30 December 2010

Witch of Blackbird Pond

Witch of Blackbird Pond
Elizabeth George Speare
Newbery Award winner
copyright 1958

Kit is new to a New England town in the late 1600's, having been raised in Barbados. Her relatives and the townsfolk are shocked at her dress and behavior. Kit sees that New England is drab and dreary and the people do not have fun. It is work, work, work, then church, church, church. Can this tropical bird find a home in Connecticut? Is joy and laughter really prohibited by the Bible? It is dangerous times, politically, in the not-yet United States. It is also dangerous to depart from the normal. If a woman does stand out, she may be accused of practicing witchcraft. This is not Salem, Massachusetts, but it might as well be.
I have read this book numerous times and when I found out that I was going to be visiting Barbados this year, I had to read it again.
I highly recommend this book to 9-16 year old girl readers. I don't think most boys would get into the fashion, etc. very much.

16 December 2010

Date Night (movie)

I watched "Date Night", the movie with Steve Carrell and Tina Fey, this week. There is a humorous treatment of book discussions. I was wondering what book they were reading in this movie. With the help of a coworker who recommended that I search for screenplays on the internet, I determined the name of the book - "And in the Morning We Walk with the Birds of Change". As far as I know this is not a real book. It does not show up on Amazon or in WorldCat. Some have suggested that it is similar to "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Afghan author Khaled Hosseini or "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant.
The husband and wife both read the book and we see that a cab driver is also reading it on his Kindle.

Kitten Needs a Job


Cats and libraries - a natural fit.

Library Cats


Libraries and cats. They go together like a horse and carriage!

03 December 2010

Unmade Bed: Sensual Writing on Married Love

Unmade Bed: Sensual Writing on Married Love
Laura Chester
adult fiction
anthology of poems and short stories

This has some famous authors like William Carlos Williams, John Updike, and Gary Soto. The poems and tales are very uneven. Some poems don't make sense and some stories are downright boring. Maybe there are some good reads in this book, but I gave up on it. If you have not purchased this for your library - don't.

Angel Cat Sugar A New Friend

Angel Cat Sugar A New Friend
Yuko Shimizu and Ellie O'Ryan
children's fiction
grades 1-2

I did not know until I saw this book at a Scholastic Book Fair that the creator of Hello Kitty had two other characters - Angel Cat Sugar (cat) and Rebecca Bonbon (bulldog).

In this book, Angel Cat Sugar has three fairy friends - Thyme, Basil, and Parsley! They find a homeless snail and attempt to help it get a new home! The snail is dubbed "Cinnamon" and is now their friend! Expect cutesy pictures and many exclamation points!
It is cute. It is fuzzy and warm. I am not so sure that it is biologically sound practice what Angel Cat Sugar does and I don't think a real snail would much appreciate these efforts, but as I said - it is cute.
Here is one line - "He needs a warm, dry house of his own". Since when do snails need warm, dry houses of their own? They live under cold, damp rocks in in moss as far as I recall. They need slime.
I don't recommend this particular Angel Cat Sugar book because of these problems, but I see the appeal of the character. Best wishes Cat Sugar Angel, Sugar Cat Angel, or whatever your name is.


David Maine
audio CD with a full cast
unabridged 6 1/2 hours

This novel takes the many-times-told tale of Noah's Ark and adds wit, grit, and perspective to the telling. Noah, his wife, his sons, and their daughters all speak. Maine postulates how Ham, Shem, and Japheth found wives and how the animals might have made their way to the ark with the help of Noah's daughters-in-law. He describes the offal stench of the ark. Seasoned actors, and my favorite young audiobook reader, Jenna Lamia, relate what Noah's family might have been thinking (and smelling) on the ark. He wonders with Noah's family at the sign of the rainbow. He guesses how the families were scattered to multiply the earth after the flood.

I very much enjoyed this presentation and recommend it to adult listeners. Listeners do not have to be Jewish, Christian, or Muslim to hear this story. God (Yahweh) and religion are discussed, but not in an evangelic or offensive way. God just is. I do not recommend this novel for children. Sex (rutting), drinking and other adult themes are discussed in a matter of fact, earthy way that some parents may object to, but that I found to be appropriate as Noah and his family escape from the evil of the pre-flood world. Life back then was more basic and in touch with nature, so the coarse, folksy telling of this tale makes perfect sense.
I recommend this book and audio presentation for all public libraries in the U. S.

04 November 2010

post - Halloween

I look at my jack-o-lanterns and think
"no one loves a Christmas tree
On March the twenty-fifth"
(Shel Silverstein)

Art Garfunkel's reading list

Did you know that Art Garfunkel is a voracious reader and has tracked his reading for more than 40 years?

22 October 2010

Dr. Seuss on the web

I did not know until today that there is
that has games, trivia, a book of lists, and more
and there is a
a Dr. Seuss themed facebook game - Mayor of Seussville.

Related article


by Marty Crisp and Robert Papp
juvenile fiction, ages 4-8

Jim is a cabin boy put in charge of the ship's lucky cat, named 4-0-1. The cat and her kittens keep him busy as the Titanic goes on a trial run before her maiden voyage. If I say more, it will spoil the plot.
This is an unusual take on the many fictionalized accounts of the famous Titanic disaster.
As an adult I knew what would happen to the Titanic, but the 6 year old that I read this to did not. I had to explain the story to her again after we read it.
There are lovely kitty and historical pictures throughout.

