Archive for September, 2012

Conference Corner – KidLitCon 2012

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

KidLitCon in New York City! At the New York Public Library! KidLitCon is a conference for bloggers who blog about children’s books. I went to KidLitCon09 close to home in DC, to KidLitCon11 in Seattle, and just had to go when it was so close by and free to boot.

I’m way behind on my Conference Corner posts. So, for fear I’ll never get to KidLitCon, I decided to post the same night I got back, when everything’s fresh. Instead of giving you all my notes, I’m just going to give you the high points. Here are the things I took home from KidLitCon12, in chronological order.

1. Publisher Previews are Dangerous.

I only was able to go to one preview, since I flew in to New York at noon, and that was probably a good thing. It was at the offices of HarperCollins going over books they’re publishing soon.

Why are previews dangerous? First, I had packed lightly. They gave us a full bag of advance reader copies, as well as three hardbound published books and a blank book. Did I tell them, no, I couldn’t possibly carry the bag home on the plane or fit it in my suitcase? No, I did not. Did I even tell them my neurologist said, since my vertebral artery dissection, that it’s not a good idea for me to walk around carrying more than 15 pounds? No, I did not.

Now, don’t worry, as I walked 20 blocks up 5th Avenue to our dinner (which I actually enjoyed. Definitely gave me the feel of New York City.), I found a FedEx and stuck the bag on their counter, and had them ship the whole bag home to me. But the other reason the preview was dangerous is after hearing them talk about the upcoming books, I want to read every single book! Was I hurting for ideas of books to read? No, I was not. Did I need to know about more books I’d like to read? No, I did not. Does that make me want to read them any less? No, it does not.

Now, later in the conference, I did end up with two more hardbound and two more paperback books. My suitcase ended up being hard to close, but I managed it. But to show how dangerous I find publisher previews, and how impossible I find it to resist free books — this morning I woke up from a dream where I was in a line to get advance reader copies of some adult books I didn’t even find very interesting, and which I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in my suitcase, and when I knew it was Sunday and I wouldn’t be able to ship them — but I took them anyway! I was so relieved when I woke up! I had not taken more books than I could carry after all.

Yeah, I have a problem.

2. KidLit Bloggers are My People.

Okay, I knew this already. But it was a lovely to spend a weekend with other people who are a little nuts about children’s books. My resolution: Read more of their blogs! More regularly! These are my people, and it was wonderful to see the ones I already knew and meet some I hadn’t met before.

And I got to be roommates again with Lisa Song, who blogs at Reads for Keeps. She helped me navigate the subways, and having some quieter time with her between busy days was definitely a highlight of the conference.

3. Grace Lin shines with niceness and has a Really Cute Baby.

4. Sushi tastes good.

Who would have thought?

5. You should be creating something you want to share with the world, not something to show how clever or talented you are.

This was from Grace Lin’s talk. Just an inspiring reminder why I blog: To share special books with other people.

6. Although they are My People, not all Children’s Book Lovers are introverts like me. The extroverted ones are really fun to be around, though.

Here’s Pam Coughlan, Mother Reader, “auctioning” off ARCs from the Publisher Previews the day before. (I managed not to take any, I’m proud to say.) That’s Charlotte, middle grade science fiction and fantasy specialist, on the right. (Who is in the middle?)

7. Make your blog easy to share.

Resolution: Add more sharing buttons, besides the Tweet button. Must get around to this….

8. “If you talk like you’re alone in a room, you will be.” — Marsha Lerner

This point brought a small epiphany for me. Since I began Sonderbooks as an e-mail newsletter consisting of book reviews, I think of it as my thoughts I’m sharing with people. I’m talking like I did when I was the instructor lecturing the classroom.

9. Ask questions you want answers to.

All these last three points are from Marsha’s talk. And, mulling them over, I had an idea this morning. I think I am going to start using comments to discuss the books I review with other people who have read them. So I will put Spoilers in the comments. So far, I don’t get a lot of comments on book reviews. I mean, what do you say if you haven’t read the book? You can say, I’m looking forward to reading that. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to talk about that annoying or brilliant thing at the end of the book and find out what other people think? I could use the comments for deeper discussion.

