31 March 2011

Jersey Tomatoes are the Best by Maria Padian

Henry Lloyd is a killer tennis player, and her best friend Eva Smith is a prima ballerina.  Both girls absolutely love their sport, love their home state of New Jersey, and love each other enough to get them through just about anything, including the insanity of their parents.  Henry's dad is currently her coach and he's very hot-tempered, especially when it has to do with Henry's tennis.  And Eva's mom has focused her entire life around Eva's ballet.

This summer, Henry has an opportunity to go down to an exclusive summer tennis camp in Florida.  Being separated from her best friend would be super hard if Eva hadn't also gotten a great opportunity -- entrance into a ballet summer school in New York City.  So, everything is working out fantastically!  But, Henry starts to see attitudes emerge that she doesn't like, mostly from inside herself.  And Eva is succumbing to the ultimate dancer stereotype during her battle with weight and control.

Readers will skip right along with Henry and Eva as their alternating chapters reveal more and more about themselves and their dreams.  Henry is a much more three-dimensional character than her best friend, with a much more interesting storyline in the end, but either way, girls (especially Jersey girls) should enjoy this read.
Call number: YA PADIAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution sucked me in from the first chapter and basically blew my mind by the time the epilogue whipped around.  I listened to the audiobook -- beautifully read by Emily Janice Card and Emma Berling -- and it was one of the few experiences I've had with a book-on-CD that didn't feel at any time like it was dragging or taking too long to finish up.  I wanted this story of Andi and Alex to go on forever. 

Andi is from Brooklyn and because of her own depression, her severely depressed mom, and her rapidly failing academics, she's being forced to stay with her dad in Paris for a short time while he works on some DNA research.  Andi and her dad don't get along all that well, and she's PISSED about the arrangement.  Alex lives in Paris, or she did two centuries ago anyway, during the time and tragedy of the French Revolution.  Andi finds Alex's diary and immediately gets entrenched in the past, in Alex's pain, in her determination, and in her inevitably short future.  Just as Andi loses herself in Alex's world, it's possible for readers of Revolution to get lost in Andi's.  The dark undertones of the book can be overwhelming, but the beauty that emerges within the characters and the setting is worth the muddy road to get there.  This book ended just exactly the way I wanted it to, the way I needed it to.

I just discovered that the audiobook version of this title was noted as an Honor pick by the American Library Association Odyssey Award Committee.  The Odyssey Award is one that recognizes excellence in audiobook production for children and/or teens.  (I guess I'll have to listen to Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday next to try to figure out just exactly why Revolution didn't WIN!)

Recommended to all teen readers -- in addition to the fascinating history, the romance will capture the girls and the adventure and mystery will intrigue the boys.  The heartache will touch all.
Call number: YA DONNELLY; YA CD DONNELLY (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

23 March 2011

The Great and Only Barnum : the Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P. T. Barnum by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Ray Fenwick

Did you know that P. T. Barnum -- the "Barnum" in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus -- didn't become involved with circuses until he was 60 years old?  Did you know that one of Barnum's nicknames was "the Prince of Humbugs"?  And did you know that Barnum would have been a millionaire by today's standards even though he watched his homes and businesses crumble under numerous fires, and he even once had to declare bankruptcy?

Born Phineas Taylor Barnum, the showman spent most of his life, from a young age until his death, figuring out ways to entertain others: by making them think, laugh, and participate in the vast wonders of the word.  He was a great businessman and worked hard for mostly all that he had.  He knew how to take advantage of situations and of people's emotions and natural curiosities in order to make a few dollars in his favor.  He may have cheated a time or two, but it was always for the greater good because people almost always left his presence in a happy state of mind.  From elephants, an exhibit with a little old lady (was she really George Washington's nursemaid?!), and a friend named Tom Thumb, to the still world-famous three ring circus with acrobats, clowns, and all sorts of animals (including the elephants), P. T. Barnum truly knew how to put on the Greatest Show on Earth.

Recommended to readers of all ages!
Call number: JB BARNUM (Children's Department)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

18 March 2011

Mission Control, This is Apollo : The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon by Andrew Chaikin

Whether or not you already know some about America's space missions to and from our moon, here you'll learn fascinating tidbits of history, science, art, and humankind.  Following an introduction of sorts about all that led to the development of the Apollo missions, there is an overview of each Apollo mission, set up from the viewpoint of the astronauts directly involved.  Complete with photographs, paintings, and inserts about all sorts of things (like, how do the astronauts go to the bathroom in space?!), the reader is treated to the whole picture of space travel -- from before Neil Armstrong's first step, to the many missions and achievements that followed.