18 October 2010

Silent Pursuit

Silent Pursuit
Lynette Eason
Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense Riveting Inspirational Romance, November 2009
Steeple Hill is a division of Harlequin
Amazon.com lists this as one in a trilogy, but it is a fine read-alone book.
(High Stakes Trilogy, Book 3) (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #172)
1 Silent Terror
2 Silent Fury
3 Silent Pursuit

I guess this series title shows that there is a Harlequin romance for every reader. What do we have here?
1) Romance
2) Inspirational
3) Intrigue
4) Suspense

For more than 60 years Harlequin has had a strong presence in the book market.
I picked up this title for a quick read, not expecting much but to pass the time.
I was pleasantly surprised by the content. In this story, Gina is running from people who killed her fiance. She has to trust someone, so she leans on his ex-Army Ranger buddy, Ian. Obviously a romance is in the works for them, but I this title is very light on the romance and inspiration and heavy on the running-around-dodging-bullets part of the plot. Although intended for a female audience, this Harlequin can be shared with the male partners of readers or teenage daughters as well for light summer or airplane reading.
The references to God are limited to some desperate prayers and saying that a dead Christian is in Heaven. The romance is limited to hugging and a kiss or two.
Another surprise was finding a reading and discussion guide in the back as well as an author's note.
I will get on hold at my library for #1 and #2 in this series, but this book can stand alone. I did not realize it was part of a trilogy and it was not confusing that it was #3.

Calling Fancy Nancy Fans

Break out the sequins and butterfly broaches!
Fancy Nancy is having a contest.

Show the world just how fancy you are! Ooh la la! It’s très, très, très exciting! All Fancy Nancy fans are invited to don their most spectacular outfits and accessories, pose for the camera, and submit a photo to the Fancy Nancy Fantastic Fan Contest. The most magnifique fan photo will be illustrated in an upcoming Fancy Nancy book!
Visit Fancy Nancy and the other contestants as much as you want to browse, vote, share, and comment on all of the fantastic fan photos. Your votes will help decide the winner! Voilá: It’s that easy!

30 September 2010

Christmas Gift

Christmas Gift
R. William Bennett
children/young adult/adult fiction
This is really fine for anyone ages about 10 and up.

Bennett has written a simple, yet profound, tale of forgiveness. What if, instead of returning cruelty with cruelty someone offers forgiveness and friendship?
Sixth grader Scott is just one of bully Ben's victims. Scott is just an average kid, but he feels bad about yelling at Ben one day. Will Scott take the easy path and be like everyone else. Will he be one of the kids that makes up stories about Ben and his family? Will Scott go on to bully other kids?
This book is brief. Although it is a hardback, it is about the size of a paperback with a slim 135 pages. The lettering is fairly large and the layout is like the average Nicholas Sparks, Richard Paul Evans, Robert James Waller, or Karen Kingsbury "Red Gloves" book.
This book is coming out in time for people to read it and purchase a second copy to give as a "gentle read" Christmas gift to family and friends, but the message and most of the book don't have anything to do with the modern American commercial version of Christmas, so readers should feel free to pick up this book any month of the year.
When I lead a monthly book club each year we looked for a short inspirational book to read for our December discussion since everyone was busy that time of year. This is a good choice for a Christmas time discussion due to its brevity and universal appeal. Although it is written by a man and has two boys as main characters, the message and packaging should appeal to woman and girls as well.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

27 September 2010

Banned Books Week


Stop in to the East Branch Library beginning Monday, September 27 through Saturday, October 2 and listen to excerpts from banned and challenged books being read aloud by staff and volunteers. Titles featured will highlight books from the children's, young adult and adult collections. Reading will take place throughout the week in the famed Banned Books Cage during all open hours.

You can even take your own turn reading in the Banned Books Cage! Call the East Branch Library to schedule some time in "jail" for reading banned books.

Banned Book Week Activities*

at the East Branch Library

Read a book in our “Banned Books Cage,” a physical representation of what libraries might be like if books were truly banned.

Follow the clues. Finish the hunt. Win a prize!

Create a bookmark using recycled magazine pages, old comic book pages or a map!

Let us take your picture with your favorite banned book, and we’ll make you a sticker!

Play an old-fashioned game of memory,
with a Banned Books Week twist!

What are your thoughts about our freedom to read and access information?

*Activities may vary throughout the week, depending on supplies. Calling in advance is advised to participate in the read-out.

