31 December 2010

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

It's Christmastime in the City!

Lily loves it, but Dash not so much.  Lily and Dash don't know each other.  Not yet anyway.

Dash was minding his own business browsing the shelves of at the Strand, a used bookstore, avoiding all of the people that seemed to come out of nowhere in New York City in the days and weeks pre-Christmas.  As far as Dash is concerned, all things Christmas-y could disappear forever and he wouldn't miss them.  Just like he doesn't miss that Mom is away with her boyfriend and Dad is spending time with his girlfriend and Dash is on his own for the holidays.  Anyway, he's minding his own business when he finds a red Moleskine journal with the words "Do You Dare?" black-sharpied on the cover and a note on the first page challenging him to a scavenger hunt of clues.

Lily can't get enough of Christmas!  The crowds, the caroling, the good cheer and goodwill and all of that.  Unfortunately, she can't get enough of her family, either - literally.  Her mom and dad decided to take a romantic vacation in Fiji for the holidays, leaving Lily alone for the holidays with her brother (and, unbeknownst to them, his boyfriend).  It was Langston and Benny's idea, actually, for the notebook.

A crazy adventure packed with light-hearted humor, this is most definitively a less saccharine and less irritating holiday story than the typical adult (or children's) fare.  Riddled with f-bombs and innuendos, lovers of David Levithan, Rachel Cohn, Nick, Norah, and a bit of Will Grayson, won't be able to resist Dash and Lily, before, after, or during the holidays! 
Call number: YA COHN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The Marvelous Land of Oz adapted by Eric Shanower, illustrated by Skottie Young

If all you know of the Wizard of Oz are the adventures of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion as they travel along the yellow brick road, then you are in for a world of wonder in Eric Shanower's adaptation of the second Oz book written by L. Frank Baum.

Tip has all sorts of boyish adventures in his head and he's sick of being controlled by Old Mombi, a witch who isn't allowed to practice magic in their area of the land.  When Tip creates a man with a pumpkin for a head to scare Mombi, she is not fooled and instead tries out a new potion on the figure and brings Jack Pumpkinhead to life!  Following the threat of punishment for trying to frighten the old witch, Tip takes his lively creation and runs away.  Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead decide they might as well go to see the Scarecrow, ruler of the Emerald Ciy.

When an army of girls takes over the Emerald City and the ruling crown is taken from the Scarecrow, the adventures of Tip, Jack Pumpkinhead, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and H. M. Woggle-Bug really begin!  With a few magic wishing pills and some really solid thinking (plus a wooden sawhorse and a couple of sofas), they must escape the ruling army and restore the crown to its rightful successor.  Filled with humor, vibrant illustration, and a great big dose of charm, this is certainly marvelous rendition of the further adventures in Oz.  Recommended to all readers for a quick change of pace.
Call number: YA GRAPHIC SHANOWER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

18 December 2010

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine

Part mystery, part love story, Broken Soup is not the average "my brother died and now my family is falling apart" novel.  Sure, Jack died unexpectedly, and now Rowan is left as the primary caregiver to younger sister Stroma because their mom just lies in bed all day and their dad has moved out of the house.  But the two girls are hanging on alright for now.

What makes this story so intriguing is how it all begins: a strange teenage boy - a cute, interesting, strange teenage boy - hands Rowan a negative of a picture telling her that she had dropped it.  Rowan's never seen it before, but her new friend Bee encourages her to see what's on it.  When she develops the picture she sees her brother smiling back at her.  Through the hardships of grief, Rowan learns how the good is intertwined with the bad, how coincidences don't always mean anything but sometimes they can mean everything, and how you sometimes have to open up your heart in order to be able to receive gifts in the most unexpected ways.

The twists and turns, especially toward the end of the novel, may not necessarily agree with the most discerning or realistic reader, but the emotional connections of the characters help to take readers' minds off the need focus too much on the details.  Recommended to readers looking for a touch of mystery with their angst, plus a dose of a really awesome crush.
Call number: YA VALENTINE

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

GSTBA 2011

I have to apologize for the lack of frequency of book reviews in the past few months.  It seems as though I've been doing less reading altogether, and have stumbled on quite a few books that just haven't sat well with me.  I don't like writing reviews of books that I really couldn't stand, couldn't understand, or that I just think would never appeal to a teen audience.  But I've had to get back into the swing of things as I'm once again reading for the Garden State Teen Book Awards.

The GSTBA is chosen specifically by NJ teens, but the list of nomincations is created by librarians throughout the state.  We draw from the best of the best of a few years back to come up with a large list of books, then we read those books (we don't ALL read ALL the titles, but we divide it up so that we're each reading 15-20 books across the three categories), and then we meet together to fight . . . ahem, I mean to discuss! . . . what belongs on the full nominated list of 60 titles.  Once the list is created, it's up to the teen readers to choose a winner.  You can participate in choosing the 2011 winner by voting HERE, today!  Voting ends in mid-January 2011.

