17 April 2014

Here we go again...

After much neglect, I'm going to revive this blog.  Originally this was created for a class when I was earning my Masters in Library and Information Science.  I kept it going (barely) and then let life happen and sweep me away.

Well, it is time to recreate.  I'm once again in the storytime world and much of my focus will be on that, but as I read other books, from Juvenile, Young Adult and Adult collections, I will concentrate on reviews as well.

.....as well as general library topics as this librarian tends to live her profession 24/7.  The thoughts that flutter through my head continually have not slowed down a smidge.


06 September 2012

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME by Mark Haddon

BIBLIOGRAPHY   Haddon, Mark. 2003. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME .  New York, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-50945-9.

PLOT SUMMARY
Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS
The narrator is an autistic boy, which makes for a very intriguing read.  The first thing I was entertained by is that the chapters are numbered ONLY by prime numbers, so we move from chapter 1 to 3 to 5 to 7 to 11 with nothing in between.  His very logical, unemotional mind makes reading this very thought provoking.  When he is picked up by police and put in a holding cell because he is found holding a dead dog who is stabbed by a fork, he is so calm, noticing the lightbulbs and things around him very clinically without worry.  In his mind, he knows he is innocent, so he will leave when his father arrives.  My mind was scurrying about thinking, about how I'd have to convince them I was innocent, what if they didn't believe me?  Who was with me or could have seen me?  Those worries never cross his mind for the simple reason that he didn't do it.  Period.  So everyone must think that as well.  The book continues this way and my initial thought was that it must be nice not to worry.  Then I thought about how confusing things would be when you don't understand emotion and facial expressions that people use. 

Overall, I completely enjoyed this book, Haddon did a great job portraying the mind and thinking of someone with Autism, which aids in understanding those in the world afflicted with it, or just people who are different than you are.  The compassion and comprehension evoked I believe are great benefit to those of us that do not deal daily with this challenge.  The book is appropriate for many ages, teens as well.

REVIEW EXCERPTS
"the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice. "  — Publishers Weekly

"...story evokes emotions in readers-heartache and frustration for his well-meaning but clueless parents and deep empathy for the wonderfully honest, funny, and lovable protagonist. Readers will never view the behavior of an autistic person again without more compassion and understanding. The appendix of math problems will intrigue math lovers, and even those who don't like the subject will be infected by Christopher's enthusiasm for prime numbers and his logical, mathematical method of decision making.”  — School Library Journal

"This original and affecting novel is a triumph of empathy; whether describing Christopher's favorite dream (of a virus depopulating the planet) or his vision of the universe collapsing in a thunder of stars, the author makes his hero's severely limited world a thrilling place to be. "  — The New Yorker

"Narrated by the unusual and endearing Christopher, who alternates between analyzing mathematical equations and astronomy and contemplating the deaths of Wellington and his mother, the novel is both fresh and inventive."  — Kristine Huntley, The New Yorker

CONNECTIONS
After reading Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime you might want to read:

Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Austistic Savant: a Memoir by Daniel Tammet

Thinking in Pictures and Other Reports from my Life with Autism by Temple Grandin

The Way I See it: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's by Temple Grandin

A Friend Like Henry: The Remarkable True Story of an Autistic boy and the Dog that Unlocked His World by Nuala Gardner

Dyslogic syndrome: why millions of kids are 'hyper', attention-disordered, learning disabled, depressed, aggressive, defiant, or violent – and what we can do about it by Bernard Rimland
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (Fiction)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (Fiction) *great to understand people who think/act differrent, helped me understand why my daughter likes risk)


30 November 2011

THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

BIBLIOGRAPHY   Asher, Jay & Carolyn Mackler . 2011. THE FUTURE OF US .  New York, NY: Penguin Group. ISBN 9781595144911.

PLOT SUMMARY
It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives.  They've been best friends almost as long - up until last November, when everything changed.  Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh's family gets an America online CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so Emma can install it on her new computer.  When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto Facebook.....but Facebook hasn't been invented yet.  Josh and Emma are looking at their profiles fifteen years in the future.  Their spouses, careers, homes and status updates - it's all there.  but it's not what they expected.  And every tim ethey refresh their pages, their futures cahge.  As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS
This book was written for the Young Adult audience, but as with many YA books, appeals to a far wider audience.  It is appropriate for sixth grade up.  Most readers will find it captivating as every decision, no matter how small, affect future events.  It is odd but refreshing to be living in what is their future and look back and realize how much has changed in the past 15 years. 

REVIEW EXCERPTS
""The Future of Us" is a novel for young adults, but it might be even more appealing to Gen X readers, who'll experience it as a nostalgic walk down memory lane. In 1996, when the action takes place, caller ID had just been invented, prom night involved dancing the Macarena, the Dave Matthews Band played regularly on FM radio, Cindy Crawford was the boys' bedroom poster of preference and athletes strapped Sony Discmans to their arms to go running."  — Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times

"Reading the book should get contemporary teenagers wondering: Where will I live 15 years from now? Whom will I marry? What kind of life can I dream of? And what, exactly, is a “CD-ROM”? Prepare yourselves, parents, for the disbelief that will follow explanations of such historic artifacts as dial-up Internet, the Disc­man and busy signals. Prepare yourself as well for the post-traumatic ’90s flashbacks you’ll suffer when one character earnestly explains, “As a guitarist, Dave Matthews is so under-appreciated.”  — Dan Kois, New York Times

"Asher and Mackler’s concept is fascinating—how closely today is tied to tomorrow—and the alternating voices of the two main characters keep each chapter fresh and provide distinct perspectives on the events of the story. Though readers will not necessarily be surprised by how things turn out, the enjoyment—and the underlying message—is in simply allowing the journey to unfold. "  —Publishers Weekly 

CONNECTIONS
AWAKEN by Katie Kacvinsky is a great pairing in that it deals with the future although in a different way.  Both are thought provoking.

16 May 2011

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

BIBLIOGRAPHY   Collins, Suzanne. 2008. THE HUNGER GAMES .  New York, NY: Scholastic. ISBN 9780439023481.

PLOT SUMMARY
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the other districts in line by forcing them to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death on live TV.

One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen are selected by lottery to play. The winner brings riches and favor tohis or her district. But that is nothing compared to what the Capitol wins: one more year of fearful compliance with its rule. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her impoverished district in the Games.

But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS
This book was written for the Young Adult audience, but as with many YA books, appeals to a far wider audience.  It is appropriate for sixth grade up.  Adults will find it disturbing, causing thought, and making a statement about people and society.  I found myself wondering what I'd do in the main characters place.  Her very life is at stake as well as the future of her family, by every move made, some of which are plotted and planned, some of which have deep instinctual backing.  How would we react in this situation?  HIGHLY recommended for ANYONE.  I can guarantee I will be leading the adults to this series in a heartbeat.

REVIEW EXCERPTS
#1 New York Times Bestseller
A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
A Horn Book Fanfare
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2008
A Booklist Editors' Choice
A New York Times Notable Book of 2008
A Kirkus Best Book of 2008
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A USA Today Bestseller

"[The Hunger Games] is a violent, jarring, speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense... I couldn't stop reading." — Stephen King, Entertainment Tonight

"I was so obsessed with this book that I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading... The Hunger Games is amazing." — Stephanie Meyer

"[The Hunger Games] is a great book, and very thought-provoking. Read this along with your teen and discuss it." — Charlaine Harris

"Brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced." — John Green, New York Times Book Review
"A plot-driven blend of suspense, science fiction, and romance." — USA Today

"Enthralling, imaginative and creepy." — Los Angeles Times

"{A} superb tale" — Booklist, starred review

"Readers will wait eagerly to learn more." — Publishers Weekly, starred review

CONNECTIONS
Upon finishing this book, it goes without saying that you need to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  Immediately.

22 March 2011

ELLA MINNOW PEA by Mark Dunn


BIBLIOGRAPHY   Dunn, Mark. 2002. ELLA MINNOW PEA: A PROGRESSIVELY LIPOGRAMMATIC EPISTOLARY FABLE .  Ill. By Tim Brennan.  San Francisco, CA: MacAdam/Cage. ISBN 978-159692990.

PLOT SUMMARY
Ella lives on the fictional island of Nollop, home of Nevin Nollop the man who coined the pangram “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”  The statue of Nollop, which sports his well known phrase is slowly dropping the letters.  The islanders can only communicate using the letters remaining on the statue, which makes for an interesting story, as letters continue to fall.  Told in epistles, the residents communicate in their isolated world, set apart from modern technology.  

CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Laugh out loud funny at times, Dunn is uniquely creative.  As one who enjoys wordplay, this novel had me thinking, sorting words in my head, being creative in my spelling and communicating.  Underlying all the fun of the book, Mr. Dunn addresses authoritarianism and abuse of power.

  
A relatively short book, this can be devoured in a couple hours, but will leave lovers of wordplay, language and linguistics thinking and playing with the English language for days.  I found that towards the end of the book, it was a bit easier to read if done so aloud, due to fantastical use of letters and creative spelling.

REVIEW EXCERPTS
"A treasure of a novel. Dunn has an incredibly fascinating and clever way of using the English language, with or without all the letters of the alphabet. This witty satire and moving fable is a must-read for everyone who loves words... and free speech!" Susan Wasson, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM

"There's the whiff of a classic about Ella Minnow Pea." The Christian Science Monitor

"A love letter to alphabetarians and logomaniacs everywhere." Myla Goldberg

"A curiously compelling...satire of human foibles, and a light-stepping commentary on censorship and totalitarianism." The Philadelphia Inquirer

"This exceptional, zany book will quickly make you laugh." Dallas Morning Herald

"Ella Minnow Pea is a witty fable, but it's also a satire about censorship among other things....[T]he book should give us plenty to think about." Detroit Free Press

“While this is one of the most intriguing books I have read, Ella Minnow Pea is above all very funny.  I’ve read it several times now and it never ceases to amuse.  I’m pleased to be writing about it and I think this book should be on the shelves of anyone interested in language.  I am certain that they will find it an unusual and fascinating read."  Tom Cunliffe, A Common Reader blog

CONNECTIONS
IBID by Mark Dunn.  Told entirely in endnotes, I’ve not read this yet but have heard that is outdoes Dunns prior works in literary audacity.  Sounds like a winner to me.

09 March 2011

SING YOU HOME by Jodi Picoult

BIBLIOGRAPHY Picoult, Jodi. 2011. SING YOU HOME.  New York, NY: Atria Books. ISBN 978-1439102725.

PLOT SUMMARY
When music therapist Zoe Baxter’s latest pregnancy ends in a stillbirth, her husband Max decides he can’t handle any more heartbreak and leaves her. As she picks up the pieces of her life, Zoe is surprised to find herself falling for a school counselor who happens to be a woman. While Zoe is finding happiness with Vanessa, Max falls off the wagon and is helped by a pastor from his brother’s evangelical church. Vanessa and Zoe wed in Massachusetts, and Vanessa offers to carry one of the fertilized embryos Zoe and Max stored. Excited by the prospect of being a mother, Zoe goes to Max to get him to release the embryos to her and is shocked when he instead sues her for custody of them, backed by his church.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Picoult is known for her books that deal with moral and ethical dilemmas and this one is no exception.  What I found interesting in this book is that a number of difficult topics were addressed:  infertility, homosexuality, "the church".  Picoult does well portraying the infertility issue from the male standpoint as well as the female, evoking understanding and empathy for the men and what they deal with, something women often have hard times relating to. 

I almost think that too much is covered in this book, too many issues addressed, however life does come at us rather fast and full of punches at times. 

Being as new as this book is, I'm going to leave the review short and let you know that it's worth a read.  Be prepared, I like controversial books or things that leave people a bit uncomfortable.  This is one book I can see that will do that for some, particularly with the character of lovable Zoe, who is first married to a man then a woman.  Not saying that because it makes me uncomfortable, I can just already hear the comments coming back to me, living in this strong Southern Baptist area of the US.

REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
Booklist: "Told from the perspectives of all three major characters, Picoult’s gripping novel explores all sides of the hot-button issue and offers a CD of folk songs that reflect Zoe’s feelings throughout the novel."

about.com: "Few books are so engaging, so enraging, so sympathetic as to arrest one's attention and demand to be read in one sitting. Jodi Picoult's Sing You Home is such a novel."

CONNECTIONS
What can you say after reading a Jodi Picoult book, but read more.  If you like this one, I'd next recommend: Vanishing Acts, Salem Falls and My Sister's Keeper.  Three of my fav Jodi books.  If you've only seen the movie of the last one, read the book....they are NOTHING alike.

24 February 2011

CHALK

BIBLIOGRAPHY
 Thomson, Bill.  2010. CHALK.  Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Children. ISBN 9780761455264.

PLOT SUMMARY
Kids at the park, a bucket of chalk....pictures come alive!  Then....the rain comes. 

CRITICAL ANALYSIS
The illustrations in this wordless picture book are crisp, clear, colorful, done in mixed media and very realistic looking.  The pictures alone are enough to grab your attention, but once the book is opened, the storyline will draw you in.  Each reader will have their own version of the story, which is part of its charm.  Thomson does an incredible job illustrating and using the expressions on the characters faces to portray the events.

Highly recommended to everyone, adults as well will enjoy this book.


REVIEW EXCERPT(S)  
School Library Journal,  starred review:  "This imaginative story is the perfect showcase for Thomson's extraordinary pictures. Though they look like photos or computer-generated images, each one is actually composed using traditional techniques with acrylics and colored pencils. The artist's clever use of light, perspective, and expression, along with the protagonists' neat solution to their dilemma, creates a completely satisfying experience. Thomson is a master at visual storytelling."
 
Booklist:  "With eye-catching, realistic illustrations, clever details, and some dramatic suspense, this wordless picture book offers a fresh take on the drawings-come-to-life theme. One rainy day, three raincoat-clad children head to the playground and find a bag of chalk. When one girl draws a sun, something amazing happens: clouds break and a sunny blue sky appears. The second kid draws butterflies, which also appear. But when a boy draws a dinosaur, things get almost too exciting. Luckily, a solution is close at hand. Vibrant acrylic and colored-pencil illustrations, rendered with intricate precision, nearly leap off the page, as the expressive, diverse trio experiences magical, exhilarating moments that highlight how familiar materials and settings can inspire rewarding adventures. Varying perspectives, from vistas to close-ups, enhance the drama. A few scenarios, such as those featuring a giant, looming, spiky-toothed T. rex, may be too intense for the youngest children, but many kids will enjoy this testament to the power of creativity and imagination."

CONNECTIONS
Two other wordless pictures books come to mind that would be fun to pair with this, FLOTSAM and TUESDAY, both by David Wiesner.  Focusing on storytelling and how a book does not have to have words to tell a story would make for a fun storytime or basic lesson to the elementary crowd.