24 September 2010

David Goes to School

David Goes to School
David Shannon
children's ficton/autobiography
ages 5-8

Oh, boy! David is back! The star of "No, David!" returns with more misbehaviors. I can only assume that David is based on author and illustrator David Shannon's life as a child. Call him a menace. Call him hyperactive or ADHD. Call him a juvenile delinquent. Whatever you call him, you had better keep an eye on David when he is in your classroom.
We all know a child like David. Maybe you were that child. Maybe David is your child. David is wild, but the author does not glorify this. He just presents it. That is how David is. In the telling, it is pretty funny.
I haven't read much about author David Shannon, but I hope I am correct in assuming that eventually David (the book character) learns to channel his energy and grows up to be a successful illustrator and author.
A quote from David Shannon: "My advice would be that getting into trouble isn't the end of the world".
This book can certainly be a good discussion starter. How should David behave differently? How can his teacher help David to have a good day? Would medication help David? Would therapy?
Whatever you take from this book, it belongs on the shelves of every American elementary and public library. The illustrations are perfect for a book about an elementary school and the text is even written in pencil on manila lined paper.

23 September 2010

Treasure in Books

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island.
---Walt Disney
(Thank you to Paula Dale for this quote).

22 September 2010

Kissing Hand

Kissing Hand
Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper, and Nancy M. Leak
children's fiction
ages 4-6

Published in 1993, this book has become a phenomenon. Teachers, social workers, parents, librarians, and more ask for this book. Warning: If you think you want to read this in September, you had better buy your own copy. Each year it is always checked out of the library in August and September. A number of craft and storytime activities have been developed using this book.
A little raccoon is afraid of starting school. His mother reassures him that although they will not be together physically, he will always be in her heart and she will always be in his as he goes off and has new experiences.
To give him a sense of security, she kisses his palm then tells him that any time he is lonely for home he can hold his hand to his cheek and think of her kissing him on the cheek.
This is a sweet book published by the Child Welfare League of America who recommends it for children starting school, being placed in foster care, going away to camp, etc.
Lovely illustrations show woodland creatures at a nocturnal school.
There are some sequels to this book, but the original is the one that library patrons clamor for.


Lesley Hauge
young adult science fiction

Keller is a young woman who is learning her career. She is a border guard on an island after some kind of horrible disaster. Civilization has collapsed and humankind has ended up deformed and mutated. Somehow an island of strong women was shielded from this genetic catastrophe and has formed a closed society where only women may dwell. Hauge obviously has modeled the society after the mythical Amazons.
Men are not welcome on the island and they do not trade with the outsiders. New girls are added to the society by some kind of bringing of the Seed. We assume this is some kind of frozen sperm.
Not everyone embraces such a strict, conformist society and can the women continue on like this? Are changes in order? They are fearful that their pure society will end up perishing.
This is in the YA section of my library, but some parents may object to their children reading this kind of book. It is violent and cold blooded at times. The main character is rather rigid as she observes the world around her. She and her friends dabble with the forbidden concepts of friendship and femininity, but are largely repulsed by them.

Magic Tree House #6 Afternoon on the Amazon

Magic Tree House #6 Afternoon on the Amazon
Mary Pope Osborne

Some of the Magic Tree House books are more realistic and some are more fanciful and magical. Although there is some anthropomorphic traits to animals, this book in the series relies on the real life adventures to be had in the Rain forest. The Amazon is full of creatures right out of stories - piranha, crocodiles, monkeys, and Army ants. No exaggerations or car chases are needed.
Schoolchildren Jack and Annie are magically transported to today's Brazil and spend pretty much this whole book running from animals.
After we were done, my audience wanted to know if the animals in this book were real. One child was especially worried about vampire bats that were mentioned in the book. I assured her that although they are found in South America, they are not found in Pennsylvania or Ohio. We have considerably smaller and tamer bats here that eat mosquitoes and are considered to be an asset to a backyard.

18 September 2010

Wednesday Wars

Wednesday Wars
Gary Schmidt
(This author has won the Newbery Honor award and the Printz Honor award)
young adult fiction

Holling is growing up in Long Island in 1967. He is a Protestant 7th grader in a class full of Catholics and Jews. On Wednesday afternoons the Jewish and Catholic kids all leave for Wednesday religious classes. Holling is the only one left in Mrs. Baker's English class. She has him takes on assignments reading Shakespeare. He is reluctant, but at first learns to love Shakespeare's curses and uses them under his breath. As time goes by he appreciates more about Shakespeare, even acting in a play.
Since he is in 7th grade, he is learning a lot about himself and who he wants to be. His older sister is a flower child. His father wants Holling to be an architect like he is. Holling doesn't know what he wants, but a girlfriend would be nice!
A colleague of mine recommended this book and said that it should have won the Newbery award instead of getting runner-up status.
This is the kind of book that English teachers and librarians love to recommend, but children don't always want to read. The year 1967 is before today's 7th graders were born, and even before many of their parents were born, so this book may need some "selling" on the part of adults getting students to read it.
Once they do crack this book open, however, they will find that some thinks about 7th grade remain the same - the jokester in class, the awkwardness, the "what-if" of early adolescence, and more. In constrast, some aspects of this book are very 1967 - hippies, atomic bomb drills, and the Vietnam conflict. I can see that an essay would compare and contrast 1967's hippies with today's Goths, atomic bomb drills with today's lockdowns, and the Vietnam conflict with today's Afghanistan and Iraq.

I Am Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman: I Am Wonder Woman
Festival Readers
Nina Jaffe, Ben Caldwell, and William Moulton Marston

children's fiction, ages 5-8

This is a simple book showing how Wonder Woman, superheroine, became Wonder Woman and what she does with her super powers and her directive to help people. She is modestly attired and this is family friendly.
Grandparents and parents may want to introduce a new generation to Wonder Woman!
Go, Wonder Woman!