What do you think? I am honestly curious. Do you think spoilers in the comments is a good idea, if I put lots of warnings? My main blog doesn’t show comments, and on my website, you’d have to click over to the blog to see them, and I’d make sure to put warnings. Do you think it will work?

10. Winnie-the-Pooh!!!!! The Original!!!!

Okay, this was NOT something I took home with me, but this WAS a big huge enormous thrill. I got to see the original animals that Christopher Robin played with! Don’t they look so much like the Ernest Shepard illustrations? Especially Tigger:

And you can clearly see why Piglet is truly a Very Small Animal:

Eeyore actually looks patched, which easily explains the story of him losing his tail. All the animals, including dear Pooh, were clearly much loved.

But wait. You may be asking, like me, “What is that OTHER stuffed animal doing in the case?” That, dear reader, is a Travesty. You see, not only was a sequel to Winnie-the-Pooh and The House of Pooh Corner “authorized,” a new character was created. A stuffed animal of this new character was created, and someone had the Very Bad Idea of putting the new stuffed animal in the case with the original toys with whom Christopher Robin once played. Here is a picture Leaving It Out:

I took these pictures on my lunch break, and was so glad I’d made the pilgrimage. Wow.

11. Keep my inner fangirl in check. Maybe?

There was quite a lot of talk about the relationship between writers and bloggers. Do we get too nice because we don’t want to hurt the authors’ feelings? Is our professionalism hurt when we “know” the writer online or have met them in person?

I began writing Sonderbooks when I was working in a library, but was not yet a librarian. Now I’m a librarian, and I’ve been to the William Morris Seminar, and I closely follow the Heavy Medal blog — and I would so love to be on the Newbery committee some day. If I don’t want my reviews to be merely cheerleading, I should practice thinking critically. Yes, I feel I can continue with my policy of only reviewing books I like, but why do I like them? And, come on, it’s more professional if I try not to Squee too hard when I meet an author. Maybe less pictures with them? (And you’ll notice at least I posted Grace only with her baby.) Hmm. I’ll have to work on this one.

12. If you’re doing a PowerPoint presentation, make sure you are not scheduled after Brian Selznick.

This point is courtesy of Maureen Johnson; it seems very wise.

13. Always feel free to bring a friend.

Maureen roped her friend Robin Wasserman into sharing the keynote, and that added lots of fun to the talk.

14. Keep in mind every day why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Another one from Maureen Johnson.

15. Central Park is lovely.

Who knew?

I had a late afternoon flight, so I went into Central Park, and when I walked a little way in, I heard and saw an actual waterfall. So lovely.

I liked the juxtaposition of the trees with the skyscrapers.

Then later I came upon a large lake. Walking through Central Park was simply a lovely way to spend a couple hours after an inspiring weekend.

How about you, other KidLit Bloggers? What did you take away from KidLitCon?

Review of The Spy Princess, by Sherwood Smith

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The Spy Princess

by Sherwood Smith

Viking, 2012. 386 pages.
Starred Review

Sherwood Smith does politics really well. I know, that sounds boring, but in Sherwood Smith’s hands, it’s not boring, not at all. She takes a medieval world with a kingdom and adds an unhappy populace, but applies realistic, not simplistic solutions. Then she puts her characters in the thick of unrest and change and has them try to figure out what is right and what is best. Oh, and she mixes in some magic along the way.

Sherwood Smith also does romance wonderfully well. Hold on — there’s no romance at all in this book. This one’s about kids embroiled in a kingdom at war, trying to figure out a way to make a difference. I only miss the romance because I know how well she writes it, but this book is firmly for middle grade readers and has all the adventure they could wish for with no mushy stuff.

When Princess Lilah Selenna hears peasant children yelling insults at her family’s carriage, she wants to find out what’s going on. She decides to sneak out and disguise herself as a village boy. When she does, she makes her first friends — but they are planning Revolution.

