Showing posts from December, 2011

The Wizard of Dark Street: An Oona Crate Mystery, written by Shawn Thomas Odyssey, 346 pp, RL 4

With The Wizard of Dark Street, Shawn Thomas Odyssey sets himself a mighty task. Not only is this book, which is set in 1877, a fantasy novel with witches, fairies and arcane laws and practices, but is it also a mystery with a determined girl sleuth at its center. Every fantasy has a mystery threaded somewhere through the plot, but none that I know of (which certainly doesn't mean there aren't any) have a main character who is determined to be a detective. The setting of the magical world of Dark Street, a thoroughfare that exists between the Iron Gates that lead to New York City and the Glass Gates that lead to the realm of Faerie, is ripe for both magic and intrigue. This street, and the book, are packed to the gills with magical details, historical incidents of importance and a huge cast of characters. Main character Oona Crate is, like Dark Street itself, stuck between two worlds. Oona is next in line to become the Wizard of Dark Street, who has the task of handling the u…

Roar by Emma Clayton, 496 pp, Reading Level 5

The Roar by British author Emma Clayton is so many amazing things at once and has stirred up such visceral feelings in me that I hope I can do it justice here. For a very concise review by that hits all the right spots, check out Pink Me, which is a book review site written by a children's librarian with great taste and insight when it comes to YA books. For my longer, slightly more rambling and emotional review, read on!
I think one of the reasons I am a good bookseller is because it's all about similarities and connections when I am helping a customer find a book. As a reviewer, I am occasionally reluctant to compare or link books. I sometimes view books in the same way I think of my three (very different) children - miraculously unique individuals who just happen to share DNA and thus are similar (and, I realize, therefore not exactly unique...) The Roar is an inimitabl…

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, 325 pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman caught my eye the minute it hit the shelves in 2010. I am drawn to any story that proposes to reshape a fairy tale, especially one connected to the Brothers Grimm. The spectacular cover art by Zdenko Basic, creator of the cover art for one of my favorites, The Seven Sorcerers by Caro King, drew me in as well. On top of that, Shulman's idea of a circulating materials library that houses actual magical artifacts from the stories the Grimms recorded was just too good to pass up. 
I had a hard time pinning down the ages of the main characters in The Grimm Legacy. At first I assumed that they were all middle school students, but as I read on and romantic feelings deepened between them, I decided that they must be in high school. Although it's not the main part of the story, by the end of the book there is some serious longing going on as well as a bit of actual kissing. I don't mean to be a prude, but based on this I really don't think that …

The Flint Heart: A Fairy Story - Freely Abridged from Eden Phillpotts's 1910 Fantasy by Katherine and John Paterson, illustrated by John Rocco, 288 pp, RL 4

Eden Phillipotts's quote, "The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper," opens Katherine and John Paterson's "freely abridged" version of her children's book, The Flint Heart, first published in 1910. Katherine Paterson, Newbery Award winner for Bridge to Terebithia and Jacob, I Have Lovedand Honor Winner for The Great Gilly Hopkins, as well as being the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, while not the first person I think of when I think fantasy, has, along with her husband John, done a masterful, completely entertaining remastering of this Victorian faerie-tale, warmly and gorgeously illustrated in a fitting fashion byJohn Rocco.
To a degree, The Flint Heart is similar to Alice in Wonderland, with a talking, thinking hot water bottle from Germany who comes to be named Bismarck, a grand and just a tiny bit absurd court of pixies and talking animals. There is also a healthy dollop o…

Fashion Kitty, written and illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper, 89 pp, RL 2

Graphic novels are hot, hot, hot these days. And, while the publication of Charise Mericle Harper's first book the Fashion Kitty series in 2005 was some two years ahead of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I think that it is fair to say that the widespread popularity of Kinney's graphics-laden tome has lead to parents being more open to buying their "chapter book" reading kids books with pictures. And I LOVE books with pictures, which must be why I love all the fabulous graphic novels for kids that are hitting the shelves these days, especially Fashion Kitty.  Actually, I have one other reason for loving graphic novels. Graphic novels, specifically the fantastic beginning to read books put out by TOON Books are responsible for sparking an interest in reading independently for my seven year old son. While I think he is ready to give chapter books a try, he recently informed me that he is "only reading comic books right now," and, with the quality of w…

Squish: Super Amoeba, written and illustrated by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm, 90 pp, RL 1.5

Before I tell you just how great her graphic novels are, I have to tell you that Jennifer L Holm is the author of eleven books, three of which are Newbery Honor titles - Our Only May Amelia, Penny from Heaven and Turtle in Paradise. Besides the hugely popular Babymouse series of graphic novels, which are to reluctant and emerging girl readers what Captain Underpants is for boys, and the spinoff, Squish, she is the author of the very cool novel with lots of graphics, Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf.

Babymouse: Queen of the World was published in 2005 and I remember getting a lot of mileage out of it back when I was a reading tutor for second graders. Girls were (and are) crazy about these books, which now total fifteen with number sixteen, Babymouse for President, due July, 2012. Babymouse is brave, creative and adventure prone. But, best of all, her books are ALL PINK! That is, except for Babymouse: Mad Scientist, #14, in which we meet Squish, the amoeba. While working on her sci…

A Great List of Christmas Picture Books at Wildly Read

I am always looking for interesting images that incorporate books and one day while trolling the web I came across a site chocked full of them. Most happily, Wildly Read (Wildly, if not widely, read) by Broche E.B. Fabian is a wonderful blog written by a voracious book lover. Ms. Fabian has worked for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and currently works for Beacon Press. Ms Fabian is great for compiling superb lists and lists of books, both adult and kids, and she recently posted a list of Christmas books for kids, many of which I had never seen, that I wanted to share with you. So, if you still need a good holiday book or two, please check out her round-up of new books just released.

For my old, slightly updated list of holiday stories from last year, click here.

Clever Jack Takes the Cake written by Candace Fleming with illustrations by G Brian Karas

Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming and G Brian Karas came out in the summer of 2010 and got a lot of well deserved attention in the blogosphere. However, it was one of those (many) books that I intend to order in for story time when I go to work and then completely forget. Somehow, during that 12 minute drive everything I had been thinking about at home evaporates. Fortunately, Clever Jack Takes the Cake popped up on my radar again and I was able to follow through and read it at story time. It is as fabulous as all the reviews claim! And it has the feel of an instant classic, a phrase I do not use lightly.
The story begins with an invitation to the Princess's tenth birthday party. Sadly, Jack's mother tells him that he cannot go to the party because they have nothing to give for a present. But, as he will prove again and again over the course of the book, he's not called Clever Jack for nothing! First, Jack sells or barters the few things that he and his mother d…