Showing posts from October, 2012

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, 326 pp, RL TEEN

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi is the winner of the Michael A Printz Award (the teen Newbwery) and a National Book Award finalist, published in 2010. Like Suzanne Collins' Hunger GamesShip Breaker is as fast paced, action (and violence) filled book that makes a strong social statement. And, while I love the Hunger Games trilogy and was thrilled to get to read it before it was even published, I think I might actually go so far as to say that Bacigalupi's book is even more potent when it comes to the topic of the vast disparity between the lives of the rich and the poor or, as we have come to say in the years since this book was published, the 99% and the 1%, becuase it is more reality based and less fantastical than Collins work.
Main character Nailer Lopez is a ship breaker on Bright Sands Beach. The world he lives in is one that has been changed dramatically, mostly by the depletion of natural resources that has left oil a scarce and valued commodity and the land constant…

Some Exciting News... I Have a New Job!

Image from Bookshelf Porn

After seventeen years and three months as a bookseller, I have hung up my name tag. Since the beginning of September, I have happily been working as an assistant to a literary agent! Even the most mundane part of my job is interesting to me and there are other parts that are just plain exhilarating and very intellectually stimulating. The agent I am assisting has an incredible list of clients, most of whom I have been enthusiastically reviewing here for the last four years, and I have to keep myself from squealing when I answer the phone and one of them is on the other line. I am getting to see the manuscripts and illustration for books one to two years before they hit the shelves and I am also getting to read manuscripts and make notes on them, from clients and authors hoping to become clients.
What will this mean for Probably less time to blog. So far, I have been keeping up pretty well, but I have also been spending almost all of my wee…

The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate, written and illustrated by Scott Nash, 355 pp, RL 4

The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nashis every bit as good a read as it looks. It is one part The Wind in the Willows, two parts Treasure Island and every other part entirely excellent! Once again, I have to give a nod to Candlewick Press for producing yet another wonderfully creative, well written, gorgeously illustrated and beautifully packaged children's book. However, the real kudos go to Scott Nash for conceiving this fantastic adventure and being a writer and bird watcher with the skills and talents to pull of what could have easily been a silly, lighthearted, overlooked story but instead is a book worth buying, reading, carrying into adulthood and also giving as a gift to every bright kid you know. In part, the success of this book is because Scott Nash is an avid bird watcher who brings his knowledge of the avian world to his storytelling endeavors. He creates an entire world with a history, an avian political hierarchy that includes a ban on migrat…

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, 304 pp, RL 4 and SIlver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion, illustrations by Joe McLaren, 432 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

Liesl Schillinger'srecent review of Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion that appeared in the New York Times Book Review prompted me to read/listen to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I have no doubt that everyone reading this review right now is very familiar with this classic, first published as a book in 1883 (it originally ran as a serialized story in the children's magazine Young Folks from 1881 - 1882) even if you have never actually read the book. I haven't. I listened, intermittently, as my husband read it out loud to our son some ten years ago and, before that, I saw the movie Muppet Treasure Island over and over as we owned the video cassette. But, Schillinger's review and, more pertinently, my desire to read Silver: Return to Treasure Island prompted me to dive in. When I did, Silver: Return to Treasure Island, was still only available in the UK in hardcover so I opted for the audio book narrated by the Scottish actor David Tennant, a…

Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead, 180 pp, RL 4

Rebecca Stead is the author of the 2009 Newbery winner, the stunning When You Reach Me. Liar & Spyis her third book. It's impossible to talk about this new book without mentioning When You Reach Me, but it's also unfair to compare the two - even though they do both have expertly concealed secrets that are revealed at the end of the book. As much as I wanted to read When You Reach Me, Part 2, I am glad that that is not the book that Rebecca Stead wrote next. With Liar & Spy Stead continues to share her gift for creating characters and settings that are vivid and real while having them play out their dramas in realistic, engaging settings. And, because of some plot twists (one reviewer called Stead the M Night Shyamalan of children's literature, which is funny because the father of one characters owns the Sixth Sense Driving School) I am going to focus my review on these fascinating characters over the plot.
Liar & Spyis kind of a quiet book. While there is an emo…

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse by Frank Viva

Frank Viva is the author/illustrator of Along a Long Road, one of the New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Books of 2011. An illustrator and designer, he runs a branding and design agency in Toronto and is passionate about his bike ride to the office. Viva also had an adventure aboard a Russian research vessel during a trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, which inspired his new book for TOON BOOKS, A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse, which is such a treat to read.
Viva's illustrations are vibrant and playful, the monochromatic tones evoking the the geography wonderfully. Viva tells the facts of the journey through the human companion to Mouse, who provides the childlike anticipation, impatience, and humor that makes this book a story.