By another author, this book might be simply about carrying out the revolution. But Sherwood Smith delves a little deeper. Yes, there’s Revolution, but once the peasants are incited to violence, can the leaders get them to stop? Who will govern now and what new laws will be needed? And can they even hold their gains? For Lilah, what part can kids play in bringing about Slam Justice?

Lilah’s uncle the king has banned mages from his kingdom, but she does find some in a hidden valley. So there’s magic and spying and secret passages and vigilante justice and plenty of adventure, with some deep thinking about justice and leadership.

So this was revolution. I remembered how impatient I’d been for it to happen — just so I wouldn’t have to curl my hair. But in my idea of revolution, people gathered to make stirring speeches about how we could better our lives, followed by cheers and exciting trumpet blasts as . . . things somehow changed. Not this horror.

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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 – Pu der Bär

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

It’s Sonderling Sunday again! Where I look up Handy Phrases and their translations in German, using the pages of children’s books. I’ve decided to mix it up a little, going back to Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge every other time, but looking at other books in between. Tonight I frittered away most of the day (okay, I finished a book), so I don’t have much time, and I am going to dip into the first chapter of Pu der Bär, fondly known as Winnie-the-Pooh

What a surprise! Most German editions are longer than the English edition, but my American paperback has 163 pages, and the German only 157. You can see they used larger pages, so perhaps that is the secret. The book does include the Ernest Shepard illustrations, colored.

I’m going to skip the Introduction, though it has some fun bits, because I want to dip into the main text. Chapter I is titled, “In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees, and the Stories Begin” In German, this becomes: ERSTES KAPITEL In welchem wir Winnie-dem-Pu und einigen Bienen vorgestellt werden und die Geschichten beginnen.

Ah! Let’s start with the classic first sentence:
“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”

Hier kommt nun Eduard Bär die Treppe herunter rumpeldipumpel, auf dem Hinterkopf, hinter Christopher Robin.

Did you catch that word? rumpeldipumpel!

Later we have “bumping” = Gerumpel

“a growly voice” = eine Brummstimme

“an open place in the middle of the forest” = eine freie Stelle inmitten des Waldes

“from the top of the tree, there came a loud buzzing-noise” = vom Wipfel des Baumes kam ein lautes Summgeräusch

This is a good sentence to know:
“The only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee.” =
Der einzige Grund dafür, ein Summgeräusch zu machen, den ich kenne, ist, dass man eine Biene ist.

“He began to climb the tree.” = Begann er den Baum hinaufzuklettern.

Now, I have to give the translation of the entire song Pooh sang to himself. It’s longer in German, but the translator did an admirable job.

Isn’t it funny
How a bear likes honey
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I wonder why he does?

This becomes:

Ich frage mich seit Jahr und Tag,
Warum ein Bär den Honig mag.
Summ! Summ! Summ!
Ich frage mich: warum?

(Literally translated: “I ask myself each year and day,
Why a bear the honey likes.
Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!
I ask myself: Why?”)

In the second song, the translator changed the rhyme scheme from AABB to ABAB:

It’s a very funny thought that, if Bears were Bees,
They’d build their nests at the bottom of trees.
And that being so (if the Bees were Bears),
We shouldn’t have to climb up all these stairs.

He adds a little internal rhyme, but it doesn’t quite duplicate the feel of the original:

Schon seltsam, dass, wenn Bären Bienen wären,
Dann wäre ihnen auch ein Nest ganz unten eigen,
Und wenn es dann so wäre (die Bienen wären Bären),
Dann brauchten wir auch nicht so hoch zu steigen.

More goodies:

“a Complaining Song” = ein Beklage-Lied

Alas! We totally miss the fun of A. A. Milne’s use of Capital Letters, because ALL the German nouns are capitalized. Oh well!

“Oh, help!” = Ach, Hilfe!

“bounced” = aufprallte

“head-over-heels” = kopfüber (They leave out the “heels”!)