16 September 2010

Bring on the Blessings

Bring on the Blessings
Beverly Jenkins
African American contemporary fiction

I don't generally read African American contemporary fiction, but I read that this book featured a historical town in Kansas founded by African Americans. I enjoy getting my history lessons in fiction rather than nonfiction books, so I figured this would be a more palatable way to find out about African Americans during Reconstruction.
I thought that this would also be Christian fiction and it is - sort of. Most of the people are churchgoers or at least believe in God, but this is not a right-leaning book. These are more realistic Christians. Christians with real problems and who are not so holier-than-thou -ones that might sleep around a little before a church wedding, but whose hearts are in the right place. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are all referred to in vague ways. At one point the main character says a prayer to The Sister in the Sky. I am not so sure if this is referring to God as a male and female figure or the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two characters are descendants of Black Seminole, so maybe they are talking about a Native American spirituality. I would call this more inspirational or spiritual fiction than Christian fiction.
Here is the plot - Bernadine Brown, age 52, has come into money in a divorce. When we say money, this means a LOT of money. She prays about what do with her life and with the money. She sees an advertisement to purchase an entire historic town. The residents pray that she can bring back the sense of pride and community that this town has lost along with its population and its businesses.
Bernadine has a plan. This will be a town where the citizens welcome foster children. It will be a place of hope for everyone. Bernadine uses her contacts and her experience as a social worker to make big changes. She has some opposition, but most people are cheering for her.
It was a well written book, but I can tell that I was not the target audience. I am not sure what all of the street lingo, jargon, and contemporary African American phrases meant. One teenager nicknames a boy and I have no idea what the nickname was referring to.
Even though I did not catch all of the references, I recognize that Jenkins has created a rich world of multi-dimensional characters. In the epilogue she says that there are at least two other books of hers which incorporated her fictionalized town in Kansas. I can see that she would have fans that would like to continue to read about her world.
I would recommend that public libraries with medium to large populations of African American readers add this book, and the series, to their collections.

Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick

Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick
Kevin Henkes
children's fiction, ages 2-5
board book
ALA Notable Children's Book, 2001
CCBC Choices, 2002
Parenting Magazine, Reading Magic Award, 2001

Sheila Rae has candy. Her little sister wants her to share, but Sheila doesn't want to, so she promises her sister she can have some if she can complete some difficult tasks. Fate intervenes and in the end they share.
I recommend this book for families with more than one child to show how siblings should share. Only children who have to share at nursery school or day care would benefit as well.
Henkes has demonstrated in a number of books how he can use a minimal number of pictures and words to create a complete story. Impressive. Timeless.
The font used in this book is good for beginning readers, using the letter "a" that looks like a circle with a line rather than the printer's version with a curled "a".
Henkes won the 2005 Caldecott Medal for "Kitten's First Full Moon" which I have reviewed in an earlier blog. He seems to like to draw mice as his main characters.

Tuck Everlasting

Tuck Everlasting
Natalie Babbitt
read by Peter Thomas
unabridged book on cassettes
children's fantasy fiction

I vaguely remember watching all or part of the movie that came out a few years ago, so I knew the basic plot. From the movie I remember there being a romance, but the original story does not have romance - just a hint of "what if" to it. The main character (Winnie) is only 10 years old, so romance is not appropriate.
Peter Thomas is a veteran narrator, so his voice comes across strong and pleasant. This audio book is unabridged and runs 3:31. I think it could have easily been shortened to 2 hours, however. The description in the book, while rich, picturesque, and thoughtful is a bit dull after about an hour. The entire book takes place in a 3 day time period, so do we really need that much detail? I was especially annoyed when one of the characters pauses to recount what happened to him, in great detail. I just heard what happened to him a half hour ago. I didn't need a reminder!

The plot: They do not say until the very end of the book when the action takes place, but it is about 1880. They never say where, either, but it is in pioneer America. Ten year old Winnie lives a civilized and dull existence as an only child in a prosperous family. She yearns for some kind of excitement to come into her life. She certainly gets it when she discovers in the woods beside her family's home a family of four. She is the first person in many years to figure out the secret to their life. They drank from a Fountain of Youth and now must live until the end of time. There is a great deal of discussion about whether this is a blessing or curse and by the end of the book Winnie must decide for herself if she wants to drink from the spring as well. If you have forever are you obliged to make a positive difference in the world? What would it be like to see your loved ones die - or not die?

The premise of this book is a good one, and it is discussion-worthy, but I would have preferred for it to be shorter. This is on a number of recommended reading lists, but I have read better books. It sold a lot of copies, so I am at least a little surprised that the author did not follow up with a series of books about the Tuck family. They could have had a lot of adventures in their lifetimes. There could be separate books for the father, mother, and the two sons, as well as more than one book apiece for different times of their lives. One could be set in 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, etc. I guess when the book came out in 1975 books in series were not as popular as they are today.