22 November 2010

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

If you are looking for another typical novel about the same old vampires and werewolves, don't read this "never coming of age story" by Adam Rex.  

Doug was minding his own business as a high school student -- trying to be the funny kid to take the attention away from being the weird kid or the fat kid -- when he was attacked by a vampire (or a vampire wolf?).  Now, with the help of his best friend (and primary secret-keeper) Jay, he's on the hunt for blood anywhere he can get it . . . except he hasn't mastered the whole attacking humans thing and he's pretty sure he doesn't want to, unless he can find a willing participant in the right kind of girl.  

Adam Rex writes a satirical, humorous, quirky novel about a vampire who certainly does not represent the sparkling, fit, gorgeous vampire image to which many contemporary readers have become accustomed.  Doug isn't even that funny.  Or that nice most of the time.  He's pretty much just a typical high school kid, never quite having a firm grip on what he wants or what's expected of him.  At times, the author's attempts at humor are tiring, but for the most part this novel is a laugh-out-loud account of the bizarre, unrealistic world of vampires living among us.  Recommended to anyone -- especially boys -- looking for something out of the ordinary, or something that doesn't ask the reader to take anything too seriously.
Call number: YA REX (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

02 November 2010

Butterfly by Sonya Hartnett

Plum has a lot on her mind: she's trying to lose weight, impress her friends, and plan for her fourteenth birthday.  She's trying to shed the skin of her childhood, but doesn't quite know how to obtain the perceived confidence of an adult.  Through her friendship with thirty-something neighbor Maureen and the power that lays among a few precious objects that Plum keeps hidden away in a briefcase underneath her bed, she believes that she can find the strength that will lead her into adulthood.  But no one in her life is exactly who Plum imagines them to be -- not either of her brothers, not any of her friends, not Maureen, and not even herself.  There are a lot of gray areas in the world and this novel blurs most of the lines drawn between good and bad, causing Plum to grow in ways she wasn't anticipating and for which she wasn't prepared.

Butterfly is slow-moving and convoluted, but at the same time it holds a mystery, an adventure, and a tremendous development of character.  This novel will likely appeal to teens and adults who are not put off by literary writings and musings.  Recommended to (those admittedly few) high school and adult readers with a bit of a nostalgic side for the unhappiness of the teenage years.
Call number: YA HARTNETT (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

20 October 2010

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amelia Curry's dad died three months ago.  She's having a heck of a time admitting that this is her real life now.  Her mom decided that it was a good idea to move to Connecticut, so she's been there setting things up, and Amy is still on her own in California while they sell the old house.  When her mom decides that it's time for Amy to come "home" to the east coast, she sets her daughter up with a neighbor's son to travel across the country together, since Amy refuses to drive since the accident.  She gives them a strict itinerary, making all of their hotel arrangements and travel instructions.  When Roger suggests a detour, Amy quickly chooses Yellowstone National Park, where her dad used to take her and her brother, Charlie, when they were growing up.  From there, they embark on a journey that no one could have planned, especially not Amy's grief-torn mother, or even Amy herself.  Once Amy's cloud of grief clears just enough to notice how amazing Roger is, she's already comfortable with him in a way that can only come from sharing a car, money, and alternate identities.  In between bouts of 20 Questions, they help each other deal with their individual crises and give each other strength to deal with whatever lies ahead.

Not all loose ends are tied up neatly, and Amy and Roger don't offer any pat solutions to life's problems.  This story is about taking a journey, not always staying on the path that someone else might choose for you, and deciding that it's okay to make your own way, on your own or by accepting help and support from friends and family.  Recommended to all high school readers, mostly girls who are in search of a happily-ever-after (but without the whole "riding into a sunset" cliche).  
Call number: YA MATSON (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Cardturner by Louis Sachar

The summer of his seventeenth year, Alton's mother forces him to spend time with his "favorite uncle" in order to try to work the family's way into the blind man's last will and testament.  Alton has to accompany his great-uncle, Trip, to his bridge games and act as his "cardturner."  Basically, he has to do whatever Trip tells him to do (both during the card game and any other time they are in each others' presence), no questions asked, no hesitations.  What is first an insufferable chore, soon becomes quality time between Alton and Trip, and Alton learns a lot about bridge -- and his uncle -- during the course of the ensuing two weeks.  When Trip passes away, there is more at stake for Alton than just his uncle's will, including uncovering the mysteries of the heart and mind.