“said good-bye” = verabschiedete

“gorse-bush” = Stechginsterbusch

“brushed the prickles from his nose” = wischte sich die Stacheln von der Nase

“Which is most likely?” = Was ist am wahrscheinlichsten?

Ah, and a favorite line that, alas!, is not the same in German:
“You never can tell with bees.” = Bei bienen kann man nie wissen.

“just in case” = für alle Fälle

This is good in German:
“a very muddy place” = einer sehr schlammigen Stelle

“rolled and rolled” = wältzte und wältzte

“suspicious” = argwöhnisch

This classic line I also don’t like to see changed:
“Tut-tut, it looks like rain.” = Tz, tz, es sieht nach Regen aus.

“laughed to yourself” = in dich hineingelacht

“Silly old bear!” = Dummer alter Bär!

Another Handy Phrase:
“Shall I put my umbrella up?” = Soll ich meinen Regenschirm aufspannen?

“a little Cloud Song” = ein kleines Wolkenlied

And I have to include the Cloud Song:

How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!
Every little cloud
Always sings aloud.

“How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!”
It makes him very proud
To be a little cloud.

Auf Deutsch:

Als Wolke so im Blauen schweben,
Das ist und bleibt das wahre Leben!
Wenn ringsherum der Himmel blaut,
Singt jede schwarze Wolke laut:

»Als Wolke so im Blauen schweben,
Das ist und bleibt das wahre Leben!«
Sie fühlt sich, wenn es blaut,
Sehr wohl in ihrer Haut.

Let’s see, back to literal English, I make that something like:
“As clouds in the blue float
It is and stays the true life!
When around the sky blue,
sings each black cloud loud:

“‘As clouds in the blue float
It is and stays the true life!’
He feels, when the sky is blue,
Very well in his own skin.”

This is just a good sentence to know:
The bees were still buzzing as suspiciously as ever.” = Die Bienen summten immer noch so argwöhnnisch wie eh und je.

“very important decision” = sehr wichtigen Entschluss

“aimed” = gezielt

“miss” = verfehlt

“That day when Pooh and Piglet tried to catch the Heffalump” = Der Tag, an dem Pu und Ferkel versuchten das Heffalump zu fangen

And, since I’ve gone this far, I must include the last sentence of the chapter:

He nodded and went out, and in a moment I heard Winnie-the-Pooh — bump, bump, bump — going up the stairs behind him.

Er nickte und ging hinaus, und einen Augenblick später hörte ich, wie Winnie-der-Pu — rumpeldipumpel — hinter ihm die Treppe hinaufging.

And now I must go to bed myself — rumpeldipumpel. Next week’s KidLitCon, so I hope to be back with Sonderling Sunday in two weeks!

Review of The FitzOsbornes in Exile, by Michelle Cooper

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

The FitzOsbornes in Exile

by Michelle Cooper

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2011. 457 pages.

The FitzOsbornes in Exile is a sequel to the wonderful book A Brief History of Montmaray. In this second book, the FitzOsbornes are living in England after their island kingdom was attacked by German bombers. This is before England has joined World War II. Politics in England involve pacifists and Communists, and meanwhile their aunt just wants to marry off Princess Veronica and Princess Sophia (whose journal this book is taken from) and have them move in the best society.

This is excellent historical fiction and feels like an authentic taste of what life must have been like in England at that time. I enjoyed that after reading this I listened to Historic Conversations with Jacqueline Kennedy and learned that John Kennedy really was in England at that time. (The girls meet him and become friends with his sister.)

There is some plot. Veronica’s in love with a Communist, and the whole family is trying to get some attention to the attack on their island.

But overall, this book isn’t nearly as thrilling as the first book, which had plenty of death and destruction and danger. It’s well done for what it is, and I definitely enjoyed spending time with these characters again, but be aware that this time you’re getting more of a historical novel of manners. A good one, but not the thriller that A Brief History of Montmaray turned out to be.

I’m still hooked though, and definitely want to read about what happens to Sophia and her family when war does break out. I hope the next book is coming soon.

