Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

In this first book in the Scaredy Squirrel saga, readers are introduced to a squirrel who is scared to leave his safe home, a tree. There are certainly too many things outside of his little tree that could hurt him! Things like green martians, poison ivy, or germs.

So Scaredy goes about his daily routine of watching his surroundings, eating nuts, and sleeping. But have no fear, his emergency kit is nearby and is stocked full of items that will help on the case he must flee his tree home.

How surprised is Scaredy when he is forced to leave his tree on the account of a killer bee and finds out something very special about himself! Scaredy learns a lot and his days are much brighter after that.

What I Thought:
I love Scaredy Squirrel, his stories have fast become some of my favorite books! Scaredy is such a delightful character and it is fun to watch him overcome his fears, no matter how ridiculous, and become a better squirrel.

Kids will eat these stories up! Very highly recommended!

This book is an ALA Notable Children's Book.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt.

Check out my reviews of the other books in this series: Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach and Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, both by Melanie Watt. Also, be sure to look for Scaredy Squirrel at Night, set to be released March 1, 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Marley & Me by John Grogan (and the other Marley books too!)

In this memoir, John Grogan shares numerous stories about his beloved dog Marley, an exuberant yellow lab. Readers will travel along with the Grogan family as the ponder the decision of obtaining a puppy, the early days and the innocence of puppy love, and throughout Marley's long and often frustrating life.

Marley was a special dog, with the heart of gold and the innocence of an angel he managed to terrorize many by his pure size and harmless mischief. Marley provides a ray of light when times are hard, and Grogan demonstrates this fact over and over again.

What I Thought:
I read this book in preparation to see the film version of this novel. This book is simply a wonderful, heartwarming, feel good memoir about a family and their beloved dog. I laughed out loud, probably provoking stares of fellow diners at McAlisters as I chuckled at Marley's latest antic. Tears flowed down my face as Grogan describes Marley's last days and the hardships he faced as an elderly dog.

Simply put, it is a not-to-be-missed gem.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Marley & Me by John Grogan.

Marley's story is unique, as Grogan rewrote the story with an edition for every member of the family. Marley & Me was written for adults as he includes many hardships his family faced such as fertility issues, neighborhood happenings (such as a murder in the neighborhood), and other topics that more clearly show Marley's character and devotion to his masters', but may not be so appropriate for kids.

Check out Grogan's novel Marley: A Dog Like No Other for a wonderful version of Marley's story that is kid friendly and includes the same stories of Marley's antics.

(I read this story earlier this year and it is a wonderful book as well. I laughed, I's just superb and a story that is well suited as a family read aloud.)

For the youngest children, Grogan teamed up with illustrator Richard Cowdrey and released Bad Dog, Marley!, a picture book of some of Marley's antics.

(I've read this book as well and it is a super book for children who love animal stories, or who have a rambunctious dog of their own at their house.)

And finally, if you can't get enough of Marley, check out my review of his Christmas story here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vote for Larry by Janet Tashjian

Larry is back in this sequel to The Gospel According to Larry. In this book Josh, who has gone into hiding is pulled out of his pseudo-life when convinced that he should run for public office.

However, Josh doesn't just run for a small seat, like a local council seat, he runs for PRESIDENT.

Will he get enough votes? Heck, will he even make it onto the ballot?

What I Thought:

I was fascinated with this character during the first book chronicling is experiences, The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian. Click here to see my review of that book.

While this book did not grasp my attention quite as much as Gospel, but I still enjoyed the book. I particularly enjoy how Tashijian sets up the book to be a transcript written by Josh/Larry and how this character always manages to make me think about what is truly important and what is simply propaganda or materialistic.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Vote for Larry by Janet Tashjian.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very Marley Christmas by John Grogan, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey

It's Christmas in the Grogan house, and Cassie and Baby Louie are wishing for snow. Their feisty yellow lab puppy, Marley is anxiously waiting as well.

To pass the time, the family gets ready for Christmas. Marley wants to help too! As the family puts up the Christmas tree, decorates the outside of the house, makes a snowflake chain, and other things, Marley manages to put her special spin on things-which usually calls for completely ruining the end product! Poor Marley!

But in the end, the family realizes--once again--that Marley is a precious member of their family and while she can be frustrating, Christmas would just not be the same without her.

What I Thought:
How can anyone not love Marley? In this book stemming off of the hit book Marley and Me by John Grogran. This book is simply charming, and a wonderful addition to any Christmas book collection.

Any animal lover will adore this book, and kids of all ages will giggle at Marley's antics and join in on the wish of snow for Christmas. The illustrations are great, with just the perfect touch of a nostalgic feel. I highly recommend this book, especially today--Christmas!!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: A Very Marley Christmas by John Grogan, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey.

From my bookshelf to yours, I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Movie Review: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

I've been meaning to see this movie for a while:

Carmen, Tibby, Lena & Bridget have grown up together, but have separated ways to attend different colleges. Carmen, who narrates this story, is especially excited for this summer as she has had a hard first year of college and is missing her beloved friends very badly. However, much to her surprise, each of the girls has their own plans for the summer, taking them out of town and away from each other again.

So the summer continues and each of the girls continue their personal journey of growth. They will learn that even though space and circumstances may separate them, their friendship is strong enough to withstand all things.

What I thought:

A simply wonderful movie!!

I really wanted to see it in the theater, but just didn't get around to it. But when good old Netflix delivered straight to my door, I couldn't wait to watch it.

I thought it was a great movie! I loved how they brought in storylines from books 2-4 of the Sisterhood of the Traveling pants books and made it cohesive. I'm sure that fans of the books would have loved to see a movie made from each of the individual novels, but I think this movie did the books justice.

While it's been a couple of years since I've read the books or seen the first movie, but this movie brought it all back. I just may have to pull out my books and re-read this delightful story of four friends who share a magical pair of pants along with learning about life and growing up.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

This book picks up seamlessly from where Eclipse leaves off and continues the saga.

Will Bella's wish of immortal life come true? What other obstacles will she have to overcome?

What I Thought:
Once again, I am fighting my urge to talk about this book incessantly and ruining it for anyone who may not have read it yet.

Therefore, I will only say that I thought this book was great. I know that there is a divide of Twilight fans on this book. Some loved it, some hated it. I can totally understand both sides, but I enjoyed this book very much! I thought it was a perfect installment of this story and if it is the very last one Meyer gives us, I can live with her decision.

(But I'd really like for the story to go on.)

So for one last time, if you have not picked up this series yet, I highly recommend it. Seriously!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell

The characters in this book teach the readers some "Big Words" like responsibility, cooperate, inconsiderate, and even stupendous and superb! The best words in the book are family, love and respect.

What I Thought:
Another smashing hit from Curtis and Cornell. In this very creative and attractive book, kids get to learn important words in a way that is appropriate and fun for them. The bright and colorful illustrations help relay the message of the book, which is really about so much more than just learning new words! It's about respect, love, and family, all while learning words that can help intertwine those concepts together.

A fun read aloud for all ages, and is bound to be a hit with families everywhere! Highly recommended!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Book Day!

I have the most awesome friends.

My new friends, the Bliss family --Bryan, Michelle, Nora & Ben-- scored a personalized autographed copy of Paper Towns, by one of my most favorite authors-John Green-just for me.

See, John Green thinks I'm awesome.

But I thinks he's awesom-er.

And that cool Bliss family, those guys are the awesom-est.

Thanks guys, I just absolutely LOVE my book.

(Hey, why don't you check out Bryan's blog? He just wrote a novel...he'll probably be famous one day, then you can say "I read his blog when...")

Monday, December 15, 2008

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel has decided that he wants to go the beach. But, he would never actually go to the beach, it is much too dangerous! Scaredy decides to build his own beach, which is very nice, but is lacking one important detail: the sound of the ocean.

Scaredy puts aside his fear and prepares to head to the beach to get a shell. When he gets there, he actually has fun!

Oh-and its best you come prepared when reading this book. Scaredy Squirrel recommends, or actually insists, that readers apply SPF65 sunscreen before reading the book!

What I thought:
Scaredy is at it again! He is laugh out loud funny as he simply scared of just about everything. It is neat to see him stress over silly things and then usually overcome those fears to have a good time.

Super illustrations that are fun to explore and add so much to the story. Scaredy Squirrel is simply a gem and will be a delight to children (and adults) everywhere!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Block Mess Monster by Betsy Howie, illustrated by C.B. Decker

Calpurnia's mom is desperate for her to clean up her room. But there is one problem.

The Block Mess Monster.

The Block Mess Monster is a huge pile of blocks in the corner of Calpurnia's room that she is convinced is a monster and prevents her from cleaning up her room.

Calpurnia's mom suggest a variety of tactics to get rid of the monster, but none prevail-until her mom suggests that the monster help clean up the room!

What I Thought:
A very cute book. Calpurnia is simply a lovable character! Each time she is illustrated in the book she is wearing a different costume, whether it be a painter, a wizard, or even Peter Pan! It is so fun to examine the illustrations and check out what Calpurnia is up to on that page.

I was a little disappointed in the ending, it seemed to just end. However, a fun book overall and will be greatly enjoyed by kids everywhere.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Block Mess Monster by Betsy Howie, illustrated by C.B. Decker.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Jellybeans and the Big Dance by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans, illustrated by Lynn Musinger

Emily is so excited to begin taking dance lessons and disappointed when she sees that the girls in her dance class are not as excited. In fact, they could really care less about taking lessons! When the girls figure out the their initials spell "bean," Emily purchases each girl some jellybeans. From that point on, they are great friends and are known as the "Jellybeans."

Each girl shares their special talent and the recital is a success, with one little glitch that shows the special friendship the girls have with each other.

What I Thought:

A great book with a wonderful message. I love the authors emphasize how important it is for friends to have different interests and talents, and how using them can make the group succeed. The illustrations are awesome, Munsinger does such a great job providing a fun setting for the story. The characters are each a different animal, characteristic of her work.

This book will be a hit with kids everywhere, but I suspect best with kids enrolled in dance class or wanting to take dance, though the message spans much wider than that. A great read-aloud!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Jellybeans and the Big Dance by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans, illustrated by Lynn Musinger

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cool Zone with the Pain & the Great One by Judy Blume, illustrations by James Stevenson

Abigail and Jake are your normal sibling set. Abigail is in the 3rd grade and is known as the "Great One" by her younger brother Jake, who Abigail refers to as "the Pain."

In this second installment about this duo, the stories all revolve around school. The pair alternate telling stories, ranging from Jake's experience in being a waiter in his school restaurant experience to Abigail's determination to change her name to Violet Rose.

Through story after story readers will see that while sometimes siblings bicker and annoy each other, at the end of the day family sticks together.

What I Thought:
What a fun book, and one that so many families can relate to! I know that my brother and I would have loved these books as children, because we were just like Abigail & Jake! We may have picked on each other, but in the end we would have stuck by each other to the very end. (Still would!)

I love how each chapter alternates voices, giving each sibling their fair share. The stories are humorous, yet situations that happen in everyday life. I think this book, as well as the other books based around this duo, are bound to be hits for kids and families everywhere.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Cool Zone with the Pain & the Great One by Judy Blume, illustrations by James Stevenson

And while you are there, check out the other two books in this series, Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume, illustrated by James Stevenson and Going Going Gone! with the Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume, illustrated by James Stevenson.

Also, check out the picture book Judy Blume wrote in 1985 that started in all: The Pain and the Great One, illustrated by Irene Trivas.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

This is the third installment of Bella's story in the Twilight saga. In this book, Bella is forced to make heartbreaking decisions as she comes to terms with her own emotions for two very important people in her life.

This book is stock full of excitement, drama, love, and everything a fan of this series wants, including lots of Bella, Edward, and Jacob!

What I Thought:
I think this is my favorite book of the series thus far. This book was so intense that I had to literally put it down every 10 pages or so because my eyes were reading the words faster than my brain could comprehend, and I didn't want to miss a word of this exciting novel.

Meyer has done a marvelous job setting up this story and giving the readers insight into Bella's mind. We suffer right along with her as she fights within herself.

An amazing read, and if you have read the first two books in this captivating series, you won't be able to put Eclipse down!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.

Now, onto Breaking Dawn! (Which I'm honestly a little sad to be starting, as I'm rather dreading finishing all the books in this series. What I am going to do then?)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Uh-oh Cleo by Jessica Harper, illustrated by Jon Berkeley

This is the story of Cleo's "Stitches Saturday," a day Cleo will not soon forget.

The day starts out normal, her family is eating breakfast, then her and her twin brother go to play in their room. When they decide to play Monopoly (as they do each Saturday), there is a little complication.

What I Thought:
A very cute book! Cleo is one of six kids, which I find fascinating, but most of this story revolves around Cleo and her twin brother.

I think this is a great story for kids who have had stitches, or known someone who had. It is not gory, and Cleo is the shining example of being brave. Mom makes up a lot of silly songs to help Cleo get through the ordeal with a positive attitude, which are just adorable!

A great book for young readers, probably in the 2nd-4th grades. A few black and white illustrations are scattered through the book.

A second book with this family is set to release in January 2009, Uh-oh, Cleo: Underpants on My Head by the same duo.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Uh-oh Cleo by Jessica Harper, illustrated by Jon Berkeley

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Our Library by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Maggie Smith

When the local library has to close because of the deterioration of the building, or it is out of money, or the owner of the land wants to sell and they have to convince the town grump to let them move the library on his land, the community kids rally and overcome each obstacle to keep their beloved library. They learn how to do complete each task by reading library books!

What I Thought:
What a sweet book about how important a library is to a community! The "kids" in this book are depicted as a variety of animals: a raccoon, a squirrel, a beaver, etc. The setting is in a beautiful meadow. Wonderful illustrations! I especially loved how the kids took charge of saving their beloved library and use library books to learn how to complete a number of tasks, from roofing the building to earning money, even "How to Speak Wisely & Well to Grumpy Old Beavers."

A wonderful book to share when discussing libraries and communities.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Our Library by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Maggie Smith

Monday, December 01, 2008

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

A broken heart.

A budding friendship, or maybe more?

Life threatening, impending danger.

A terrifying trip to Europe.

These are just a few things to look forward to in New Moon, the sequel of Stephenie Meyer's book Twilight. Bella continues to live in Forks, Washington and encounter supernatural beings.

It's a book you won't want to miss!

What I thought:
This is probably one of the more difficult reviews to write because I did not want to give any part of the story away in the book! I know that Twilight fans cherish this story and would be disappointed if any part of the story was ruined. I know I would be!

I thought this book was a bit slow going in the beginning, but the end made the journey very much worth it.

I will not permit myself to say any more, only to say that this book is a wonderful addition to the Twilight story.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Roscoe Riley Rules #3: Don't Swap Your Sweater for a Dog by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Brian Biggs

What has Roscoe done to put him in time-out this time?

It all started with a trophy. Not his trophy, but his sister's trophy that she got in preschool. Roscoe had never won a trophy and wanted one very badly. When he meets his new neighbor Martin and dog Edward who can read from a book, Roscoe knows that he could win a trophy at the upcoming dog talent show.

First, he tries to teach his dog Goofy to read. But when that doesn't work out so well, he makes a deal with Martin: he will trade the sweater his grandmother made him for the opportunity to borrow Edward and perform the trick at the dog show.