The book includes an index explaining a lot about the game of bridge.  The audio intersperses these detailed explanations throughout the story.  This story is especially recommended to younger and older readers who are interested in discovering more about a classic card game that is making a resurgence in popularity among all ages.
Call number: YA SACHAR; YA CD SACHAR (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

18 October 2010

Calamity Jack by Shannon & Dean Hale

Jack is a self-proclaimed thief and a schemer.  Underneath, he truly has a good heart, wanting to undercut the bad guys in order to help make a better life for his mother, but bad luck is always chasing him and his plans never seem to turn out quite as ... well, planned.  When he purchases some magic growing beans on the street, plants a giant beanstalk, steals the giant's -- his latest, richest, and most powerful mark yet -- magic goose, he also manages to destroy the tenement where he lives, including his home and his mother's bakery.  So as not to wreak any more havoc or cause his mother any more pain, he leaves town ... to the wild west, where he meets Rapunzel.

Jack has always known that he can't rest until he knows that his mother is taken care of, and he wants to make her proud while also impressing his dear Punzie.  But when they return to the city of his birth, he finds that the giants have destroyed everything he's known and loved.  With the help of Rapunzel and a couple of other unlikely heroes, Jack seeks to take down the giant ... and win Rapunzel's heart.

Calamity Jack and its companion story, Rapunzel's Revenge, present an awesome mix of writing and illustration, sure to captivate readers of all ages and interests.
Call number: YA GRAPHIC HALE (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

07 October 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future by Michael J. Fox

Seriously, who doesn't love Michael J. Fox?

In this brief read, this incredible actor offers words of wisdom to high school and college graduates, and all those embarking on a new world, a new life, a new experience.  From a man who sought success even without a high school diploma or even always clear direction, the words in this volume speak to the heart using both humor, humility and wisdom.
Recommended to all readers of all ages in all situations.  Do yourself a favor, have a listen.

Reviewed by kate.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Most reviews would describe Going Bovine as weird.  Complex.  Convoluted.  Intense.  I've also heard the highly accurate (I would assume) comparison to a "trippy acid flashback."  I'd use all of those words to describe this tome as well, but I have to add one: fascinating.  Unquestionably fascinating.

Cameron Smith is sixteen years old and his most outstanding quality is that he just doesn't really care much about anything.  He's not incredibly social, but he's not incredibly awkward either.  Until weird things start to happen to his mind, anyway, and the doctors diagnose him with Mad Cow Disease.  Now, he's oddly the center of attention, but worse than that, he's going to die.  When he's admitted to the hospital (which is supposed to help him how?), he meets Gonzo, a Mexican-American Dwarf gamer, and Dulcie, a punk rock angel.  When Dulcie guides Cam to take a road trip to find Doctor X, the only doctor who can cure Cam's illness, Gonzo comes along for what ends up being the most entertaining and action-packed road trip adventure known to mankind.  

In this story, you'll find drunken college frat parties, talking yard gnomes, Fire Breathers, musicians, scientists, and Viking Gods.  But you'll also find what it means to live life, experience adventure, fall in love . . . even as reality slips through your fingers and disappears before your eyes.
Recommended to all high school readers, though you won't all get it and you won't all like it.  Either way, the audiobook version is worth a shot.
Call number: YA BRAY; YA CD BRAY (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate.

22 September 2010

Sometimes it's letting go...

Some people think it's holding on that makes one strong -- sometimes it's letting go.
--Sylvia Robinson

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares...
--Henri Nouwen

Perhaps I know best why it is man alone who laughs; he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter...

The only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.
--Mignon McLaughlin

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything.  Love still stands when all else has fallen.
--Author unknown

10 September 2010

Wicked Girls : A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill

Mercy Lewis. Mary Walcott. Ann Putnam Jr. Betty Parris. Abigail Williams. Elizabeth Hubbard. Susannah Sheldon.

Those are the real names of young girls (the oldest was 18, the youngest was only 8) who accused others of witchcraft in Massachusetts during the late 1600s. These accusations resulted in at least 23 deaths, and more than 144 people had legal action brought against them (according to the author's concluding notes). With poetic and creative license, this book tells a story of those responsible for the Salem Witch Trials.

What sets this novel apart from others based on the history of Salem, Massachusetts is the existence of a palpable atmosphere of innocence mixed with jealousy, terror, and infatuation. While the characters might not be wholly sympathetic, it is easy to follow the line of thinking that leads them through their actions, both in the situations where they are found socializing just within their small social circle, as well as those where they are standing up to men of a courthouse and entire communities of adults.

This novel in verse is recommended to all those with an interest in the historical and psychological stories of past and present-day witchcraft and/or teenage cliques, as well as the Salem Witch Trials.
Call number: YA HEMPHILL (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

07 September 2010

Announcing Teen Summer Reading winners!

Congratulations to the winners of the 2010 Teen Summer Reading Program Grand Prize Winners! Fifty-eight Franklin Lakes teens signed up to be part of the Teen Summer Reading Program this year for a chance to complete checklists, attend programs, make crafts, participate in contest, and submit their name for chance to win one of three fabulous grand prizes: a Sony Reader Touch Edition, an iPod touch, or a Flip UltraHD Camcorder! Over 60 checklists were completed and contest entries submitted, and over 1360 books were logged! Thank you to all participating families who made this summer both successful and fun!