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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 Beauty and the Werewolf, by Mercedes Lackey

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Beauty and the Werewolf

by Mercedes Lackey

Luna, 2011. 329 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve read all of Mercedes Lackey’s Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each one. They aren’t fairy tale retellings. In some ways they’re fairy tale improvements. They tell us stories of people in fairy tale situations and show us those people figuring out how to come up with a happy ending, despite what the Tradition might want to push them toward.

That’s how magic works in the Five Hundred Kingdoms. The Tradition builds up around people in fairy tale situations and uses its power to point them into storybook lives. But that often doesn’t turn out nicely for the people involved. The books about these people are clever and funny and anyone who’s ever enjoyed fairy tales will find great satisfaction out of seeing how the characters foil tradition.

Beauty and the Werewolf starts out as a Red Riding Hood variant. Bella is taking some gifts to Granny, the local herb witch. In this story, the woodsman is the villain, not a man Bella likes at all. But when she’s attacked in the night by a lone wolf, the next day she is taken to his manor. It turns out that he’s a werewolf who was supposed to be secluded during the full moon. Now Bella must wait in his palace to see if she will transform into a wolf as well. And, of course, now she’s playing out Beauty and the Beast.

One thing I like about these books is how she picks and chooses elements, and sometimes leaves out the unpleasant ones. Bella’s stepsisters are sweet, if flighty. She gets to see her father through a magic mirror, and it does provide comfort. We even find out the story behind the invisible servants eventually. Bella’s the one who immediately thinks to have them wear armbands so she can tell where they are. (Well, duh! Mercedes Lackey brings practical thinking to these fairy tales!)

Bella’s smart, independent, and enterprising. We’re not surprised when she doesn’t wait quietly to find out if she’s going to turn into a beast herself. She’s not one to let the Tradition push her around. Once again, this is thoroughly enjoyable reading.

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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.

The Cybils! The Cybils! The Cybils!

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Woo-hoo! I’m so excited! This year I get to be a panelist in choosing the Cybils Finalists for Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy!

Anybody remember my Crazy Reading Plan for 2012? Yeah, this will completely and totally mess it up. But then, participating in Capitol Choices (a DC-area group that chooses 100 top children’s books of the year) had already done that. I am planning to have FUN madly reading middle grade fantasy and science fiction for the rest of the year!

Just for fun, I’ll list my stats from before the Cybils reading, January 1 to September 17, 2012. It’s been fun to keep track this year, anyway.

Books I reread: 8
My books read: 8
New Library Books: 11
Award Winners: 7
PrePub ARCs: 8
Older Library Books: 8
Books Read for Capitol Choices (some picture books included): 27
Exceptions: 10 (reasons like meeting the author & the Heavy Medal shortlist)
Nonfiction: 24
Books of Short Stories: 1
Short Chapter Books: 9
Children’s Nonfiction (not included above): 12
Picture Books worth noting: 19
Audiobooks: 12

Total: 164

The only bad thing about this list? There are soooooo many more I’d like to read! But anyway, being a Cybils Panelist will force me to focus. I’m planning to read some books before the Capitol Choices meeting this Friday, and then dive into Middle Grade SF&F!

Read on!

Review of Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Akata Witch

by Nnedi Okorafor

Viking, 2011. 349 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a fantasy tale of a young person discovering she has magic that is nothing like any other book I’ve read. Because this young lady, Sunny, lives in Nigeria.

Our main character explains herself:

My name is Sunny Nwazue and I confuse people.

I have two older brothers, like my parents, my brothers were both born here in Nigeria. Then my family moved to America, where I was born in the city of New York. When I was nine, we returned to Nigeria, near the town of Aba. My parents felt it would be a better place to raise my brothers and me, at least that’s what my mom says. We’re Igbo — that’s an ethnic group from Nigeria — so I’m American and Igbo, I guess.

You see why I confuse people? I’m Nigerian by blood, American by birth, and Nigerian again because I live here. I have West African features, like my mother, but while the rest of my family is dark brown, I’ve got light yellow hair, skin the color of “sour milk” (or so stupid people like to tell me), and hazel eyes that look like God ran out of the right color. I’m albino.