But what Roscoe doesn't expect is how the whole experiences makes him feel like he is neglecting his own great dog.

What I Thought:
Another great book in the Roscoe series. This book reminds us to appreciate what we have, even if sometimes it may not seem as special as what someone else has. Roscoe is just a delightful character! I am looking forward to reading the fourth installment in this series, Roscoe Riley Rules #4: Never Swim in Applesauce.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Roscoe Riley Rules #3: Don't Swap Your Sweater for a Dog by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Brian Biggs.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Over the River: A Turkey's Tale,based on the song by Lydia Maria Child, illustrated by Derek Anderson

In this fun book, Derek Anderson illustrates the story of a turkey family off to visit the grandparents house, to the text of the song "Over the River and Through the Woods" by Lydia Maria Child. While the text tells a story in itself, the illustrations provide a completely different version while offering much life and humor into the overall story.

What I Thought:
In honor of Thanksgiving, what could be better than a fun Turkey Day Book?

This book is absolutely adorable. It is nearly impossible to read this book (aloud or silently) without singing the song! It is great fun to follow the turkey's journey to their grandma's house and watch them overcome all of the obstacles they face. (It's hard being a turkey on Thanksgiving Day!) The illustrations are bold and colorful cartoons, with wonderful facial expressions.

I highly recommend this book, especially today, on Thanksgiving!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Over the River: A Turkey's Tale,based on the song by Lydia Maria Child, illustrated by Derek Anderson

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Movie Review: Twilight

So I just got home from watching this movie:

What did I think?


I thought it was okay. I'm very much one who likes the movie to match the book and the "movie" that my imagination creates as I read the story. I understand that the book is very long and the movie would be ridiculous to sit through if they played out every detail, but that is what I wanted. (So there.)

Being that I had already (recently) read (well, listened mostly) to the first book, it was still very fresh on my mind. I wonder if the story made sense to those who had not read the book prior to watching the movie? (If this is you, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know!)

A lot was left out that I thought was so good in the book and important to the story, and some things were added that were unnecessary.

Parts of the movie were incredibly cheesy. ("Climb on spidermonkey?" REALLY??) I laughed out loud when Bella dropped the apple and Edward caught it (after it bounced off his shoe!) in the perfect pose of the book's cover. I thought some of the dialogue was lame.

I thought Robert Pattinson was good, I imagined Edward a little (but not much) more animated than he was portrayed. And I thought his hair was just horrible. Seriously bad. (And he is very, very good looking!) I thought Kristen Stewart did a great job portraying Bella, she was just like I imagined. Maybe a little more klutzy, but pretty spot on. (She is very pretty and I so want her hair.)

Some of the scenery is absolutely amazing and seeing Edward's speed come to life was pretty cool. The romance is there, I couldn't help but get lost a little in that "awwww, how sweet and I'm jealous" mind frame. (But my husband is WAY better than Edward Cullen!)

Overall, I recommend it to anyone who thinks they want to see it. However, if you REALLY want the story, you need to read the book. (It is WAY better!) You can check out my review of that here.

Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex

In this parody of the beloved children's book Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, a little werewolf is ready for bed when a goon sneaks into his room and causes all kinds of mischief with the creatures that live in his room.

What I Thought:
This is a very fun and quite creative book! I love how the author stayed so closely aligned with the "original" book, yet made it unique just the same. The illustrations are dark (fitting with the style of the book), but fun and bright at the same time. Readers will laugh at the goon and the antics he does and sympathize with the poor werewolf who must banish him to his sleeping quarters, under his bed.

The book is full of recognizable characters, from a vampire and a witch, even bats and martians!

This book is sure to please kids desires for a "scary" book, yet it is not scary enough to cause nightmares. (Well, unless a child is super sensitive to these types of characters.) I think most kids who are familiar with Goodnight Moon will find this version humorous!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Roscoe Riley Rules #2: Never Swipe a Bully's Bear By Katherine Applegate

Poor Roscoe. He's back in time-out.

Roscoe takes his beloved Hamilton (his stuffed pig) to school with him every day, and only a few people know about it. Hamilton hangs out in Roscoe's backpack while Roscoe does his schoolwork.

But one day Wyatt, the class bully discovers Hamilton and teases Roscoe. When Hamilton comes up missing, Wyatt is one of Roscoe's suspects.

So Roscoe swipes Wyatt's stuffed bear. (Which Wyatt also brings to school daily.) But did Wyatt really take Hamilton?

What I Thought:
I love Roscoe Riley. This is the second book in this series. Each book begins with the premise that Roscoe is sitting in time-out and the reader learns the story of what offense was committed for him to be there.

This story is funny, while teaches a few good lessons! We learn to never take other people's property, that teasing hurts feelings, and what happens sometimes when we jump to conclusions.

I think this is a great book, and a great series! Get your family together and read it aloud, everyone will enjoy it! I highly recommend this series for a fun time.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Roscoe Riley Rules #2: Never Swipe a Bully's Bear By Katherine Applegate.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Keesha's House by Helen Frost

This is the story of six teenagers, each struggling with problems and needing somewhere to escape. At some point or another, they all end up at Keesha's house, a house actually belonging to Joe, but has the house open to anyone who just needs a place to stay while working out their problems.

Whether it be teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse, being kicked out, or abusive parents (among others) Keesha's house is a safe zone for all as they help themselves and help each other.

The story is told in short narrative poems with each character speaking its voice, but it reads like a novel.

What I Thought:
What a superb work!! Don't let the poetry scare you away from this work, it seriously reads like a novel.

Frost does a great job letting the readers feel the characters' emotions and pulling you into their lives. I highly recommend this novel.

This book is a 2004 Printz Honor Book as well as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Keesha's House by Helen Frost.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Bella is a teenager from Phoenix who has just moved to the small town of Forks, WA to live with her dad. When she starts school at the very local high school, she seems to make friends easily. But this one guy...Edward Cullen tends to blow her off.

One day Edward literally saves her life revealing some superhuman abilities, and from that moment on it seems that Edward and Bella are inseparable.

Then Edward reveals who he truly is: a vampire. But it's too late: Bella is in love.

Thus begins an adventure that is full of romance, adventure, and life threatening danger.

Did I mention the vampires?

What I Thought:
Um, WOW. I have put off reading this book for some time now, but at a friend's request I gave it a shot. I actually listened to most of this book via CD over the course of a couple of weeks. (How I cherished my commutes to work and to Nashville! I actually cheered for traffic!) But when I concluded my last road trip and realized that I only had a couple of chapters left, I grabbed my copy of the book and curled up in bed for the amazing conclusion.

While some of the language drove me bonkers (I mean really, how often do we really need to hear how beautiful Edward is?), I think that this book is deserving of all the hype and mania that it has received over the past year or so. In fact, I have continued the mania and pushed this book off on everyone who listens.

So, listen! If you haven't read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, you need to go get a copy and read it right now. You won't be able to put it down! I already have the next three books purchased and ready to read!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

One last thing: the Twilight movie releases on November 21. I highly recommend that you read the book before you see the movie.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonah is an eleven, almost twelve, year old boy who lives in a society where everyone essentially the same. It is a world unlike any on our planet, as no one feels pain, the effects of poverty, hunger. But, the people in this society do not have the opportunity to experience love (mainly romantic and sexual love) or free will. A group of elders choose a profession for each person, as well as life mates and place children in homes after much consideration.

At the yearly “Ceremony of Twelve,” where each child is assigned their profession assignment, Jonah is given the honor of being the new Receiver of Memory. He will obtain memories from the current Receiver of Memory (who is now called “The Giver”) and hold these within himself, sharing when asked by the community’s elders as they contemplate various issues at hand.

As Jonah receives these memories from generations before him, he realizes that his society is missing out on so much and realizes grim truths about his own society. In the captivating climax, Jonah kidnaps a young child who is scheduled to be “released” and attempts to escape.

What I Thought:
Wow. This book absolutely floored me and spoke to my inner core. How lucky we are to live in a society with free will, the freedom of choice, and a world full of different and exciting things that we can choose to discover. We can feel, we experience color, we can love and even feel pain. We can cherish our memories.

If you want to read a book that will change your life, The Giver is for you.

This book is highly acclaimed: it is the winner of the 1996 Newbery Medal, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, ALA Notable Children's Book, Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book, and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, just to name a few.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs by Katherine Applegate

It all begins with Roscoe in time-out, and he explains to his readers exactly what he did to get there.

Roscoe is gathering items for the art closet at school when he sees the “don’t-you-dare” glue. With some contemplation, he adds it to his donation for the class. Later that day, as his class is gearing up for their bee presentation for Parent’s Day, Roscoe “helps” his classmates by applying the “don’t-you-dare” glue to the bee antennae as he is passing them out. He also puts a little on some chairs to keep the drummers still in their seats (of which he is one!).

You can only guess what happens after a great performance. Which is why Roscoe sits in time-out, telling us his advice on how to not get in the same predicament.

What I Thought:
I am in love with Roscoe Riley. What a sweet little guy living the first grade life and learning those life lessons in such precious ways. I love the glue story...who hasn't been tempted by some "don't you dare glue?" I know I have!!

This is the first book of a six series about Roscoe. If the following books in the series are as good as this one, this will be a series kids will be clamoring for. Highly recommended!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs by Katherine Applegate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

YALSA Literature Symposium Wrap-Up

This weekend I attended the First YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium in Nashville, TN. I had a super time and learned so much.

I have had a couple of days to mull it over and am excited to wrap up my weekend with you!

The theme for this year's symposium was "How We Read Now." I attended several sessions wrapped around this theme.

Session One: "Thrilling Young Adults: How to Keep the Attention of Today's Teens.
In this session we discussed how young adult literature has changed over the years. No longer will teens sit through a book with long descriptive narratives (unless the setting is in a fictional world that must be described). They want action-packed, fast paced books that hold their attention.

The panelist for this session was Amy Alessio, author and teen coordinator for the Schaumburg Township Library in Illinois, Margaret Peterson Haddix, renowned author and has won numerous awards for her books, Deborah Noyes Wayshak, editor for Candlewick Press and author, and author Patrick Jones.

