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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

Erin Dionne, author of Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies, entertains us once again in The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. What could be worse than having your mom walk into your school on the first day of your eighth grade year dressed up like a character from William Shakespeare’s plays? Try having your genius seven-year-old sister taking classes at your middle school while you struggle with pre-algebra. How about having your best friend, Tyler, start liking you? Consequently, you act so weird anytime he is around. Everything is a tragedy for Hamlet (given this name by parents who live and breathe Shakespeare). This book has the right amount of humor, family issues, and teen angst to keep readers wanting to see what happens next. Readers who have felt second best to a “perfect” sibling will be able to relate to Hamlet’s situation.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

They Never Came Back

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney is realistic fiction that alternates between two identities of the same girl. Fifteen-year-old Cathy Ferris has spent the last five years creating a new life for herself. One that is very different from the extravagant life she led as Murielle Lyman. Five years ago, her parents fled the country to avoid embezzlement charges. Murielle was left behind. Now in high school, she is suddenly recognized by her cousin, Tommy, at summer school. Will she act as bait to help the FBI capture her parents? Will she let everyone know who she really is? Caroline B. Cooney’s other exciting reads include Code Orange, The Face on the Milk Carton, and Driver’s Ed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Street Love

Walter Dean Myers is on my top five list of favorite young adult authors. Street Love is a novel told in verse resembling rapping poetry. Normally I would say a novel in verse is great for a reluctant reader, but this story has such complex symbolism. For that reason, I would recommend this book for 8th grade and above. This romance is told from multiple points of view. The main characters, Damien and Junice, are two African American teens living in Harlem that come from total opposite family lives. Damien’s family has always encouraged him and wants him to attend college. Junice’s mother has just been sentenced to prison for selling drugs. Junice doesn’t know how she can take care of herself and her younger sister. She only wants what is best for the both of them…to rise above the destiny of women in her family. Sadly, I know there are students who can relate to Junice’s home life. Will the love they have for each other conquer all the odds they have against them? Personally, I would’ve liked a better resolution in the end.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dying to Meet You: 43 Cemetery Road

Dying to Meet You: 43 Old Cemetery Road by sisters, Kate and M. Sarah Klise, is on this year’s Texas Bluebonnet reading list. This chapter book recommended for upper elementary readers is told in epistolary form – using letters and newspaper articles – which will appeal to reluctant readers. The characters have pun(ny) names such as the real estate agent, Anita Sale, and book publisher, Paige Turner. This is a humorous story that expresses multiple points of view. A grumpy author, who has had writer’s block for twenty years, rents an old house. The house is occupied by a young boy, the boy’s cat, and a mischievous ghost. The ghost, formerly an unsuccessful writer, refuses to leave the house until one of her works is published. This endearing story’s conclusion will have readers seeking the second book in the series, Over My Dead Body: 43 Old Cemetery Road. Click on the video below to hear from the author and illustrator.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Cosmic by British author, Frank Cottrell Boyce, has been on many recommended lists. The author’s name may sound familiar…he is the author of Millions, which became a popular movie in 2004. Liam Digby has two major physical issues that cause him great angst. He is extremely tall for his age and has had facial hair for some time. In fact, he is mistaken for a teacher on his first day at Waterloo High. When his Dad doesn’t jump at the chance to participate in a Greatest Dad Ever contest held at a new amusement park in China, Liam decides to use his physical attributes to his advantage. He coaxes his friend, Florida, into pretending to be his daughter. This is when this fun(ny) story becomes reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Dads must compete to earn a place to travel with the children into space. I loved that Liam takes his role as a father so seriously that he refers to a book, Talk to Your Teen, throughout the story. The children find themselves lost in space and must problem solve to find their way back. Readers who enjoyed The Gollywhopper Games will love this one!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Prophecy of the Sisters

I listened to Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink on audiobook and the reader, Eliza Dushku (Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), does a fabulous job. At the beginning of this haunting story, Lia and her twin sister, Alice, are at their father’s funeral. The year is 1890. His death has left the girls and their younger brother orphans since their mother died in a mysterious accident ten years ago. Lia decides to search for answers as to why a strange mark appeared on her wrist the day her father died. Although she has always loved her father’s library, it is the secluded Dark Room in their house that may hold the answer. She finds Alice there performing some type of ritual. The mark on Lia’s wrist begins to change. Soon Lia finds out that her father had a special book hidden in his library. This Book of Chaos states that there exist two sisters: “one the Guardian and one the Gate”. The myth continues to state that the Lost Souls, trapped in the Otherworlds, are waiting to be let back into our world – the apocalypse. Lia is determined to find out what this has to do with her and Alice. Book two, Guardian of the Gate, was released on August 1st. Click on the author's name to go to her website. She has a book trailer for both books on her site.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

South of Broad

Although I am a middle school librarian, I do take the time to savor adult books every now and then. I love Pat Conroy. I have loved Pat Conroy from the moment I read his first novel, The Great Santini. Once again, he didn’t disappoint me. Finishing the last page of South of Broad, I am moved beyond words at this intricate story of heartache, family, and friendship set in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to eighteen-year-old Leo King, our narrator, who has experienced more than any child should due to the tragic death of his favored, older brother and his own recovery in mental hospitals. Once home, he looks across his historic city and vows that he will make himself a worthy citizen of this beloved place. His life completely changes when he meets the twins who have moved into the house across the street, two orphans who are runaways from Atlanta, and the first African-American football coach at his high school – the year is 1969. This story is told over a span of twenty-one years with suspenseful twists and turns. The powerful message is that “family” doesn’t only consist of the ones we are related to by blood; our dearest friends will rescue and embrace us during our most dire times in life. My oldest son, who usually has to be prompted to take time to read a book, picked up this book and couldn’t put it down. When he was finished, he told me that it was the best book he’d ever read. Although he is only eighteen years old, I am so happy to know that Pat Conroy had the same effect on him as he did me all those years ago. Guess what my son is now reading? You guessed it – The Great Santini!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I listened to the audiobook of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (read by Natalie Ross). This is one of the best books I’ve listened to/read all year. I am so sad that the cover of this book will turn off boy readers, because there is so much they would enjoy about this book. The setting is 1899 in a small town called Fentress in Texas, between San Antonio and Austin. Narrator, Calpurnia Tate, is the only girl in a large family of boys. She spends her days exploring different species and recording her findings in a notebook. She, with the help of her knowledgeable grandfather, makes observations and identifies various species of plants and animals. This naturalist is way ahead of her time; consequently, she faces the challenges of coming into womanhood at a time when women were expected to marry and run the domestic side of the household. I enjoyed her grandfather’s stories of war, the scientific process, and the geography of Texas. I treasured being a part of Calpurnia’s evolution. Girls (AND BOYS) – you have to read this book!