Red Glass

Red Glass
Laura Resau
young adult fiction
James Cook Book Award Honorable Book

Teenager Sophie lives a comfortable life with her mother and stepfather and eccentric great aunt. One day, unexpectedly, a Mexican boy whose mother died in border crossing comes into their family. Can Sophie put her neurotic selfishness aside to help Pablo recover from this tragedy? Aunt Dika, a refugee from Bosnia welcomes Pablo and an extended family, not related by blood but by love and circumstances is born.
This book would make for a good YA book discussion selection.

14 September 2010

Robots Are Coming!

Robots Are Coming!
Andy Rash
children's poetry
ages 7-9

If you are looking for some not-so-scary poems to read for Halloween, or for any time, this book of poetry and cartoons is a good choice. Rash takes a number of poems about werewolves, mummies, robots, etc. and pairs them with over-the-top illustrations.
I read this to 6 and 7 year olds. They didn't understand that it was a parody of late night movies, but they thought it was pretty interesting and funny.

Linden and the Oak

Linden and the Oak
Mark Wansa
historical fiction

I don't know much about Rusyns, so I thought I would read this historical fiction book and find out some more. Rusyns are an ethnic group found around the Carpathian mountains. They are definitely Slavic, but their language and customs are not exactly Russian, not exactly Ukrainian, not exactly Polish or Slovak. This epic novel follows a family of Rusyns through the harsh time of World War I. Many Eastern Europeans have fled to America for a better life. Some of them have come back with the money they made in America. The names and the native words thrown in to this novel make it seem very foreign. It is a hefty 550 pages long, but the writing is not complicated and the main characters are simple peasants used to simple country ways, church rites, and superstitions. It is the world around them that is crazy! The author does a good job re-creating the setting of yesteryear and showing how the people feel and act.
If you are looking for something different to read, this is certainly not like anything on the 2010 New York Times best seller list and it is not widely held in libraries, but some public libraries and college libraries who serve large populations of Eastern European immigrants and descendants have added this to their collections.

Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
Paul Goble
Caldecott Medal Winner, 1979
children's fiction, folklore/mythology
ages 3-7

The author uses thin, precise, vivid lines to draw this mystical story set in the American plains and desert. He captures the movement of the wind, the water, and the horses.
The story is of a girl who loves horses so much (and whom horses love), that when the horses of a Native American village stampede, they take her with them and protect her as one of their own.
This book begs to be read out loud around a campfire in the summer or in front of a hearth in the winter.
This is a treat for readers who are into horses, but still a good read for those who are not into horses.

Firefighter Ted

Firefighter Ted
Andrea Beaty and Pascal Lemaitre
children's fiction, ages 2-6

Cartoony drawings show a little school aged bear who is pretending to be a firefighter. His imagination soars as he acts out what a real fireman would do. Unfortunately, his teacher and principal do not appreciate his creative thoughts and actions. No need to fear, however, in the end, this clueless cub triumphs and is ready for a new adventure.
This is goofy cartoon humor. This book might be used before career day or a trip to a fire station.
This is one in a series of books where Ted is an artist, a doctor, and more.
Some parents and teachers might not like that Ted appears to be disrespectful to his elders, but Ted does not do it intentionally.

Clifford's Busy Week

Clifford's Busy Week
Norman Bridwell
children's fiction
ages 2-6

We love those good old educational Clifford The Big Red Dog books! Today's children watch Clifford on PBS as well. He is also the star of some educational CD-ROM products and featured on the great PBS kids website.
In this book Clifford and Emily Elizabeth help children learn the days of the week and practice sequencing as they do different activities on different days. Repetition, humor, and bold colors (especially RED) make this a winner. I am glad that Clifford books are widely available in hardback and in affordable paperback from Scholastic.

Swan Kingdom

Swan Kingdom
Zoe Marriott
Young adult fantasy

In a medieval-type kingdom Princess Alexandra lives with her parents. Her mother, beloved by the people, shares with her herbal lore and animal husbandry skills. Alexandra is on the verge of womanhood and her mother must teach her about the magic which protects and sustains the land. At this crucial point in Alexandra's development her mother is killed by a wild beast. Alexandra's brothers are enchanted and her father falls under the spell of the beast who has taken the form of a beautiful woman. Alexandra is banished to another land. Can she save her brothers, father, and her kingdom from evil? The story is at once familiar and original. It seems like we have heard this fairy tale before, and the author notes that it is based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale. There is a Celtic feel to the book as well.
The cover: The cover makes it look like this is a dark tale. Sure, there is the villainess, but this is not a particularly gory or violent book.


Steve Augarde
Young adult science fiction

The world has been flooded. A few people survive. A boy and his father are barely surviving. There is a rumor that there is an island where boys can work to earn their keep. The father manages to get his son on a boat to the island. On island the boys have to work very hard in a salvage operation led by a minister and his scuba diving sons. This is no pleasant mission field, though. It is more like "Lord of the Flies". It is survival of the fittest on the island. The boys make alliances and plot to overthrow the despot. This was a tense, stay-up-to-read-it book.
This is a British book and there were a number of words that I didn't know, but I didn't want to take a break in the action to look them up.