Session Two: "Reading: It's Not Just About Books Anymore"
In this session, Linda Braun discussed a number of ways we read without using paper or conventional means. Think about it: you are reading this blog, may read text messages, use a Kindle or another electronic reader or even your cell phone. Braun demonstrated a number of other web resources that can be used to reach kids in this technological age.

We discussed Voice Thread presentations, a web based presentation tool where you can record your voice over the slides and all can see. Some other tools we discussed was Twitter and tumblr -microblog tools, wordle-a website to create very cool word clouds, and wordia-a place where you can view and post videos of word definitions.

Click below to check out the presentation that was presented during this session using Voice Thread.

Session Three: Fandom, Fan Life, and Participatory Culture
In this session, Elizabeth Burns and Carlie Webber discussed fandom.

I had no idea what this concept was, and surprised to know that I am a member of several fandoms! Basically, a fandom is a group who love something and get together to discuss or celebrate that thing. Whether it be through discussion boards, websites, conferences, or whatever, it is neat to see people get behind a book, tv show or movie and dissect it to its core. They used the popular novel Twilight by Stephanie Meyer to illustrate this concept.

We also explored how we can use this in the library and I got all sorts of fun Teen program ideas to pass along. (Twilight Prom anyone??)

Session Four: "Just Keepin' It Real: Teen Reading Out of the Mainstream"
Rollie Welch, Collection Manager at the Cleveland Public Library and former Teen Services Librarian discussed inner city teens and street lit in this very informative session.

Rollie gave a lot of great booktalks and even tested our knowledge in a fun game of Jeopardy! I came away with an extensive list of books to order for our library!

Session Five: Quickest of YALSA's Quick Picks
Diana Herald and Diane Monnier discuss the process of YALSA's Quick Pick Awards and then booktalked a number of the titles on those lists or those being nominated for this year's list.

We had a special treat of hearing David Lubar, who has written a number of books and having a couple be on the Quick Picks list. Lubar is quite hilarious and I'm excited to order some of his books, as well as some on the Quick Picks list that we do not have, for our library quite soon.

We also were armed with titles to hand reluctant readers when they say "I don't like to read!" or "I'm too busy with school!" and how to spot a quick pick book. Very awesome.

As you can see, I learned a lot and am armed with more knowledge to efficiently do my job. A highlight of the weekend was getting to visit with some of my classmates from UT-Knoxville who were there as well.

Thanks to YALSA for a fun weekend, the books, the food, and the cool loot. Check out this cool bag they gave us at sign in:

The next Literature symposium is in Albuquerque, NM in 2010. Road trip anyone??

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Book Day!

Well, sort of.

A while back, hubs and I went to New York to visit some friends and stopped by the Strand Bookstore and bought this book.

I was planning reading it pretty quickly, but I kept putting it off due to school work. (I was scared I would get sucked in and ignore my academic duties.)

Recently a friend passed along her copy of the audio book. Now, I can totally rationalize listening to a book on my commute to work. So, I listened. AND FELL IN LOVE.

So yesterday, I headed out to my local chain bookstore and purchased these:

(Sorry for the glare. Being the book nerd that I am, I have covered my book jackets library style.)

Yep. I'm hooked. I heart Edward. I think Bella rocks.

And I can't wait to see what happens next. (And to see the movie that is coming out on 11/21!)

Friday, November 07, 2008

YALSA Literature Symposium

This weekend I will be attending the YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium in Nashville, TN. I am SO excited to get to hang out with some YA book lovers and hear what is the latest and greatest in that world. I'm looking forward to some great informative sessions and meeting some great YA authors!

Check back early next week for a wrap-up of my experience!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

When Vermeer’s painting A Lady Writing comes up missing, Calder and Petra, sixth grade classmates put together a number of clues and coincidences to find the priceless painting while clearing the names of their teacher, neighbor, and friend. Calder is fascinated by patterns and always has his set of pentominos, which seems to guide them by enlightening him with words that spark their actions. He even corresponds with his friend Tommy by code in a letters that must be decoded to read. Petra is a gifted young lady who comes across a book entitled Lo! By Charles Fort, which discusses a number of odd events that have happened in the world at various times but seem to be connected. A woman in the painting who seems to be guiding the duo to her fascinates Petra. Throw in an eccentric teacher who sparks free thinking, curiosity and discovery and you have story that will be hard to put down.

What I Thought:
What a fun book! What makes this book even more interesting is the "secret code" that is inserted throughout the text that the reader must decode to grasp a portion of the story. (The code key is given in the book.) Fans of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin or The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler by E.L. Konisburg will devour this book.

I'm excited to read the next two books: Wright Three and Calder Game.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Paper Towns by John Green

When Quentin was younger, he and his neighbor friend Margo stumbled across a dead man in the park.

Years later, he is weeks away from graduating high school, and the same Margo taps on his window and talks him into a night to remember. As they cross the city of Orlando playing pranks on some of Margo's friends (er, former friends, they were claiming revenge) who had committed various offenses, Q learns more about this girl whom he is so crazy about.

The next day, Margo vanishes into thin air.

As Quentin and his friends dig through a number of clues to find out where Margo is, they learn about themselves in the process. And have a heck of an ending to their high school experience!

