Sunday, January 29, 2017

What's happening!!!???

RANT:  If you only want book reviews, scroll down.  I suspect that I will be ranting more often for the next four years.  The Executive order signed yesterday by the president of this large and powerful country was cruel, ill-informed, un-American, pig-headed, and illegal.  A family who had applied to immigrate several years ago was sent home within 3 hours of landing in Philadelphia.  The adults had jobs, an apartment, sponsors and family here.  They had been thoroughly vetted.  Before their sponsors could reach the airport, the family was GONE!!  This happened at every major airport in the US.  Cruel, unfeeling and absolutely maddening!  He did not check with the DOJ or the Department of Homeland Security.  He just signed the paper.  If he was MY apprentice, I would relish telling him he was FIRED.

We disembarked from our cruise yesterday morning - before this horrible paper was enforced.  Had we disembarked later in the day some of the passengers may have found their vacation tragically shortened.

I try hard NOT to post about politics here but this can not pass unnoticed.  I cannot keep silent about this.  He is our president, an elected representative of the people of the United States - NOT the Emperor of the USA - NOT a tyrant.  Okay, he might be a tyrant but he should NOT be.  The United States is not his personal company, owned by his cadre of rich acolytes.  Up until January 20th, this country belonged to us, WE, THE PEOPLE!  It still belongs to the people.  Someone should tell the president that.

Books:  I read a lot on vacation.  

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.  Joe and Ravi are in the same class.  Ravi has just moved to the United States (Look!  An IMMIGRANT!)  Joe has struggled through this school for five years.  Ravi was a popular, high achieving student in India but here, he is the kid with the weird accent.  Joe has trouble concentrating.  His new teacher doesn't seem to understand this even though he must go to the Resource Room for help in staying focused. After early misunderstandings, Joe and Ravi find themselves targets of the same trouble maker (who is CRUEL, ARROGANT and a BULLY). (Middle school)

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson.  Andie's father has been in Congress for years.  Suddenly, he is accused of misappropriating funds that should go to his charitable foundation.  (Familiar?  Thankfully, the comparisons end here.)   Protecting her father's image has been a full time job for most of Andie's life. Andie has a pre-pre-med summer internship.  And then, her internship is terminated, just like that.  Her father is home for the first time in years.  She takes a job walking dogs.  Her close knit group of friends begin to unravel and she meets The Guy!  Also, she finds out she likes dogs.  So, it's good.  (YA)

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser.  (Put two dots over the "a".)  After personal disasters, Amy Lennox and her mother pack their bags and leave Germany for Scotland, Amy's mother's childhood home.  On a sparsely populated island, Amy learns that she is a book jumper, from one of only two families of book jumpers who are pledged to keep books safe and untainted.  Soon after she arrives, important elements of books start disappearing.  When a book character washes ashore - dead - Amy has some detecting to do - all over the world of literature.  There is a villain - a selfish, vain, capricious, immature, cruel.... Oh well, never mind.  Once things start disappearing, the book gets pretty good. (YA)

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.  The new emperor sweeps up the mountainside and drags away Pinmei's grandmother.   Pinmei's neighbor, the boy Yishan, drags her to safety and together they set out to find the Luminous Stone that Lights the Night, the price for ransoming Pinmei's grandmother.  Everywhere they go, Pinmei, usually as shy as a mouse,  tells one of her grandmother's stories.  In prison, her grandmother tells stories.  SHE is the Storyteller.  These stories often feature cruel, selfish, arrogant, vain people.  Just as often, they showcase the power of kindness and truth.  As in Lin's earlier books, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky, the tales are modeled on Chinese folklore and they move the plot to a very satisfying conclusion.  And the illustrations are AMAZING.  (Middle school reading level.  Younger if read aloud.  Older because the stories are awesome.)

Beautiful Blue World by Suzanne LaFleur.  An imagined country has been attacked by a vicious and voracious army.  Children 12 and up are asked to take a test and volunteer to help win the war.  Megs is sure to pass.  Mathilde, her best friend, also takes the test though she expects to fail.  It is a chance to help her family and it might save her life.  Mathilde passes (Megs does not) and finds herself in a large estate, far from the fighting, surrounded by very bright and very talented children.  Mathilde's talent is unexpected.  How this talent helps the war effort, and how Mathilde stays true to herself, is a enthralling story.  The book will stay with you.  (Middle school and up.  Great for discussion about talents, responsibility, relationships and war.)

I also read Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley.   I pray that Flavia de Luce grows up very, very slowly.  I LOVE these books.  I had to go back and re-read two of the earlier books in the series (and a short story) after reading this.  That's how I spent my vacation.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

See What Happens?

I go on a little vacation and...
The ALA Youth Media Awards are announced.  Click here for all of them.  What an exciting batch of titles and awards!!

And the Battle of the Books Contenders are chosen.  Here they are!

FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie
FREEDOM OVER ME by Ashley Bryan
GHOST by Jason Reynolds
THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge
MAKOONS by Louise Erdrich
MARCH BOOK THREE by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
SAMURAI RISING by Pamela Turner and Gareth Hinds
SOME WRITER! by Melissa Sweet
THUNDERBOY JR. by Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales
WET CEMENT by Bob Raczka
WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

You will notice some overlap.  This year, I have read six of the BOB contenders.  Got to get to work NOW!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Children - and the sequel

Once a girl walked out of her public library with a book about five children.  The children dug up a prehistoric sand fairy who could grant them wishes.  It was rather impolite, snobby and self-important.  And It's magic had some bugs that never quite got worked out.  When the girl became a Mom, she read that book and its two sequels to her child.  Wonderful!  E. Nesbit was a favorite author for them both.
This is the copy I own.  It is certainly an odd looking fairy.

Half a century late, someone else wrote a book about those five children and that strange fairy.  Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front brings us up to date with the Pemberton children.  Cyril is no longer a child.  At the start of the book, he is an officer awaiting his marching orders in the Great War.  Robert is at Cambridge, studying writing, of course.  Anthea is studying art.  Jane is at the Girl's high school.  The Lamb, (nee Hilary, much to his disgruntlement) is at Poplar school.  And Edie, an addition to the family, is at the local village school.  It is the very beginning of WWI.

The Lamb and Edie dig up the Psammyead and It is not happy at all.  Not at all.  The Pembertons refer to the Psammyead as "he" and so shall I.

When someone takes it upon themselves to write sequels to well-loved novels, I worry.  With relief, I'm glad to say that Saunders does "a bit of all right" with this book.  The Psammyead's magic is unstable in this story.  The world is unstable, too.  Somewhere close to the half way mark, we learn that the Psammyead has to make amends for his past.  And he does by helping people who are in similar circumstances to the "slaves" that he punished thousands of years before.

Oh my, I have to stop writing about this book now.  Expect hi-jinks.  Expect romance.  Expect social commentary and Briticisms.  Expect battle scenes and hospitals. And, if you loved the other books about the Pembertons, expect melancholy.  NOTE: Don't read the acknowledgements until AFTER you read the book.  'Nuff said.  (Where are my tissues?)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Princess and Caveman - Heroes!

I have a new favorite princess, Harriet the Invincible.  She is sturdy.  She is stalwart.  She is strong!  She is small and slow-ish.  She is a HAMSTER!! And she rides a battle quail.  I'm in awe.
I just read Ratpunzel, which is the third book in the series. Now I have to get the first two and find out why Harriet was working at a slight disadvantage in Book 3. 

The reading level is about grade 4 but the interest level is higher, through grade 7.  Harriet will appeal to kids who like a lot of action of the more-fun-than-fierce kind.  The dialogue is clever and punny and sometimes appears in speech bubbles.  That's important.  Those little illustrations move the action forward so don't just skip them.

In Ratpunzel,  Harriet's friend Wilbur, needs help in rescuing his pet hydra's kidnapped egg.  The plot gets a bit scrambled but, not to worry.  Harriet's excellent sword wielding skills and warrior instincts keep things moving along.  There's a tower, a princess-to-be-rescued, a witch, hidden passages and spells and slapstick swordplay until the satisfying conclusion.  

Then there's Lug.  He is a prehistoric hero, saving his clan from imprisonment and destruction, one ice age worry at a time.  In the second book in the series, Lug: Blast from the North by David Zeltser, Lug and his friends rescue a stranger who lives on a quickly moving glacier.  He seems soooo friendly.  Lug doesn't warm up to Blast as quickly as his friends do.  (See what I did there?) And Lug is right!  BTW, Lug has a sword, too, but his is made of ice! 

This series will appeal to the same set of readers.  The abundance of black and white illustrations, silly dialogue, middle school age insecurities and jealousies, and treachery cleverly deflected should keep young adventure seekers happy.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Secrets - Different and yet the same

Here are three books published in 2016 that have different settings, (although the plots are slightly similar).  However, each main character has a secret.  And all those secrets are the same.  In a later post, I will tell you what the secret is.  Let's see if any of my readers already know.

The Kidnap Plot by Dave Butler.  When Charlie's inventor father is kidnapped by the Anti-Human League, it is up to Charlie and a ragtag band of characters, including a troll and two aviator/thieves to save the day.  This is a stem-punk romp.

The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton and Poly Bernatrene (illustrations).  Before her mother disappeared, she told Lettie to never go outside.  Then a stranger offers to sell Lettie his wonderful new invention - snow.   The stranger also knows where Lettie's mother has gone.
So, armed with this marvelous snow, Lettie heads off to put her family back together.

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino  Giacomo is a street urchin with a need to draw, and draw and draw.  But in his country - a land similar to Italy in the Renaissance - art is forbidden.  The Geniuses that aid artists - birds with rare powers - are hunted down and caged.  When Giacomo is attacked by two Lost Souls, a strange explosion of light and energy results in the arrival of a Genius of Giacomo's own - and his induction into a secret group of talented children.  Their benefactor has dangerous plans.  Soon, the children are put in life threatening peril.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cheap E-Books - sometimes FREE

I subscribe to 3 cheap e-book newsletters that arrive, unbidden, in my inbox every morning.  Most of the books are older and for adults. Newer books show up, as well as books for younger readers.  Every week, you can also download classics for very little money and often for free.  I load up my reader before going on vacation and I have good stuff to read while lounging by the pool. 
I recently downloaded a book by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland, The Drum, the Doll and the Zombie.  

I don't usually read horror, but when I do, I read John Bellairs (or Brad Strickland).

  ANYWAY, here are the three newsletters I mentioned above.

Early Bird Books - gives you the option to purchase the books (usually $2.99 or less - sometimes FREE) from several vendors. 

Bookbub - sells through Barnes & Noble and Google.  Prices hover around $1.

Riffle - several vendors - although sometimes books are only available through Amazon -, low prices and a community as well.   I find more YA books posted on Riffle than on the other sites.

NOTE:  You must buy the featured books on that day.  The books revert to their regular price the following day - usually around $10.