Playful Kitten

Playful Kitten
Rachel Baines
board book
ages 0-3

This book is slightly puffy and has some sparkly and fuzzy and shiny areas to attract a toddler's attention. There isn't much of a plot. Mostly it is cutesy pictures like one would find on greeting cards or in a baby book. That's about all there is to the book. I would recommend the illustrator as an illustrator, but not as an author.

10 September 2010

Where Do I Go?

Where Do I Go?
A Yada Yada House of Hope Novel
Neta Jackson

Adult Christian Fiction

Gabrielle is middle aged with two boys and an ambitious husband. He decides to move himself and his wife to Chicago, leaving their sons with their Grandparents in Virginia. She is feeling displaced and doesn't really want to be the hostess to dinner parties and such that will help her husband's firm get off the ground. Through a turn of events she finds herself at a women's shelter and thinks that maybe this is where she can volunteer or get a job and a renewed sense of purpose. Maybe she even can have a talk with God about her life and her future.
This light fiction work does not go for simple answers and tidy happy endings. The cover says it is book 1 in the Yada Yada House of Hope series. A number of minor characters are probably featured in other books in this series. This is a warm book that invites the reader in to Neta Jackson's world. Like the "At Home in Mitford" books we have a series to recommend to Christian readers. This book seems to be written for women, but in an unusual twist, her husband, Dave Jackson, is also writing books set in the same universe. I assume that these are supposed to have male main characters and appeal to men.
This was a fairly easy read and may appeal to people who do not read many fiction books as well as more experienced readers who want a quick book fix. Teens and their mothers could probably both read this book and series.

http://daveneta.com/ For more about the series and free short story downloads.

08 September 2010

Night Bookmobile

Night Bookmobile
Audrey Niffenegger
graphic novel?

This is not yet available in the U. S., but I look forward to reading it soon. The cover and title show promise...

07 September 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry
Audrey Niffenegger
adult fantasy/romance contemporary fiction

Many people (including myself) were waiting for another book from this author of "The Time Traveler's Wife". It starts off innocently enough with an aunt dying and leaving her flat in London to her twin nieces whom she has never met. From there the plot takes some twists as we find out more about the mother (who was a twin to the aunt) and about the goings on at the flat and the cemetery next door. There is a housebound neighbor and a cemetery volunteer neighbor. Add to the mixture The Kitten of Death (who is not at all terrifying).
This book is one part Gothic novel, one part stodgy British literature, one part Victoria Holt romance, one part Charlotte Bronte angst-riddled tale, and one part Phyllis Whitney mystery (except that it is set in modern times). Now I realize that I have dated myself with references to 1970's authors. So be it.
I wasn't sure what to expect in this book. I'll give away a major plot point - it is a ghost novel. It is a cozy, familiar read with a standard mystery setting, best enjoyed in front of a fireplace while wearing a smoking jacket and sipping Earl Grey tea.
As to the title - it is a clever play on words about twins being mirrors of each other and also using a word that sounds like "cemet'ry".
In a completely unrelated note, I will put this book on my list of books for genealogists to enjoy. Cemeteries are an essential part of any genealogist's research and Highgate Cemetery has some mighty fine tales to tell.

25 Essential Books for the Well-Read Explorer


For some reason I only found 16-25 on this website and had to look at another website for the rest of the list. Thank you to the Bangor Public Library for reposting the list.


Outside Magazine January 2003
I haven't read very many of these, but I do like an occasional adventure story, so I'll have to make room in my reading schedule for some of these.

25. OLD GLORY Jonathan Raban (1981)
24. A WALK IN THE WOODS Bill Bryson (1998) I have read this one. This is great for the not-so-fit explorer.
23. ALIVE Piers Paul Read (1974) I remember many of my classmates reading this one and I could not bring myself to read it. It sounded (and sounds) too creepy.
23. THE PERFECT STORM Sebastian Junger (1997). This is an excellent book and movie. My library co-worker, Shelley, would recommend this to every patron who asked for a good book.
22. MY JOURNEY TO LHASA Alexandra David-Neel (1927).
21. KON-TIKI Thor Heyerdahl (1950).
20. GREAT PLAINS Ian Frazier (1989)
19. YOUNG MEN AND FIRE Norman Maclean (1992)
18. RUNNING THE AMAZON Joe Kane (1989)
17. THE LONG WAY Bernard Moitessier (1971)
16. TRACKS Robyn Davidson (1980)
14. ARCTIC DREAMS Barry Lopez
13. IN PATAGONIA Bruce Chatwin
12. MOUNTAINS OF MY LIFE Walter Bonatti
10. ARABIAN SANDS Wilfred Thesiger
8. INTO THE WILD. Jon Krakauer. I think I have read this 3 times now. I should probably re-read it once a decade.
6. ENDURANCE F. A. Worsely
4. SNOW LEOPARD Peter Matthiessen
3. WEST WITH THE NIGHT Beryl Markham
2. WORST JOURNEY IN THE WORLD Ashley Cherry-Garrard
1. WIND, SAND, AND STARS Antoine de Saint-Exupery

That reminds me, I would like to read the book by the Cleveland doctor who got breast cancer while in Antarctica.
ICEBOUND by Dr. Jerri Nielson Fitzgerald

04 September 2010

Honey Helps

Happy Honey: Honey Helps
Laura Godwin and Jane Chapman
beginning reader - ages 4-6

This book has a simple story, large type, and minimal words. It is sort of like a "Dick and Jane" book". The pictures are cute and simple as well. Happy is a dog. Honey is a cat. They do typical cat and dog behaviors. (They are not acting like humans, but real animals). That's it. This book is good for beginner readers and I have found it on a number of recommended book lists for 4-6 year olds. There are probably a lot of real dogs and cats out there with the names "Happy" and "Honey", due in part to this book.