Will they find Margo? You'll have to read it to find out!

What I Thought:
I was highly anticipating the release of this book and was not disappointed! I loved this book! I loved the mystery, the friendship, the longing for a love that may not be so out of reach. It is the end of high school, it is fun and full of memories.

Teens will devour the book for the plot and characters, adults will love the book for the same, but will also relate remembering this special time in their own life.

Green does an outstanding job, this book is very highly recommended. It is pure awesome.

A movie of this book is already in the works...

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Paper Towns by John Green.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood: A Star is Bathed by Cece Bell

Sock Monkey has been nominated for a prestigious Oswald Award and needs to attend the award ceremony in Hollywood. Just one thing...Sock Monkey needs a bath. Of which he has never had, so he is very dirty. He's a little nervous about the whole process, but he has some great friends to help him through the process.

So, he is all clean...will he win his award?

What I Thought:
Such an adorable book, especially if you are a sock monkey fan! The illustrations are cute -- digitally created with the sock monkey appearing to be a photograph of a knitted sock. Very interesting! I literally laughed out loud on several occasions, though the ending was a little disappointing. A super read aloud that kids are bound to enjoy. Overall, highly recommended!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood: A Star is Bathed by Cece Bell.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey

Poor Oscar. He is a Dachshund who is gets teased because of his low stature and long size. He gets calle "weiner dog" and he does not like it, not one bit.

His mom even gets in on the action, not teasing but definitely adds fuel to the fire. For Halloween she buys him a giant hot dog bun where he fits in the middle as the hot dog.

Oh, the teasing! Poor Oscar gets teased so much, and he can't walk as fast as his friends and misses out on all the candy.

In the end, Oscar manages to save the day...

What I Thought:
Such a cute book! Super fun illustrations and laugh out loud text. Dav Pilkey is the man behind Captain Underpants, so this book is bound to be a hit. A super fun read aloud, absolutely perfect for this Halloween season.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

This is the lovely story of Velma Gratch, the last of the Gratch girls to enter first grade. Each of her sisters made their mark at the school and Velma wants so badly to follow in their footsteps and then also create her own name. She finds a way to make herself standout by loving butterflies and when one lands on her finger and won’t leave when her class is visiting a butterfly conservatory.

This book is full of colorful illustrations that will draw in the reader.

What I Thought:
Such a sweet story that any younger sibling will relate too. All Velma wants is to find her niche, that one thing that will make her stand out from her older sisters. When she goes to the butterfly conservatory, she gets just that experience.

I absolutely adore the illustrations. Be sure to check out an especially awesome double page spread in the middle of the book. You can't help but to grin when you see it!

This book also has some great opportunities to sneak in a science lesson about butterflies, caterpillars and metamorphosis.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Velma Gratch & the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spiders by Nic Bishop

This is an amazing information picture book about...spiders! It has anything and everything one could want to know about spiders including size, physical parts, hunting and feeding, web spinning, molting, life span, its predators, ways it protects itself, mating habits, procreation, and spiderlings. Bishop highlights an important sentence on each page through larger font and color. An index of topics, spiders, and photographs is included, as well as a glossary or terms.

But what is more than the words in this book are the astonishing photographs. They show extreme details of the spiders-fur, eyes, eggs, spiderlings, mating habits, webs, and more! Many of the photos show some very interesting perspective. Pictures are the main attraction of each page, but the text is placed over a colored block or the picture itself. Each illustration has a caption that identifies the type of spider and what it is doing. An impressive double foldout shows a jumping spider in various stages of leaping. Bishop includes summary of how he found the spiders and photographed them for this book.

What I Thought:
I’m not such a fan of spiders, but this book was mesmerizing. The pictures drew me into the work; I loved exploring each photo to see the difference in each spider. I would imagine this book would be a huge a hit with any kid who likes to read about spiders, they will be attracted to the pictures then fascinated by the text. The photos definitely make this book.

This book was a 2008 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, a 2008 ALA Notable book, along with other awards.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Spiders by Nic Bishop.

(And if you like this one, be sure to check out Frogs (available now) and Butterflies and Moths (to be released Spring 2009).

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

As promised, here is a review of The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Arnold Spirit (Junior) is a fourteen-year-old oddball living on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington State. He was born with hydrocephalus thus leaving him with some physical attributes that are different from everyone else…leaving him a prime target for teasing. His family is very poor, which not uncommon on the “rez.” Everyone is poor on the reservation. Alcoholism is rampant as well, making the rez a very violent place as tempers often flare and fistfights are very common.

When Arnold decides to transfer schools –off the reservation—he is faced with not only fitting into a new school where Indians are not revered, but he is also seen as a traitor to his Indian friends. Slowly, Arnold finds a group of friends and his niche – basketball.

Arnold learns to balance his Indian life along with his “white” life, and comes to term with himself in the process. Arnold tells his story through a touching narrative and lighthearted cartoons as he provides an insightful peek inside life as a reservation Indian.

What I Thought:
I simply adore this book! Especially since I had the opportunity to hear the author speak recently at the Southern Festival of Books, and he signed my copy.

