Archive for February, 2013

Review of Over Sea, Under Stone, by Susan Cooper

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Over Sea, Under Stone

by Susan Cooper

Scholastic, New York. First published in 1965. 243 pages.
Starred Review

I decided to reread Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising cycle after I heard she won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for these books. I almost got this first one read before I went to the Margaret Edwards Luncheon and got to hear her speak. But I still intend to carry out my plan!

I missed these books as a kid, which is a real shame. I’d only read them once before. The first one hasn’t gotten as many awards and recognition as the others, but it has a special place in my heart. Over Sea, Under Stone is more like fantasy novels that have gone before, like the works of E. Nesbit and Edward Eager and C. S. Lewis. You’ve got a group of siblings stumbling into magic on their summer vacation. I think that’s what I like about the book, why it has a special warm fond place in my heart.

Barney and Jane and Simon are spending the summer in their Great-Uncle Merry’s house in the village of Tressiwick, on the coast.

Great-Uncle Merry is the character who ended up inspiring the rest of the series. Here’s how the children think of him, right at the start of the book:

How old he was, nobody knew. “Old as the hills,” Father said, and they felt, deep down, that this was probably right. There was something about Great-Uncle Merry that was like the hills, or the sea, or the sky; something ancient, but without age or end.

Always, wherever he was, unusual things seemed to happen. He would often disappear for a long time, and then suddenly come through the Drews’ front door as if he had never been away, announcing that he had found a lost valley in South America, a Roman fortress in France, or a burned Viking ship buried on the English coast. The newspapers would publish enthusiastic stories of what he had done. But by the time the reporters came knocking at the door, Great-Uncle Merry would be gone, back to the dusty peace of the university where he taught. They would wake up one morning, go to call him for breakfast, and find that he was not there. And then they would hear no more of him until the next time, perhaps months later, that he appeared at the door. It hardly seemed possible that this summer, in the house he had rented for them in Trewissick, they would be with him in one place for four whole weeks.

In that house, the children find a secret room and a treasure map. The treasure map leads to ingenious clues to find the Grail. But the children and Uncle Merry aren’t the only ones hot on the trail.

This book encapsulates my idea of a good, solid fantasy tale for kids. The rest of the books are more creative and more innovative and, yes, scarier. But this one has a soft spot in my heart for being a traditionally good story of ordinary children working together and finding magic.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/over_sea_under_stone.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 own personal copy.

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 Princess for Hire, by Lindsey Leavitt

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Princess for Hire

by Lindsey Leavitt

Disney Hyperion Books, New York, 2010. 239 pages.
Starred Review

I got a copy of Princess for Hire at ALA Annual Conference 2010 and had it signed by the author — and then I didn’t get it read because it didn’t have a due date. Honestly, for some reason I thought it was a story about a contemporary teen who happens to be a princess look-alike, or something like that. Now, I thought I’d get to meet Lindsey Leavitt at ALA Annual this year, so I started reading Princess for Hire. The stars on the cover should have tipped me off: That wasn’t the plot at all. No, it involves magic! I read this book on the flight to Long Beach and was completely enchanted.

13-year-old Desi Bascomb lives in Sproutville, home of the Idaho Days Potato Festival. She has a summer job that involves wearing a groundhog costume in front of the Pets Charming pets store in the mall. She is humiliated in front of her crush by the girl who was once her best friend.

But then life opens up for Desi. She learns she has “magic potential.” She gets to work, on a trial basis, for an agency that provides substitutes for princesses who need a break from being royal. The agency uses magic to make the substitute look exactly like the original, as well as get the subs back only an instant after they left.

Desi gets a great variety of jobs in this book. Her first trial job is a B-movie actress princess in an insect costume who doesn’t like meeting her fans. Then she goes to replace an overweight daughter of a sheikh. She causes some trouble at a dinner — completely out of character for a princess. But the agency gives her another chance with an Amazon princess due in a coming-of-age ceremony and finally a more traditional princess who lives with her Nana in the Alps — and Desi gets to meet the heartthrob prince of the tabloids and make a difference in the princess’s life.

