28 July 2010

Hey, Al

Hey, Al
Richard Egielski
Caldecott Medal winner (1986)

children's fantasy fiction
ages 3-9

This book seems like an old fairy tale with a familiar theme. A janitor (and his dog) dream of a better life with a bigger place to live. One day they get their wish, but it is not all it is cracked up to be. They find themselves longing for the "good ole days" when life was normal.
The illustrations are rich and fanciful. This is a fine book that should be popular for many decades.

Tails Are Not for Pulling

Tails Are Not for Pulling
Elizabeth Verdick
board book
ages 1-5

This book addresses a universal concern: will the baby/toddler/small child be kind to the cat or torment it?
Every parent, whether they own a cat or dog or not, encounters some situation like this at one point. Teaching children how to act appropriately around animals is an important lesson. This book shows the right and wrong way for children to interact with cats (and dogs).
This book might be placed in the fiction or nonfiction classification. It teaches morality and manners.
These would be good to have at a preschool or church library.
Here are other titles in the Best Behavior series:
Diapers Are Not Forever
Pacifiers Are Not Forever
Germs Are Not for Sharing
Words Are Not for Hurting
Teeth Are Not for Biting
Please, May I Have a Pencil?

I'll believe it if I see it.

I'll believe it if I see it.

I read that Playboy has a new non-porn site. Presumably it focuses on essays and political cartoons. They are advertising it as "safe to view at work". Being a curious librarian I thought I might see what this was about. Our library's filtering software promptly blocked me from going to

Don't ask me whether this site is safe to view or not. I wasn't able to view it.

Kind of ironic isn't it?

27 July 2010

Sixteen Brides

Sixteen Brides
Stephanie Grace Whitson
Christian Romance Fiction

Sixteen young women, one mother, and one son go west with the hopes of homesteading in Nebraska. They figure that they are hard workers and together they can claim at least a few homesteads. Once they arrive they discover that the man who arranged this was not entirely honest. He had promised the male homesteaders already on the land that these were BRIDES for them! Half of the ladies figure, why not marry? and marry right away. The others try to stick with the original plan. Either way they will be instrumental in shaping the county development.
The story focuses on five of these women and their growth as homesteaders.
This is not the best nor the worst Christian western romance I have read. It is a fairly good light read. I was slightly disappointed in the end because there were a number of unanswered questions and untold stories. This might mean that this could be #1 in a trilogy or series with more than 3 books. There is plenty more that the author could say about Plum Grove, Nebraska.

24 July 2010


Jenny Moss
teen fiction, romance fiction, fantasy fiction

Why did she call her book "Shadow"? As if there are not already 20 other books with that title in my catalog! She should have called it "Shadow of the Queen" or "Life in the Shadow" or "My Name is Shadow" or "Only a Shadow" or something rather than this one word title!

Shadow doesn't know anything about her parents. She doesn't even have a name. People have taken to calling her "Shadow" because she is always around in the shadows. She knows that for her whole life she has been assigned to help the queen and to protect the queen against the prophecy that says that she will be murdered on her 16th birthday. She and the queen don't get along, however, and would it really be so bad for the spoiled brat to die? Then Shadow could get on with her life.
Events happen that move Shadow out of the shady place and into a starring role. Will the mystery of her life be answered? Can she get past her brooding? Is that handsome knight someone who is interested in her?

This was an okay book, but a little too much brooding and teen angst for my taste. For the right audience (probably a 14 year old female) this would be fine.

Boxcar Children

Boxcar Children
Gertrude Chandler Warner
read by Phyllis Newman
audiobook on cassettes
children's fiction, ages 6-9

I had heard about the Boxcar Children books but not read any of the books. I thought they were similar to the Bobbsey Twins. I had read a few Bobbsey Twins books as a child.
I was looking for something short to listen to in the car, so I thought I would take a listen.
Four orphaned children have run away from foster parents because they are afraid that they will be forced to be separated or live with their grandfather. They had heard that Grandfather had not been been nice to their mother, so they did not want to live with him.
They find odd jobs and come across an old boxcar in the woods. They make it their home and even get a dog. A resourceful lot, they repurpose items from the dump and move rocks to make something like a springhouse for their refrigerator.
This is an innocent book. Unlike homeless children of today they do not encounter drug addicts. They are not hunted up by truancy officers (well, this is summer, so I guess not).
I can tell right away that this is set during the Great Depression. The values of being "scrappy", frugal, hard working, etc. clearly come through. I can see how this series might be popular with conservative parents, even though it is 80 years old.
I also checked out a graphic novel based on one of the Boxcar Children books. More on that book later.

Painted Dresses

Painted Dresses
Patricia Hickman
Waterbrook Press
adult fiction, romance, travel, Christian fiction

The wild sister and the tame sister take off on a road trip to visit relatives and find out the truth about their now deceased parents and their incarcerated half brother. They find out about themselves and the past. Can they get on with life once these questions are answered? This book starts in North Carolina, but tours through the Southern states.

Last Exit to Normal

Last Exit to Normal
Michael B. Harmon
young adult fiction
James Cook Award Winner

Isn't it bad enough being a teenager without having a homosexual father and moving to Montana? A skateboarding teen must learn some respect for his elders and for himself if he is going to survive.

Somewhere Inside

Somewhere Inside
One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home

Adult nonfiction.

Reporter Laura Ling made the mistake of her life. In her excitement to get a story she set foot on North Korean soil. This book traces what happened next as American journalists and politicians work to have her freed from a life sentence of hard labor in this totalitarian communist country.
Throughout the whole book I kept thinking "How could you be SO STUPID?". She KNOWINGLY stepped into North Korea. We are talking about NORTH KOREA. Hello?
I do feel very bad for her family and friends that she might have been shot or sent to a labor camp for life. If not for the sake of yourself, then for the honor of your country DO NOT GO TO NORTH KOREA! This is the country that George Bush considered to be one of the Axis of Evil!
It is kind of like wondering about the people who walk around the city streets at 3 a.m. then get shot or raped. They have to know this is not a good idea.
She claims that although she knew she was crossing the line, she trusted her guide and reporters have to trust their guides. Have you ever heard that if your friends decide to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge then maybe you shouldn't jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, too?
This book does help to keep people informed about the current political climate in the Far East. As I write this the U. S. and South Korean navies are practicing war maneuvers in international waters near North Korea.

Ask Me No Questions

Ask Me No Questions
Marina Budhos

Young Adult Fiction.
2007 James A. Cook Award Winner (Celebrating Diversity in Teen Literature)

It is hard enough to be a teenager without having to worry about being deported to a country with which you no longer feel ties. Two teenage girls are living in New York City trying to get good grades, but they have a secret - any day they and their parents may be deported because they are living in the U. S. illegally. Their parents, like many others, left Bengladesh with no intentions of ever returning.
The Bengali community lends its support whenever it can, but even they can not avoid the law forever.

Boxcar Children Graphic Novels The Yellow House Mystery

Boxcar Children Graphic Novels The Yellow House Mystery
based on Gertrude Chandler Warner's work
adapted by Rob M. Worley
illustrated by Mike Dubisch

children's fiction, ages 7-10
can be enjoyed by older readers as well

This is a Scooby Doo - type book based on the characters The Boxcar Children that were popular two or three generations ago. Set in the days before cell phones and the internet, the four Alden children have to go by boat to an isolated place in Maine to deliver a message and solve a mystery! The story comes complete with secret panels and everything.
This book is simplistic, wholesome, and safe. Conservative parents should approve.

There are at least two more books in the series:
Blue Bay Mystery
Surprise Island

22 July 2010

Enemies of the People

Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America
Kati Marton
nonfiction audiobook.
9 hours unabridged.

I wasn't certain if I would find this topic intriguing enough to listen to all nine hours, but I was pleased that it kept my interest over the course of a month of driving. Kati grew up in communist Hungary during the Cold War. Her parents were both Hungarian journalists working for the international press. Being the voice of truth in a country controlled by a totalitarian government has serious risks involved, however. They lived with a constant fear that they would be taken away at any time for being too friendly with Westerners, including Americans. Not surprisingly, they were, indeed, interrogated and imprisoned. What is it like to be a little girl and have your parents taken away? It is most people's worst nightmare.
The author worked with boxes and boxes of observations from the Hungarian equivalent of the KGB. They are now available to the next of kin of those observed. Her parents were under constant surveillance for years, so this is an unusual treasure trove of facts small and large about their everyday life. Kati's life proves that truth is weirder than fiction.

Wikipedia reports that this book is slated to be made into a movie. I hope it is a blockbuster.
P. S. She was married to Peter Jennings (reporter) and is now married to Richard Holbrooke (politician), so reporting and politics run in the family.

Child's Celebration of Rock 'n' Roll

Child's Celebration of Rock 'n' Roll
Original Recordings by the Original Artists
music cd.

This is an example of why adults should occasionally browse the children's section for materials. These are novelty songs from the 1950's and 1960's that can be enjoyed by adults or children. These are not remakes with annoying children's voices, but the regular adult artists like Bill Haley and the Comets and Ritchie Valens.
I remember listening to these hits on 45 records and on 8 tracks.

21 July 2010

The Next Big Pop Culture Wave

Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries

Lego Star Wars the Visual Dictionary

Lego Star Wars the Visual Dictionary
nonfiction for children or adults

Let the salivating begin. This is a natural fit for just about every library in America. Legos have a huge fan base. Star Wars has a huge fan base. The Lego Star Wars video games have a huge fan base. There will be quite a few people who will check this one out. Others will browse through it in the library.

I am torn between wanting everything in the book and protesting - "but you are supposed to use your imagination and make up your own stuff with lego". Either way, I probably couldn't assemble a number of items pictured in this colorful book


Kitten's First Full Moon

Kitten's First Full Moon
Kevin Henkes
children's fiction, ages 2-5.

Caldecott winner

This is a black and white book with a retro feel that makes it timeless, even though it was published in 2004. I think it won the Caldecott because it seems like the type of book that our grandmothers would have read to our parents or our parents would have read to us. After reading it I felt warm and cozy. It reminded me of the old Little Golden Book "Pussy Willow" by Margaret Wise Brown. Both feature sweet little kitties.
Another book it reminded me of was "Owl at Home" by Arnold Lobel . Now I am on a nostalgia trip like the Caldecott committee must have been!
Here is the plot - a naive kitten mistakes the moon for a bowl of milk. She tries again and again to reach the moon. This seems like it could be a Native American myth or another ancient story. It is remarkable that a modern author could write and illustrate such a simple, endearing story and get it published.

I definitely will have to read more Kevin Henkes books and share them with others.