Good Books and the Random Movie

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Location: Brooklyn, NY, United States

29 February 2008

The White Darkness

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean is a story of adventure, despair and cold.

Sym and her uncle are going to Antarctica. Her mother doesn't know. She thinks they are going to Paris for a weekend. But uncle Victor has other plans.

All of her life Sym (Symone) has been learning about The Ice. She has always wanted to get there someday. Why not now?

But what will happen when they arrive? Will it be a nice cozy vacation looking at penguins and icebergs? Don't count on it...

McCaughrean, Geraldine. (2005). The White Darkness. New York: HarperCollins Children's Books.

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26 February 2008

Blood and Chocolate

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause is a book about werewolves. It is the opposite point of view as Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. It is from the point of view of the werewolf.

Vivian is sixteen. She and her pack live in a suburb in Maryland. It is not the ideal location for a pack of werewolves, but they had to move from their old home and haven't yet decided where to settle. In the mean time her uncle has taken in the pack.

In order to limit the trouble, the wolves try not to mix too much with humans. Then Vivian falls in love with a boy at school. She finds him a nice change from the constantly fighting pack.

But Vivian will have to choose between him and her pack. She cannot live in both worlds.

Klause, Annette Curtis. (1997). Blood and Chocolate. New York: Delacorte Press.

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25 February 2008

Love, Ruby Lavender

Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles.

This is a cute book about a girl who knows who she is. She is opinionated, stubborn, and adorable. When her grandmother, who is her best friend, goes to Hawaii for the summer, Ruby is lost.

She is stuck in Halleluia, Mississippi with nothing to do except sweep the floors of her great aunt's store, read to the chickens she stole, and torment her enemy Melba Jane.

Wiles, Deborah. (2001). Love, Ruby Lavender. New York: Gulliver Books.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

Written as a series of letters, Wallflower is the story of Charlie's life during his first year of high school. He learns to stick up for himself and his new friends.

Chbosky, Stephen. (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books.

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22 February 2008

Girl, 15, Charming But Insane

Girl, 15, Charming But Insane by Sue Lamb.

Each week in class, my professor states that Americans do not read books from other countries (with the exception of Louis Carrol). And each time she says this, I happen to be reading someone from Australia, England, etc... But it is true, we have a tendency in this country to read predominantly American authors.

Part of the problem is that, even though many other countries speak English (no translation issue), books take forever to get here. I am impatiently awaiting the second and third books in a trilogy from Australia. Both have been available there for over 2 years.

We need to start a movement. Then publishers in these countries and ours will work together to fill the demand. Read a book from Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, South Africa.........

An I think I find these books because I am drawn to the sense of humour of the greater UK. I don't seek out authors from particular countries (other than YA books from Australia). I just read the cover in the library and take them home. But we need more options, or more awareness to show we are interested.

Anyway, Girl, 15, Charming But Insane by Sue Lamb is about Jess Jordan. It is good. And quirky in a British sort of way.

Limb, Sue. (2004). Girl, 15, Charming But Insane. New York: Delacorte Press.

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20 February 2008

Absolutely, Positively Not...

Absolutely, Positively Not... by David Larochelle is about a boy who is gay. The full title continues on the inside cover with ... Gay.

Steven has known he was gay since he was a little kid. But he will not admit it to himself. He does everything he can to avoid facing reality. He follows a step-by-step guide from a book he finds in the library. He goes on a marathon dating spree. He has even tried playing sports.

But nothing makes him think about his favorite teacher any less often. Finally he has to face the facts. His best friend, Rachel, is thrilled that he has finally come out. Her family has known since Steven was seven.

Larochelle, David. (2005). Absolutely, Positively Not. New York: Scholastic.

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18 February 2008

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo is about a mouse knight!

Despereaux was born small, with his eyes open, and with the biggest mouse ears his family had ever seen. He could also read. In fact, he was not your average castle mouse in any way.

And he does not have the average castle mouse life: he falls in love with the princess, is sentanced to death in the dungeon, looses his tail and saves the day.

Overall a cute book. And yesterday, a kid yelled, "Hey, I read that book!" when he saw me reading it.

DiCamillo, Kate. (2006). The Tale of Despereaux. Cambridge: Candlewick Press.

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15 February 2008


Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger is about a transgendered teen. Angela, mistakenly born into a girl's body, changes her name to Grady, taking the first outward step to claiming his true self.

But as all 16 year olds, he still has to go to school and deal with other people's reactions.

"People changed lots of other personal things all the time. They dyed their hair and dieted themselves to near death. They took steroids to build muscles and got breat implants and nose jobs so they'd resemble their favorite movie stars. They changed names and majors and jobs and husbands and wives. They changed religions and political parties. They moved across the country or the world - even changed their nationalities. Why was gender the one sacred thing we weren't supposed to change?"

Wittlinger, Ellen. (2007). Parrotfish. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.

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The True Confessions of Chalotte Doyle

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi is an adventure on the high seas.

The Doyle family is moving back to Providence, RI from England. Charlotte, 13, will remain until the school year ends and then cross the sea in one of her father's company's ships. All though it is a cargo ship, there will be two families with kids her own age making the voyage with her.

Once school at the Barrington School for Better Girls ends, Charlotte is escorted to the ship, the Seahawk. Many of the romantic notions of sailing are dashed when she sees the old ship. Then she finds out that the other families will not be arriving.

What follows is the account of Charlotte, the only girl and the only non-crew member, on a voyage across the Atlantic ocean. Before they arrive in Rhode Island there will be mutiny, a hurricane, death, and a female member of the crew.

Avi. (1990). The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. New York: HarperCollins.

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14 February 2008


Winter is another hit by John Marsden. He is a great writer whose books always capture the emotions of his characters.

Winter is 16. She has lived away from home for 12 years, since her parents died. Now she has fought her way back to Warriewood, the family homestead. She has some questions that need to be answered - mostly about things people assume she knows already.

Winter is the story of a girl taking charge of her own life regardless of the obstacles.

My only complaint about John Marsden's books is that we have so few of them here compared to what he has published in Australia.

Marsden, John. (2000). Winter. New York: Scholastic.

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13 February 2008

The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights

The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman is an excellent biography.

Marian Anderson was an impressive person, not just for her amazing voice, but because of her personality. She helped to remove the racial barrier that was present in the arts world of her time. She was known the world over as having a voice that was one in a million.

At the height of her career she had a repertoire that included over 200 songs and arias in more than 9 languages.

Freedman, Russell. (2004). The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights. New York: Clarion Books.

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12 February 2008

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy is my second non-fiction kids book for class.

It is, obviously, the story of the Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793. It is well written and at times reads like historical fiction.

The coverage of the plague is not confined to Phila in 1793. The history of the plague around the world is covered as well as medical advances that led to the discovery of the mosquito's role in the transmission of diseases.

"No animal on earth has touched so directly and profoundly the lives of so many human beings..." as the mosquito.

Murphy, Jim. (2003). An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. New York: Clarion Books.

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Blasphemy (Wyman Ford #2)

Blasphemy is Douglas Preston's latest thriller. This one is a solo project, as opposed to those he writes with Lincoln Child. Although this is the first entry on one of Preston's books, I would recommend all of them!

Wyman Ford, ex-CIA and ex-monk, is hired by the president's science advisor to spy on the scientists running the Isabella Project. The project, which brings together a stream of protons and anti-protons could be a giant leap in technology, is designed to reproduce the setting of the Big Bang.

The machine is built, but it is behind schedule for going online. There is a glitch in the workings that might be a virus. Every time they are close to 100% power, a message appears on the readout screen.

In order to trace the source of the virus, the scientists try responding to the message. But what will they do when the words tell them that it is God speaking?

Preston, Douglas. (2007). Blasphemy. New York: Forge.

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Movie: Ira & Abby

Jennifer Westfeldt has done it again with her latest film - Ira & Abby. Her first film, Kissing Jessica Stein, was great and this new one is just as quirky and fun.

Ira and Abby meet at a gym. He is there to change some things in his life, and she is the salesperson responsible for getting new business.

After talking for hours, Abby asks Ira to marry her. After all, half of marriages end in divorce, so why is it any crazier to get married to a stranger.

What follows is a struggle to get to know each other that provides a commentary on marriage as it is in the world today.

Westfeldt has once again made a comedy with a point - to comment on a part of our society. And she does it in a way that is not preachy or judgmental.

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07 February 2008

Crispin: The Cross of Lead

Crispin: The Lead of Cross by Avi won the Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children.

Crispin, known as Asta's son (no one ever told him his real name) has just lost his mother and become an orphan. Worse, the local authority has declared his a "wolf's head" - meaning anyone can kill him. He is not sure why he is being hunted. He did not steal the money they say he did.

Set in fourteenth-century England, Crispin cannot move around easily. He is a peasant and had never been outside of his town. But with the alternative being certain death, he ventures out on his own.

He soon meets Bear and becomes a servant once again. But Bear will help him find out who he really is and who his parents were. There must be a reason he is being hunted...

Avi. (2002). Crispin: The Cross of Lead. New York: Hyperion Books.

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06 February 2008

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick was nominated both for illustrations and story this year. It deserves every accolade it gets!

Told in words and pictures, this 525 page kids book is exciting and beautiful.

Hugo Cabret, 12, lives in a train station in Paris. He lives on his own and fixes the clocks in the station. It was his uncle's job, but his uncle has disappeared.

He is afraid if someone finds him he will be sent to an orphanage. But he must remain in his current home long enough to fix the mechanical man his father found at the museum. He is sure that if he can fix it, it will reveal a message from his father.

Selznick, Brian. (2007). The Invention of Hugo Cabret. New York: Scholastic Press.

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05 February 2008

First the Egg

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a beautifully painted book.

The story of the chicken and the egg, along with that of the tadpole and frog and caterpillar and butterfly, are told in this award winning picture book.

The pages are taken from paintings where you can see the brush-strokes. Each page has a cut out of the object of the page - the egg, the seed, the word.

Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. (2008). First the Egg. New Milford, CT: Roaring Brook Press.

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Kitten's First Full Moon

Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes - disaster abound for Kitten who thinks that the full moon is a bowl of milk in the sky.

The illustrations are done in black and white and capture the concentration, plotting and frustration Kitten experiences while trying to reach the giant bowl of milk.

Henkes, Kevin. (2004). Kitten's First Full Moon. New York: Greenwillow Books.

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Knuffle Bunny Too

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems is a tragic tale of a lost bunny.

Trixie takes her one of a kind Knuffle Bunny to school. But her friend Sonja has the same one of a kind Knuffle Bunny. From there, things go down hill fast for Trixie.

Willems captures New York by using picture of the city with the characters drawn on top of them.

He also sounds like someone who knows about being waken up at 2:00 am for an emergency that cannot wait until daylight to fix.

Willems, Mo. (2007). Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity: A Cautionary Tale. New York: Hyperion.

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Gone Wild: An Endangered Aniimal Alphabet

Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet by illustrator David McLimans is a twist on the alphabet.

No more random word for each letter, David turns the letters into endangered animals. Each page has a beautiful illustration, a summary of where the animal lives and what is endangering the habitat.

In spite of the fact that you can't overlook the fact that there was an endangered animal for every letter, Gone Wild is an amazing book.

McLimans, David. (2006). Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet. New York: Walker & Company.

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Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson is the fictionalized story of Larson's great-grandmother, a homesteader in Montana in the early 1900s.

At the opening of the story Hattie lives with an aunt and uncle in Arlington, Iowa. They are not really her aunt and uncle, she has already been moved to about all of her living relatives. Now she is about to be handed over to work in a boarding house.

Just in time she receives a letter from her mother's brother. He was a homesteader in Montana. Before he died he left the land to Hattie. She has one year to fulfill the requirements and 320 acres will be hers.

So, off she goes to Montana to learn to be a farmer. And she will be doing it on her own with the help of colorful neighbors who lend a hand when they can spare it.

Hattie Big Sky is a heartwarming story of a part of our nations history. Many changes happen during the story that historically took place during the years around 1918. Once read, it is not a surprise that this novel won the Newberry Award.

Larson, Kirby. (2007). Hattie Big Sky. New York: Delacorte Press.

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04 February 2008

Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850

Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850 by Susan Campbell Bartoletti is, obviously, about the potatoes famine in Ireland.

This is the first book I have read for my class on Literature for Children and Adolescents.

Bartoletti does a great job of not only talking about the fungus that killed the potatoes but the people whose lives were affected - from the British who invaded Ireland, the poor farmers who live off of only potatoes, the land owners, and the countries who tried to help stop the famine.

Ireland had over 8 million people before the famine. It was the most densely populated nation in Europe. With the starvation and emigration caused by the famine, in 1900 Ireland was down to just over 4 million people.

Black Potatoes is a fascinating look at the famine and how it shaped Ireland and the Irish people around the world for years to come.

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. (2001). Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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02 February 2008

Maude March on the Run (Maude March #2)

Maude March on the Run! or Trouble Is Her Middle Name continues the adventures from The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis.
Maude and her sister Sallie are now settled in Independence, Missouri. Maude works at a restaurant and Sallie is working for her uncle and Marion in the Livery.

Things are going well until Maude gets arrested. That seems like the signal for them to move on - once they complete the jail break.

The three are once again rough-riders headed west. They are going to the Colorado Territory to help out a friend of uncle Arlin and his family.

Along the way there is more adventure, shooting, close calls, and a few Mad Maude impersonators.

Couloumbis, Audrey. (2007). Maude March on the Run. New York: Random House.

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