But Desi’s not supposed to make a difference in anyone’s life. And the Princess Progress Reports aren’t working. Will she lose her job, her chance to live her dreams, away from Sproutville?

This book has plenty of variety, lots of humor, some good insights about life, and makes for very fun reading. This was perfect reading for a flight, and kept me wide awake and smiling. I wish I had read it sooner, but am happy that now I won’t have to wait to read more about Desi.

lindseyleavitt.com
hyperionteens.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/princess_for_hire.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 got at an ALA 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.

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

Happy Cybils Day!

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Yes, February 14 is a very important holiday! It’s Cybils Day! The day the Cybils winners are announced! (That must be why the library was empty tonight, right?)

I served on a Round One Panel for Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction, and I have to say that I was very happy about the winner the Round Two Judges picked: The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen.

There were a total of four winners that I’ve read before and loved. (I won’t talk about the ones I read and didn’t love, but most are going on my TBR list.) Those read-and-reviewed books were:

Seraphina in Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction

Wonder in Middle Grade Fiction

Bomb in Nonfiction for Tweens and Teens

I realized I never did highlight the Cybils Finalists I’ve already reviewed. Of course, the most are in Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction:

Beswitched, by Kate Saunders
Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities, by Mike Jung
The Cabinet of Earths, by Anne Nesbet
The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

There weren’t as many in Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction, but, besides Seraphina, I have read these:

The Drowned Cities, by Paolo Bacigalupi
Vessel, by Sarah Beth Durst

I had three in Easy Readers:

Bink and Gollie: Two for One, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Facile
Penny and Her Song, by Kevin Henkes
Penny and Her Doll, by Kevin Henkes

Two more (besides Wonder) in Middle Grade Fiction:

Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead
The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine

Three more (besides Bomb) in Nonfiction for Tweens and Teens:

Moonbird, by Phillip Hoose
Temple Grandin, by Sy Montgomery
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson

One in Nonfiction Picture Books:

Balloons Over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet

One in Young Adult Graphic Novels:

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

And one in Young Adult Fiction:

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

There you have it! It was a good year for books for children and young adults! And trust me, the other Finalists and Winners are going straight onto my TBR lists. I have to say about the Cybils, those lists are a wonderful place to look for Readers’ Advisory, since they have quality books with kid appeal in so many different categories.

Stand-out Authors: Elizabeth Wein

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I’m doing a series featuring those authors with 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who have had Sonderbooks Stand-outs before. In other words, my Favorite Authors.

Four authors on this year’s list have had a total of 5 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I’ll begin with the one who wrote my favorite book of 2012, Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity.

I discovered Elizabeth Wein ten years ago in 2003. In my 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, her book A Coalition of Lions, was #1 in Children’s and Young Adult Historical Fiction. Like Code Name Verity, A Coalition of Lions is historical fiction, but it is set in ancient Aksum (Ethiopia) and features the daughter of King Arthur. Technically, this was part of a series, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it first.

But that meant I had to read her others. The next two books, coming before and after A Coalition of Lions were my only two Young Adult Historical Fiction books listed on my 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I rated the book that follows, The Sunbird, at #1, and the book that came before, The Winter Prince, at #2.

In my 2007 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, I included her next story about Telemakos, The Lion Hunter. It was #3 in Historical Fiction for Teens, but that was the year when I didn’t get all of my Stand-outs reviewed. In fact, the sequel to The Lion Hunter, The Empty Kingdom was the only book of hers I’ve read that didn’t make that year’s Stand-outs. And this year she certainly is back among my favorites.

I want to highlight here that Code Name Verity was no aberration. I was happy to hear lots of people discussing one of my favorite authors this year! If you haven’t read her Aksum novels, I highly recommend going back and rectifying that situation!

Review of Building Our House, by Jonathan Bean

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Building Our House

by Jonathan Bean

Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2013. 44 pages.

This book isn’t funny. It doesn’t reach out and punch you with its brilliance. It’s on the long side for preschool storytime. But it quietly won me over. I found myself reading it more than once, poring over the detailed illustrations, enjoying the oversize format and the story – the whole process of building a house.

The author based the book on what his parents actually did. They bought a farmer’s field, moved into a trailer on the property, and then built their own house. This book shows that process, starting with tools and a plan, then purchasing the materials, and setting the corners by the north star.

The format works well. It’s a larger picture book than usual. Most spreads have four pictures, two on each page, showing the day-to-day process. Special moments, like the frame-raising party and the moving-in party, get a whole double-page spread to themselves.

The pictures have lots of detail, and you can look at them over and over and still find new things. This would be a great choice for kids interested in construction machines, but also children interested in a family story, or even children who simply like to find details in complex pictures.

This is probably on the long side for preschool storytime, but it would be a lovely book for sharing individually with a child.

Mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/building_our_house.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 Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Drama

by Raina Telgemeier

Graphix (Scholastic), 2012. 233 pages.
2013 Stonewall Award Honor Book

I think this light-hearted graphic novel about middle school drama is going to be hugely popular. Raina Telgemeier has already won legions of fans with her graphic memoir about her own middle school experience, Smile.

Callie is in charge of sets for their middle school drama production. This graphic novel conveys all the fun and camaraderie of a group of kids who are into drama. And there are crushes on the wrong people and plenty of drama in the romance department as well.

Toward the start of the book, Callie meets twin boys new to the school and convinces them to get involved in the production. I did have a little trouble keeping them straight, but that’s probably appropriate. Justin, who is gay, is outgoing and auditions for the lead role. Jesse, who is more reserved, signs up for stage crew and ends up being Callie’s good friend. She’d like a bit more, but there are some surprises — and drama — ahead.

This is a quick read, and I don’t think it’s going to sit on the library shelves very much at all. Kids will be snapping this up. I think despite the crushes in the story, boys won’t disdain to read it since it is, after all, a graphic novel. (Am I assigning stereotypes there? I just think this book will have wide appeal.)

goRaina.com
scholastic.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/drama.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 I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with paintings by Kadir Nelson

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I Have a Dream

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
paintings by Kadir Nelson

Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2012. Text copyright 1963. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor

We all know the speech. Kids will have heard of it. What makes this book stunning is the work of Kadir Nelson put alongside the words of the speech.

Included with the book is a CD of the complete original speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The full text is also printed in the back of the book.

The bulk of the book consists of the “I have a dream” section of the speech, with a short section of words for each double page spread, and a magnificent painting to go with those words.

More than one painting shows the crowds assembled at the Lincoln Memorial that day, but all are from different angles. When he talks about “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,” there’s a breathtaking painting of a sunset. When he talks about the hills, mountains, and Rockies from different parts of America, the paintings show those places, gradually ascending in height. And of course we have a picture of little black boys and black girls joining hands with little white boys and white girls.

Now, this one certainly won’t be eligible for a Caldecott Medal, since it’s not a picture book so much as an illustrated speech. (I sincerely hope Kadir Nelson will be eligible for another Coretta Scott King Illlustration Award, though.) *Edited to add: This book did win a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. Well-deserved!* Is this book even a children’s book?

Well, it’s marketed by a children’s book publisher and illustrated by a children’s book artist. It’s definitely suitable for children in every way — but also suitable for adults. I think I may recommend this as a stellar coffee table book. This is a book for drinking in with your eyes, and looking at over and over. I listened to the speech while following along in the book, and I challenge anyone not to be moved by that. This is a stunning achievement.

Buy from Amazon.com

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

I’m posting this review tonight in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week by Abby the Librarian.

Sonderling Sunday: The Wall-Carpet

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Welcome to Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translations of children’s books. The idea is to look at things a little differently, while gaining Useful Translations of things you might need to say in German some day!

This week, I’m back to the book that started it all, James Kennedy‘s Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, The Order of Odd-Fish. We left off on page 152, which is Seite 192 in the German edition.

I’ll look at some interesting phrases:

“Aunt Lily swung over” = Tante Lily tauchte auf (“dipped up”)

“You did yourself proud this morning, Jo.” = Du hast dir heute Morgen sehr viel Respekt verschafft, Jo.
(“You have for yourself this morning very much respect procured, Jo.”)

“She was stunned” = Verblüfft sah sie

“face fell” = Miene verändert (“mien changed”)

“ferociously” = eindringlich

“warily” = argwöhnisch

“this would all explode in our faces” = würden sie uns übelst beschimpfen

“hanging around the edges of conversations” = lauschte den Gesprächen der anderen Partygäste
(“listened to the conversation of the other party guests”)

“I’m off” = Ich verschwinde (“I’m disappearing”)

This is a bit clunkier:
“Okay, but it had better be good.”
= Also gut, aber ich kann nur hoffen, dass es spannend ist.
(“Okay, but I can only hope that it is exciting.”)

This has a fun sound in German:
“the thump of the dancing” = das dumpfe Stampfen der Tänzer

“trapdoor” = Falltür

“dim” = dämmrigen

“lit” = entzündete (“inflamed”)

“as the room became brighter” = als das Licht aufflammte (“as the light blazed”)

“tapestry” = Wandteppich (“wall carpet”)

“fire-scorched, blood-spurting battles” = von Pulverdampf und Feuer durchsetzte blutrünstige Schlachten
(“of gunpowder and fire throughout bloodthirsty battles”)

I have to list this one because of the lovely English phrase I’ve never seen in a book before:
“an army of glitteringly armored spiders” = eine Armee von glitzernden bewaffneten Spinnen

Not so lovely, but still intriguing:
“queer-shaped people with sickly smiles and dead eyes cutting open their stomachs and pouring forth floods of centipedes and beetles and snakes”
= misgestaltete Leute mit widerlichem Lächeln und toten Augen, die Bäuche aufgeschnitten, aus denen sich Fluten von Tausendfü?lern, Käfern und Schlangen ergossen

“with a capering tiger, convoluted flower, or snickering face”
= mit einem springenden Tiger, einer prachtvollen Blume oder einem höhnischen Gesicht

“creaking, clunking, and squealing” = Quietschen, Klappern und Knarren (funny that “creaking” is Quietschen. But it sounds creaky in German.)

“a raucous parade” = eine üppige Parade

“enormous walrus-like demons” = gewaltige walrossartige Dämonen

“kicking down buildings” = zertrümmerten Gebäude

And I’ll finish up with this distinctive sentence:

“Her bones turned to ice.” = Ihr wurde kalt bis auf die Knochen. (“She was cold to the bone.”)

There you have it! I dare you to use gewaltige walrossartige Dämonen or einem höhnischen Gesicht in a sentence this week! Hmm. The way our heat’s been in the library lately, I may well have an opportunity to say, Ich war kalt bis auf die Knochen.

Stand-out Author: Juliet Marillier

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I’m highlighting some of my favorite authors by looking at those with 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who’ve appeared on my lists before. Juliet Marillier is up next, with a total of 6 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

I first discovered Juliet Marillier in 2008, when I was on the Summer Reading Program committee for Fairfax County Public Library, and I read and loved Wildwood Dancing, a retelling of the fairy tale “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Wildwood Dancing was #2 in Teen Fantasy Fiction in my 2008 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, coming behind only Robin McKinley’s Chalice.

But where I really fell in love with Juliet Marillier’s writing was after my sister Marcy gave me the first of the Sevenwaters books, Daughter of the Forest, a retelling of the Swan Princes fairy tale, and what a retelling!