Dayton Peace Prize

Dayton Peace Prize

Congratulations to Geraldine Brooks, winner of the 2010 Dayton Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award

Here is a full list of 2010 finalists:

2010 Dayton Literary
Peace Prize Finalists


* A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett (Ignatius Press):

Beginning in 1914 and ending on the eve of World War II, this epic coming-of-age story follows a Prussian aristocrat as he confronts the ideologies that threaten the annihilation of millions of people.

* A Good Fall by Ha Jin (Pantheon Books):

In this stark and insightful collection, acclaimed writer Ha Jin depicts the struggle of Chinese immigrants in America to remain loyal to their traditions as they explore the freedom that life in a new country offers.

* Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Knopf):

A young Ethiopian doctor is forced to flee revolution in his homeland for New York City in this enthralling family saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.

* The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (Penguin Group; G. P. Putham's Sons/Riverhead Books):

Born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century, a woman with dark, mysterious powers finds herself at the heart of a slave revolt plotted by the women around her.

* The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim (Henry Holt and Company):

In early-twentieth-century Korea, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher struggles to choose her own destiny while her country crumbles under Japanese occupation.

* The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adiche (Knopf):

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie turns her penetrating eye on both her native country and America in twelve dazzling stories that explore the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.


* Enough: Why the Worlds Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman (Public Affairs):

This powerful investigative narrative shows exactly how, in the past few decades, American, British, and European policies have conspired to keep Africa hungry and unable to feed itself.

* In the Valley of the Mist by Justine Hardy (Free Press):

A personal, moving, and vibrant picture of the Kashmir Valley, one of the most beautiful and troubled places in the world -- described through the experiences of one family, whose fortunes have changed dramatically with those of the region.

* Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson (Penguin Group, USA):

From the author of the #1 bestseller Three Cups of Tea, the continuing story of this determined humanitarian’s efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan through education.

* Tears in the Darkness by Michael and Elizabeth Norman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux):

Using the perspective of a young American soldier, this account of World War II’s Bataan death march exposes the myths of war and shows the extent of suffering and loss on both sides.

* The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe (Knopf):

From the celebrated author of Things Fall Apart, a new collection of autobiographical essays—his first new book in more than twenty years.

* Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's):

The meticulously researched story of a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four who chose to stay in New Orleans through Hurricane Katrina and protect his house and business—but then abruptly disappeared.

31 August 2010

Chosen One

Chosen One
Carol Lynch Williams
read by Jenna Lamia
book on CD
young adult audience

I am highly impressed by Jenna Lamia's voice on this book on CD. She really nails the tone of the main character - 13 going on 14 year old Lyra. I am so impressed that I am going to search our library catalog to see what else we have with her as a narrator and listen to one of those as my next book on CD for my commute.
This is a tense book with the plot pivoting around one moment in time - teenager Kyra's pending wedding to her elderly uncle. She is mortified that the prophet in charge of her cult has heard from God that she should become a 7th wife in this polygamous society. The whole book is creepy in that we know that there are cults out there in the United States and around the world where this happens. Even in polygamous societies more than 2 or 3 wives is unusual. Kyra knows that her uncle is a cruel man and life will be hard with 6 other wives to serve under. How can she escape this fate? One hero in this book is the bookmobile librarian. Hoorah for the bookmobile and its noble staff!
This book might be too creepy for some readers, but it is at least a little realistic in that this story could be happening somewhere in Utah, Texas, or British Columbia right now. Generally this book and the audiobook should appeal to teenage and adult females.
A note about the cover. Amazon.com shows a book cover of the back of a a girl with a tank top on, bra showing, and braided hair unraveling. This is an odd choice because Kyra and family are always modestly covered from head to toe and tidy in appearance. Near the end Kyra says she will never be the type of girl to have a bra strap showing. Our library received the book on tape repackaged by Midwest tapes. This cover photograph shows a girl sitting in a tree reading a book. Kyra does sit in a tree to read a book often, so this photograph makes more sense, except that Kyra is supposed to be almost 14 and the girl in the photograph appears to be younger. Odd.

27 August 2010

Restless Hearts

Restless Hearts
by Marta Perry

Love Inspired
Steeple Hill
a division of Harlequin Books

Adult Christian/inspirational romance

This is a pleasant book set in contemporary Amish country Pennsylvania. A woman whose mother was ex-Amish comes to Pennsylvania to take a job as a midwife. She encounters a policeman who is ex-Amish. A romance ensues. I found this book to be much better than the average Harlequin paperback.

Claire and the Unicorn Happy Ever After

Claire and the Unicorn Happy Ever After
B. G. Hennessy
Susan Mitchell
children's fantasy fiction, ages 3-8

What makes for a happy ending? Who decides what "happily ever after" is?