Then Sunny learns that she is a Leopard Person, a person with mystical abilities. She is a Free Agent, someone whose parents are not Leopard People, but are Lambs. And she runs across two other children from Leopard families who have also recently discovered their abilities.

If this sounds like Harry Potter’s world, the basic set-up is similar, with Leopard People instead of Wizards, Lambs instead of Muggles, and Free Agents instead of Muggle-born. Sunny and her friends must learn to use the magic and also to combat a powerful and evil Leopard Person who is carrying out ritual killings. But that’s where the similarity ends. The magic used is African magic and very different from the magic in Harry Potter’s world.

Though this book is complete and has a satisfying climax, it’s very much a beginning. Sunny finds things out about this new magical world she’s part of, and she has many questions about what it means for her life. This book provides a detailed and evocative set-up as well as being a gripping story by itself. I will snatch up any further adventures of Sunny and her friends as soon as they come out.

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Source: This review is based on a book I got at ALA Annual Conference 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.

Review of How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti, illustrated by Yancey Labat

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

How Many Jelly Beans?

A Giant Book of Giant Numbers

by Andrea Menotti
illustrated by Yancey Labat

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2012. 26 pages.
Starred Review

Hooray! A book that really shows how completely huge the number one million is!

The story is simple. Emma and Aiden (with thoughts expressed by their dog) are asked how many jelly beans they’d like. Emma starts with ten, and we see a close-up of her hand with ten jelly beans.

Aiden, however, wants twenty, and the picture shows that, with ten in each hand.

Emma’s response seems quite realistic for a kid. “He can have twenty? I’ll have TWENTY-FIVE!” The responses escalate: fifty, seventy-five, one hundred. All of those amounts are shown on a tabletop. Since the tabletop in the pictures is the same every time, just with greater or fewer jelly beans distributed across them, this doesn’t really show the quantities viscerally. However, that will change by book’s end.

I like it when they get to details. Emma tells Aiden he can’t eat five hundred jelly beans, and he tells her that in a year he could eat a thousand jelly beans.

On the next big double-page spread, we see jelly beans distributed on pages of a calendar. Emma says, “Wait a second. That’s only two or three jelly beans a day.”

She comes to the logical conclusion: “I could eat FIVE THOUSAND jelly beans in a year.” Now the view pans out to Emma happily jumping on a bed covered with five thousand jelly beans. (Never mind that they would scatter all over the place if she really tried that.)

They go on. Ten thousand jelly beans. A hundred thousand jelly beans. Now the children are shown as quite small, with a hundred thousand tiny jelly beans spread out around them. I like it when Aiden tells us how he’d distribute the flavors if he had a hundred thousand jelly beans. Only one would be lemon.

But the truly marvelous part of this book, the tour de force, is the foldout section showing ONE MILLION jelly beans. In fact, when you first pull it out, the kids are saying, “Wow! A million jelly beans is a lot!” But then they say, “This is only HALF a million jelly beans! Look up there!” When you unfold the page further, then, at last, you see a million tiny jelly beans.

So here, at last, is a book that allows you to see one million things at one glance. The only way to truly give you the feel of this book was to take a picture:

Here’s the book closed, already an extra-large format:

And here’s the book opened up, showing a million jelly beans. I can hardly hold it up:

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this book is not going to hold up well to library usage. It was not easy even for me to hold up the book with the page open without tearing the pages. And if you tear the page along the folds, it’s not going to be at all easy to mend.

But you know what? I don’t care! I love that someone did this, that Andrea Menotti and Yancey Labat made a book that truly shows kids just how enormous a million really is. And maybe, just maybe, a million jelly beans would be too many.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu

Monday, September 10th, 2012


by Anne Ursu

Walden Pond Press, 2011. 312 pages.

