than once, she’d met long-lost family, and she’d gotten involved in political intrigue and fallen in love. She’d also discovered that she has the Sight, and she saw some truly strange things in the kingdom of Dobrenica.

But in the end, she decided not to get between the man she loves and his duty to his nation. She fled, expecting him to get married, and wondering if the traditional magic would happen and Dobrenica would disappear from the outside world.

Well, Dobrenica didn’t disappear. But Kim decided to get a teaching job and to try not to think about Dobrenica. But it doesn’t work, and then Kim has a strange vision of Ruli, her look-alike cousin, the woman who married the man she loves. Ruli is begging Kim for help. Kim decides to go to Dobrenica.

Her timing is bad. Ruli has just been found dead, and even Alec considers himself responsible for her death. Kim’s showing up then makes the case against him all the worse.

This story includes political intrigue, a murder mystery, and, yes, blood spirits threatening the kingdom. There’s more sword fighting (Kim is a skilled fencer.) and shifting alliances and even Kim’s grandmother faces her old love.

Here’s Kim talking to a Dobrenican girl and discovering she’s not the only one who sees strange things:

Tania refused to sit down, so I collapsed on the bed, as she said without preamble, “When I was little I talked to ghosts. Many ghosts. I see them all around, though most are silent and like fog. But my family, they thought I lied, to gain attention.”

I sat up again. “You talked to them?”

She brought her chin down in a single nod.

“But no one believed you?” I began to pull off my boots.

“No one but my sisters. Theresa because she loves the stories about ghosts. Anna because she knew I never lied.”…

“First, how do you talk to them, and second, what made you decide to tell me these things?”

“I do not know how I speak to them,” she said, her slender hands open as I reached for the wardrobe door. “It happened more when I was small. Rarely since. No one else could hear them. It was not always about things that made sense to me. As for why I’m telling you this, it is partly because of what you said when you came to the lens maker’s, but also because of this man.” She pointed at the wardrobe.

“What?” I jumped back as if I’d been electrocuted, leaving the wardrobe door ajar. “What man?”

She pointed. “He stands there, with a cigarette.”

Sherwood Smith is a master of the fantasy genre, and this book isn’t quite like any other. More swashbuckling romance. With vampires. And these ones definitely don’t sparkle.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/blood_spirits.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 Froi of the Exiles, by Melina Marchetta

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Froi of the Exiles

by Melina Marchetta

Candlewick Press, 2012. 593 pages. First published in Australia in 2011.
Starred Review

Wow. This is an epic, detailed, and complicated world, and Melina Marchetta takes you on a journey through it.

Finnikin of the Rock does stand alone nicely. It didn’t necessarily need a sequel. But you really should read it before reading Froi of the Exiles, and there had better be another book coming, because the story is decidedly not finished in this book.

We met Froi as a scruffy thief in Finnikin of the Rock. In the three years since then, he’s been trained by the elite of Lumatere in many things, including the special skills of an assassin. Now they’re sending him into neighboring Charyn to get revenge on the invasion of Lumatere by killing the king of Charyn. He’s supposed to kill the king and get out. But things do not turn out to be so easy. And it’s not because of the difficulty of the task, but because of the people Froi meets along the way.

This book is richly detailed and finely textured. I’ve noticed that Melina Marchetta rarely introduces you to characters as someone likable. I’d almost go so far as to say that the more unflattering the description, the more important that character is going to be. The amazing part is that she pulls it off. You end up truly caring for these people, despite their apparent flaws. Here’s where Froi meets Quintana:

Beside their own balconette was another that belonged to the room next door. After a moment, the girl with the mass of awful hair stepped out onto it. She peered at Froi, almost within touching distance. Up close she was even stranger looking, and it was with an unabashed manner that she studied him now, and with great curiosity, her brow furrowed. A cleft on her chin was so pronounced, it was as if someone had spent their life pointing out her strangeness. Her hair was a filthy mess almost reaching her waist. It was strawlike in texture, and Froi imagined that if it were washed, it might be described as a darker shade of fair. But for now, it looked dirty, its color almost indescribable.

She squinted at his appraisal. Froi squinted back.

Gargarin appeared beside him and the girl disappeared.

“I’m presuming that was the princess,” Froi said. “She’s plain enough. What is it with all the twitching? Is she possessed by demons?”

It turns out that all of Charyn is cursed with the inability to bear or father Charyn, but Quintana is the key to breaking the curse. This is not a comfortable role.

Meanwhile, back in Lumatere, they are dealing with a band of Charynite refugees who are staying in a valley next to Lumatere. And the new rulers are still trying to rebuild the country. When Froi doesn’t come back, they have to make some choices. Meanwhile, Froi finds out surprising things about himself and his quest gets far more complicated.

Another hallmark of this series is that a lot of people lie. Even good people. Slowly, along with Froi, we get to figure out what is true and what is false and who Froi really is and whether Quintana can truly break the curse and what will they do next?

I love what Melina Marchetta says about the book on the back flap: “It explores nature versus nurture and blood bonds versus friendships, but ultimately it’s a love story between a whole lot of people who should have given up on each other long ago — yet still find it in themselves to hope again.”

The worst part of this book? It ends without finishing the story. I will very eagerly be waiting for the next installment.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/froi_of_the_exiles.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 Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Silver Phoenix

by Cindy Pon

Greenwillow Books, 2009. 338 pages.

I’d been meaning to read this book for ages, and never quite got around to it until this summer, when I found out I might have a chance to meet Cindy Pon at ALA Annual Conference. Well, I did get the book read just before the conference, but I didn’t end up getting to meet Cindy Pon. However, I was happy to read Silver Phoenix and am looking forward to reading the sequel, which I own a copy of (having gotten it at another ALA conference).

Silver Phoenix is a fantasy novel refreshingly different from so many that I’ve read, since this time instead of coming from a western fairy-tale medieval sort of background, the story has a Chinese traditional setting. In the author’s acknowledgements in the back, she mentions doing research in a book, A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas, edited and translated by Richard E. Strassberg. This made the book fascinating and different from any other fantasy novel I’ve read.

Ai Ling’s father is taking a mysterious journey to the Emperor’s Palace. Before he goes, he gives her a pendant.

“It was given to me by a monk, years ago. Before I met your mother.” He took the jade piece between his fingers. “I helped him transcribe a book of religious text in exchange for board at his temple.”

He ran a fingertip over the raised character, his face pensive. “Before I left, he gave me this. He told me to give it to my daughter, if I should ever leave her side for long.” A small smile touched at the corners of his mouth. “But when I said I had no daughter, he merely waved me away.”

When Ai Ling’s father doesn’t return, a vile but powerful merchant tells her mother that he was owed money and will only forgive the debt if Ai Ling becomes his additional wife. In order to escape this fate, Ai Ling sets off to the Palace to find her father. She knows something must have happened, or he would have returned.

On the way to the Palace, Ai Ling seems to attract demons. But her pendant protects her. She gains companions along the way and learns to use the pendant which ultimately helps her in a showdown with evil and some revelations about why these things have happened to her.

Now, there were a few too many coincidences in this book for my taste. Ai Ling blunders along, and eventually gets to where she needs to go. The people she meet end up being the right companions for her.

However — this is a good story and did keep me reading, and I liked the way the ending worked out. It made up for little things I didn’t like about getting there. The demons that attack her are fascinating in their variety. Cindy Pon put that bestiary to good use!

I did like it that everything wasn’t tied up nicely in the end. Besides that this way I can read on, that would have been just too much coincidence. There is more to be revealed, and I like that it didn’t all come out at once. I have a feeling that I’m going to appreciate this story more as I read on.

cindypon.com
harperteen.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/silver_phoenix.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 Some Assembly Required, by Anne Lamott, with Sam Lamott

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Some Assembly Required

A Journal of My Son’s First Son

by Anne Lamott
with Sam Lamott

Riverhead Books, New York, 2012. 272 pages.
Starred Review

I so love Anne Lamott’s writing! She is honest and writes with humor about the failings and foibles we all have. Along the way, a deep faith shines through and a desire to be compassionate to everyone — though she is not afraid to tell us where she is not compassionate at all.