You know you love a book when you can remember where you were when you read it. In this case, I was flying to ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, but unfortunately, the airline made me fly through Boston. I began Daughter of the Forest on the way to Boston. In the airport, I tried using my laptop, and I know I also did some reading, but when I got in the airplane, the book was gone! I was exceedingly upset, and ordered a new copy first thing when I got home. Who knows? If I hadn’t lost the book, maybe I wouldn’t have given in to my exhaustion and attempted to lean my head against the window and fall asleep. When I woke up, my neck really hurt, and I ended up having a stroke a month later from that neck injury. Wish I hadn’t lost the book! (Though it and its sequels made lovely reading during the recovery process.)

Daughter of the Forest was my #1 Fantasy Fiction choice in my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and the two other Sevenwaters books I read that year, Son of the Shadows and Child of the Prophecy, were #3 and #5, respectively. (And that was the same year I read The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear!)

So this past year, in my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, it’s no surprise that Juliet Marillier appears twice. The next Sevenwaters book, Heir to Sevenwaters is again #1 in Fantasy Fiction.

But last year she also began a new Young Adult series. That book, Shadowfell was also a Stand-out, #5 in Teen Fiction. It was one of the last books I read in the year, and I can’t help but think I might have ranked it higher if it had time to grow on me. Though probably the biggest reason is that it did *not* tie up the plot in a tidy manner, like her adult books do. So I’m anxious to find out what happens next… and I can’t yet!

So Juliet is a relatively new favorite author for me, but she’s already high up there. I’m happy that she has many more books out there I haven’t read, so I can keep busy while I’m waiting for Shadowfell‘s sequel.

Review of The Seer of Sevenwaters, by Juliet Marillier

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

The Seer of Sevenwaters

by Juliet Marillier

A Roc Book (Penguin), 2010. 432 pages.
Starred Review

Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters books are Just. So. Good. I’d been spacing them out, because I know I can’t really get anything else done once I’ve started one. But after reading Shadowfell, I was craving another Sevenwaters book, so I finally read this one I’d purchased some time before. I don’t know how she makes each book so good.

There are some patterns to the books, but this one broke most of them, at least in small ways. Yes, we have a heroine of the Sevenwaters family. Yes, she slowly falls in love with a kind stranger. Yes, the romance is exquisitely drawn-out, so we can see the love slowly blossoming.

But this time, the setting is the island of Inis Eala, where Sibeal’s cousin Johnny trains fighting men. Sibeal has known since childhood that she is called to be a druid. That means she’ll never marry, and she’s never wanted anything else, has always known her path.

Then a ship wrecks on their island, driven there by an uncanny storm. Sibeal finds the kind stranger washed up on shore. He has no memory of who he is or what happened. Once she’s saved him, Sibeal feels compelled to nurse him back to health. But there are mysteries surrounding him and the other shipwreck survivors, particularly the tall and beautiful mute woman who’s said to be crazy with grief from her lost child.

Juliet Marillier’s language is magical. It pulls you into ancient Ireland so thoroughly you may, like me, start feeling cautious about even starting one of her books, knowing you won’t get much else done until you finish it. But the story will stay with you long after.

Here’s where Sibeal sees and hears the shipwreck, just offshore:

My dreams had not shown me this. I had been weary from my long journey. Last night I had slept soundly. Now I wished I had resisted sleep and made use of my scrying bowl. But then, if I had been granted a vision of the storm, the wreck, what could I have done to prevent it? A seer was not a god, only a hapless mortal with her eyes wider open than most. Too wide, sometimes. Even as I stood here beside my sister, there was a cacophony of voices in my mind, folk shouting, screaming, praying to the gods for salvation, crying out as lost children might. It happened sometimes, my seer’s gift spilling over into chaos as the thoughts and feelings of other folk rushed into my mind. It was one of the reasons my mentor, Ciaran, had sent me here to Inis Eala.

julietmarillier.com
penguin.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/seer_of_sevenwaters.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 own personal copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

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!