19 January 2011

Alice I Have Been

Alice I Have Been
Melanie Benjamin

adult historical fiction

The author has done a lot of research on Lewic Carroll, Oxford, and the girl that inspired Alice in Wonderland. She has written a realistic novel that speaks of the conventions of the day and the proper upbringing of an Oxford Don's daughter. Alice is always being told to be "prim and proper and for heaven's sake, don't run or soil your dress. Be a lady at all times".
One of the fascinating plot points is a photograph that was taken by Lewis Carroll of the real Alice. She is dressed up like a wild, tattered, gypsy child. One can only guess how this photo managed to be taken. Alice must have slipped out of the grasp of her governess for a while.
Alice leads a life of boring parties, sedate catered affairs, and later, managing a household, but does she sometimes dream?
Because of the lasting popularity of Alice and Lewis Carroll, I recommend this book for larger public libraries.

Fresh Air

Fresh Air
Charlotte Vale Allen

A reclusive website editor needs to break out of her routine. She gets an opportunity when an African American girl moves in next door as part of a summertime Fresh Air program for inner city children. She becomes good friends with the girl and the mother of the host family. In doing so, she faces her past - her childhood as the daughter of a famous actress, growing up without a father, and more. This is a very comfortable, nicely paced book.

Why Does the Coqui Sing?

Why Does the Coqui Sing?
Barbara Garland Polikoff
children/YA fiction

I had the privilege of traveling to Puerto Rico this year and I thought that in preparation I would read a book set in P. R. Thirteen year old Luz has grown up in Chicago, but her ancestors are from Puerto Rico and Italy. Her mother remarries a man from Puerto Rico and they move the family "home" to Puerto Rico. Luz is not too keen on moving to this strange land of which she has heard her whole life. She becomes reacquainted with her grandfather and other relatives, but still feels like a fish out of water. Slowly she learns what her family has known about the charm of Puerto Rico and she starts to feel a part of it like the tree frogs and the horses of the land.
This book had been discarded from my local library, so I left it in Puerto Rico for someone else to read. I home they enjoy it as I did.


In case my fellow librarians are looking for some WRONG, SARCASTIC answers to reference questions, here is a site for you.

For example, search for "St. Patrick's day" and it gives you a picture of Patrick Swayze.

Search for "garbage" and it says "do you want Europeans"?

08 January 2011


by Andrew Clements
read by Keith Nobbs
audio compact disc
children's fiction, grades 4-8

Nick isn't a troublemaker by habit or intention, but sometimes being a thinking boy gets a lad in trouble. His fifth grade teacher keeps insisting that her students look words up in the dictionary. He reads the introduction to the dictionary and learns about how words enter the language. He then embarks on a mission to have a new word enter the language. Instead of a pen, he now calls that writing object a "frindle". Will his word catch on?
This book came out in 1996, so there is no "viral internet" but a word moves through language in the more or less traditional route (word of mouth, media, etc). This is a fun and fascinating study of student teacher interactions and how words come into use. I suspect that it is on a number of reading lists, but it is probably more fun for the teachers to read than for the students to read. I thought it was a great listen as an audiobook, but I am afraid that my opinion is tainted since I am a grownup. I would recommend this to scholarly students, but not to reluctant readers.

05 January 2011


Nancy Moser
adult Christian romance fiction

A young woman from a respectable Victorian family must leave England, as her father has lost the family's money and a suitor from New York has agreed to court her. Charlotte wants more out of life than a boring marriage, though. So she and her maid switch identities as they disembark in NYC. Can she and her maid be true to their own personalities even though they are in disguise? Will they find the love they desire? Does wealth buy happiness?
This is a pleasant but unoriginal plot. If you are looking for a quick, but forgettable read, then try this book.
P. S. I think this is an unfortunate title that can be confused with many other books with the same title. Three hundred three titles with the word "masquerade" show up in my library's catalog.

Sunset of the Sabertooth

Magic Tree House # 7 Sunset of the Sabertooth
Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
children's historical/fantasy fiction, ages 5-8

Once again Jack and Annie travel through time in search of artifacts to help Morgan, the sorceress. This time the children end up in the ice age and must escape from a bear and a tiger with the help of a woolly mammoth and some Cro-Magnon people. Now on to book 8!

Clockwork Three

Clockwork Three
by Matthew Kirby
unabridged book on compact disc
ages 9-12

This is a book that reads like a fantasy book, but really doesn't have anything magical or mystical happen in it. I kept wondering when the outrageous science fiction/fantasy stuff would happen, but the "what-if" part of it was very realistic. I guess if I had to categorize this I would say it is alternative history since the events that take place did not actually happen. Or did they? I suppose they could have. This book is set in mid 1800's Boston. It features some characters with extraordinary talents in music and science and herblore and larger than life people, such as a mysterious medium and a huge Russian bodyguard.
This book follows three down and out young people (ages 11-13). Frederick, Hannah, and Giuseppe are all in need of miracles.
Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker who wants to make the best automaton ever. He is also looking for his mother who gave him up to an orphanage. He fears that he
will never make master status with out this.
Hannah is the breadwinner for her family after her father is disabled by a stroke. It would take a miracle of medicine or faith to get him back on his feet.
Giuseppe is an violin-playing orphan boy from Italy who is sold into indentured servitude to a harsh master who runs a gang of street buskers. His tale is something straight out of a Dickens' novel.
As the plot develops these three young people meet and have adventures.
Some of the story dragged, such as the scene describing the opera in painstaking detail, but by the end of the story I did not want to stop the CD and needed to know what would happen next. The book and audio would probably have benefited from some condensing to leave just "the good parts version" (to quote the grandfather from the "Princess Bride").
I found the most fascinating part of this audiobook to be the interview with the author afterward. His character of Giuseppe was based on a true story that was published in the New York Times about orphan buskers. Even if someone doesn't want to listen to this entire book, it is worth listening to the interview in the end.

Lego City Adventures: Help Is on the Way!

Lego City Adventures: Help Is on the Way!
Sonia Sander
ages 4-6
Scholastic Reader, level 1, 50-250 words, sight words, words to sound out & simple sentences.

I thought from the title and the cover that this would be a book for boys, but it turns out that the main character is a Lego girl and she is trying to help her Lego dog, so both boys and girls should like this book. The pictures look like Legos in a shameless marketing of the beloved classic toy. In the back cover there is a photograph of the play set that one can purchase to act out the story. If it gets a kid to pick up a book and read it, then shameless marketing is okay by me. I am reminded that the Cheerios Counting Book and M & M Counting Book are also very popular.
This is a cheap, colorful, easy-to-read book that a school library or public library can make available to young readers.

Halloween Glow Books

Halloween Glow Books
Charles Reasoner
board books ages 1-6

Whoo's There? (Not read).
Going Batty!
Mrs. Broom!
Funny Bones! (Not read).

I asked a 6 year old to choose some board books for her 2 year old brother. I was not expecting Halloween books in late December, but it turns out that she, her brother, and I all enjoyed these books regardless of the season. She checked out 4 out of 6 in the series. I don't know if the other books were checked out or if that was all that the girl could carry.
These are chunky, sturdy board books which have glow in the dark covers. (We tested them out in a dark room).
Reasoner pairs cheerful drawings of bats, ghosts, pumpkins, and other Halloween images with silly rhymes. There is nothing scary in these books so they should be safe to read during or before the average preschool, kindergarten, or first grade Halloween party. They were fun to read aloud - especially "Boo"! since the ghost repeats "Boo"! and "Ooo"! many times. They are also very short, so I recommend that libraries buy the whole set, and that patrons check them out the whole set, not just one.

03 January 2011


Private: a Novel
Kate Brian
YA Fiction

What will a poor girl on scholarship do to fit in with her preppy peers? Reed couldn't wait to get out of her home where her drunk mother and passive father are. The curriculum and interaction with the girls at Easton school is a dream come true. (By the way, Easton is the name of the school on "The Facts of Life", too).
Then Reed starts to see the downside of the school. To be with the in crowd she must decide if she wants to give up who she is to be someone new or be herself.

The book ends without complete closure, encouraging the reader to continue the series with the next book - "Invitation Only". Don't say I didn't warn you about the ending.

AngelCat Sugar: Spring Picnic

AngelCat Sugar: Spring Picnic
created by Yuko Shimizu
by Ellie O'Ryan and Sachiho Hino

Scholastic Reader Level 2, 250-750 words, developing reader, new vocabulary and longer sentences, grade level 1-2, lexile level 410L

I was disappointed with the plot of the last AngelCat Sugar book I checked out, but since she is EXTREMELY cute, I thought I would try again. In this book, Sugar and friends want to fly kites and have a picnic. Everyone wants to do things his or her way. Sugar works out a compromise where everyone is happy. There is a little geometry and physics thrown in as they see what shape of kite flies the best. AngelCat Sugar has been redeemed in my mind by this book with a much better plot than the one about the snail ("AngelCat Sugar: A New Friend"). I still have not figured out if AngelCat is one word or two (Angel Cat).

Rainbow Magic: Sunny the Yellow Fairy

Rainbow Magic: Sunny the Yellow Fairy
Daisy Meadows and Georgie Ripper
children's fiction, ages 7-10
(Previously published as Saffron the Yellow Fairy)
This is # 3 in a series.
1 Ruby the Red Fairy
2 Amber the Orange Fairy
3 Sunny the Yellow Fairy
4 Fern the Green Fairy
5 Sky the Blue Fairy
6 Inky the Indigo Fairy
7 Heather the Violet Fairy

After this Rainbow series are some more series of fairy books (Pet Keeper fairies, etc.), so readers can keep busy for quite some time with the fairies.

The seven rainbow fairies have been scattered by the wicked Jack Frost. Two mortal girls must help the fairies defeat Jack and his goblins and return home to Fairyland. This series is pleasant and easy to read. The goblins are not particularly scary. Many girls will be clamoring for the next book in this series. In this book, the Rachel and Kirsty work together with a queen bee. I thought that was a good use of the nature plot.
Personally, I think the illustrations are lousy. They are little more than ink sketches. I would have preferred a deluxe hardback version of this book with color pictures that were more completely done. The cover is fancy with gold stars. I have seen the fairies illustrated in color in the girl's magazine "Sparkle", so I was disappointed in how they are used in the Scholastic paperback.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
Beth Hoffman
adult fiction

Twelve year old CeeCee is being raised by a mentally deranged mother and an absentee father in Willoughby, Ohio in the late 1950's. Fate intervenes and she ends up living in Savannah, Georgia with her mother's aunt. Can CeeCee recover from years of being neglected by her parents? With the help of some fine Southern ladies, hopefully the answer will be yes.

Ohio readers should note that some of this book is set in Willoughby and Columbus and even Orwell are mentioned briefly. The author is from Cincinnati.

I couldn't help but think that readers could "compare and contrast" this story to "The Help".

Dying for a book

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.

P. J. O'Rourke