In many ways, Anne Lamott paves the way for me. She’s a little older than me, and her first son was born a year after mine. However, she has become a grandmother before me. In this book, she looks at the beautiful experience of being a grandmother and all the difficulties of letting her son be a father without undue interference from her.

There are some beautiful passages about Jax, the miraculous and wonderful grandbaby:

After I was sure he was sleeping soundly, I touched the flush of his cheeks in that light brown skin and traced those bold eyebrows. Of course, like all babies, he wakes up with a startle, slightly groping and low-level graspy, but with no sense of a time bomb about to go off. The beauty of the curve of his head — how it rests in the crook of his elbow — almost makes me want to flog myself, out of a desperate, unbearable love. All grandparents I’ve mentioned this to have felt this. He’s a Fibonacci spiral, like a nautilus shell — one of those patterns in mathematical expression with a twisting eternal perfection.

Or when she tells Jax the Secret of Life:

Dear Jax: Yesterday was your first Thanksgiving, and it is time for me to impart to you the secret of life. You will go through your life thinking there was a day in second grade that you must have missed, when the grown-ups came in and explained everything important to the other kids. They said: “Look, you’re human, you’re going to feel isolated and afraid a lot of the time, and have bad self-esteem, and feel uniquely ruined, but here is the magic phrase that will take this feeling away. It will be like a feather that will lift you out of that fear and self-consciousness every single time, all through your life.” And then they told the children who were there that day the magic phrase that everyone else in the world knows about and uses when feeling blue, which only you don’t know, because you were home sick the day the grown-ups told the children the way the whole world works.

But there was not such a day in school. No one got the instructions. That is the secret of life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and how they figure out to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others, so no one will know that you weren’t there the day the instructions were passed out.

I know exactly one other thing that I hope will be useful: that when electrical things stop working properly, ninety percent of the time you can fix them by unplugging the cord for two or three minutes. I’m sure there is a useful metaphor here.

I love the way Sam talks about his son:

It used to be kind of an accident that he could get his feet to his mouth, but now it’s a tool in his movements. He grabs his feet to shift his weight forward, and to sit or roll. Now it’s a lever, to use. He’ll use his feet as a lever, as handles. He’s discovered, “Wow, they’re attached to me. They have weight to them.” It’s evolutionary, and it caught me by surprise because the foot phone seemed like a phase, but it was evolution — him starting the movement process, of rolling over, and rocking forward inch by inch, like someone with no arms. Now you can’t take your eyes off him for a second. He’ll go from being on his back to being on his stomach, with an arm trapped beneath him, and hurt himself. Now if you look away, he can get hurt.

But my favorite is where Anne Lamott reflects about Jesus:

I would say that my deepest spiritual understanding is that God also sees and forgives my smallest detail, even my flickery, prickly, damaged, jealous, vain self, and sees how I get self-righteous and feel either like trash, often, or superior, and like such a scaredy-cat, and God still understands exactly what that feels like. Because God had the experience of being people, through Jesus.

Jesus had his good days and bad days and stomach viruses. Not to mention that on top of it all, he had a mom who had bad days and good days of her own. She’s like me and Amy, like all of us; she would have been as hormonal, too. And she must have been jealous sometimes of the people Jesus chose to spend time with instead of her. Jealousy is such a toxic virus. “Who are these people? And what do they have that I don’t have?” It’s pretty easy to be deeply selfish when it comes to sharing your child. Even Mary must have been like: “Back off! He’s mine.