Okay, everything I have to say is coming from a background that I did enjoy this book. I love that someone wrote a book rich in children’s literature and fairy tale references. I love that this book is about friendship and uses fairy tale themes to show a kid’s problems with her real-life friendships.

My biggest problem with this book was no fault of its own: It is a modern retelling of the fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” I have never really liked “The Snow Queen.” But worse than that is I had just read and loved the Mercedes Lackey book for adults called The Snow Queen. In it, Mercedes Lackey exposes the characters in the traditional fairy tale for how extremely dysfunctional they are. So that made it harder for me to be wholeheartedly with Hazel, the girl in Breadcrumbs.

In Breadcrumbs, Hazel’s best friend Jack suddenly stops talking to her and then disappears in suspicious circumstances. He’s been taken by the Snow Queen, and his heart has magical icicles in it. Hazel believes that a friend doesn’t give up on a friend. She goes into the enchanted forest on a perilous quest to save him.

I was a little annoyed by Hazel’s lack of direction in her quest. She kept thinking she had to travel on, but how did she know that would do any good? It seemed like she got lucky to find Jack at all. Though I did like the story and the characters from fairy tales that she found in the woods. The part of the story set in the real world seemed very realistic and well-rendered. I liked that Jack and Hazel were firmly children, and this was about friendship, not romance. I liked the way Hazel makes a new friend even though she’s pursuing Jack. I like Hazel’s Uncle Jack and his insight into fairy tales.

But I can’t get away from that I just don’t like the Snow Queen story. In this book, Hazel’s mother has recently been divorced. The author doesn’t come out and say it, and maybe I read into the story, but for me this really pointed out “The Snow Queen” as a metaphor for divorce. When Hazel talks about how you don’t give up on a friend, even if he’s chosen to leave you, I can’t help but feel she was reproaching her mother. For what is a husband but a best friend?

Mind you, I very much doubt other people will get this out of the book. I’m awfully sensitive, with my recent divorce. I realized as I read the book that I would have loved Hazel’s story to be my story. I would have loved to give my all, to quest through ice and through dangers for my Best Friend. Even though he was cold and lonely and miserable and no longer remembered our years of love and friendship, I would have done anything to bring him back, to make him alive and loving again. (And I really like thinking of the Other Woman as an Ice Witch.)

But the fact is, I’ve been spending the last few years learning to let my best friend go. I’m the very person who can’t break the spell, and I need to go out and enjoy the springtime rather than plunge through the snow trying to bring someone back who doesn’t want to come back.

So, it was hard for me to properly enjoy Hazel’s story.

But I’m very much looking forward to whatever Anne Ursu writes next. I love what she brought to this book, and I think the chances are good that her next book won’t happen to have so much baggage built in for me.

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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.

Sonderling Sunday – More of the Belgian Joke-Cookie

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

It’s Sonderling Sunday, loosely translated Nerdy Sonntag. Have you ever wondered how phrasebooks decide which phrases to translate? I’ve decided to create a sort of blog phrasebook, using phrases pulled from children’s books. After all, if it’s been used in a children’s book, it must be good to know! I admit I’m going after the more bizarre phrases, but the point is having fun and being somewhat silly. And enjoying a close look at tändeltechnisch.

This week, I’ll be back in James Kennedy‘s The Order of Odd-Fish and its translation, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge. This is the book that inspired the series, since, after all, it is obviously a Sonderbook, with Sonderlinge in the actual title! As of last week, I decided to mix it up a little, coming back to Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge every other week, and looking at other children’s books from my German collection in alternating weeks.

We left off two weeks ago in the middle of Chapter Ten, on page 110 in English, Seite 140 auf Deutsch. We were in the middle of a confrontation between the Belgian Prankster, der Belgische Scherzkeks (“the Belgian Joke-Cookie”) and aspiring archvillain Ken Kiang.

Some fun phrases to know:

“The plot thickens” = Die Geschichte verdichtet sich (“The story compacts itself.”)

“But the worst was when she would just give him a strange smile.” = Doch das Schlimmste war, wenn sie ihn einfach nur höchst sonderbar anlächelte. (I go on about how sonder is a prefix meaning “special,” but, okay, yeah, sometimes it just means “strange.”)

