Monday, March 31, 2014

We Were Liars E. Lockhart

Reading about the shining Sinclairs and their private island reminded me of the joys of summer when you live on a large property and you have the run of the land.   My cousins, my sibs and I -not RICH at all, just always together - we had the golden summers that Lockhart describes in her latest book "We Were Liars".

I was swept up in that sense of belonging, of knowing that we would always have each other.  Idyllic.

Of course, even in fiction, life must intervene.  Lockhart takes great pains to dole out the pieces of that intrusion and so, out of respect for her craft, I can't tell you much.  Life crashes into the Sinclairs' lives, like a tornado.  That's all I can say.

So read it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Beekle trailer

  I dare you not to have some emotional response to the music for this trailer - to say nothing of the artwork or the book's idea.
By Dan Santat.  I am looking for this the next time I step into a bookstore.

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

The trailer is pretty awesome.  And the book is not too shabby either.  Birdie tells the story of how she and her boss, Alfred the Bogler, rid London of child-snatching demons.  Small and fair, Birdie has an angel's voice.  She sings.  The bogle comes out to snatch her.  (Some are slimy; some are smoky.  All are evil.)  Alfred does what he must.

Two things happen almost simultaneously in this novel.  First, the woman who runs the largest band of child pickpockets and beggars in London asks Alfred to look into the disappearance of several of her lads.  More boys are disappearing than usual.  Then, a learned gentlewoman wants to accompany Alfred and Birdie on their jobs because she has studied every book she can find about these demonic beings. She makes it worth their while - at first.

Well, that's all I can tell you without spoiling the book for you.  Just know that there are some evil doings in here and some treachery - of the human kind.  And Birdie and Alfred get their world shaken up and thrown around.

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks  Check a library or bookstore near you.  I hope the next book in this series comes out soon.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vacation in Tupelo Landing - with ghosts

 The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

A good book is like a mind vacation.  And that's what reading The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing was like.  Mo Lebeau, Miss Lana, Dale and the Colonel are back with a local history assignment, a new kid in class, and an auction at the abandoned inn.

Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy conspire to purchase the inn. (The other bidder was despicable!)  And the inn comes with a ghost - in the fine print of the deed.

The members of the Desperado Detective Agency (Mo and Dale) decide to unmask that ghost with terrifying and edifying results.

I love fiction - because it's not fact.  There are kids out there as quick-witted - or quick-mouthed - as Mo.  We just don't run into them all that often.  There are friendships like Mo and Dale's, too.  Still, Mo's mindfulness about Dale's thinking ("rhetorical" "social skills") and Dale's just plain niceness work to warm the reader's heart. ( Of older readers, anyway.)

There is a little incident toward the end of the book.  Dale has visited his dad, Macon, in jail and Dale's older brother, Lavender, asks about the visit.  "Same dog, same spots,"  Dale says (mixing up the leopard/spots thing.).  Mo notices that Lavender's face goes soft, the way that Miss Lana's face looks sometimes when Miss Lana looks at Mo.  And the reader knows that Lavender truly loves - no, cherishes - his little brother.

Yeah, I wish Tupelo Landing was a real place.  I wish I could visit with the Colonel and Mo and Miss Lana.  And I hope that there's another book about this cozy, folksy little town.

And the ghost part?  It's intriguing and, in the end, it's the stuff of fairy tales and happy endings.  Pan from the strings of lights to the twinkling stars, please.  Fade.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Storytelling, Books, and stuff

This morning, Larry and I met to plan our storytelling workshop at the Bethlehem Area Public Library on Wednesday (March 26th) evening from 6 to 8 pm.  If you live anywhere near the library; if you are at least 12 years old and younger than 18; if you like to tell stories, contact the library and sign up.  OK?  It will be F-U-N! 

So, I DID read more books last week.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.  Sophie and Charles find each other after a shipwreck.  She's a baby floating in a cello case.  He's a young man.  He decides to raise her as his own. He lets her wear trousers at a time when girls and women never wear trousers.  He uses toast as a bookmark!  She climbs trees and eats off the covers of large books.  Then a child welfare organization becomes "concerned".
Charles and Sophie flee to Paris in hopes of finding Sophie's family and they find a family of a totally different sort in the garrets and on the flat roofs of the most romantic city in the world.
 There is an airy quality to Sophie's pre-child welfare life and a fantastic feeling to her life in Paris.  And it makes a lovely, lyrical story.

Jessica Darling's IT List by Megan McCafferty.  Well, here is another engaging book about How to Be Popular in Middle School.  Jessica's big sister hands Jessica a card with just 4 rules on it.  The card is titled "Bethany Darling's IT List - the Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Perfection and Prettiness". 
Well, Bethany has been VERY popular and VERY pretty all through middle and high school so, of course, Jessica wants to follow these simple tips.  But her attempts to join the Cheer Squad and pick her first boyfriend end in a variety of humorous disasters.  Jessica has to find new friends and new interests in order to survive.  Readers my age will find the book comforting in its predictability.  Middle school readers will find Jessica's survival comforting.  Fun, light and sure to please readers in grades 5 and up.

And last but most definitely not LEAST....
 Seeing Red by Kathy Erskine.  Whoa!  The setting is the early '70s in Virginia.  Red Porter just lost his Dad and now may have to pick up and leave behind the family garage and everything he ever knew because his Mom wants to move back to Ohio.  In his attempt to make the family property unattractive to buyers, he gets involved with teenage racist thugs.  He finds out more than he ever wanted to know about his family's shady past.  One of his best friends outgrows him and the other has family crises that seem insurmountable.  He disappoints a lot of people and has to face his mistakes.  He grows up. 
This is a fast-moving book that treats some BIG issues with sensitivity and grace.  For kids in grades 6 and up.  Mature fifth graders may be able to handle it but there is a graphic description of the Emmett Till story that is very disturbing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Equilibrium returns

  When one parent has to travel for work and the other parent has to go to his/her daily job, too, babysitting opportunities multiply for all grandparents.  It was a whole week of babysitting opportunities (not every day) including a trip to the local science center and a visit to ducks at the park. 

Still, toddlers make it hard to do things like blog, write, clean - except shoveling up the building blocks -, laundry, and think.

That said, within ten minutes of the toddler leaving, we - Hub and I - looked around and said.  "We miss our grandchild."  Are humans ever satisfied?  I think not.

Now we can get back to other things:

Tomorrow - March 23rd - at 2 pm, Dave Fry has a CD release party for "Playground", his new kids' songs CD with guest stars like Robbi Kumalo and Wendi Bourne on vocals, Kevin Soffera on percussion, Ansel Barnum on harmonica and Rob Stoneback kicking back some brass.  I can NOT wait for this show.

Books I have read this week:  (both for grades 5 and up)
The Water Castle  by Megan Frazer Blakemore.  (I like that author's name!)  Electromagnetism, Peary and Henson and Cook and polar explorations, a little bit of Tesla and some back and forth-ing between time periods - plus kid style adjusting to new people and stressful situations and forming friendships.  I liked it.  I'd give it 3 1/2 stars though because I thought it went on a little long.

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban.  Ruby's story is framed by the events of the Bunning Day parade.  As she waits to read the Bunning Day Essay - she won the competition - the author takes us through the loss of her grandmother, Gigi, and how her grandmother's last day has affected Ruby's life and friendships.  Ruby deals with her loss and the guilt that comes with a loved one's death.  (I relate, Ruby. )  The mood of Bunning day is so ebullient that the reader just knows that everything is supposed to be all right.  And it might be.  There's hope anyway.  This one gets 5 stars because I relate, because it is hopeful and because everything is not tied up in a pretty package at the end - just almost.  I also really wanted a donut after reading this book.  Hmmm, maybe thatmake it 4 stars.

I think I read at least one other book this week.  So check back later for another review.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

First rule of BoB

I neglected the first rule of BoB.  Consider carefully the judge.  Care-ful-ly.  Knowing the judge of each match may very well change a prediction.  Yesterday, I gleefully proclaimed the winner for today without even noticing who the judge is.  Sarah Mlynowski writes books with edge, even when writing for middle graders. If I considered that carefully, I may have guessed that she would pick Far, Far Away as the winning book in this match.  ***strikes forehead with palm!****  Duh.

That said, her praise of both books convinced me that she chose wisely and well.

No more predictions for me.  My arrogance is justly punished.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

BoB Gloat

Eleanor & Park has moved on to Round 2 of the Battle of the Books.  Did I not call it?  I did.  And this success has given me enough arrogance to think I can predict tomorrow's winner.

Far, Far Away goes up against the Newbery-winner, Flora and UlyssesOne is about the ghost of Jacob Grimm.  The other is about a squirrel who has a life-changing run-in with a vacuum cleaner.  Hmm, ghost?  Or Squirrel?  Ghost...squirrel...ghost...squirrel.

Before I cast my prediction into InterSpace, let me say I found both books to be great reads.  The language in Flora and Ulysses is delicious.  Far, Far Away is populated by people who appear to mimic stock fairy tale characters... and then, they don't.  One is a romp through family dynamics and poetry.  The other takes breath-taking twists through grief and loss into depravity.  It's pretty much like deciding between a flashlight and a coil of rope.  Both are useful but pick the wrong one and you are stranded.

There.  My weighty analysis is done.  I pick the SQUIRREL!!!!!!!!  (Full disclosure here.  I am a big fan of stories about squirrels.)  And for those who didn't read either book, that would be Flora and Ulysses as tomorrow's winner.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

It Started!!!! Battle of the Books

SLJ's Battle of the Books started already.  I missed the first two matches. The results of Round 1, Match 2 are here:  Round 1, Match 1, click here.

BoB2014 MG R1 M2 Round 1, Match 2: Boxers and Saints vs A Corner of White
Here's Match 2.  Just guess which one wins.
 Sometimes, the best part of each match is the anticipation.  In these cases, since I haven't even had a chance to look at one of the entries in each match, the judge's comments will help me a lot.

Check out the brackets below.  I am ready for the next Match and I predict..... Eleanor and Park will win!  Except that Doll Bones was awesome, too.  Glad I'm not a judge!
3 9 BKTS 1RND alljudges The Brackets

Saturday, March 8, 2014