Anne Lamott makes the particular experience of being a grandmother a universal experience that we can all share with her.

riverheadbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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

Review of The Dance, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Monday, November 26th, 2012

The Dance

Moving to the Rhythms of Your True Self

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

HarperSanFrancisco, 2001. 184 pages.

This book is definitely on the New Agey side, but it does offer some wisdom and inspiration. I like thinking of life as a Dance, and that’s the image used throughout the book.

I think I’ll simply give you some examples of quotations from the book that touched me. If these sound uplifting to you, you’ll find more encouragement where these came from.

First, here’s a quotation that’s also on the cover:

The question is not why are we so infrequently the people we really want to be. The question is why do we so infrequently want to be the people we really are.

Some other quotations from different parts of the book:

Finding and voicing our soul’s longing is not enough. Our ability to live in a way that is consistent with our longing — our ability to dance — is dependent upon what we believe we must do. If our intention is to change who we essentially are, we will fail. If our intention is to become who we essentially are, we cannot help but live true to the deepest longings of our soul.

Despite the fact that endless trying isn’t working, it’s what I know. It’s hard to believe that I can be enough as I am. I want to be moremore compassionate, more present, more conscious and aware, more loved and loving, more intimate with myself and the world. I want to know how to be different — better — than I am. Even though I have failed to consistently live my deepest desires and am exhausted by the endless effort to become who I think I will have to be to live these desires, I resist letting go of the trying. I trust my ability to work hard. I have no experience with or faith in my ability to simply be.

As compassionate beings, we have the ability to hold all aspects of ourselves and the world in our hearts, including those aspects that are annoying, dangerous, malicious, and just downright unlikable. But we have to be willing to do the work of finding out how to do this, honestly observing our own internal and external actions and reactions and learning from each instance how to expand our ability to live the compassion we are.

Think of all the places where you separate yourself from others, distinguishing between “us” and “them.” The minute we do this we are building our sense of self, not on what we truly are, but on trying to feel better than others because we fear we are not enough. I watch myself do this all the time. And if I watch with honesty and compassion, I find a way to make being right an unnecessary prerequisite for being happy.

Lately, when I do my daily practice I find myself praying to live gracefully. I have a very particular feeling in my body when I remember or imagine a graceful day. It is a day without rush, a day where I am not suffering over things not being any differenct than they are, a day when I take a breath and accept those things I cannot change, like long lineups in the bank or traffic jams or the weather. It’s a day when I rest easy in a mysterious knowing that there is enough — enough time and money and energy and heart in the world and in my life, a day when I know that I am enough. It is a day when I am simply present with myself and all that is around me. It is a day of being truly happy, of feeling graceful — comfortable in my own skin and life. . . .

To dance, to move gracefully, to receive the grace-filled moments everyday, we have to know that we are worthy not because of our hard work or our suffering or our eagerness to be other than we are; we are worthy by our very nature — the same nature that creates and sustains all that is. When we know this we are able to answer the question “Are you willing to be happy?” with a quiet but confident, “Yes.”

A life where there is love is often messy. Life without love is neater, but neatness is really preferable only in bathrooms and written reports. Dancing alone is often easier and certainly less complicated than dancing with someone else, but there is nothing quite so satisfying as creating even one moment of real beauty moving gracefully with another. Perhaps to find this beauty more often, these moments of moving in exquisite alignment with each other and with the music that guides us, we need to let go of our ideas of what the dance should look like and let the messiness of love guide us.

It is life that teaches us about our incredible capacity to be compassionate, to be with what is, to love ourselves and each other and the world. And for most of us, most of the time it does not happen in the grand causes and revolutionary changes. It happens in the small things, in our human struggles in relationship. As we learn to trust our essentially compassionate nature and our capacity to love, we do not have to guard against this love; we know we can keep the boundaries that help us live side by side, and we know that we truly never stop loving, however silently, those we once loved out loud. And we are renewed by the wonder of how love carries us beyond where we thought we could go.

Sometimes I think there are only two instructions we need to follow to develop and deepen our spiritual life: slow down and let go.

