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Friday, February 20, 2015

Bluegrass News

If you're not a bluegrass dork like me, you might not have heard of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  They first came to my attention on a collection of Bob Dylan covers that the library owns, and then I heard them again on a collection of modern remakes of Civil War Songs (remember when I said I was a dork?).  Even though I don't love all their songs, I do love the voice of their lone female member, Rhiannon Giddens, and the interesting ways that she uses it in their songs. Here's an example:

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Ms. Giddens was coming out with a solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn.  It's on the library shelves right now, if you'd like to check it out!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fun Read but really bad cover!

Image result for F.R.E.A.K. S. Squad Mind over monsterA couple of years ago. I wandered in to the director's office and said, "I just finished the latest Vampire Academy book and now I have nothing to read. Do you have any suggestions?" She suggested The F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Series by Jennifer Harlow. The first one is titled Mind Over Monster. I had looked at this book and judged it by its cover and was not going to read it. However, with her recommendation, I went ahead and gave it a chance.

Synopsis: Bea (Short for Beatrice) is a school teacher with a hidden ability. She can move things with her mind! When a freak accident happens and her powers are discovered she is visited by Don the leader of  the F.R.E.A.K.S., a secret department of the government created for people with special abilities to fight supernatural crime and invited to join. Of course there is the vampire and werewolf love triangle but that takes a back seat to the all the gory goodness that comes with figuring out who is raising the dead and creating murderous zombies.

This was a great read, if you are looking for a fun story and like the paranormal. The main character reminded me of Stephanie Plum with more depth! Unfortunately, the covers have not improved at all! This is one of many times when the book is better than the cover.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Top 100:11-20

The end is nearly here!!!! When I started this whole Top 100 chapter books I really did not plan on it taking me this long and I apologize for being such an incredibly slooooowwww blogger.  I've gotten bogged down with work, kids, life, etc. Well, let's get to the Top 20.

20. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

In recent years bullying has become a recurrent theme in children's literature (not to mention television, movies, and the news). The Hundred Dresses is a beautifully written story that was far ahead of it's time in 1945.  In fact, it is probably the first children's chapter book to focus solely on bullying as a theme.

The story revolves around a poor Polish girl, Wanda Petronski, who is teased relentlessly by the other girls at school.  So many children (and adults too) can relate to the narrator of The Hundred Dresses who knows that the taunting is wrong, but joins in to avoid becoming a target herself. By the time Wanda's classmates acknowledge their wrongdoing their remorse is moot because the constant abuse has already forced Wanda to leave town. The Hundred Dresses may be a simple story, but it's message is timeless. Words, especially cruel ones, can have profound impact. Not only on the person who they are directed at, but also on the speaker.

19. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Well, this time we have a girl stranded on a deserted island. Following a devastating battle with Russian and Aleut otter hunters, the remainder of Karana's tribe decides to migrate to the mainland. When her younger brother, Ramo, is missing Karana goes back to their village to find him and subsequently both are left behind on the island. After Ramo is killed by a pack of wild dogs, Karana is forced to carry on completely alone, except for the animals that she befriends and tames.

O'Dell's astounding story of survival is based on the true legend  of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. In 1853, a  woman was discovered on San Nicolas Island off the coast of California. As with O'Dell's fictional account, the woman was believed to have been marooned when the rest of her tribe, the Nicoleno, decided to leave San Nicolas Island. Rather than her brother, the real life Karana is thought to have gone back for her own child. Just as in The Island of the Blue Dolphins, though, the woman lived in a hut she had made from whale bones and was wearing a skirt fashioned from cormorant feathers when she was finally rescued.  After 18 years of living in complete isolation the woman was taken to the Santa Barbara Mission on the California mainland. Tragically, the severe changes in her environment and diet caused the woman, who was christened Juana Maria on her deathbed, to succumb to dysentery a mere seven weeks after leaving San Nicolas Island.

I hope I didn't bore you too much with all of the information. I am a bit of a history buff so I found it all fascinating. In 2012 an archeologist claimed to have discovered a cave in which Juana Maria lived. You can watch this documentary about it:

18. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
If gorillas were able to converse in a language that humans could understand I am positive that it would be exactly as depicted by Katherine Applegate in The One and Only Ivan.
I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It's not as easy as it looks.

There are a lot of books out there in which the main character and narrator is an animal. Some of the more exceptional ones such as Watership Down, Black Beauty, Ben and Me, etc. are already on my list. Of all of the animal voices in literature, though, none is more convincing than Ivan's. 

I was a blubbery, weeping, wailing mess the whole time I was reading this book, but I still absolutely adored it. In his sparse and brutally honest voice, Ivan talks about his tragic history and horrendous living conditions.

Applegate based her Newbery winning book on the true and appalling story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla in Washington state. Thankfully, the true story also has a happy ending. Public outrage led to the real Ivan being removed from his inadequate and deplorable cage in the mall and sent to Zoo Atlanta where he spent the remainder of his life in the relative freedom of an open, spacious habitat.

17. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Avi is a long-established and respected name in the world of children's literature. The author of more than 60 popular books for children and teens, Avi has won a Newbery medal, two Newbery honors, and countless other awards.  The Tales of Dimwood Forest starring Poppy the young deer mouse, is particularly beloved in our library (probably because many of our teachers read Poppy aloud to their classes). In my opinion, though, Avi's greatest literary achievements are his historical fiction books and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is my absolute favorite. It is a rip-roaring adventure on the high seas with murder, pirates, and a female character who bucks every societal expectation for young, privileged girls in the Victorian era.

Many boys resist reading books with female protagonists, but there is enough action in Charlotte Doyle to win over even the most reluctant reader. This book is incredibly exciting while tackling issues of sexism, racism, and class. I will not give anything away, but the ending is spectacular, especially for kids struggling to find where they fit in.

16. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Buckbeak the hippogriff, the Marauder's Map, Dementors, Patronuses (or is it patroni?), Professor Lupin, and Sirius Black!!  There are so many reasons  that The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite Harry Potter book.

The third installment of the Harry Potter series is full of twists and turns (courtesy of a time turner), and introduces a variety of fantastic new magical creatures and characters. It is unbelievable how Rowling was able create such a unique and creative world. The only word is perfection.

15. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I have to pay homage to Lewis Carroll's fantastical journey down the rabbit hole. Even if you have not read the original text you would have to be living in an isolated, native tribe hidden deep within an undiscovered area of the amazon jungle to not know who Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat are. Movies, graphic novels, video games, music, teen and adult books. Alice's trip to  Wonderland has permeated every aspect of popular culture and for good reason. This timeless fantasy by Lewis Carroll is WONDERful (haha), brimming with extraordinary characters and strange and marvelous happenings. I have read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland several times over the years and each time yields new surprises and WONDERs (I just cannot help myself).

As far as adaptations, I really enjoyed The Looking Glass Wars trilogy by Frank Beddor. These were written for teens, but I thought that Beddor's steampunk re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland was creative and extremely fun to read.

14. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Aahhh, a child's first foray into the geektastic world of Middle Earth. Fast and easy-to read (or at least easier), The Hobbit is an excellent introduction to Tolkien who, let's be honest, is the pinnacle of the entire fantasy genre.

Now should your young reader fall in love with The Hobbit be forewarned that the The Lord of the Rings trilogy is infinitely more complex and difficult to read. I am not saying that to discourage anyone from reading Tolkien, because it is AWESOME!!!!  However, Tolkien's writing is incredibly, like minutely, detailed and the manifold characters and story lines can be daunting for younger readers.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is completely worth the effort so do not give up on it when it is not as action-packed and thrilling as the Peter Jackson films.

Want to know more, you can watch of my favorite youtube book vs. movie reviewers. I know he is kind of a dork, but then so am I, and I really enjoy listening to his point of view.

13. The BFG by Roald Dahl

The character of the Big Friendly Giant was actually introduced in Danny, the Champion of the World and it took Roald Dahl nearly a decade to give him his own book. Thankfully he did because the Gobblefunk speaking BFG who catches happy dreams and then blows them into the rooms of sleeping children is one of Dahl's most magical characters. As with The Witches, some people may think that The BFG is too scary for kids. I can see their point since there are also evil, children-gobbling giants with names like Bloodbottler, Gizzardgulper, Bonecruncher, etc. Dahl, being the master that he is, is able to temper this with hyperbole and humor so that it is not frightening for young readers.  i.e. Turks taste of Turkish Delight, Danish people taste like dogs, people from Wales are fishy, etc.

Kids will love how the BFG not only mixes up and confuses words, but also creates his own. Being a lit major I found it particularly amusing when the BFG refers to Charles Dickens as Dahls Chickens.

Supposedly Walt Disney is producing a live action adaptation of The BFG that is going to be directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. It is scheduled to be released Fourth of July weekend in 2016. This could be really good or really really bad, but I am definitely rooting for the former.

12. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
I have read The Great Brain (and every other book in the Great Brain series) more times than I can count and every time I make a fool of myself by crazy hyena laughing in a quiet room.  The book begins with Tom Fitzgerald (i.e. the Great Brain) selling tickets to see the first indoor toilet. How can you not want to read the book after that opening? Despite Tom's "money-loving heart" (and you will be in hysterics reading about all of his schemes) he does occasionally use his great brain to help his friends and town, as long as there is something in it for him.

11. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Oh, how I dreamed of finding a key that led to my own private sanctuary. I guess that first I would need to live on an estate with a vast walled-in garden (sigh). I recently reread The Secret Garden and I found it just as magical as I did when I was ten. The story of the orphan, Mary Lennox, and the revitalization that she undergoes when she is transplanted from India to England is so captivating. Looking at the climates you would think that it would be the opposite. Shouldn't warm, exotic, and sun-drenched India be more enlivening than the dreary England? Well, not true for Mary Lennox who goes from sickly, thin, and peevish to rosy-cheeked and happy. It is actually quite heartbreaking to think that Mary doesn't learn what it is like to give or receive love until after the death of her parents.

Nothing says 1983 like a side ponytail and a sparkly headband!
If you do not have the time to read the book there are several audio versions. I happen to really like the one that our library currently has in its collection. The reader is Finola Hughes, whom you may recognize as Anna Devane if you are an All My Children or General Hospital fan. OR her greatest role, the sparkly headband wearing dancer from 1983's Staying Alive. Anyway she has a great British voice that is perfect for reading The Secret Garden.
Come on, admit it. You are impressed that I could connect an 80s dance movie starring John Travolta to The Secret Garden.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Find a book

EBSCOhostMeL - Michigan eLibrary LogoLet's say your child just finished a book and they want to read another with a similar theme. You have a lot of options: ask a librarian, ask a friend, go to a book store or check on-line. This last option is what I want to write about today. If you are on-line and are searching for a book, check out    They have this great resource NoveList K-8. Your child just types the title of the book, the program will generate a list of suggestions based on what the child liked about the book. Click on the Mel or NoveList links to get started!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Online Storytime: Ladybug Girl at the Beach

One of the first books I read to my daughter was Ladybug Girl. I loved it from the start. Lulu is a young girl who has to play by herself. Her parents are busy and her brother is too busy playing a big boy game with his friends. At first she is irritated and bored because there is no one to play with her. However, she soon takes on the persona of Ladybug Girl and helps a line of ants by clearing their path, runs through a pond even though there might be a shark in it, and then saves a crumbly old wall! Of course she has many more adventures but she learns that she can entertain herself. This is just the the first book in the series all of which are enjoyable!
Here is another of my favorites Ladybug Girl at the Beach read by the authors David Soman and Jackie Davis provided by Barnes and Noble online storytime.