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.