The penguins and whales and antics of Mouse will delight young readers, but honestly, I just can't get over what a stunningly beautiful book A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse is! Look at how Viva creates the reflection on the water…

Wonder by RJ Palacio, 320 pp, RL 4

Auggie Pullman is the star of Wonder by RJ Palacio, although not the only narrator of this layered, deeply moving, incredible book. Auggie is a ten-year-old boy who lost in the genetic lottery and was born with a number of facial deformities and related complexities, but no other handicaps beyond the way that peoples' reactions and responses to his physical appearance make his life difficult. Several year's worth of operations have improved Auggie's quality of life, if not his appearance, and he is a healthy boy with a sharp mind, a great sense of humor, a passion for all things Star Wars and a loving, thoughtful, protective family. After years of homeschooling, Auggie's parents decide it's time to think about sending him to school and go through the application process to enter him in the prestigious Beecher Prep school just down the street from their New York City home. When Principal Tushman handpicks three students to act as ambassadors (and hopefully friends …

Hello! Hello! by Matthew Cordell

I LOVE the work of illustrator and author Matthew Cordell and I think I've reviewed almost everything he's done here. And, while I think I love all his books equally, like I love my three children equally, I think his new book, hello! hello!, just might be his best yet. Although this brilliant, beautiful book doesn't come out until October 23 of this year, it received a rave review from multiple award winning picture book author and illustrator David Small in the New York Times Book Reivew last weekend, so I am jumping the gun, too. But really, what do I have to say that David Small didn't? Seriously, just read his review. However, if you are too lazy to click through or have some issue with the New York Times, I will do my best to tell you why you need to own this book. First and foremost, not only is hello! hello! a reminder to our kids, more importantly, it is a reminder to US, the adults, the parents, the caregivers. A reminder that we NEED, a reminder we especial…

Inclusive Works International Story Competition!

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about gender equality in picture books titled, Him, Her, Hen? Gender Equality in Picture Books. It really got me thinking, but also feeling mostly helpless to effect a change, short of writing the books myself. Because of this, I was THRILLED when I was contacted by a representative of Inclusive Works, an international organization actively invested in the creation of more inclusive societies. Inclusive Works achieves this by advising organizations on how to include and embed diversity in their every day work through the development and execution of projects that help build sustainable connections between individuals and groups in society. They also carry out research that helps us better understand the rationale and process behind decisions and actions that help and hinder inclusiveness. Right now, Inclusive Works is hosting a story competition - Children's Stories with a Twist and we all have the opportunity to change the face of picture bo…

Invisible Inkling: Dangerous Pumpkins, written by Emily Jenkins with illustrations by Harry Bliss, 154 pp, RL 3

When Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins with illustrations byHarry Blisscame out in April of 2011 it caught my eye. Harry Bliss is a fantastic illustrator and Emily Jenkins is the author of some of my favorite picture books and chapter books (scroll down for details on her other works, including one of the best YA books EVER written under a pseudonym.) And, as a long time fan of lemurs as well as invisible friends, Invisible Inkling looked to be a surefire win-win situation. A year later, the publication of Dangerous Pumpkins, (and the fact that my son can now read these books on his own) has inspired me to delve into the world of Inkling, the bandapat native to the Peruvian Woods of Mystery, or maybe the Ukrainian Glaciers, or possible the redwood forests of Cameroon. The star of our story (and Inkling will probably disagree with this) is the newly friendless Hank Wolowitz, fourth grader at New York's PS 166. Hank's parents run the shop the Big Round Pumpkin: Ice Cream for a…