Andrew Chaikin's words are supported by awesome images of the people, places, and things associated with the Apollo missions as painted by Alan Bean.  As the reader learns through an introduction as well as image captions and text within the book, Mr. Bean has spent a good part of his life as text pilot, astronaut, and artist, and was aboard the mission that landed him on the moon's surface in 1969.  Alan Bean's space suit and many more artifacts from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions can be seen at the National Air and Space Museum.

For more information on the author, visit his blog.
For more information on the artist, visit his website.

Recommended for all ages: to learn the most interesting things about space travel and the moon, and to gain the motivation to discover even more.
Call number: J 629.454 CHA (Children's Department)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

15 March 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Love kills.  It's a good thing that there's a cure.

Lena can't wait til her eighteenth birthday when she can undergo the government-mandated cure for Amor Deliria Nervosa, the condition that goes hand-in-hand with love.  According to The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook (more commonly referred to as The Book of Shhh) love is dangerous primarily because it "affects your mind so that you cannot think clearly, or make rational decisions about your own well-being."  Deliria is the reason Lena's mother is dead, and she's counting down the rest of the 95 days left until her procedure.  "The cured, incapable of strong desire, are thus rid of both remembered and future pain."  No pain = happiness.  Therefore, delirium of love = unhappiness. 

But what happens when Lena begins to test the limits of what she's been told by society?  What happens when she begins to question everything that she's been raised to believe?  What happens when she decides that she wants to feel passionately and freely.  Isn't the pleasure of love worth any amount of pain and sacrifice?

Heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, and absolutely enthralling, Lauren Oliver's sophomore effort is recommended to all high school readers.  And when you're finished reading this one, check out Before I Fall, too.
Call number: YA OLIVER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

After by Amy Efaw

Devon doesn't exactly know what's happening to her, but she knows it isn't anything good.  She hates screwing up and she's pretty sure that this time she screwed up big.  But she wishes that everyone would leave her alone for now so that she could deal with it later.  She's so tired, and it hurts so much.

This story opens with Devon lying on the couch in the apartment she shares with her mom.  She stayed home from school so she's home when her mom gets in from the graveyard shift at Safeway.  She's still there when the cops knock on the door asking questions about a newborn baby found tied in a garbage bag in the dumpster in the alley behind the apartment building.  And she doesn't move until her mother snatches away the blanket that Devon had wrapped herself in that morning.  The blanket that was supposed to absorb some of the blood.

Prepare for a horrifying fictional read based on the very real experiences and situations of some teenage parents of "dumpster babies" throughout the country.  And as horrifying as it all is, steel your emotions in order to meet and get to know the sympathetic and sometimes infuriating Devon -- the teenage girl who is smart, strong, and terrified.  Discover who she is, what she loves, and how she could possibly deny her pregnancy and throw away her baby girl.  Recommended to high school teens and each and every adult.
Call number: YA EFAW (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF.  The Designated Ugly Fat Friend.  This is the nickname awarded to Bianca Piper by Wesley Rush.  Wesley is a obnoxious, egotistical womanizer.  He's also totally hot.

Bianca's going through a lot these days.  Her ex-boyfriend is back in town, and he brought is fiance home from college with him.  Plus, her parents are having problems.  This wouldn't normally be a problem since her mom is practically nonexistent anyway, but it's making her dad a wreck.  He's started drinking again after being on the wagon for 18 years and Bianca's worried.  So on top of everything, when Wesley tells Bianca that she's the DUFF, she's pissed.  And the only cure for her anger is distraction.  In a moment of rage, she kisses Wesley, and she's definitely distracted.  And attracted.

Bianca is honest, loyal, snarky, and down-to-earth.  She's also confused, overwhelmed, and cynical.  She's a pretty typical teen who does some pretty typical things, some of which she's proud of and other's she wouldn't want her friends (let alone her parents) to know about.  She's relatable and unrelenting, and whether you end up loving her or hating her, you won't be able to put the book down.  Recommended to high school readers.
Call number: YA KEPLINGER; YA CD KEPLINGER (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian