21 May 2009

Book Club - JUNE - Tamar by Mal Peet

Ø Is all fair in love and war? How do you feel about William Hyde at the end of the book?
Ø Discuss how war affects people - in Tamar, it says that people would have killed each other for a chicken because they were starving - but also the main characters are brought together through love during the war. How does war affect the behavior of the older characters in the story?
Ø Can war ever be justified?
Ø At some point Tamar realizes that as well as being an individual, she is part of a human continuum. What does this mean to you?
Ø The author very clearly and directly connects that past to the present. Why do you think he does this? Do you think he’s trying to share a message with the reader?
Ø How do you think you would have felt having to live through the war? Either in Nazi occupied Holland or in Liverpool during the Blitz?
Ø What did you like best about this story? The adventure? The mystery? The romance?
Ø How do you think the story would have been different if it had been told from a single perspective? How do you think it would have impacted how you read it?
Ø Why did Tamar’s grandfather commit suicide? How do you think the book would have been different if he hadn’t? Why didn’t he choose to tell Tamar the story himself?
Ø Why did Tamar’s dad leave? Do you think he would have reached out to Tamar if she hadn’t gotten to him first? Why was he the first to approach her once she was on her journey?
Ø “I still call him ‘Grandad’.” How do you think you would have reacted in Tamar’s place?

Food? They had Christmas pudding at one point in the story during the war, but I've eaten Christmas pudding; trust me, you don't want it. Other suggestions?

13 May 2009

Tamar by Mal Peet

This novel of adventure, wartime, love, and consequence is well worth the time it takes to wrap yourself around it. The story is told in alternating time periods: Tamar is an English spy working with the Dutch Resistance against the Nazi Regime; Tamar is a fifteen-year-old girl struggling with her family's secrets and her grandfather's death in 1995. An intricate weave of mystery and adventure, love and family, and hidden histories, the story is both intense and delicate and won't soon leave your mind.

The note on the back cover from the Carnegie Medal committee (2007) describes it well:
"Tamar is a powerful and moving story that cleverly connects the present with the past. Peet's is a broad canvas; his writing is beautifully controlled as he unravels the complex historical and personal aspects of the story of sixty years ago and today. He has an assured lightness of touch and his book is rich with imagery, simile, and strong characterisation . . . Dark and moving, it is a compelling read that ultimately offers a sense of optimism."

Recommended to all adults and high school readers.
Call number: YA PEET (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

04 May 2009

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

There are few words that could capture the essence of Evie’s world as she falls in love for the first time. Nobody is sure what to make of Joe Spooner’s decision to take his wife, Beverly, and her daughter, Evie, on a spur-of-the-moment “vacation” to Palm Beach, Florida during the autumn months just after his return home from World War II. At the Le Mirage Hotel, they meet Tom and Arlene Grayson, “The Swanks” who could make classy look like it was going out of style, and Peter Coleridge, a self-proclaimed “buddy” of Joe’s from the war who steals Evie’s heart with just one dance. Evie is stuck in that place that most girls get stuck in at some point or another: she wants to be grown up, feels grown up, but is constantly treated like a little girl who doesn’t know, feel, matter. Peter makes her feel all of those things. Joe doesn’t like Peter, and especially doesn’t like Peter hanging around his wife and daughter all day. When the hurricanes hit, Joe and Bev go missing for a time and Peter winds up dead. It is up to Evie to find out what happened and make everything right again.

While reading this story, we might forget to care how it ends, but only because we have found ourselves reading largely for the pure joy of the words. The characters are real people, the story forms a world around us, and we don’t realize that we’re reading about history, that we’re coming closer to the mystery’s surprise, or that we’re holding a book at all, for we’re so immersed in the life that is being brought alive before our eyes.

Recommended to high school readers. This novel breaks the boundaries of genre. (Have I mentioned that the cover art is a. maz. ing?)

Call number: YA BLUNDELL (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

Juniper is the new girl, which sucks. She decided on her own to work hard to earn a scholarship to attend Ellsmere Academy, an upper class boarding school that lets in one scholarship student a year. Jun wants to go to a good secondary school and knows that doing well at Ellsmere Academy is her best shot at a great academic future. Unfortunately, boarding school isn’t quite ready to welcome Jun, except for her roommate Cassie. Cassie has been going to Ellsmere forever, and has been pretty miserable forever. Emily wants to be the best, most popular, smartest girl at school and is willing to put down anyone who gets in her way, and when she crosses paths with Jun who threatens her “smartest girl in school” status, trouble bubbles up, threatening to disrupt the natural order of things.

The black-and-white graphics carry this super fun story, complete with evil plans, bloody noses, and unicorns. Recommended to all readers, especially as an intro to graphic novels.
Call number: YA GRAPHIC HICKS (Teen Room)

Recommended by kate the librarian

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls is at once heartbreaking and terrifying. Within the first few scenes, the reader learns, along with Lia, that Cassie’s dead body was “found in a motel room, alone.” We learn shortly after that Cassie called Lia’s phone thirty-three times just before she died. Lia ignored thirty-three of her calls that night. Lia and Cassie’s friendship faltered over the past few months, shattering years of childhood memories, inseparable summers, and secrets kept close to the heart. Both Lia and Cassie’s families thought the other girl was an unhealthy influence, but the truth is that both girls had their own set of problems. Lia is anorexic, Cassie was bulimic; rivals to each other, challenging themselves.

The story is told beautifully, and will appeal to most older teen girls. Issues of eating disorders, cutting, guilt, and love are handled realistically and honestly. Scenes are at time gut-wrenching, but Lia’s ultimate show of strength and growth, when she feels she has nothing left inside of her, is fascinating to watch.

Recommended to high school readers, especially those drawn to angst-ridden female characters. This one by Anderson, recent recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award, is not to be missed.
Call number: YA ANDERSON (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian


I just thought I would brag a little bit and let you all know that I got to hang out with Susan Beth Pfeffer (SBP) last week when Life as We Knew It (LAWKI) was awarded with the Garden State Teen Book Award (GSTBA) in the Grades 6-8 category at the annual New Jersey Library Association (NJLA) Conference. As you know, LAWKI is also this year's One Book New Jersey (OBNJ) teen selection.

The GSTBA is great because while the 20 nominations in each category are selected by teen librarians from across the state, the final winners are selected solely by teen readers. The 2010 nominations are up now, and you can vote for your favorite book online through the BCCLS website: www.bccls.org/gstba.

Don't forget! Tonight we'll be online with Ms. SBP herself to discuss LAWKI. Log on at www.bccls.org/OBNJ anytime from 7:30 through 8:30 P.M. All are welcome!