Letting go necessitates being with the fear that comes when we become aware that all that we love in the world — our very life itself — is impermanent. It can bring tremendous relief and rest to let go where we are trying to hold on, trying to keep the same those things which by their very nature are constantly changing. This does not mean loving life and the world any less fiercely. Loving well and living fully are not the same as holding on.

And finally:

You cannot speed up your efforts to create a life that is slower paced any more than you can successfully fight for peace.

With a book like this, much depends on if you read it when you most need it. Reading it didn’t rock my world, but it did warmly bless my life.

oriahmountaindreamer.com
harpercollins.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/dance.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 my personal copy of the book.

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 – Drachenreiter

Monday, November 26th, 2012

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! Where I play with language by looking at the German translations of children’s books.

Only tonight, I’m going to go with the opposite approach, looking at the English translation of a German children’s book.

Cornelia Funke is popular in many countries, and tonight I’ll look at her book Drachenreiter, which is a pretty simple translation into English as Dragon Rider. Now, I discovered when I looked at the lengths of the books I own in English and German, this is the only one where the German edition is shorter (448 pages) than the English edition (536 pages). In Momo, the difference wasn’t as extreme as in others, particularly The Order of Odd-Fish. My theory is that it’s easier to be less wordy when you’re actually writing and thinking in German than you have to be when you’re trying to explain rather bizarre English concepts in German.

I need to keep it short tonight, because today I spent 7 hours on the road, taking my son back to college, came home and took a nap, and now am trying to do a little bit before I go back to sleep to get me good and sleepy. So let’s dip into Drachenreiter

Oo! The first thing I learn on the title page is that the German edition is Mit Illustrationen der Autorin, “with illustrations by the author.” The English edition gives no such credit, except on the copyright page for the “inside illustrations,” and doesn’t seem to include all of them. The English edition lists two other Cornelia Funke books published by Scholastic. The German edition lists 23, so there are surely many translations to go.

Chapter 1 is SCHLECHTE NACHRICHTEN, which is translated straightforwardly as “Bad News.”

I’ll continue my method of listing phrases that catch my eye. Since the original is German, I’ll list that first.

zwitscherten zaghaft = “twittered uncertainly”

Ah! Germans have a shorter concept for “fell head over heels”:
Sie überschlug sich = “fell head over heels” (translated more literally “she tripped over herself”)

“moss-covered rocks” = vermoosten Felsen

“Snuffling” = Schnuppernd

This sentence doesn’t quite say the same thing, it seems to me:
“It was so dark under the fir trees that you could scarcely see the gaping crevice in the mountainside that swallowed up the mist.”
That’s translated from:
Unter den Tannen war es dunkel, so dunkel, dass man den Spalt kaum sah, der in der Bergflanke klaffte. Wie ein Schlund schluckte er den Nebel.
(More literally translated: Under the fir trees was it dark, so dark, that you could scarcely see the gap, that in the side of the mountain gaped. Like a gullet it gulped the mist.” Okay, overall it means the same thing, but I like Wie ein Schlund schluckte, and there’s no direct translation of that.)

This rant by a rat is more fun to say in German:
“They know absolutely nothing about the world. Not the least little thing.”
Sie wissen gar nichts von der Welt. Nichts, überhaupt nichts.

“brownie hairs” = Koboldhaaren

“Sorrel” = Schwefelfell

Here’s a nice insult in German:
du hohlköpfige Pilzfresserin! = “you brainless mushroom-muncher!” (It’s really more “you cave-headed mushroom-muncher,” but this works.)

Longer in English:
mit geflecktem Fell = “with a spotted sulfur-yellow coat” (The sulfur-yellow part must be found somewhere else?)

“furry faces” = Pelzgesichter (There! Aren’t you glad to know that word?)

Here’s a much less interesting name:
“Firedrake” = Lung

The translator got more creative with this exclamation:
Pfui, Schimmelpilz = “Oh, festering fungus!” (It’s a good translation. More direct is something like “Phooey, mold!”)

Shorter in German:
Sein langer, gezackter Schwanz = “his long tail with its spiny crest” (gezackter translates alone as “serrated”)

Another handy expression:
“in a rather hoarse voice” = Seine stimme war ein bisschen rau. (“His voice was a bit raw.”)

“bristling” = sträubte

Another insult (The rat and the brownie don’t like each other.):
pelzigen Dummheiten = “fur-brained fancies”

The translator likes alliteration almost as much as I do:
Bleichstieliger Schüpperling! = “Oh, putrid puffballs!” (I’ve got to go with the translator on this one.)

winzige Sternschnuppen = “tiny shooting stars”

Here’s a choice word:
Drumherumgerede Google translates it “Trappings talk” or “all around talk.” The translator embedded it in a sentence, “The way that rat carries on is enough to drive anyone crazy.”

Why are the insults the most fun?
du blätterwühlender, pilzfressender, zottelköpfiger Kobold = “you leaf-burrowing, mushroom-munching, shaggy-haired brownie” (zottelköpfiger literally means “rat’s-tail-headed.” Seems like an odd insult from a rat, but otherwise a handy thing to know.)

mit beleidigter Miene = “looking offended”

And with that, fully tired now, I need to get to bed. What about you? Know any good insults in another language? How would you translate zottelköpfiger Kobold into Spanish? Korean? Anyone?

Review of Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Starry River of the Sky

by Grace Lin

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2012. 288 pages.
Starred Review

Grace Lin has surpassed herself! Her companion novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, also wove Chinese fairy tales into the larger narrative, and it deservedly won a Newbery Honor. I think Starry River of the Sky is even better. You do not at all need to have read the earlier book to appreciate this one. A few characters appear in both, but each story is completely self-contained.

The first paragraph sets the stage, with the Moon missing, and Rendi stowing away in a cart.

Rendi was not sure how long the moon had been missing. He knew only that for weeks, the wind seemed to be whimpering as if the sky were suffering. At first, he had thought the moans were his own because his whole body ached from hiding in the merchant’s moving cart. However, it was when the cart had stopped for the evening, when the bumping and knocking had ended, that the groans began.

Rendi is caught stowing away, but the innkeeper at the Inn of Clear Sky lets him stay on as an errand boy. He doesn’t feel grateful, but he sees no way to move on. Then a beautiful woman comes to the inn. She talks to old, slow-witted Mr. Shan and she begins to tell stories to Rendi and Peiyi, the innkeeper’s daughter. But she won’t continue to share stories unless Rendi will tell a story himself.

Through the stories, and through events, we see Rendi begin to change. And problems are solved. But what is a boy to such overwhelming problems as a missing moon, parched and drying land, Peiyi’s missing brother, and Rendi’s own identity. Many people in this book are angry, and Grace Lin weaves a tale where we want them to find peace, and we come to believe they can do what it takes to put their anger aside.

Grace Lin is also an artist, so each chapter has a drawing at the start of each chapter, and there are gorgeous full color pictures every few chapters. The stories told within the chapters get their own font as well as small colored pictures on each side of the story’s name. The book is a delight to hold and look at.

Although this isn’t exactly a beginning chapter book, the language is simple and the concepts are all well within the grasp of an elementary age child. This would be a wonderful choice for reading to a classroom or reading to children at bedtime.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/starry_river_of_the_sky.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 book I purchased at KidLitCon and had signed by the author.

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 Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

The Ruins of Gorlan

by John Flanagan
performed by John Keating

Recorded Books, 2006.

One of my co-workers told me she enjoyed listening to this series, and I’d meant to read it ever since it had been a Summer Reading Program selection at our library back in 2008. When it made Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Chapter Books List and I was also looking for my next audiobook to listen to, I finally tackled it.

Now, I found the plot a little predictable and a little stereotypical, but I still enjoyed it. And since the series stretches on and on, I am sure it will go beyond the coming-of-age story in this first volume.

Will has grown up in a castle as a ward of the lord of the castle. All he knows about his father was that he was a hero, and Will imagines him a mighty knight. All his life, he has dreamed of going to battle school.

But Will is too small for battle school. When the mysterious Ranger picks Will out as his apprentice, Will is less than thrilled. But then he learns skills that show him sometimes those with size and brute strength are not the most powerful.

Besides covering the beginning of Will’s training, this book takes us through his first involvement in a conflict with the evil that is building up to attack the kingdom. I can see why so many kids are avidly following this series. This very first one is still popular, but we also get people for looking for the newest volume, and every book along the way. I suspect I will become one of them.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/ruins_of_gorlan.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 audiobook 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!

Writing Reviews, Posting Reviews

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

I have a problem. It’s a good problem. I am way behind on reviews I have written but haven’t posted. Right now there are 97 of them.

Partly, this problem came from the solution to an earlier problem: I was way behind on books I’d read but hadn’t reviewed. I decided to solve that problem by spending 30 minutes per day writing reviews. Some time ago, I’d tried and succeeded — for an entire year — to write 30 minutes a day on my book. For now, I’m putting my book-writing on hold. I went to the William Morris Seminar in January to learn about ALSC’s Book Evaluation Committees. It’s seen as conflict of interest to have a book being published when you are evaluating books for a committee (like the Newbery), so I decided I haven’t gotten published in all this time, why not wait a little longer and see if I can get on a committee first? Surely I can write in the meantime — just not try to find a publisher. Well, I decided that, and then got more and more lazy about my 30 minutes per day goal. When I saw how behind I was on books to be reviewed, I decided to let myself spend that time on review writing. And I’ve caught up!

Or, I’ve sort of caught up. There’s a problem. If I write one review per day but don’t post one review per day, I will never catch up. The fact is, I need to be much, much more choosy about which books I review. Right now I’ve got four books sitting here that I liked very much and want to recommend, but I think I will discipline myself and not review them.

Or, how about this: I’ll give a mini-review here and now, but won’t make a full-on page with links on my main site.

Here are four excellent books. First two picture books.

Rabbit’s Snow Dance, as told by James and Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Jeff Newman, tells a folk tale about how rabbit got his short tail. The book would make a wonderful read-aloud, with chants like “I will make it snow, AZIKANAPO!” and a longer chant in a circle that begs for the listeners to act out. Rabbit has a nice comeuppance at the end, or, well, comedownance, and that’s how he loses his long tail. Joseph and James Bruchac are storytellers, and this story definitely wants to be told.

Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, is one I got fresh appreciation for when I heard people talk about it at Capitol Choices. This is a deceptively simple bedtime story. A little girl is not sleepy at bedtime, and her parents tell her she doesn’t have to go to sleep, but she does have to put on her pajamas… and so on. Along the way, they talk about how different animals sleep. The pictures show the animals, like a tiger, in their habitat, while in alternate spreads the little girl settles into her bed with her stuffed animals and toys. In the end, she settles down like the animals do. This is a cozy and lovely bedtime book.

Then, two books of children’s nonfiction, both about birds:

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird, by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Meilo So, is another picture book, but tells a true story. It includes short chapters, but there is no table of contents and this is definitely suitable for younger kids. The story is about an African Grey Parrot and his owner, Irene Pepperberg. She used Alex to show that parrots possess true intelligence. The book talks about Alex’s progress and how he was tested and matched three-year-old children.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95, by Phillip Hoose, is much longer. It covers science, nature, the environment and what you can do to help. Moonbird tells the story of a rufa red knot banded with the number B95 in the year 1995 who has been spotted since. These birds are some of the greatest distance travelers on earth, and B95 is the oldest known such bird. The book goes into detail about what physiological changes and athletic feats go into his journey. The author interviewed many scientists all interested in helping the red knots and other shorebirds continue to survive.

So there you have it — Four more excellent books. Some day, I will catch up…. Meanwhile, keep reading!