Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry

Joy is fifteen and until three months ago she lived a terrifying existence with her mother.  Now her mother is in jail, and Joy is safe, living with her aunt, uncle and two cousins.  But Joy doesn't feel safe, even though she knows she is.  She can't stop the panic attacks when she has to talk to someone, especially men.  She feels completely crazy and out of control and isn't convinced that things will ever get better.

For most of the book, it isn't stated explicitly what happened to Joy.  Depending on the maturity of the reader, you might make different assumptions.  Joy has a very hard time speaking to men.  Being alone with a man, even her uncle or cousin, can cause a panic attack.  She's afraid of the smell of beer.  She can't stand people looking at her.  I assumed she's been emotionally and physically abused by her mother, and raped by her mother's boyfriend, which we find out at the end of the book, at the trail of her mother, that's what happened.  The word "rape" is not mentioned the entire time until one sentence at the very end.

Because of this, this book might be a good choice for upper middle grade looking for a serious issues book.  It's not graphic or explicit.  It deals mainly with the aftermath and Joy trying to work her way through what happened to her and try and learn that she's safe now.

It does not happen all at once.  When the book starts, Joy has been with her aunt and uncle for three months and hadn't made very much progress.  She's not convinced she'll ever make progress.  But she slowly begins to.  She's able to be in the same room as her uncle, and then she's able to talk to him.  They eventually become close and he becomes her biggest advocate.  Joy starts making friends.  She is able to speak up a little more, and discovers new things about her personality.

It isn't all smooth sailing.  Joy has lots of stops and starts, and sometimes she falls backwards.   She worries what an imposition it must be to her aunt and her family to have to take her in.  She is surprised to learn her aunt feels horrible guilty for not getting Joy away from her mother earlier.  Joy has to deal with one of her cousins who is tired of everyone tiptoeing around her and doesn't understand why she can't just be normal already.

I thought Stronger Than You Know did an great job showing the aftermath of trauma and how it is truly a process to overcome it.  The book ends with hope, and we know, that even as Joy continues to struggle, she'll come out on top.

Stronger Than You Know came out September 1, 2014.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shadows of the Silver Screen by Christopher Edge

Penelope Tredwell is 13, but that doesn't stop her from owning the Penny Dreadful, a magazine filled with horror stories of her own writing.  No one knows the stories are written by Penny, as she writes under the name of Montgomery Flinch and has hired an actor to play the part of the now famous writer.  Talking movie pictures are beginning to capture the population of Victorian Britain's imagination, and a filmmaker has approached the Penny Dreadful for permission to turn one of Montgomery Flinch's stories into a movie.  But as filming begins, strange things begin to happen, and actors seem to be becoming their characters.  Penny must find out what's behind the horror before her own creation is the end of them all.

Shadows of the Silver Screen is the second in a series.  The first was Twelve Minutes to Midnight.  I don't think Shadows of the Silver Screen stands up well on its own.  It felt like all the character development must have been done in the first book, so it wasn't bothered with in this one.  It seems like Penny is suppose to be a plucky heroine,  but in action, she really wasn't that interesting and didn't really do very much.  She was under the spell of the magical movie camera as much as anyone else.  She didn't really do anything on her own.  She planned to, but then couldn't because of one thing or the other and had to be rescued in the end. 

Having not read Twelve Minutes to Midnight I don't know if that holds true in the first book as well, or if Penny is more interesting and more of a character.

The plot of Shadows of the Silver Screen was confusing and contrived.  The filmmaker has a camera that brings ghost into the world by taking the souls of others.  I didn't understand why he went to all the trouble of getting the rights to Penny's story, especially since he changed it dramatically to make it fit his own lost love story.  That was the foundation for the whole thing, and I didn't think that made a whole lot of sense so the story itself was a bit shaky.

I think there are much better, much more exciting middle grade mystery stories.  I would skip this one.

Shadows of the Silver Screen comes out September 1, 2014.

Monday, August 25, 2014


School Library Journal's movie review of The Giver.

Hoping to rejuvenate the love for The Boxcar Children, a full-length animated feature film is released.  From PW.

Ferguson public library offers lessons for students in limbo.  From SLJ.

Waukesha school committee denies parent's request to ban The Kite Runner and Chinese Handcuffs. From Waukesha Now.

A Pennsylvania school board restores Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale to a summer reading list.  From TribLive.

Chaos Walking trilogy gets new paperback cover release.  I like the original covers, but all for anything that gets the series more attention!  From PW.

National library lock-in event features authors, games, and Minecraft.  From SLJ.

J.K. Rowling writes a story featuring minor Harry Potter character, the “Singing Sorceress."  From Salon.

Jarrett Krosoczka tells us why lunch ladies are heroes.  From TED.

E. Lockhart on We Were Liars.  From The Guardian.

New children's bookstore opens in Boston: Make Way for Ducklings Store.  From PW.

Young adult fiction and its rabid discontents.  From Pop Matters.

Literary fiction writers tackling YA.  From Ploughshares Literary Magazine.

Why death is so important in YA fiction.  From The Guardian.

Searching for Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island.  From The New York Times.

All the things I didn't get when I read The Giver as a kid.  From Slate.

A tale of two polls: support for the Common Core.  From NPR.

Dr. Seuss as a political cartoonist.  From Book Patrol.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of her early life in beautiful verse.  Woodson had the unique experience of growing up in both the South and the North in the 60s and 70s.  She never felt completely at home in either place, always missing somewhere.  Although very young, she was aware of the dramatic cultural shifts happening around her, even if she didn't really understand them.

Another beautiful book from Jacqueline Woodson.  Woodson started off her life in Ohio.  Her father did not like where her mother came from, South Carolina, where Black people had to sit in the back of the bus and say "yes sir" and "no sir" to white people.  He never wanted any of his children to have that experience.  But when Woodson's mother and father separated, they returned to her mother's home.

South Carolina was very different from Ohio.  Woodson and her siblings had lots of new rules to learn.  Despite her mother telling them they "were as good as anyone else" that was not how it seemed.  Despite the things she observes, Woodson and her siblings love living with their grandparents.  Their mother is often away in New York though, and after a time, they all move to New York.

Another move, another completely different cultural experience.  It's the 70s now, and with it comes the Black Pride movement and the Black Panthers.  Woodson is still to young to really understand what's going on.  But she can see that there are places where only Black people live, and places where only white people live.

Over the course of the story, Woodson also expresses her growing love of writing and telling stories.
 Sometimes she spins fantastical stories about things she's done.  They're things she wishes she had done, or places she wishes she had gone too.  Doesn't that make them kind of true?  Her stories get her into trouble sometimes, but she never stops.

It's Woodson's life, but it reads like historical fiction.  Simple and engaging, yet so much going on behind it.

I wonder about shelving this.  It should go in nonfiction, right?  It's the story of her life, told in verse.  But a kid would be much more likely to stumble on this in the fiction section, with the rest of her books.  But it wouldn't be right to put it in fiction.  Thoughts?

brown girl dreaming comes out August 28, 2014.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Turtles of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

Aref Al-Amri has lived his whole life in Muscat, Oman.  Now his family is moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan so his parents can get Ph.D.s.  The last thing Aref wants to do is leave his home, friends, grandfather, and everything familiar.  In the last days before the move, Aref spends time with his grandfather, Sidi, enjoying his country.

This was a lovely, quiet book.  It was not what I was expecting.  When the book started and it was about a boy nervous about moving, I assumed the story would be about his nervousness, the move, being new, and then making new friends and realizing everything was fine.  That was not the story at all.  In fact, Aref does not even leave Oman for Michigan in the book.  It was entirely about Aref and Sidi enjoying the time they have together, doing things that Aref loves, and gradually learning to accept the move.

Aref struggles with the idea of leaving his home.  His father has gone on ahead to get their apartment ready, and Aref and his mother and packing up their home and getting ready to leave.  At least, that's what Aref is suppose to be doing.  He can't quite start packing his suitcase.  What can he possibly bring from his home?  None of the important things, like his friends or his cat or his entire rock collection.  Aref tries to express to his mother how he is feeling, but his mother, who clearly loves him very much, is busy and assures Aref that this is an adventure and he'll make friends and everything will be fine.

Aref finds solace and empathy in his grandfather Sidi.  Sidi lets Aref talk.  The two take a camping trip together, and go see sea turtles lying on the beach.  Turtles are Aref's favorite.  Sidi allows Aref to come around in his own time and his own way.  He is the one who finally helps Aref to pack his suitcase, and helps him to feel better about his cousins living in his house while he is away.

Over the course of the story, I was aware of how old Sidi was.  He gets tired sometimes, and is stiff.  Sidi mentions not being quite as spry as he once was.  I kept thinking how it was possible that Sidi might die before Aref and his family returns.  They will be in the U.S. for three years.  I think this was intentional.  I wonder if middle grade kids will pick up on it?

This is one of those books that might be a hard sell.  It's beautiful, but not a whole lot happens.  It's thoughtful and lovely and paints a beautiful picture of the country and family and life.  Maybe a good book to be read in a book group or in class where a discussion can be invovled.

The Turtles of Oman comes out August 26, 2014.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Books so good, they make you miss your subway stop.  From PW.

Penguin is getting a lot of flack for their new UK Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover.  Penguin is standing by it.  I think it makes no sense for the book and will deter boys from picking it up.  From Bustle and BBC News.

Essay contest launched in response to controversy over The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  From American Booksellers Association.

There's no end in sight.  The latest YA novel-turned-movie, The Maze Runner, is soon to be released.  From PW.

Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, writes about the dear friends who were inspiration for the book, and how it helped with her grief.  From The New York Times.

Lois Lowry says The Giver’s movie cast elevated her original novel.  Viewers seem to disagree.  From The Washington Post.

An interview with Rainbow Rowell.  From The Guardian.

20 YA book covers that are actually gorgeous.  From Flavorwire.

This is what modern versions of The Baby-Sitters Club would look like.  From BuzzFeed.

Why The Hunger Games' killer Katniss is a great female role model.  From The Guardian.

A is for apocalypse: children’s books for the modern age.  From Electric Lite.

Hmm.  Weeding is a good thing, but I really hope the "hasn't been checked out in three years" isn't the only thing they're going on!  Boston Public Library push to reduce books stirs community complaints.  From The Boston Globe.

Great first lines from children's and YA books.  From The Guardian.

Middle grade vs. YA.  From Writer's Digest.

35 Harry Potter covers.  From BookRiot.

Tweeting Rainbow
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