28 December 2011

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Jacob Reckless was just a child when he first found the entrance in his father's study.  Once John Reckless went missing, Jacob felt close to him by being around his things, and one day he simply came to realize the meaning of the inscription on the mirror in the study: The Mirror Will Open Only for He Who Cannot See Himself.

Now it's been twelve years of adventures in a world where Jacob goes treasure hunting for things like gold, invisibility potions, or a strand of Rapunzel's hair, and along the way making friends with shape-shifters, doing business with Dwarfs, and fighting (with or against) powerful Fairies.  Jacob first was just curious about this new world, but soon he found escape from reality and began to crossover more and more until he was hardly ever "home."  One day, when he was in a rush to enter through the mirror, his younger brother Will slipped in after him.  Now Will has been hurt and is transforming slowly (but not slowly enough to save him) into a powerful, unfeeling Goyl -- a being built of stone and driven by violence and loyalty to the king.  What is worse is that it  becomes clear that Will is the legendary Jade Goyl, and is being hunted by the Dark Fairy.

Jacob has long detached himself emotionally, striving only to learn more about the man he lost to this world many years ago, but now he must fight and risk his life to save the only family he has left. This compelling story is recommended to readers of all ages with an interest in fantasy, adventures, fairy tales, or survival.  This is a planned series!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

23 December 2011

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos

Ivy has been raised by her single mother her whole life in a small, dark Pennsylvania village.  Ivy spent many of her childhood days playing in the basement of the town's pharmacy, owned and operated by twins Adolf and Abner Rumbaughs.  When she is seven, she finds a disturbing secret -- her introduction to the mother-love curse of the Rumbaughs.  A curse bound by blood and strong enough to last generations, separations, and death.

This book is chock-full of death, love, and taxidermy.  Though the setting is contemporary, the atmosphere is decidedly Victorian, and those with an interest in the Gothic and macabre, or with an altogether obsession with things dark and disturbing, will find a lot to revel in with this story.  Boys, you might just find this to be quite creepy.  The ew-factor is immense!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.  (I'm still getting shivers just thinking about it.)

20 December 2011

Scrawl by Mark Shulman

Tod Munn is a bully.  And this time he got caught doing something really bad, landing him in after-school detention.  He's stuck with Mrs. Woodrow writing in a notebook every single day for a whole month.  His friends - Rob and Rex - are mad because they are outside the school picking up garbage every afternoon, while Tod gets to stay inside, writing stories.  

Through Tod's "stories," the reader (and Mrs. Woodrow, who reads his entries every day, sometimes making comments) gets to know the bully.  We learn more about his home life with his struggling seamstress mom and his angry stepfather.  We learn more about his life in school:  how the rich kids look down on him, how he uses his size and his power to beat up on smaller kids for their money, and how he manages to maintain Honor Roll every quarter.  We learn about his unsolicited involvement in the school play, and we get to be his eyes and ears when the world seems to turn against him.  There may not be a lot of sympathy for this story's bully-hero, but his story will elicit unquestionable empathy.

Recommended to middle school and high school readers.  One of the best ending "punch lines" I've ever seen in YA fiction.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Sex : a book for teens : an uncensored guide to your body, sex, and safety by Nikol Hasler

Interested in sex?  (Yeah, you are.)  This book has pretty much everything you might have ever wanted to know, and a whole bunch of stuff you probably didn't want to know -- but probably need to know.

From the super-basic (and sometimes boring) information about the parts of the body and the reproductive system, through often uncomfortable topics of masturbation, sexual identification, birth control and protection from sexually transmitted infections, and right into the nitty-gritty of dating and relationships, this book offers a non-intimidating look at all aspects of sex and sexuality.  Stressing the importance of protection and communication, the information provided is geared towards helping teens make educated decisions.  This is not a book that "encourages" teens to have sex, rather it points out that teens should feel strongly that they can make decisions based on what is truly comfortable and right for them -- and that what is comfortable and right could change depending on time, situation, or individual.  There is an important balance of humor and seriousness in the way this material is presented that makes it extraordinarily approachable to teens (and, in my humble opinion, it's great for adults, too).

Recommended to all teens thinking about sex (yes, all of you) -- those who are doing it, not doing it, comfortable talking to adults about it, making jokes with their friends about it, or have no idea what the heck sex really involves.  Obviously, this book is about sex, so the effectiveness of the material depends on maturity level and willingness to really learn about the topic.  Since the idea of sex -- what's acceptable, what's appropriate, and how it's thought about and talked about -- keeps changing with the times and new generations, this book is a great guide for parents, too, in talking to their teens.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

19 December 2011

Kirkus - Best Books for Teens 2011

I have a lot of reading to do!  Click here to see what the professional review journal, Kirkus, is claiming as the Best Teen Books of 2011.

16 December 2011

Foiled by Jane Yolen

Aliera Carstairs is not really all that cool, at least not according to her super-girly high school classmates.  But to her fencing opponents, Aliera is magic (though perhaps still not liked for it).  When a new boy at school, Avery Castle, seems to be paying attention to Aliera, she's flustered and confused, but since he's the nicest looking boy she's ever seen, she pushes aside his quirky weirdness and tries not to second-guess his intentions towards her.  She's thrilled -- and terrified! -- when he asks her out on a Saturday night.  Most of Aliera's Saturday nights consist of role-playing with her younger cousin Caroline AKA Queen Furby.  

Typically, Avery is late for their date and Aliera spends quite a while people-watching in Grand Central Station.  Here, she meets a beautiful winged woman.  And then a troll.  And something evil existing within a dark cloud.  And she discovers that she's supposed to be the Defender . . . of someone or something else's world.  

Aliera learns that not everything is as it appears, and that sometimes you can only see clearly with a focus, or a purpose.  She also discovers that the world often doesn't care whether or not you're ready to exert your power when it asks you to do so.  Aliera must always defend her heart, but be willing to talk risks to propel herself further along.  Recommended to all middle grade fantasy readers.  The illustrations in this graphic novel are wonderful!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

13 December 2011

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan

Samantha and her mom have just moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Jackson, Mississippi in the year 1962, when segregation is still firmly established in much of the south.  Sam's dad died a war hero, and they decided to move closer to her dad's hometown, where Sam's mom got a job as a professor at a local white college.  When her mom decided to give a series of lectures at Tougaloo, an all-black college in Jackson, the two slowly begins to turn against them, warning Sam and her mom that they don't like "outsiders."  In the meantime, her mom's friend, Perry Walker, teaches Sam how to look through a camera lens to not just take pictures, but to capture stories in the people, places, and things around her, even when those things are ugly or scary or dangerous.

This is a compelling account of American race relations that is recommended to middle grade readers; many will relate to the feeling of being an outsider or as the one who seems to see and look at things different than others, and girls will especially relate to Sam's relationship with Stone.  Another great historical fiction novel by Margaret McMullan is When I Crossed No-Bob.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

26 November 2011

Between by Jessica Warman

It's Liz's eighteenth birthday, and it seems that life couldn't get much better.  She had a party with her closest friends, her stepsister, and her super cute boyfriend out on her family's boat, complete with cocktails and birthday cake.  But then, before anyone else is awake, she finds her body in the water just off the boat, and she meets up with Alex Berg, a classmate who died in a hit-and-run accident a year earlier.  Liz is hovering somewhere between life and death, and she has no idea why, or how to change the situation.  And to make it all the more frustrating, she has almost no solid memories of her life.  With Alex's help, she finds that she is able to slip into flashbacks of her life -- more than just memories.  As more of the gaps of her life fill in, we begin to uncover some of Liz's dirty little secrets of Liz's . . . We learn that life is often more than what it seems to be on the surface, and that some of us will do anything to protect ourselves and the ones we love - we might be willing to die, and we might even be willing to kill.

A mix of mystery and paranormal, this is a striking story placed among a bunch of rich, over-entitled kids.  Perhaps, a bit over-the-top and over-emotional, some humor finds its way through the cracks at times, especially through the subtle character of Alex.  This title will stand out for those who liked books like Before I Fall, Elsewhere, and If I Stay.  Recommended to high school readers; there's some tough stuff here.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

21 November 2011

Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

We meet Raisa in Poland, living alongside the only family she has left since her sister left for New York City a few years before, and we are beside Raisa when she decides she must travel to try to rejoin her sister.  We follow Raisa by ship though her journey to America, where she meets and cares for young Brina after her mother dies aboard the vessel.  And we struggle along with her as she tries to find her place alone in a vast strange city, filled with people, words, and streets that she cannot understand . . . until she finds Gavrel, a young Jewish man with dreams of being a Rabbi, who brings Raisa and Brina home to his family and to their small Polish shtetl.  Raisa soon finds work making shirtwaists in the city's warehouses, ultimately joining her friends at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  When a terrible fire engulfs the building, her American dreams all but shatter.

By far one of the most enthralling historical fiction titles I've read lately.  It's in a completely different ballgame from one of my recent favorites, Revolutions by Jennifer Donnelly, but it's equally amazing in its character development - especially if you consider the physical setting a character, which I very often do, if the setting is done well enough!  Recommended to all ages, and particularly those who like to get sucked into the world of historical fiction.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

FYI: Skype Call Recorder

Riviera for Skype is a Skype call recorder. It automatically records Skype calls and conversations to MP3 files.
Very convenient for recording interviews, tech talks, conferences, audio casts, pod casts for learning later, etc.

You may get more food for thought from Riviera for Skype 3.6.26169 home page: http://www.jiteco.com/skype_call_recorder.html
Here is a link to download Riviera for Skype 3.6.26169: http://www.jiteco.com/download/riviera/riviera.exe

16 November 2011

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Karyn is pressing charges of rape after a bad night at a classmate's house.  Her brother Mikey is out for revenge.

Tom says he didn't do it; says that she wanted it but then changed her mind in the morning.  Ellie is his little sister, set on supporting him and believing in him, no matter what.

It's a matter of "he said, she said" unless Ellie wasn't really sleeping the whole night like she said she was.  If Ellie heard something, or spoke to Tom that night, or remembers more than what she originally told the police, it might change everything.

If Mikey sets out to teach Tom a lesson, but meets Ellie instead, that might change everything too.

This is a story of mixed-up love, lust, forgiveness, power, and terror.  Twists and turns lead all around in a situation where there doesn't seem to always be a right or wrong; and even if there was, where would each characters' loyalties lie?

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

01 November 2011

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Take one look at Habibi and you know you are in for a masterpiece from the author/illustrator of Blankets.  This thick tomb of story and artwork is completely captivating, thought-provoking, and inspirational.

The story is told in pieces, skipping delicately through time.  Dodola first met Zam when she was a teenager and he was only three years old, both of them orphans with no money, no food, and no home.  Dodola saves Zam and they find an abandoned ship in the dried-up dessert to make their home, and she cares for Zam as though he is her own child.  She finds them food each day, and Zam finds their water supplies.  Of course as Zam grows older, he becomes more and more curious -- both of their living situation and survival, as well as of Dodola as a woman.  When he follows her one day and finds that she trades her body to men for their food, he ventures to the village hoping to be able to provide for her, and for them.  This growth and this journey separate them.

This is the story of how they come back together again.

Told beautifully in words and images, the Arabic language revealed as art in and of itself, the reader is immersed in the hardships of poverty, the abuse of power and strength, and the joy found in shared experience, passion, and hope.  Recommended to all adults.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

31 October 2011

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Katrina Bishop has grown up involved in the family business, especially around art museums - stealing from them, to be exact. She maneuvers her way into a fancy prep school only to find herself getting kicked out a few months later because she's caught in an exceptional prank. Only she knows that she didn't commit the offense, as creative and elaborate as it was. When W.W. Hale, an old friend, an ongoing flame, and a co-conspirator in the business, shows up, she's pretty sure she's being sucked back into a life that she still isn't sure she wants to be a part of. But when it's her dad who is in trouble, the job becomes personal and Kat is more determined than ever to set things right.

First I was reminded of Frankie Landau-Banks, and then I thought I might be running through a series of adventures in 39 Clues, but soon enough Kat, Hale, Simon, Gabrielle, and the Bagshaw
brothers claim their rightful place as six of the most successful teenage adventurers, pranksters, and art thieves - ever. Well-done! This swift-moving read is recommended to all middle and high school readers. 

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

In this follow-up to If I Stay, we learn a lot about where Adam has been and who he has become in the years directly after his (ex-)girlfriend Mia woke up from a coma after an accident that killed her entire family.

Adam "Wilde Man" Wilde is the lead singer and guitar player of the chart-topping Shooting Stars, he has hot model girlfriend Bryn on his arm, and he's got a steady supply of cigarettes and pills to help calm his nerves and keep his depression and anxiety at bay - most of the time. The one thing he doesn't have is Mia. Since leaving their hometown in Oregon three years ago for an illustrious Julliard education, she never once looked back and ultimately cut off contact with Adam. And despite his outward success, he hasn't been the same since this loss of the great love of his life. Until he's in the NYC with the band and sees that Mia is playing a show at Carnegie Hall. The whirlwind of memories, emotion, secrets, and revelations that follow is breath-taking, exhausting, and oddly refreshing as we watch Mia and Adam reconnect and - in some ways - deconstruct.

Readers might be sucked into this love story even without knowing the back-story, but those who already had their hearts broken and put back together again while reading If I Stay, will cry and cheer alongside old friends.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

19 October 2011

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Oskar Schell is unlike any nine-year-old you or I have ever encountered.  His business card lists countless of his specialties, interests, and skills.  But one thing that he doesn't have - which he desperately wants - is his father, who was killed in the September 11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks.  When he finds a key in a blue vase on the top shelf of his father's closet, he is determined to find out what the key unlocks, and hopefully come to terms with why his father had to leave him.  Along the way, he meets individuals who help him, make him laugh, frighten him. and ultimately propel him along on his journey.

Told from alternating perspectives, we also learn about the lives, heartbreaks, and sacrifices Oskar's grandparents, his father Thomas' parents.  Told with a beautiful talent and true emotional participation, the reader uncovers some of the mysteries encountered and growth accomplished on the varying journeys through grief. Recommended to all high school and adult readers.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Britten and Bruightly : a Graphic Novel by Hannah Berry

Fernandez Britten is a private investigator, a self-proclaimed "researcher," commonly known in the field as "The Heartbreaker" because of the heartache he has brought to many of his clients by surfacing the truth.  When he gets a call from Charlotte Maughton, daughter of a wealthy owner of a large publishing house, about her husband's murder, Britten is intrigued enough to take the case.  Throughout the mystery, Britten proves his intelligence and his supreme observatory skills, though he comes across as desperate and depressing . . . the insanely hilarious bright spot is Britten's only friend, his partner Stewart Brulightly, a teabag.  Literally. 

Recommended to all.  Especially recommended to those with an attraction to irony and sarcasm.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Laurel was a pretty typical high school student.  She's checking out colleges, checking out boys, studying for standardized testing, and sharing every moment possible with her best girlfriend.   But that was Before.

The night that her mother, father, and brother Toby venture out to Freezy's for ice cream with Mr. and Mrs. Kaufman -- the night that Laurel decides to go home early to finish her homework, and the night that David Kaufman escapes time spent with the family once again -- everything changes.  The Meisner's and the Kaufman's don't even get to Freezy's before the car accident kills all but the driver, Mr. Kaufman.  As Laurel and David both struggle in the wake of their grief, they manage to find some peace in each other, though it isn't easy to figure out how to move on from what they've lost.  With a bittersweet ending, both Laurel and David make the choices that are best for themselves and each other, and finally, there is hope for After.

Though I'm not sure that The Beginning of After really lived up to all the publisher/consumer hype, I can't help but rank it right up there with the Sarah Dessen's, Elizabeth Scott's, Sara Zarr's and on the shelves.  Recommended to all high school girls, even those who might be a little bit afraid to cry.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

08 October 2011

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

He knows that his name is "Thomas," but he can't remember much else to tell you.  He arrived through the Box same as all the other teenage boys, one a month for two years, all with no memories of life before and all feeling pretty rough around the edges.

Thomas quickly learns the ropes of life in the Glade, knowing immediately -- though he doesn't really know why -- that he wants to be a Runner.  The Runners spend all day, every day out in the Maze that surrounds the Glade, methodically mapping out the maze and searching for exits or clues to figure out a way of escape.  Each day they have to return before the doors of the Glade close and the deathly Grievers come out to play, otherwise they'll be trapped out in the Maze all night, a sure death sentence.  Those who even just get a taste of the Grievers' claws or spikes must be given a serum, and even then suffer through the Changing, a horribly painful process that none will talk about, but those who have been through it are never the same.

The day after Thomas arrives, a girl is dropped off in the Box.  From that moment on, nothing is the same.  Will the Gladers be able to figure out the Maze, or will they give up all hope of survival and getting back to whatever unknown life they were forced to leave behind?

Recommended to all, but especially older middle school and high school boys.  Fans of The Hunger Games will surely eat up The Maze Runner series!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

04 October 2011

TLT: Teen Librarian's Toolbox: Teen Issues: What does October 15th mean?

Love this blog post and this recommended reading list. October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day: http://www.october15th.com/

TLT: Teen Librarian's Toolbox: Teen Issues: What does October 15th mean?: In Megan McCafferty's dystopian world, everyone over the age of 18 is infertile due to a virus so teenage girls are paid to help bring new c...

29 September 2011

The Memory Bank by Carolyn Coman, illustrated by Rob Shepperson

So this is what dreams are made of . . . or rather, this is where dreams are stored, alongside all the memories that are created through experience, knowledge, and love.

Hope loves her sister Honey very much.  But when Hope's parents literally leave Honey behind, they tell Hope to forget her sister.  Hope is devastated, and finds it hard to obey her parents.  She revels in seeing Honey through her dreams, so she starts to sleep as much as possible.  When she is approached (and sort of kidnapped) by the World Wide Memory Bank because of her deficiency in submitting memories, she discovers a whole new world where she doesn't have to forget, and maybe where she can find her sister again!

All at once tragic and wondrous, Hope's story is one of, well, hope.  Recommended to older elementary and younger middle school readers.  I loved this story as much for the visual storytelling as for the emotional punches.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

27 September 2011

Yummy : The last days of a southside shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke

Yummy is thirteen and already drawn into the gang lifestyle of Chicago.  He was raised by a no-nonsense grandmother, but he was always getting kicked out or running off, and he found solace and a sense of something bigger and better with the Black Disciples.  In an attempt to make a name for himself, he busted in on a group of rivals with a gun in his hand, but his inexperience led to an innocent classmate's death.  And it put Yummy on the run.  The Black Disciples protected him until it became too much -- to much attention, pressure, and simple annoyance.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.
"Sometimes stories get to you; this one left my stomach in knots.  After three days of reporting, I still couldn't decide which was more appalling: the child's life or the child's death." --John D. Hull, TIME magazine, September 1994.
This story is based on the real Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, born in 1983, raised and killed in the Roseland area of Chicago.

Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty from Greg Neri on Vimeo.

16 September 2011

CHEW: Volume 1: Taster's Choice by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory

This graphic novel is certainly out of the ordinary.  Tony Chu is one of the few cibopaths of the world -- he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats -- and his work as a detective often gets him into sticky, not-so-tasty situations.  When he's employed by the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, his world only gets more and more complicated, and dangerous.  If you can't trust your brother, but want to save his life, or your partner, who ends up saving yours, what's a guy to do?  If you're Tony, you take a bite out of a vacuum-packed dead dog and try to solve the case!

There's much more to follow this first volume of CHEW, and likely each situation is going to be more disgusting than the next.  Recommended to comic book readers with a taste (-ahem-) for the unusual.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

13 September 2011

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

I was entranced by this novel, but think that there is no better introduction to reading it than through the words of the author herself:

Wildthorn was inspired by a true story I came across in a book called Against Therapy by Jeffrey Masson. I learned that Hersilie Rouy, a nineteenth century French woman, was incarcerated in asylums for fifteen years despite the fact that she was sane. She was deprived of her true identity and the more she protested about this and about her treatment, the more this was taken as evidence of her insanity.

How terrible, I thought. And then, What must it have been like for her?

The injustice of what happened to Hersilie appealed to something deep in me and directly inspired my depiction of Louisa.

The asylum is a dark place and what Louisa experiences there is frightening. But despite the secret that threatens to undermine her confidence, she has courage. I hope you enjoy accompanying her on her journey as she struggles to face up to the truth about herself and at the same time tries to unravel the mystery that lies behind her imprisonment.

Find this and more on the author's website: www.janeeagland.co.uk

Return of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann, illustrated by Janet Lee

Wowza.  If the first couple of scenes of Return of the Dapper Men alone don't blow your mind, then you need to return immediately to your childhood and dig around to see if you can find where you lost your imagination, your thrill-seeking sense of adventure, and your appreciation for all things fun and glorious and entertaining . . . for this artistic masterpiece surely incorporates all of those things.  Anorev is a land full of children and machines, until one day 314 dapper men come floating down from the sky and they bring with them something mysterious and a little bit terrifying: Time.  And with time comes growth and discover, and it also brings choice and desire, none of which the children of Anorev have remembered in the timeless years gone by.  The story is thought-provoking and the artwork is simply breathtaking.

Recommended to all ages (physically and otherwise).  "To anyone who ever fell down a rabbit hole, walked to the sidewalk's end, danced a wild rumpus, or followed the second star to the right, may you find adventure, wonder, and a little something from which dreams are made in these pages."

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

07 September 2011

The Cowgirl Way : Hats Off to America's Women of the West by Holly George-Warren

I'm starting to go through the huge lists that we need to whittle down in order to come up with nominations for the Garden State Teen Book Award.  Starting in January, librarians throughout NJ will begin deliberations for the 2013 ballot!  Wow.  I can't wait to see what's going to be on it -- and what the winners will be -- but 2013 seems so far away!  In the meantime, voting is up for the 2012 Award, so check out some of those great titles; VOTE HERE!

The Cowgirl Way is a pretty exciting history of famous, inspiring, and incredibly brave women who traveled and settled the Old West, who were Wild West show girls, rodeo stars, movie stars, and even dangerous outlaws and rebels.  Starting with the notoriety of Calamity Jane, through the Annie Oakley movies of the 1950's, and bringing readers right up to present-day Cowgirl Halls of Fame and the Women's Professional Rodeo Association, this is an account of true stories, sensationalized tales, and honest struggles of women who have solidified the image of strength, fashion, and fearlessness of the historical and modern cowgirl.

Far from dry, the content and images found on these pages are nothing short of fascinating.  A great read for all ages and interests; this book might even inspire readers to seek out more reading, classic movies, and updated biographies to learn more!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

31 August 2011

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty is The. Perfect. Beach Read.  This story has summertime romance written all over it, and it will not disappoint readers looking for the tortured I-love-him-but-does-he-love-me? storyline, capped off with a satisfying conclusion -- except there isn't really a conclusion!  There are sequels!  Which is wonderful, if and only if you have the second book in your hand to open as soon as you close the first!  Seriously.  I can't get my hands on It's Not Summer Without You fast enough.  And book #3, We'll Always Have Summer, is out too. :)  Excellent.

So, quit looking for the perfect beach read and start catching up with the summer adventures of Belly, Conrad, and Jeremiah!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

29 August 2011

The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin

Tamika Sykes is a high school student who hates to wear her hearing aids, loves the rhythm of a guitar, works hard in class, and draws pictures void of people.  Fatima is a refugee living in NYC all alone, with dreams of visiting the Statue of Liberty, and has a passion for finding beauty in everything and everyone.  Jimmi Sixes is a 19-year-old war veteran, stuck on drugs and poetry, and wise beyond his years.  When Jimmi introduces Mika and Fatima, he somehow manages to teach them how to look beyond the streets, beyond the skies, and into the world.  Tragedy is unavoidable in the worlds of these three young people -- far older in experience than they are in years -- but their struggles to survive and thrive are inspiring.  The author writes with a fluidity and subtle rhythm that allows readers to find comfort even in the darkest corners and most horrific scenes.  
Recommended to all.  This authentic story is both short and long-lasting.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

I Am an Emotional Creature : The Secret Life of Girls around the World by Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, offers incredible words aimed at the hearts of teenage girls everywhere.  This collection is virtually an emotional appeal to young women to be content and happy with who and what they are, and to not listen to anyone who suggests that they be less than satisfied simply because they are girls.  This book can serve as a quick silent read from cover to cover, or as a selection of monologues and poetry women and girls can choose to voice aloud to an appreciative audience.  Either way, the words are true and beautiful.

*My only less-than-positive thought about this collection is the extraordinary lack of balance between heterosexual and homosexual love and relationships.  This is a celebration of girls, but doesn't necessarily acknowledge the beauty of difference, choice, acceptance found in lesbian and "traditional" relationships.

Recommended to all girl readers from all walks of life!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

18 August 2011

Another Photo Contest!

Check it out for details: http://outofprintapparel.com/blog/2011/summer-vacation-photo-contest-2/

About Out of Print:
Out of Print celebrates the world’s great stories through fashion. Our shirts feature iconic and often out of print book covers. Some are classics, some are just curious enough to make great t-shirts, but all are striking works of art.

We work closely with artists, authors and publishers to license the content that ends up in our collections. Each shirt is treated to feel soft and worn like a well-read book.

In addition to spreading the joy of reading through our tees, we acknowledge that many parts of the world don't have access to books at all. We are working to change that. For each shirt we sell, one book is donated to a community in need through our partner Books For Africa.  

How we read is changing as we move further into the digital age. It's unclear what the role of the book cover will be in this new era, but we feel it's more important than ever to reflect on our own individual experiences with great literary art before it's forever changed.

What’s your story?

16 August 2011

Vote for 2011 TEENS' TOP TEN!

Voting for the 2011 Teens' Top Ten is open and accessible through September 15.
Teens' Top Ten

Go directly to the Teens' Top Ten homepage or go here: www.surveymonkey.com/s/teenstopten11.
Winning titles will be announced at www.ala.or=/teenstopten during Teen Read Week, October 16-22.

The Teens' Top Ten is a reading list chosen entirely by and for teens. The twenty-five official nominations were chosen by sixteen teen book groups from across the U.S. that participate in YALSA's YA Galley project, in which publishers provide book groups with galleys and the teens provide feedback. Last year, more than 8,000 teens voted for the Teens' Top Ten, choosing Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins as their favorite title.

This year, the 25 nominees are:

Bachorz, Pam. Drought.
Beam, Cris. I Am J
Beaudoin, Sean. You Killed Wesley Payne.
Card, Orson Scott. The Lost Gate.
Clare, Cassandra. The Clockwork Angel.
Collins, Suzanne. Mockingjay.
Collins, Yvonne. Love, Inc.
Condie, Ally. Matched.
Cremer, Andrea. Nightshade.
Fitzpatrick, Becca. Crescendo.
Grant, Michael. Lies.
Hawkins, Rachel. Demonglass.
Hawkins, Rachel. Hex Hall.
Kagawa, Julie. The Iron King.
Lore, Pittacus. I Am Number Four.
Moore, Peter. Red Moon Rising.
Nelson, Jandy. The Sky is Everywhere.
O’Neal, Ellis. The False Princess.
Patterson, James. Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel.
Pearce, Jackson. Sisters Red.
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Blessed.
Westerfeld, Scott. Behemoth.
White, Kiersten. Paranormalcy.

15 August 2011

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Are you looking a little bit of gore, a whole lot of heart, some teenage boy humor, and a few kick-ass females?  Even if you think you couldn't get into a zombie novel, Rot & Ruin might just be for you.

Benny doesn't want to get into the family business basically because he doesn't want to work with (and especially not for) his older brother Tom.  Sure Benny wants to kill zoms, but there are much cooler Bounty Hunters in Mountainside to look up to than Tom.  He doesn't understand why others seem to respect Tom; Benny remembers him as a coward, taking Benny as a baby and running from his parents rather than trying to save Mom from a sure death.  But not everything is black and white in this time after First Night, and Benny just might have to learn the hard way.  There are no rules, and what happens out in the Ruin, stays in the Ruin.

This novel has a great beginning, which will help to carry the reader though the melodramatic B-movie moments through some predictable twists and turns, alongside a few surprises.  Recommended to those who don't always need high-quality classic literature, but prefer to mix some pure entertainment into their reading lists.

The sequel, Dust & Decay, is due out later this month! 

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

11 August 2011

Captain America

"Captain American" is a new Marvel Hero's movie that is still in theaters. Recently, Marvel has been coming out with a lot of movies. "Captain America" takes place during World War 2. It's about a small, scrawny boy from Brooklyn, who never could walk away from a fight. He tried out for the army, but always was stationed at a base (he never got to go over seas and fight). A doctor takes a chance at making him stronger to fight. This movie is really good except for the ending. (I don't want to ruin it!) This movie in my opinion would get a 4.5 out 5 stars.

Reviewed by Jonathan.

10 August 2011

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Julia Jarmond is an American journalist living in Paris with her French husband and their eleven-year-old daughter, Zoe.  Throughout her research for a journalistic piece about the 60th anniversary of the roundups of Jews by the French police during World War II, Julia discovers the story of Sarah Starzinski.  Sarah was 10 years old in 1942, at a time when the yellow star on her chest didn't hold much meaning to her until she and her family were forced into camps outside of Paris because of it.  As Sarah's story unfolds, Julia becomes entrenched in its many folds, and discovers more connections between Sarah's life and her own than she ever expected.  Sarah changes Julia's life tremendously, and Julia ensures that Sarah's story will never be forgotten.

I'd recommend this story for older high school and adult readers, along side Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.  While each story has it's own unique appeal, matched by different atmospheres, character attitudes, and foundation for the events that  make up the world of the two books, they each have some similar traits.  In particular, both novels are told from dual perspectives: one is the voice of an American transplant now staying in contemporary Paris; the other a young girl living in Paris during a tumultuous period in history.  And both stories are told beautifully through audio.  *I still think I like Revolution better than Sarah's Key, and I was only intrigued enough to read Sarah's Key after seeing the interesting movie previews, but I'm glad that I allowed myself the opportunity to share in in both Andi's and Julia's worlds -- both for their similarities and their differences.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

08 August 2011

39 Clues series by various authors

These books may not be long, but they contain great adventures. They're more Harry Potter with a scavenger hunt. The 2 main characters, Dan and Amy, travel around the world with their au pair (babysitter) to compete for $1,000,000. I would have to give this book a 4 out of 5 stars, because whenever they are in a death situation, it's kind of obvious they will live, because there are other books to the series.

Reviewed by Jonathan.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Peter Houghton is a senior at Sterling High School in close-knit Sterling, New Hampshire.  Peter has been the victim of bullying by his peers since the first day of kindergarten when the older kids threw his lunchbox out of the school bus window.  Throughout elementary school, he had a best friend, Josie Cormier, to walk beside him through the hallways and to eat with in the cafeteria, but sometime during middle school everything changed.  Josie made an effort to be "cool," and succeeded.  Now in high school, Josie's dating one of the cutest boys in the popular crowd, and Peter is still being verbally and physically harassed almost daily.  It doesn't help Peter's situation that his older brother, who was at the forefront of the school bullying, was killed a year ago by a drunk driver, solidifying a perfect straight-A, top athlete, all-around-good-guy reputation.

But does any of that justify the facts?  Peter Houghton walked into Sterling High School armed with guns and within 19 minutes left a path of destruction that included 10 dead -- Josie's boyfriend being one of those -- and many more injured individuals.  The account of the trial, along with flashbacks of information from Peter's and Josie's childhoods, is told deftly in the hands of this popular author.  Recommended for high school and adult readers, though not necessarily for the faint of heart.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

Justine and Holly, the editors of this anthology, are engaged in a heated, friendly argument about which is cooler: zombies or unicorns?  Justine is all about zombies; they are obviously much, much cooler.  But Holly insists that beneath their glittery charm, unicorns are just as dangerous and unrelentingly cool as some people think zombies are.  In between each short story -- a collection of titles by authors like Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, Libba Bray, and Garth Nix -- Justine and Holly add their own snark to the mix, each making a case for their team.  It's up to you in the end, based on the material as it's presented to you, to choose which side you're on. 

Like most anthologies, there is a mix of quality on these pages, but in this case it's really a matter of good vs. great.  (I listened to the audio version and love Justine's Australian accent.  I definitely turned out to be on Team Zombie, and my favorite story was one about some special little kids . . .)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

With a promo by John Green. :) www.youtube.com/watch?v=avhOcKHWb-Y

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Out of respect for the author and her characters, all I can say is that Micah is a compulsive liar and this is her story as she tells it.  There are twists and turns and misconceptions and mixed up perceptions; though there is a beginning and an end, there is no clear pathway leading to or from either.  Her story is both captivating and off-putting, depending on whether or not you can stomach the incredulity of the whole thing, and depending on what pieces of the story you choose to believe.  Do you take Micah's story at face value, or how far can you stretch the lines in order to read between then?

Recommended to high school readers, particularly those looking for something different than what is already in the "to be read" pile.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

05 August 2011

YALSA Photo Contest!

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), as well as libraries, bookstores, publishers and schools across the country, will celebrate Teen Read Week™ October 16 - 22. As part of this event, we’re challenging you to create a visual version of your favorite book’s title. You can learn more at www.ala.org/teenread.

Best-selling author and 2011 Teen Read Week spokesperson, Jay Asher, will judge the contest entries and select three finalists and one winner. Entries will be judged on 1) creativity, 2) how well the image articulates and encapsulates the book’s title and 3) whether or not all of the guidelines stated in this document have been followed.

Five photos selected as finalists will be linked to from YALSA’s website, www.ala.org/teenread. Each of the five finalists will receive gift bags from Penguin Books for Young Readers that include signed copies of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why as well as Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler’s The Future of Us.

The creator of the winning photo will receive an e-reader pre-loaded with great teen titles, and will be interviewed for YALSA’s blog and a press release. The winning photo may be used by YALSA in marketing and promotional materials related to Teen Read Week. The e-reader and e-books have been generously donated by Penguin Books for Young Readers.

Your Profile Picture on a Book Cover!

Lerner Publishing Group has a neat contest opportunity!  

From their blog: http://lernerbooks.blogspot.com

"Are you a teen with a great profile pic? We want to use you avatar on the cover of one of a Spring 2012 book that is all about social media! All you need to do is email an uncropped, high quality .jpeg of your picture to publicityinfo@lernerbooks.com by August 15, 2011. If your picture is selected, we'll send you a free copy of the book next spring!

*If your picture is selected, we will email you a photo release form which needs to be signed and returned. All minors must have the form signed by a parent or legal guardian.

03 August 2011

A.D. : New Orleans after the Deluge by Josh Neufeld

Author and cartoonist, Josh Neufeld, follows the experience of seven individuals whose lives were completely altered in the destruction and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  In 2006, it was predicted that Katrina's path would run straight through New Orleans, Louisiana.  Based on past experiences with hurricanes, or driven by loyalty to their homes, or frightened and heedful of the warnings to evacuate the nearby cities, some residents chose to ride out the storm at home, and some choose to seek solace elsewhere.  Some individuals were rich, many others were poor; some were flanked by family or materials, and others had next to nothing to lose.  All were greatly traumatized by the resulting storm.  By the government's response.  By the conditions of support, or lack there of.  And by the efforts to rebuild.

Denise, The Doctor, Abbas and Darnell, Kwame, Leo and Michelle tell Josh Neufeld of their real life experiences living through Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flooding and destruction of a famous city.  Through words and pictures, the impact of these stories is heavy without being overwhelming.  The author is able to present these lives in a way that invokes understanding and a true emotional connection.  I found myself crying over comic books, but rallying in support of those who are still struggling to regain their sense of home.  Recommended for absolutely everyone.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

01 August 2011

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

The title of this novel holds no secrets about its content.  Four individuals whose lives intersect tell their own stories of the difficulties immersed in striving for perfect, and the pain that underlies the desperate, unrelenting need for it.  Cara's parents expect the absolute best from their children, and one of those children has already attempted suicide as a result of the pressure mounting at home.  Cara's almost-loving relationship with Sean doesn't help to support her in her journey towards figuring out who she really is and what really makes her happy.  Sean doesn't think he can live without Cara, but he's convinced that it's really baseball and his ultimate athletic success that makes him who he is.  Kendra is in constant pursuit of the perfect body and the perfect face to allow her modeling career to soar, no matter the price.  And Andre has his heart set on a certain career and a certain girl, neither of which really fall into the plan that his parents' have created for him.

Ellen Hopkins never fails to deliver the real deal.  With powerful word selection and nothing short of stark honesty, Hopkins' characters are true depictions of the hopes, dreams, torment, and struggles that fill up lots of the nooks and crannies that make us all human.  Recommended to all high school readers.  (Release date for this title is September 13, 2011.)

Also discussed on this blog are Burned and Identical.  Her most known novel is Crank, the story of Kristina Gregory's journey with the "monster" of drugs and addiction that claimed control over most of her life (continued in two sequels), but all of Hopkins' novels in verse are powerful explorations of the mixture of light and dark found within individuals across the globe.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.