I think this is an excellent book for all teens. Junior is such a great character and Alexie writes the teenage experience so well it is scary. (But this book is semi-autobiographical, so maybe it isn't so scary after all.)

I HIGHLY recommend this book to all.

This book is the recipient of a number of awards including the 2007 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and 2008 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature in Fiction .

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

In this book, Thaler and Koval give example after example of how simply being nice can provide numerous benefits. While most of the examples were based around the business world, it is very applicable in other settings. The authors show time and time again how simply showing consideration and kindness to others will provide rewards in ways that one never expects-from landing business accounts to getting that perfect job!

Each chapter ends with exercises to increase your "niceness" entitled "Nice Cubes."

What I Thought:While this book was for a class project, I enjoyed it very much! I think the principles were great and applicable for everyone, no matter the career track. Couldn't the world use a little more nice? I sure think so!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I will spare you the details of how long it took me to find a copy of this much anticipated book. Ahem.

(I mean really. John Green is one of the best authors out there so I don't understand how bookstores wouldn't have his book out with much fanfare.)

I will only share my excitement that I finally found Paper Towns by John Green. I've already started and it's is so good! It is so good that I am putting aside the homework I really should be doing to continue reading.

I'll post a review soon after I finish, though I really think you should just order a copy and read it for yourself. Check it out here: Paper Towns by John Green.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

This is a story about Martha, a twelve year old girl who is experiencing a summer of self discovery. Her summer begins with the sad news when Martha learns that one of her classmates was killed in a bicycle accident. Even more, Olive mentioned Martha in her journal and Olive's mother brings that page to give to Martha. This is an action that touches Martha to the core.

Martha's family travels to her grandmother's (Godbee) house for the summer, a lovely little house on the seashore. During this summer, Martha will discover the excitement and heartache of love, and contemplates the reality of death.

What I Thought:
Such a sweet book! While Martha and Olive were not close friends, Martha is saddened by her passing all the same. This book explores Martha's thoughts of how she wants to live her life to the fullest while honoring Olive for the life she lived.

This is a highly challenged book, number 62 on the Top 100 Challenged Books during 2000-2007. This is probably because of the idea of Olive's death (which is not described in great detail or happens during the book, the accident has already happened when the book begins), a cruel and embarrassing joke, and a near death experience. However, I think that it is a superb book and the contents of the book are appropriate for most children. The positives of this story very much outweigh the negative.

This book is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards including being a Newbery Honor Book, ALA Notable Children's Book, and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good Times at the Southern Festival of Books (and NEW BOOK DAY!)

Today my mom and I headed to the Southern Festival of Books at the War Memorial Plaza in Nashville. I have been looking forward to this event for some time now, and was seriously pumped the day was here!

I was looking forward to listening to a few authors in particular: Sherman Alexie, Patricia and Frederick McKissack, and Gloria Jean Pinkney. I was not disappointed in any of their presentations.

The first session we attended was entitled "Two Award-Winning Picture Book Authors Present Their Latest Works : Gloria Jean Pinkney, Patricia McKissack." Basically, these two incredible authors discussed their writings and other fun facts, such as the book business, their backgrounds and their writing process. Mrs. Pinkney even sang a little! It was incredible.

We stopped by the book sale table and picked up some books and both ladies personalized and signed the copies. These books are now treasured additions to my library!

The second session we attended was entitled "Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out: Mary Brigid Barrett, Patricia McKissack, Fredrick McKissack, Lynda Johnson Robb." This book is a collection of works from 108 different children's authors and illustrators around the theme of the US White House throughout history. Each president that resided in the White House is represented in the book, along with an abundance of White House facts. The four contributors that were present read their submission to the book as well as some other parts as well.

I had purchased this book earlier in the day and each of the contributors present signed my copy on the page their story was located. What is especially special about this book is a project of the National Children's Book and Literary Alliance, a not-for-profit literacy organization created in 1997 by award-winning children's book authors and illustrators. The talent that participated in the book will forgo all royalties and that money will go back into the coalition for future endeavors. (Which is reason enough to go get a copy now, not to mention how utterly awesome this book is!)

Finally, we attended the session entitled "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian : Sherman Alexie" where Alexie shared this book. This was the event I had been looking most forward to as I had read this book over the summer and absolutely adored it! (My mom is even reading the book now as I type!)

Alexie was absolutely hilarious as he shared his experiences and the audience seemed to be enthralled the entire time he spoke. I had my books signed, which was totally awesome.

So, overall it was an amazing day. There was so much to see, so much to do! We only saw a small percentage of the authors who were sharing, but felt like we saw the ones that mattered most to us. I cannot wait to go next year!

My loot of the day:
Daniel and the Lord of the Lions by Gloria Jean Pinkney, illustrated by Robert Casilla. (Signed by the author!)
Goin' Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. (Signed by the author!)
Our White House: Looking in Looking Out by various authors and illustrators. (Signed by four contributors!)
Flight by Sherman Alexie. (Signed by the author!)

We also got various bookmarks, postcards, and other fun things!

This is my copy of The Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, now signed by the author.

Hopefully, book reviews will be posted in the near future for books shown here today!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Where You Will Find Me This Weekend...

I think you should join me!

Find out more about the Southern Festival of Books here and check out the authors that will be visiting here.