Oh! The translator went with the cliche, instead of what was written:
“You couldn’t see your own feet.” = Man konnte nicht einmal die Hand vor Augen sehen. (“You couldn’t see your hand before your eyes.”)

“to seep in” = zu sickern

I like the sound of this:
“meanwhile” = in der Zwischenzeit (“in the between time”)

“Food was running out.” = Lebensmittel wurden knapp.

“blue veils” = blauen Schleiern

This is simply fun to say:
“Even the howling things that flew about in the fog became still.” = Selbst die heulenden Dinger, die in dem Nebel herumflogen, verstummten.

“midwives” = Hebammen

“locked themselves in their house” = sich in seinem Haus verbarrikadiert

“a strange and unbreakable siege” = einer fremdartigen und nicht zu durchbrechenden Belagerung

This one adds an image:
“said in private” = hinter vorgehaltener Hand getuschelt hatten (“painted behind reproached hand”)

“furious” = fuchsteufelswild (“fox-devil-wild”)

“ghostly image” = geisterhaftes Bild

“screen” = Leinwand (“flax wall”)

“chalky, smoking ash” = wei?licher qualmender Asche

Oh, this is a good phrase to know:
“armored ostriches” = gepanzerten Strau?envögeln

“The camera drew back.” = Die Kamera öffnete auf die Totale. (“The camera opened to the Total.”)

This one’s shorter in German, for once:
“surrounded in a circle” = umzingelten

This one’s longer:
“squeezing” = zusammenzuquetschen

“curling” = lodernde

“throbbing, groaning, pulsing in and out” = pulsierte, stöhnte, ächzte

“melting bricks” = schmelzenden Ziegelsteinen

“spraying out the chimney” = spritzte aus dem Schornstein

“The house strained at the seams, swelling, heaving, gurgling.” = Das Haus platzte regelrecht aus den Nähten, schwoll an, pulsierte, gurgelte.

“My favorite part” = Meine Lieblingsstelle

“Sir Nils was a whirl of limbs” = Sir Nils war ein wahrer Derwisch (“Sir Nils was a true dervish.”)

“doddering” = tatterigen

“terrifyingly fast and fierce” = in ihrer Schnelligkeit und Wildheit furchterregend

“blasting out slime” = Schleim quoll heraus

“armor” = Rüstungen

“Something in Dame Lily snapped.” = In diesem Moment schien Dame Lily auszurasten.

“surprised” = überrumpeln (“overpower”)

“stopper” = Stöpsel

Here’s a nice long one:
“opposite side” = gegenüberliegenden

“exiled” = schickte sie in die Verbannung

“legal issues” = juristischen Spitzfindigkeiten

“flimsy” = fadenscheinig

“laughing silently” = lautlos zu lacheln (“loudless to laugh”)

“ghastly merriment” = gruseliger Heiterkeit

“stitched back together” = zusammengeflickt

“a horrible jelly” = ein grauenvoller Wackelpudding

“with a sickening THUP” = mit einem ekelerregenden, satten Schmatzen (“with a disgusting, rich smack”)

Here’s a good word:
“deflate” = schrumpfen

“hissing squeal” = kreischendes Zischen

“spewing stale air” = stie?en abgestandene Luft aus

“spluttering into shreds” = in kleine Fetzen auflösten

“a shriveled empty skin” = eine schlaffe, geschrumpfte, leere Hülle

“deeply humiliated” = zutiefst gedemüdigt

There! That’s it for Chapter Ten. Doesn’t that just make you want to find out what all the gruseliger Heiterkeit is about? Meine Lieblingsstelle was probably ein grauenvoller Wackelpudding or perhaps eine schlaffe, geschrumpfte, leere Hülle.

In two weeks, we’ll start in on Chapter Eleven! Kapitel Elf! In der Zwischenzeit, next week I think I will take a look at Winnie der Pu. Enjoy the Heiterkeit!