Congratulations are in order to all participants, especially the following:

Caroline won a Flip UltraHD Camcorder ~
Neha won an iPod touch ~
Katherine won a Sony Reader Touch Edition ~

A very special prize is awarded to Alon for submitting the greatest number of checklists this summer! Twenty-six in all!

Margaux is the winner of the Make Waves Creative Writing Contest for teens ~
Grant is the winner of the Book Cover Re-Design Contest ~
Matthew and Michael each received special runners-up prizes for their superb Book Cover Designs ~

Margaux's writing can be found in the previous post, and you can check out the Book Cover Re-Designs in the Teen Room!

Congrats to our Summer Reading Creative Writing Contest winner!

The Make Waves Creative Writing Contest challenge was to submit an original piece of writing that somehow, someway tied into the overall theme of water or the Teen Summer Reading Program slogan "Make Waves." Margaux was chosen as the library's winner. Congrats Margaux!

As I sit on the Hilton Head Island beach in South Carolina, I stare out into the ocean and look as far as I can see. It goes on for miles and miles, but all I see are waves crashing onto the smooth sand.

The rough waves break onto the surface. But once the impact is over, the ocean releases the salty water and it gently glides across the shore. The sea quickly pulls the water back in as if nothing happened. I continue to gaze at the shoreline and this action continues to happen. Each wave rocks back and forth from the massive waters to the soggy grounds.

The waves sound like airplanes flying by on a clear day. It also sounds like leaves rustling against one another in a heavy wind. The noise makes for a soothing crash that can put me to sleep instantly.

01 September 2010

before i fall by Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver's before i fall tells of the incredible journey of Samantha Kingston as she experiences her last day alive (literally), over and over. Sam learns a little more about herself, her friends, her family, and others around her each day, and she also learns to appreciate the little details that most people miss on the course of their own lives -- things that go unnoticed because no one ever knows when it will all fall away.

Sam and her three best friends, Lindsay, Ally, and Elody, are the most popular girls at school. They date the cutest boys, they get away with everything, and everyone knows who they are. Their biggest worry on Cupid Day is how many roses they'll receive during school, and hopefully it's more than last year's count. But when Lindsay is driving too fast after leaving a party and swerves off the road the night of February 12, all is lost and Sam plunges into darkness. Until she wakes up the next morning to her alarm clock and to her little sister, Izzy, who is relaying Mom's message to hurry up and get ready for school . . . and the display on her phone says "February 12." Cupid Day. Again.

The incredible journey of finding yourself, experiencing love, and giving compassion is all for the sake of that bright light that can shine onto darkness, grief, and shame. Samantha finds peace, and in turn offers a second chance to those who deserve one. This excellently written story is recommended to all readers, and will especially appeal to those who are hurting with secrets, shame, or loneliness. It's never too late to feel the joy hidden among the smallest things.
Call number: YA OLIVER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

21 August 2010

Bone by Jeff Smith

The graphic novel Bone by Jeff Smith is about a character named Fone Bone and his cousins Smiley Bone and Phoney Bone. Phoney Bone gets run out of town so Fone Bone and Smiley Bone go with him. They get lost in a strange village with rat creatures and dragons. They find humans that protect them and will help them return to Boneville. It takes them a long time to get back. The book is really interesting because of the book's creativity and I like the characters. Fone Bone is normal, Smiley doesn't have a brank and Phoney is greedy. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure books and graphic novels.

Call number: YA GRAPHIC SMITH (Teen Room)

Reviewed by Jack.

13 August 2010

The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

Three children are growing up within the confines of their mansion. They aren't allowed out into the town or interaction with many other people, but they do have a Mellower who helps train them in fighting, tells them stories about history and fantasy, and provides them with comfort daily. When the oldest decide that they want to venture into town to earn their Scout Exploration Badges, the very thing happens that their very powerful and intimidating father had been trying to protect them from -- they are kidnapped in moments.

The parents of the three children are overwhelmed with distress and guilt that they weren't able to protect their children from harm and they hire The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm Detective Agency to find them. The three sleuths were all born with mutations following nuclear exposure: Ear has super hearing; Eye has super vision; and Arm is sensitive to touch and also has psychic tendencies where he can feel the emotions of others.

Altogether -- though separately in their quests -- they must survive a variety of adventures, evil powers, old world ideals, and powerful technologies. This complicated and exciting story is recommended to those interested in adventures with subtle discussions of religion and politics amid an atmosphere of fantasy and magic.
Call number: YA FARMER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

10 August 2010

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Melody Brooks can't walk, talk, or do everyday things that most people don't even think about. Despite what she can't do, Melody is brilliant. Once she gets a device that helps her communicate, students and teachers discover that she's smart enough to compete in quiz competitions. The only problem is that many people are mean to her just because she's different. She's capable of winning her school an award, but it's up to her classmates to accept her.

This story makes you realize how hard it is to deal with people teasing you just because you're different. It also shows how much you can hurt someone by ignoring them and not caring about how they feel. Also, sometimes the people who are different are the ones who are most valuable to a team.

Call number: YA DRAPER (Teen Room)

Artemis Fowl : The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer

The book Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex is a brand new book out to hook readers into the world of the well-known criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl. A terrible psychological disease has taken hold of Artemis, though. Named the Atlantis Complex disease, there are many stages involving psychosis, OCD, dissociative identity disorder (DID), and in some cases, eventual death. It has also struck at a bad time, as one of his worst enemies are on the loose, with an army of near-zombie slaves with him. Can Artemis, even struck by a deadly disease, along with the fairy folk, save the Earth from destruction? Read this book to find out.

Call number: YA COLFER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by Alon.

28 July 2010

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

Jeffery tries not to let all that much get to him these days. After all, he's only in eighth grade and he's already survived cancer. But then again, his parents fight all the time, his dad pretty much avoids spending any time with him, and his brother Steven ran away to Africa just to get away from him. Oh, and he's failing math and now he'll need to get through a standardized test just to get into high school. It's a good thing that the cute new girl totally digs him, and that his best friend Tad -- also a superhero cancer survivor -- is willing to tutor him so that he can graduate. In exchange, Jeffery is going to make sure that Tad can get out of his wheelchair and walk across stage to receive his diploma.

The problem is: sometimes cancer gets in the way of the best laid plans.

This novel is a step up in terms of literary quality and well-rounded appeal from last generation's Lurlene McDaniel paperbacks. Recommended to anyone and everyone, especially those who don't mind a tearjerker with a lot of laughs, or a comedy that tugs at your heartstrings. This is a companion novel to Jordan Sonnenblick's Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie.
Call number: YA SONNENBLICK (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding

The book Sylvie and the Songman is a whirling story about a silent Earth. A man called the Songman is learning to sing all of the animals' songs, from lions to birds. Using mysterious bottles called SongGlasses, he is silencing and enslaving every last animal to gain complete control over the world. Only one girl with a legendary Mark can stop him. Her name is Sylvie, and her father has been captured by the Songman. Accompanied by a faithful dog named Mr. Jackson, a wild fox, and a nerdy boy, she will attempt to end the Songman's rule over the world and rescue her father. However, she will discover that sometimes, people aren't always who she thinks they are.

Call number: YA BINDING (Teen Room)

Reviewed by Alon.

27 July 2010

Happyface written and illustrated by Stephen Emond

Happyface has had his ups and downs in his 14 years of life, and he and his mom just moved to a new town following his parents' divorce. He's determined to have some friends in this school and to not be the depressed loner that he was in his old town. So, he puts on a happy face and becomes one of those kids who smiles a lot, makes some jokes, laughs with others, and overall is kind of fun to be around. But when he starts failing classes, falling in love with Gretchen, and finding some real friends, he finds it harder and harder to keep the Happyface mask as a cover-up.

Interspersed with the words of this story are Happyface's drawings, email and IM conversations, letters, and comic additions. Happyface is a pretty cool guy and he draws the reader in like a friend by sharing his down-on-his-luck moments with humor and a bit of obviously false bravado. But the more our readers learn about Happyface, the more they discover that he's a lot more like them than he's willing to outright admit.

Strongly recommended to all readers. This quick, fun read also has some tough, real life stuff packed inside.
Call number: YA EMOND

Recommended by kate the librarian.

The Karate Kid (2010)

The Karate Kid with Jaden Smith is a great action packed movie for all ages (okay, maybe not for really younger kids) because at the end there's a huge Kong Fu tournament! The mood of the movie changed a lot! Like sometimes it may be sad... happy... mad... or even romantic.... ewwwww!

Estimated release date for the DVD is October 2010.

Reviewed by Jonathan

A Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events is one of my favorite series of books for the action and all the things that you are dying to know. It would be about a family of five, but the parents of the three kids die. A man named Count Olaf takes them as orphans but the kids do not know that Olaf is an evil man. In each book Olaf disguises himself as someone else at the kids' foster parents' home.

Call number: J SNICKET (Children's Room)

Reviewed by Jonathan.

26 July 2010

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen's rendition of Sleeping Beauty is a harrowing tale to tell. Unlike most of Disney's famous and popular fairy tale interpretations, most of the original tales are far more gruesome and frightening, not meant for very small children to experience, and often have far-from-happy endings.

Becca has been listening to her grandmother's tale of Sleeping Beauty throughout her entire life. Gemma always tells the tale the same way, right up to her death, but by then she insists that she is Briar Rose, a princess who lived in a castle and was woken from sleep by a prince in a faraway place. Gemma's dying wish to her granddaughter is to find the truth in the story. So Becca, always devoted to her grandmother, follows the clues that lead her to Chelmno, Poland. Chelmno was a concentration/extermination camp during World War II, from which no one left alive, so the story goes.

This title is recommended to all those with an interest in twisted or fractured fairy tells, especially those who can appreciate the taste of the originals, as well those who enjoy reading Holocaust and historical fiction. Briar Rose is part of Terri Windling's Fairy Tale Series, which also features reinterpretations of classic fairy tale themes by Jane Yolen, Steven Brust, Pamela Dean, Patricia C. Wrede, Charles de Lint, and others.

Call number: YA YOLEN

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

16 July 2010

The Sight by David Clement-Davies

The book The Sight by the renowned Clement-Davies is a stunning starter to a saga. Written as a breathtaking masterpiece of animal fantasy, this book is intricately designed to mirror the life of an everyday wolf...with a twist. In this book, the tyrant of wolves in Transylvania, Morgra, has the power of the Sight. She can see through the eyes of birds and call upon the dead. When a pack of wolves decides to fight against her, they find that magic can come from within. They also find that fear is the best weapon, and they learn to never dismiss the fact that one of your children may have the Sight as well. A Mona Lisa of literature, this book can be widely accepted as one of the best animal books this world has ever experienced.

Call number: YA CLEMENT-DAVIES (Teen Room)

Reviewed by Alon.

15 July 2010

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Okay, so usually I write these reviews for a teen audience -- whether or not teens are actually reading this collection or not isn't the question, and I love when my adult friends stumble across my reviews and take note too, but really -- my focus is on how materials would appeal to teens and young adults. (I'm pretty happy that lots of my adult friends are really teens at heart. Full of angst, drama, invincibility, and at least one with a little bit of self-depricating torment who still knows how to have a really good time.) As a review: Teens will certainly appreaciate the subject matter, the well-drawn, three-dimensional characaters, and the depth of emotion and healing involved throughout the story. The intensity of the material rivals only a few, like the well-recieved Boy Toy by Barry Lyga. My reaction to Jennifer Brown's Hate List, however, is impossibly subjective, and I can't help but respond to it as a 29-year-old reader.

Hate List involves some pretty powerful stuff. Valerie's boyfriend Nick orchastrates a shooting in their high school cafeteria, targeting specific people whose names appeared on the (soon-to-be infamous) Hate List. Valerie puts an end to the massacre, saves Skinny Barbie Rich Bitch Jessica Campbell's life, and gets shot in the leg before Nick turns the gun on himself. Valerie's the one who started the Hate List. She that everyone -- even her family -- blames her in part for the death of all the others.

Jennifer Brown is able to present every single character as a human being. Everything is gray in this novel, None of the emotions are black or white and no one is strictly good or bad, and this forces the reader to "see what's really there" instead of what we're trying to see, or want to see, or what we think we should see. Adults and kids alike make mistakes, react badly, handle situations wrong, and are trying to survive the best they can. But in particular, the depth of pain that exists inside Valerie's character is incredible. It has been a long time since I've read a story that has been so heart-wrenching or so inspiring. Valerie is stronger than she knows, even without a lot of support from anyone save her therapist (who, by the end of the story, you wish you had in your own life). It is impossible to imagine living in Valerie's world, but she gives you an incredible taste of survival.

Call number: YA BROWN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

14 July 2010

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Crime and Punishment focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student from St. Petersburg who formulates and executes a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money. Raskolnikov argues that with the pawnbroker's money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a worthless, irksome woman. This murder he also commits to test Raskolnikov's hypothesis that some people are naturally able to and also have the right to murder; these people are called supermen. It is based of the philosophies of Nietsche: a very popular and successful philosopher during the mid 1800's. Several times throughout the novel, Raskolnikov also justifies his actions by connecting himself mentally with Napoleon Bonaparte, believing that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose, only to find out he "... is not a Napoleon," meaning that he is not one of the people to be able to commit murder. He knows this because of the unbearable guilt inflicted upon him. Although quite lengthy, and in some parts quite boring, Crime and Punishment is basically a detective story for lawyers. This is a book mandatory for most law classes and so naturally, is not an easy read... at all.


Reviewed by Tyler.

13 July 2010

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (and series) by Rick Riordan

LOVED THIS SERIES!!! Rick Riordan really outdid himself on this. It's about a boy Percy who is the son of Poseidon and goes on quests to save his friends and help his father.

Call number: YA RIORDAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by Jonathan.

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band

The E-Street Band is a great band with lead singer Bruce Springsteen leading the way. Love all their songs! I really want to go to a concert but "I'm too young." Anyway, they truly are the best band in my opinion because they've been around for so long. PLUS, Bruce Springsteen is a Jersey boy!

Call number: CD ROCK 671; 3771; 74-B; 74-C; 2270; 3166; & 3889

Reviewed by Jonathan.

09 July 2010

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz adapted by Eric Shanower

Writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young present a gorgeous retelling of the original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, originally written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. The Wizard of Oz has become a classic of American and international culture as a result of the beautifully done movie starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, but the series of books written by Baum are often left untouched by young readers. This adaptation bring to life the adventures of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto as they attempt to find those things they desire most. Most readers will know how everything turns out -- Scarecrow gets his brains, the Tin Woodman gets his heart, Lion finds courage, and Dorothy gets back home to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Kansas -- but there are many twists and turns and wonderful details that will be brand new and exciting for new and experienced readers. The famous shoes, the flying monkeys, and the evil trees all play significant roles in the lives of our key characters, but version of the events might be different than what we're all used to seeing . . .

This graphic adaptation of a classic is highly recommended for those who love the story of
The Wizard of Oz, those who appreciate artistic talent and storytelling at its highest, and those with a fascination for the unexpected.

Call number: YA GRAPHIC SHANOWER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

(And for a real-life fantastical Kansas adventure, check out the previous review of
The Storm in the Barn . . .)

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

Told in graphic novel format through stark illustrations and selective wording, Jack Clark shares a short period of his life when he is considered too young to know anything, but old enough to know better.

It is 1937 in Kansas during the Dust Bowl and Jack is 11 years old. Jack lives on a farm with his family, including a sick sister, and it hasn't rained in four years. Before the world stopped, he wasn't old enough to learn how to work the farm or how to grow up to be a man, and now, even though he's gotten older, he's treated like he's still a child. But Jack has noticed the barn that's all locked up -- he hears sounds at night and sees a light shining through the slats of its wooden walls. He's shocked to find that he can open the door to the barn, and he's even more shocked -- and frightened -- by what he finds inside, and what it all means. In a dangerous world, where children are cruel from boredom and men are cruel from necessity, Jack finds the courage, the power, and the control to prove his worth to his family and himself.

This quick and power read is recommended to those of all ages, especially young boys who are struggling to find the power to stand up for themselves, as well as those interested in history. This story shows a fascinating glimmer of life during the Dust Bowl in 1937.

Call number: YA GRAPHIC PHELAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

(Also find a cameo from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz . . .)

07 July 2010

Antonio Vivaldi

The classical composer Antonio Vivaldi is a very good, underrated composer. Among his works are the classic Four Seasons and the Double Trumpet Concerto, my personal favorite. Even though most wouldn't take much time to listen to his music this decade, it is unarguable that Vivaldi is just as good as Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart. I sometimes think he's even better, too...but that's just an opinion. Listen to his music to see what I'm talking about!

Call number: CLASSICAL CD 2902; 2728; 2785; 2047; 1278; 687; 2863; & 101

Reviewed by Alon.

The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron

The book The Lost Years of Merlin is a must read for everyone. There isn't a single person that hasn't heard of Merlin the magician, but does everyone know about his "lost years" when he was just a child? NO! This book is a real eye-opener to the start of an epic saga. There are five books in all. Read them all to find out what Merlin started out from...and what he endured and destroyed. Is Merlin really all good? Read this book to find out.

Call number: YA BARRON (Teen Room)

Reviewed by Alon.

01 July 2010

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

Blake, Sim, and Kenny can't believe that Ross is dead. They also can't believe the sham of the funeral that his parents gave him, complete with every loser from school who never even cared about Ross while he was alive. So -- after some graffiti retribution on the homes of a select few -- the trio decided to honor Ross with the funeral he deserves. Ross always wanted to travel from his English hometown to Ross, Scotland because "[h]e thought it would be cool to be Ross in Ross." All the boys have to do is figure out how to steal Ross' ashes (without getting in trouble)and travel a day there and a day back (with one map and not a lot of money. And without getting into trouble). What the boys don't bet on is getting caught out so quickly, the cops, girls, or Ross' own secrets to interfere with their plans. But they also weren't counting on motorbikes, girls, or even really each other to help them get from Point A to Point B in the end. It isn't all about where you wind up, but what you learn from the journey.

This isn't a typical road trip novel. It's also not a guy's guy book. But it certainly is an exploration of the unexpected and the unspoken. Recommended to all high school readers who like their books with a twist, a heartbeat, and an adventure.

Call number: YA GRAY (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

29 June 2010

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

I have recently read the book The Kite Runner. I am 16 years old and I found it very graphic, so if this kind of thing bothers you, this book should be avoided. If not, then I highly recommend this book. I could not put it down! Khaled Hosseini is a truly talented writer; even though the book is fiction, you could swear that he was in the room with you, telling you his life story. It's a book of sacrifice, betrayal, redemption, and the greatest emotion of all: love. Taken place in Iran from the Soviet Union's invasion of Iran to America in the 21st century. Although a lengthy 400 pages, every sentence teaches a life lesson and is well worth it.

Call number: FIC HOSSEINI

Reviewed by Tyler.


Chris Daughtry proved that the show American Idol could generate a successful rocker outside the context of the show. Bold and bald, Daughtry was the picture of a modern rocker, living by the rulebook written by the bands Live and Fuel. These were the qualities that helped make Chris Daughtry and his band Daughtry the most successful new rock & roll singer of 2006, as well as one of the most successful Idol graduates in the show's history. His popularity has not decreased as he played his #1 song, Life After You, at the 2010 New Year's Eve Party in Times Square. Whether its hard rock in his songs You Don't Belong or Supernatural or softer slower rock as in his songs Tennessee Line and Life After You, Daughtry has your music needs covered.

Call number: ROCK CD 2985; 4167; and 4456

Reviewed by Tyler.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead Goerge

The book My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is a classic tale about every child's dream: to run away from home and live in the wilderness. In this story, Sam Gribley does just that. He runs away from home with one pair of pants, a shirt, a pair of socks, sneakers, (underwear), $40, and flint to start a fire. He plans to live on his great-great-great-grandfather's property, the Gribley Farm. The first day passes badly, and Sam doesn't have much to eat, but then he figures out that to survive in nature, you have to live and become nature. Don't understand what I mean? Read this book to find out.

Call number: J GEORGE (Children's Room)

Reviewed by Al

How I Made it to Eighteen by Tracy White

Tracy White tells the semi-autobiographical account of what landed her in a mental hospital at seventeen years old. In words and pictures, in honest graphic novel format, the emotions and thoughts of Stacy Black are laid out and pulled apart. It is both a portrayal of a confused teenager who feels less-than-perfect around her friends, her family, and her emotionally abusive boyfriend, as well as that of a strong woman learning to survive her own emotions and addictions. Much of the story is told from Stacy's own perspective, but the reader also gets feedback from Maria, a childhood friend with little connection to Stacy now; Violet, a recovering alcoholic who was Stacey's boarding school roommate; Lola, a friend from middle school with similar issues and ways of thinking; and Ashley, a depressed teenage girl assigned to the same house in the mental hospital. Everyone seems to have a slightly different image of Stacy -- including Stacy -- but there are positive and negative connections among them all that resonate with the reader.

Tracy White's story is honest and engaging and recommended to most older teen readers, especially those fascinated by the struggles of addiction and depression.

Call number: YA GRAPHIC WHITE (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

28 June 2010

Owl City

Owl City is only a one-man band, but Owl City rocks! Well...I only like one of their songs and that's "Fireflies." Hope they make more good songs!

Call number: ROCK CD 4254 and 4457.

Reviewed by Jonathan.

The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey

This is not a very adventurous book, but it is a very interesting book. There are other books in the series too.

Call number: J D'LACEY (Children's Room)

Reviewed by Jonathan.

21 June 2010

A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata

All Y'Tin ever wanted was to be an elephant handler, and at thirteen, he is the youngest handler in his Dega village. He has big dreams of one day opening a training school for elephant handlers, the would-be first in Vietnam. But war interrupts everything, and the Vietnam War is horrifying for Y'Tin's family and his village. The American troops have long since left the area and when the village is attacked by North Vietnamese forces, the community has few skills and resources with which to retaliate. Y'Tin, Tomas, and Y'Juen manage to escape to the jungle with Y'Tin's elephant, Lady, but the jungle provides little safety for three young boys. There are difficult choices to make, and Y'Tin must struggle with faith in himself, his friends, and his community. Sometimes one can't survive without giving up who he is and what he holds dearest.

Recommended to all ages, but likely to appeal mostly to those with an interest in Vietnam history, elephants, or cultural adventures.

Call number: YA KADOHATA

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Cat in the Hat

The movie Cat In the Hat seems like a kiddish movie but it's really funny. I could watch it over and over and still laugh!!! But it's rated PG because some parts are....intense for younger kids.

Call number: J DVD D; J FAMILY DVD D

Reviewed by Jonathan.

Molly Moon Stops the World by Georgia Byng

Molly Moon is a great series that will leave you hanging! I read all five books! Sad though, but has a lot of action.

Call number: J BYNG (Children's Department)

Reviewed by Jonathan.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the Harry Potter series. It was a very great book with lots of drama and action!

Call number: J ROWLING (Children's Department); LP FIC ROWLING

Reviewed by Jonathan.

15 June 2010

Volunteer Appreciation Reception 2010 [3]

Pictures from the library's Volunteer Appreciation Reception held in May 2010.
Much appreciation the support received from Library Director, Gerry McMahon, the Library Board of Trustees, and the Friends of Franklin Lakes Public Library!