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Showing posts from July, 2009

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, 292 pp, RL 4

A native Floridian and journalist, Carl Hiaasen is known as a gifted satirist and his adult novels often classified as "environmental thrillers." In Hoot, his first novel for young adults, Hiaasen definitely delivers on the environmental themes and, appropriately, his satirical style is toned down a bit. Characters are caricatures, and potential thriller aspects are replaced with some slap-sticky type situations.
Roy Eberhardt is the only child of a stay at home mom and father who is a Federal Agent who moves his family often. Their last home in Montana was hard for Roy to leave and his adjustment to his new middle school is proving rough, mostly because an the over-sized thug named Dana Matherson who has decided to make Roy his target. Roy's first scrape with Dana, which results in near strangulation and a broken nose during the morning bus ride, coincides with his first glimpse of a mystery boy, tanned and agile, running barefoot through the houses and foliage on …

The Year of the Dog, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, 134 pp. RL 3

In the author's note for The Year of the Dog, Grace Lin mentions that one of her favorite books as a child was Carolyn Haywood's B is for Betsy, which was a real life, real girl kind of story that took place at home, in school and in the neighborhood. Written in 1939, the characters came from "normal families and ate dinner and waited for the bus. They were normal families without unicorns or fairy princesses." But, Lin says, "I saw all the things that I loved and lived [in Haywood's books] - my neighborhood, my friends and my school. The only thing that I didn't see was me." As an Asian growing up in a mainly Caucasian community, Grace Lin says that her childhood was not "a miserable, gloomy existence. But it was different." With The Year of the Dog, Lin gracefully (no pun intended) and vividly tells a story that "wraps you in a warm hug," like the Carolyn Haywood books did for her as a child, but also incorporates the id…

The Dragon of Lonely Island, by Rebecca Rupp, 160 pp RL 3

What serendipity to read Rebecca Rupp's marvelous book The Dragon of Lonely Island so soon after reading Grace Lin's magical dragon story Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Although the two books are wildly different in terms of characters, plot and setting, they do share one common, wonderful detail. Both books incorporate storytelling into their plots. In Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, storytelling is a tradition that prompts Minli to begin her adventure. In The Dragon of Lonely Island the storytelling is the adventure.
Siblings Hannah, Zachary and Sarah Emily Davis find themselves spending the summer at their great-great aunt Mehitable's house on Lonely Island. Enclosed in a letter to their mother, Aunt Mehitable sends the children the key to to the Tower Room in the house on Lonely Island and a note that reads, "If you should find time hanging on your hands, try exploring Drake's Hill." The children discover the mysteries of the Tower Room and…

Judy Moody,by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H Reynolds, 160 pp RL 3

I love Megan McDonald. I gushed about her in my reviews of the first two books in the Stink series and when I reviewed her great stand alone book, The Sister's Club. Peter H Reynolds is a brilliant artist and so perfectly suited to McDonald's writing style. Reynolds is so multi-talented that I feel compelled once again to list all of the creative endeavors that he is involved with. A fabulous children's book author and illustrator in his own right - don't miss The Dot,So Few of Me and the incomprableish -Peter H Reynolds is also the co-owner of The Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA. The Blue Bunny publishes the semi-annualHutch: A Kids' Literary and Art Magazinewhich features stories, poems and art work by kids as well as contributions by Peter H Reynolds and other guest authors and illustrators who provide tips on writing and creating. And, as if this wasn't enough, Peter is the the president and creative director of FableVision Studios where he produce…

Running Out of Time by Margaret Haddix Peterson, 192 pp RL 4

I read Running Out Time by Margaret Haddix Peterson, a former journalist, after a week of reading Lois Lowry's books The Giver, Gathering Blue and The Messenger. I didn't start to think about similarities between them until I noticed a quote on the back of Haddix's book by Newbery winner Richard Peck (A Year Down Yonder, 2001) that reads, "If Ray Bradbury had written The Giver, the result might rival Margaret Peterson Haddix' Running Out of Time." I don't think I agree with this assessment but, before I launch into my opinion, I'll lay out the plot.
Jessie Keyser is a young girl living in Clifton, Indiana. The year is 1840 and Jessie is happy with her life. Her mother is a midwife and she accompanies her when she visits the sick sometimes. Her father is the town blacksmith, and a very good one at that. Jessie is a daredevil, not like her older sister Hannah, who is already sweet on a boy. One night after going with her mother to the house of y…

Messenger by Lois Lowry, 169pp, RL 5

With Messenger, Lois Lowry completes her trilogy that tells the stories of three different communities and the individuals who make (and remake) them. Matt, the young explorer and rule-breaker from Gathering Blue is now Matty. In the village that he and Kira were born in, age was marked not by years and numbers, but with syllables added to one's name. A person who has lived to earn a four syllable name, such as Annabella, the woman who taught Kira how to make dyes for her threads, is a rarity in their village. Matty now lives with Kira's father Christopher, who, although he is blind, is known as Seer, in the Village, a community that is made up of those who have been rejected by their own people or have fled them for fear of persecution. Life in the Village is truly communal, villagers helping and sharing with each other generously. When their genuine nature, their true worth, is known, they are given a name that reflects their place in the Village, such as Gatherer, Men…

Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry, 224 pp, RL 4

While The Giver, Gathering Blue and The Messenger are considered a trilogy, all three can be read as stand-alone titles. The Giver and Gathering Blue are linked more by Lois Lowry's thematic explorations of the idea of the individual and the community than they are by characters. In fact, there is only one fleeting reference to Jonas near the end of this book as the boy with eyes that are an "amazing blue." The Messenger is the book that unites The Giver and Gathering Blue and makes their connections meaningful and obvious. And, while all three communities are radically different, they still give the reader something to think about long after the book is over.
Gathering Blue begins with Kira sitting watch over her mother in the Field of Leaving. When her spirit has finally left her body after four days Kira returns to her cott (a word Lowry uses to mean home or cottage) to find it burned to the ground, the women of the village already trying to claim the land it was…

The Giver by Lois Lowry, 180 pp RL 5

Winner of the Newbery in 1994, The Giver by Lois Lowry is one of those amazing books that tells a complete, compelling story and makes a provocative point all in less than 200 pages. The plot centers on a planned community in which personal freedoms have been traded for efficiency, security and contentment. The Community has been in existence for so long that the members of it are neither cognizant of what they have forfeited nor interested in the world beyond their borders and that is exactly how the Committee of Elders desires it. However, one chosen member of the Community lives differently and apart in order to maintain the smooth running, worry-free, but shallow existence of the others. This person, called The Receiver, becomes The Giver of the title when twelve-year old Jonas is chosen to replace him. As Jonas begins to learn how to perform the job of The Receiver, he begins to question his commitment to the Community and his willingness to perform he new job.
I want to digr…

Charmed Life (Chrestomanci Series #1) by Diana Wynne Jones, 263 pp, RL 5

Born in England in 1934, Diana Wynne Jones has written over sixty books and is one of the most distinguished, awarded writers in the field of fantasy - in the UK, anyway. Her writing career spanned five decades before she died in 2011. She has influenced the likes of Neil Gaiman (they have dedicated books to each other) and, of course, the brilliant Japanese writer and director, Hayao Miyazaki. In America she is best known as the author of the book that Miyazaki turned into an animated movie,Howl's Moving Castle, nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2005, on the heels of a Best Animated Feature win in 2002 withSpirited Away. Published in 1977, Charmed Life, the first book in the Chrestomanci Series is currently available only as a two-in-one book with book two, The Lives of Christopher Chant and retitled The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume One. Volume Two includes The Magicians of Caprona and Witch Weekand Volume Three consists of Conrad's Fateand the Pinhoe Egg. Whi…