A girl, Claire, asks her father about this after he reads yet another bedtime story that ends with "happy ever after". (I don't know why is isn't the more commonly used "happily ever after'). Her father turns the question around and asks Claire what she thinks the answer is. Claire dreams about what the answers would be from various fantasy tales and creatures.

This is a good bedtime story that can be read by a parent and help get a child to think about pleasant things while falling asleep.

25 August 2010

Wonder Woman The Contest

Wonder Woman The Contest
written by Nina Jaffe
illustrated by Ben Caldwell
created by William Moulton Marston
children's fiction ages 4-7

This book shows part of the origins of Wonder Woman and how she came to live among us mortals. Parents and grandparents who grew up with Wonder Woman comics and the television show will be pleased with this G rated slim volume. The children will probably want to read the whole series so I recommend buying the whole series for your library or your home.


The Magicians
Lev Grossman
adult fantasy fiction

1. Couldn't he come up with a better title? Try googling "magicians" to find this book - ha!

2. I don't know what the author was trying to do with this book. Is it a parody of the Harry Potter books? It it inspired by Harry Potter? Is it riding on the shirttails of Harry Potter? That being said, it was a pretty decent book and worth a read. I just don't know what the author or publisher was thinking. He even mentions Tolkien and others in the book.

3. I don't understand why there is a tree on the cover.

Plot: A senior in high school is recruited to go to Wizard school. A bunch of stuff happens that is very Harry Potter-like. Then a bunch of stuff happens which is very Narnia-like. I mean it is so similar that it makes you think that it was stolen from Rowling and Lewis, but put together in a way not quite like either. This book has some sex and drug use and drinking, so it is not as innocent as Potter or Narnia. I guess the target audience is adults or teenagers whose parents don't mind that they are reading about sex and drugs. They say the students are at college and the book covers about 5 years, but then later in the book they say the students are teenagers. In my world of math 17 years old + 5 years = age 22, not a teenager. I didn't get that.
Some reviewers said it drew from World mythology including Jewish mythology, but I don't know if this is true or not.
I guess I recommend this for 16+ readers who enjoy fantasy books but they might end up as perplexed as I.

Little Mouse Gets Ready

Little Mouse Gets Ready
Jeff Smith
children's fiction
ages 2-6
2010 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book
Ohio author

His mother is waiting, but Little Mouse must put on his clothes one piece at a time - carefully like little children have to. Then there is a surprise ending that makes parents/librarians/adult readers say "that's what I was thinking".
This is cute, friendly fare for young readers.

The cover says: Toon Books: bringing new readers to the pleasure of comics.
(This is a hardback children's book, but I guess the publishers want us to think it is a comic book or a graphic novel. I would not use the word novel to describe this short book. What is the definition of cartoon or graphic novel, anyway?).

Save the Tree!

The Big Green Help
Wonder Pets!
Save the Tree!
adapted by Kermit Frazier
illustrated by Amy Marie Stadelmann
children's fiction, ages 3-6

The Wonder Pets television show follows the same format each episode - the Wonder Pets get a call from an animal that is in trouble and the Wonder Pets save the animal (usually a baby animal). This book changes the format, however, and has them save an urban tree that is in an abandoned city lot. The plot is awkward because the song says that the animal in trouble has to get on a telephone to ask for help. Trees can't get on the telephone and trees aren't animals. This book and episode is part of Nick Jr.'s Earth Day celebration - The Big Green Help. Why didn't they have the Wonder Pets save an endangered bug or snake or something instead?
Other than that, this book is charming, as is the entire operatic series.

19 August 2010

Color of Water

Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother
James McBride
adult memoir

This book was published in 1996 and every year since then a librarian or website or patron has recommended it. I think Oprah recommended it as well. I finally decided to check it out and see what all the hype was about.
James McBride is the son of an African American minister and a woman who described herself as light skinned. While saying she was light skinned is technically the truth, the truth is also that she was not at all African American, but a Polish Jewish immigrant (She passed away in 2010). Life was tough for his mother, Ruth, and tough for James McBride as well. His mother grew up under the very strict discipline of her rabbi father and her disabled mother. James grew up very poor and had to live with the social stigma of being a mixed raced child in the 1960's and 1970's. His father passed away before he was born, and although he had a step father this man did not even live with his wife and children. Ruth had a total of 12 children.
This is not a warm, cuddly book. Life was HARD! His mother was not particularly affectionate and took a get-tough attitude toward life. She was convinced that regardless of the color of her skin, her children's skin, etc. if someone prays hard, studies hard and works hard in America, by the grace of God, they will succeed.
The author titled this as a tribute, but it is not an affectionate tribute. It is a hardscrambled tribute.
One librarian that I talked to about this book said that this is more relevant than ever as evidenced in the life of our President. Barack Obama, the child of a White mother and a Black father studied hard and prayed hard and look where he is today! Mom McBride was right.
There are only a few photographs and these are intentionally faded out and shown in black and white. I understand the effect they were going for, but I was curious to see more photographs of these remarkable people and places.

Overall this is a very good book, but I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped for more joy and humor. It is pretty serious book.

Here is a link to the New York Times article on her life and death: