Tag Archives: HS

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Ssimonvshomosapiensimon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli

Listening to this book was a bit like watching a John Hughes movie… actually, it was a lot like watching a John Hughes movie. It is kind of sweet, there might be some heart-breaking moments, some misunderstandings, some bullying, but definitely a lot of friendship, quite a bit of sweet-loving, and totally easy to get hooked on and want to know more and want everything to work out at the end — and boy did EVERYTHING get worked out! Mostly believably so but definitely veering toward the hyper-optimistic end of possibilities: which, we all need from time to time!

I was a little sad that once Simon & “Blue” met up in real life, the author pretty much stopped giving us their exchanges of ideas: no more interesting emails to read of their views on the world around them or the quirky questions and answers. In the last part of the book, the readers are left with just observing their physical (sweet) contacts and first explorations: as if all those emails were just a precursor to what REALLY matters: kissing and other physical relationships…  It would have been more fulfilling an emotional journey for me as a reader if both physical and intellectual aspects of their relationship had been more equally represented during the last part of the story.

(And a potential quibble: I am still baffled why the characters refer to Tumblr as “the Tumblr” — was it that the author does not understand the teen-lingo these days or that it is THAT specific Tumblr page reserved for the kids in that particular town/high school — thus the article?)

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I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

icrawlthroughitI Crawl Through It by A.S. King

It was an intriguing and entertaining read — although using the word “entertaining” to describe my reading experience with a book dealing with mental illnesses, abuse, and traumatic events in teens feels a little crass. Nonetheless, I felt that King, as a writer, really revels in designing and playing “games” with her readers.  Mind games, for sure!

Do we really know what actually happened to each of the four main characters?  What’s with the man behind the bush?  What’s with the invisible (or real?) helicopter?  Nothing was really certain — not during and not after reading the book.  And I’m quite alright with that much ambiguity — I only wish that I had liked and/or could have felt more empathetic toward any of the characters.  Because of the stylistic choice and the hyper-reality setting, the main characters all seem to be more guinea pigs in a giant game of maze on stage, masterminded and controlled by the author for the amusement and perhaps even edification of the audience.  Even the cover design with the standardized test answering sheet reminds me of some sort of “whack a mole” holes in an arcade…

Anyway — to sum up — I admired the workmanship and enjoyed the weirdness but never quite got caught up enough to care about any of the characters or how “the story” was going to end.

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The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin

threebodyproblem The Three Body Problem (三体)by Liu Cixin(刘慈忻),translated by Ken Liu

This is a rare experience for me since my encounters with Science Fiction tend to be on the “soft sci-fi” end: where the details of the science employed by the authors are often quite flexible to suit the narrative needs of the tale.  This is Hard Science Fiction and I was absolutely fascinated (even while I didn’t quite understand them) by the explanation of the Three-Body physics problem, the unfolding of protons into various dimensional modules, and how radio waves are delivered and received, etc. However, what compelled me to keep on reading was the realistic and unflinching depiction of the story’s backdrop (from Cultural Revolution era to contemporary China,) the underlying multiple and somewhat conflicting philosophies about human nature, the life story and struggles of one of the main female characters, and the kinship I feel with a specific type of online gaming.

The author honestly and boldly laid out the views of his characters (and one can choose to side with or against whichever view) and the translator faithfully captured and presented the analytical and yet deeply emotional landscape of the story.

Let’s celebrate this book’s 2015 Hugo Award win for being a solid hard science fiction and for being the very first Hugo novel winner penned by an Asian author.

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The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

alexcrowThe Alex Crow by Andrew Smith was a baffling read from the beginning to the very end.  Baffling but fascinating, engaging, engrossing, moving, and thrilling. I didn’t know where the story was heading and in the end, I wasn’t quite sure where I have been: spanning time and space, from the icy pole in the 1800s to the summer heat of an American summer camp now (?) — encountering the Melting Man (literally,) the refugee boy, the eccentric scientists, the Dumpling Man, and many others.  Or even where we eventually arrived — are we to be pleased with Ariel’s final situation, bonded with his adopted brother and their new found friend, no longer being closely monitored?  Are we to continuously be paranoid of how our lives might be closely examined by unknown forces and crazy scientists?  At least I know to unconditionally love Ariel for his intelligence and compassion.

Since earlier this year’s brouhaha about Andrew Smith’s “lacking” in inclusion of positive female characters in his work, I couldn’t help but noticing that in this book the readers only encounter two real life women: one is a completely ineffective mother figure and the other is a terrifying scientist whose goal is to eliminate all males from the human species.  (I’m not counting the two imaginary women in the Melting Man’s schizophrenic head.)

Of course, introducing compassionate and caring characters (male or female) will result in a completely different story: one that simply wouldn’t have been as brutal to such extreme and thus wouldn’t have had the same level of impact.  If the point is to portray a world for Ariel and his buddies to “survive” in without the physical or emotional support of kind souls, Smith succeeded brilliantly.

And I must mention his ability to effortlessly switch into drastically different narrative voices!  A skilled writer, indeed!

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Avatar: The Last Airbender (TV show) Survey Report

avatar posterAvatar: The Last Airbender, the Nichelodeon channel animated show from 2005, has been and continues to be really popular with my middle and high school students.  (The show was created for even younger viewers.) I got curious and asked random internet users (via facebook, twitter, reddit, FCL, etc.) to fill out a form and tell me whether: “Avatar? OMG — AVATAR is MY LIFE!” or “This is the first time I have ever heard of this show,” and anything in between.  Although the respondents can choose from 12 different answers, I decided to consolidate them into four categories: Extreme Love, Positive, Neutral/Negative, and Never heard of/watched the show. Those who filled out the form also shared their demographic information and self-identified as one of the following: Asian or Asian American, White (Hispanic), White (Non-Hispanic), Black (Hispanic), Black (Non-Hispanic), Racially Mixed – part Asian, Racially Mixed – no Asian, Native American, or Other* * I had to take out a few responses (for example, a self-identified “penguin” – Oh, internet, you never fails to amuse me!) As you can see, the responses are really positive, just like those from my students and myself.  We are excited about the show, its spin-off Legend of Korra, and are happily reading the Graphic Novels series extending the storyline, and anxiously awaiting the new installments for both Aang, Katara, Zuko, Toph, Sokka storylines and the Korra storyline.  My notes on The Search by Gene Luen Yang will be posted tomorrow. If your browser can’t load this embedded chart, click on THIS LINK. I also asked for age ranges but decided to not include that information in the chart.

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The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

magicianslandThe Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman

The third, the final, and my favorite installment of the Magician’s trilogy.  A total love song to traditional children’s fantasy stories for grown-ups who have still yet to grow out of being enchanted completely by those tales (me). Thankfully, Quentin finally stopped being the annoying whinny young man that he was in the first two volumes, so my irknedness level was way down, making the reading experience a complete delight from beginning to end.  Lots of quotable little observations about fantasy story-making and world-building and about being a creative and self-reflective and forgiving (to self and others) human being.

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The Impossible Knife of Memory

impossibleknifeby Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre(s): Realistic Fiction

Basic Content Information: Hayley has to deal with caring for her father (her mother died a while back and her father’s long term girlfriend left) when he gets deeper and deeper within the dark landscape of PTSD after tours in Iraq. At the same time, she falls in love with Finn whose sister is a drug addict that his parents pour all their energy on and leave no time for him, who is in the process of applying to college. Her best (and only) friend Gracie also has to deal with parental fallouts of her father cheating on her mother and shouting matches at home. With everyone around her having to take care of their own business, Hayley is quite left alone to handle the worsen conditions of her father. When a former comrade was killed in the war, Hayley’s father left the house and a desperate search and rescue mission (by the young people themselves) ensues.

Edition: Hardcover

Pub Date: January, 2014

Publisher: Viking

(I’m only recording the bare bone facts about the Young Adult Fiction titles I read in 2014 — Serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee means that I need to be quite cautious in expressing opinions on social media. The safest way is to not express specific reactions publicly. But I’d like to keep reporting the titles I encounter throughout the year. You can always follow the link to Goodreads to see other readers’ reviews.)

Click here for: Goodreads summary and other people’s reviews.

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The Kingkiller Chronicle, vol. 1 and vol. 2

nameofthewind
wisemansfearVol. 1 (Day1) : The Name of the Wind and

Vol. 2 (Day 2): The Wise Man’s Fear

by Patrick Rothfuss

Altogether, these two volumes are more than 1,500 pages long and the audio book versions took about 61 hours to finish.  I mostly enjoyed the listening experience: the first volume is definitely tighter and since everything is new and the world is un-encountered before, I had a little more patience in all the details that Rothfuss put into the tale: colors of people’s clothing, the types of foods, some basic societal rules, etc.  And there are definitely a lot of thrilling moments and some good passages.

The Wise Man’s Fear, though, suffered from being too detailed at moments, too many similes thrown into the passages (that really could and should have been edited OUT of the tale,) and just too long.  I am really annoyed by authors who decided to use a particular narrative “device” and could not keep to the simplest or fundamental rules of that device.  Here, each volume is supposed to be tales told to the scribe within the duration of ONE SINGLE DAY (where people do go to sleep, where the current day contains events such as robbery, lunch, fighting, etc.)  So, almost 1000 pages of words (no matter how FAST one might be able to speak or write down the words) simply don’t compute.

One learns in writing classes that in order to create convincing and lifelike characters, one must know all the background stories (what colors they like, who was their first crush, when was their first experiences of fear and when and why and how, etc.) of the major characters.  But so much of these details should remain in the mind of the author.  Once in a while, perhaps, something can be drawn out and fill in a missing piece of a character’s traits.  But, the Wise Man’s Fear is full of such details breaking through the backstage door and cavorting on the main stage.  It just didn’t work for me.

I also got quite bothered by Rothfuss’ insistence of describing every single emotion or experience with a comparison to something else.  It is OK, Patrick R, to sometimes just say that you feel soothed by someone’s voice without having to compare the soothing feeling to a mother’s gentle touch to a child’s cheeks and the voice is just like a lover’s breathy whisper by your ears.  Some figure of speech enhances a narrative, but overindulgence in such narrative tool becomes tedious eventually.

All that said, did I love a LOT of what went into the books?  Absolutely.  I loved the world building, the mystery, the tentative romantic relationships, the exploration of language, means of communication, and how world history can be shaped and reshaped.  And I will definitely read (or listen to) the final installment when it is published next year.  Still a series worth recommending.

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Rose Under Fire

roseunderfireby Elizabeth Wein

I have only read three books by Elizabeth Wein.  Years ago, The Winter Prince, last year, Code Name Verity, and now Rose Under Fire.  But, I now know, unwaveringly, that this is an author who can steal people’s hearts and cleanse their souls with her storytelling wizardry.

Elizabeth Wein, my friends, has a creative mind that goes forever deepr and her stories always take you to unexpected but exciting places — no matter their subject matters.  Her mind is so incredibly nimble that she can organize very complex threads into easily followed paths through intricate mazes she has devised for her readers. And, oh, the hearts and souls of her characters and the epic scale of their sufferings and triumphs! They linger on and sustain you like the LIFT under the wing of an airplane and a soaring kite! Read this book NOW and tell everyone else to read it.

I know that young teen readers will take to Rose’s story more readily than they with Verity and can’t wait to recommend this to them all!

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Dune

duneby Frank Herbert

I was much more impressed with the book during the reading of the book than after having finished it — largely due to my expectations of having something transcendent, something heart-felt, something truly world shattering that the journey might have led to than what actually transpires at the end.  I definitely liked the world building, the presentation of technology and training of various warrior/assassin types, and the drawing upon non-Euro-centric traditions in constructing the beliefs and social structures within the world of Dune.  (And the Sand Worms… are such cool Desert Dragons!)

With such a rich and realized world, in the end, the book is just a fairly standard story of a hero that’s born with amazing abilities who cannot escape the paths set up for him and who walks all the way to the end as destined and even though losing a few precious things along the way, there seems to be little to no effect on his person. Much of the plot is propelled and explained away with mysticism and basic political maneuvering. At a certain point, I muttered, “Paul’s better not succeeded in accomplishing this as he has planned…” — but, as always, he did. He managed to achieve all that he set out to do, from outwitting enemies, to changing the ways of a tradition, to earning back trust easily from his old pals. Yes, he did lose a son in the whole process — but his reaction? They would be able to create more heirs and the heirs will inherit the world.

The volume ends as the two generations of concubines having a short exchange where Paul’s mother assures Chani (his true love but not the proper empress) that even though they would never have the title during their lifetime, they will be remembered in history as “Wives”!! Woop-dee-doo! What an achievement!

Granted, it was created in early 1960s and perhaps Herbert was not trying to question science or future worlds as harshly as we might these days — I still couldn’t help but putting a 2013 lens on it.

I know I will not be reading the sequels any time soon.   I searched and read some book summaries of the two sequels — it seems that the question of lineage and political power play are even more centralized in the next two books. Definitely not too exciting for me!

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All the Truth That’s In Me

allthetruthby Julie Berry

I couldn’t put the book down, especially toward the end — really wanting to know how everything played out. I don’t want to spoil it for other readers so won’t say how the plot/romance/mystery/fate were handled by the author — suffice it to say that I was quite impressed.

The most impressive aspect of the book, to me, is the author’s ability to maintain the inner voice, authentic and powerful, of Judith.  Every thought and emotion felt raw and genuine.  Did I sometimes wish that she had thought or acted differently because I wished all the best for her at the moment? Definitely.  But did I want her to act completely rationally — definitely not — because then we would not have had this very readable and more importantly, for a school librarian, “sellable” book to my middle school readers.   I already know that those who enjoyed Scarlet Letter and The Crucible would find this a much easier but nonetheless as gripping addition on their reading list!

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Hokey Pokey

13642591by Jerry Spinelli

This new book by established author Jerry Spinelli has sparked quite a bit of conversation in the children’s lit. circle.  And at my Children’s Literature Circle (a monthly book club that I host for faculty at my school,) our teachers (and one student) had quite a bit to say about the book as well.  So, here’s a short synopsis of what we discussed last Friday (April 19th.)

We were lucky enough that an 8th grade boy, hungry and in need of some sustenance wandered in to the classroom where some yummy chicken fingers called to him.  We said to Z (his initial) that we’d love to give him this book to read and get some feedback, since one of the common sentiment was, “Who would read this book?  Whom is this book for?”  But Z surprised us by saying, “Oh, that book?  I read it.  I really liked it.”

So we fed Z, asked him to stay for the beginning of our discussion and share with us his reaction.  He told us that the book was easy to read and he really enjoyed it.  These are some of his own words. “It resonated with me.”  “How the author describes it gels with my own childhood.” “I was confused at first.  Thought it was purely fantastical world… until it became clear that it was a childhood… it felt tribal.” ” It feels like a new fantasy world.”  “It would have felt sadder if I had read this earlier.”  Or, as we agreed, for a younger reader, it might not speak to him/her at all!

After Z left, we had a short moment of collective reflective silence — hmm… so this book IS for someone, and at least for this one 8th grader, everything WORKS beautifully.  Z also told us that he read the book in one day — which we all agreed that is the way to go.  Not a book to read in piece-meal, putting down and picking up again.  But we also all agreed that it was NOT an easy book to get in to – not by a long shot.  Anyone staying with the book until the end appreciated it so much more than they had originally thought possible.

We thought that it is daring for Spinelli to create such a unique world and he did quite a great job maintaining it.  Not an easy task.  Some of us felt that toward the end, there’s a bit redundancy in reviewing all the areas of “childhood” (Hokey Pokey) and that tightening it up more would have been  emotionally stronger.  Someone in our group suggested that the book should have been a short story.

We thought that this book will speak most directly and effectively for those who have LEFT Hokey Pokey.  (So, early teens, teens, and adults.)  And it probably will only speak to those who actually lament or miss their childhood.

Is the Allegorical land too obvious for some readers?  It is, somewhat, for me and a couple of other adult readers.  But it seems to have worked quite well for the 8th grader and there is a sense of revelation and pride in being able to name what Hokey Pokey is!

I grappled with the view points somewhat — if this is supposed to be the internal landscape of Jack, why would we be able to see so clearly some of the other characters’ internal journeys?  Especially that of Jubilee’s?    Or perhaps this is NOT an internal landscape but a SHARED Childhood Experience of those who live through it together?  Some leave earlier than others and some want to leave while others want to hold them back.

I wish that the strong dividing line of “BOYS are this” and “GIRLS are that” is less clearly stated to allow for better enjoyment by me with a 21st century sentiment.

I also think that the comparison of Spinelli to Joyce (by plenty of people) is quite off base and that this is not an example of “stream of consciousness” style!

This was definitely a conversation propelling book!  I’d love to hear more opinions for young readers!

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Out of the Pocket

OutofthePocketby Bill Konigsberg

The best adjective I could think of to describe this book is perhaps “earnest.”

The reluctantly outed celebrity quarterback’s story is told with such sincerity and truth that the reader cannot but root for the main character.  Along the way, there is just the right amount of suspense and uncertainty — how everyone might react to the news and accept or disapprove of his sexuality or decision  making — to maintain a high interest level to continue reading.  I read through it quickly because I truly wanted to know what happened next.  The football play-by-play scenes are described with lucidity and are quite exhilarating.  So even this football layman could form clear mental pictures and follow the games with all the thrill a spectator at the games would possess.  That is one of the strengths of this book.

I cannot not quite decide whether Bobby is flesh and blood and completely realized or is a courageous face on the cover of a magazine or national campaign poster, whose story is told to and not quite lived by this reader.  Perhaps he is both — at different times in the telling, depending on whether he is put in the middle of a scenario and reacts, or he is being cool-headedly examined by himself in one of his many his internal monologues.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson

by John Green and David Levithan

Both John Green and David Levithan are known for their witticism, and both also have created stories where things get out of hand, and the reality just seems larger than life/real — I often think of it as “ultra realism.”  And in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, you get a double dose of this over-the-top tone: Their nerds are just nerdier, their gay characters gayer, their jokes funnier, their sorrows more desperate, and their big finale of a High School Musical is so improbable that readers just have to suspend ALL disbelief (WILLINGLY) and simply enjoy the ride.

I enjoyed it for sure.  I laughed out loud many times — both are so good at coming up with amazingly intelligent and painfully truthful funny one-liners (or one-paragraphers.)

What intrigued me the whole way was how these two YA superstar authors collaborated.  Did they challenge each other with surprising scenarios or was it all planned out?  Am I right in assuming that one wrote the Gay Will Grayson part and the other the Straight Will Grayson part?  Who wrote which?  (I thought I got it down from the beginning but now I’m not so entirely sure!)

One of my high school students read the book (a big Levithan fan, didn’t know John Green and now became a fan, too) and did not love love it because it reminds this student too much of the REAL life drama that goes on around the group of friends.  It probably is painful.

No matter how ultra realistic this novel is, so much truth is dragged up from the bottom of a teenager’s heart that one cannot but admire the authors’ deep connection with their own inner teens and their abilities to capture all those feelings in words.

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Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green
Rating:
Reading Level: 8th and up

I read the first half prior to the Printz Award Announcement and the second half after it had won the Printz. It was quite an amazing read and I could see how many of my students will truly enjoy this novel. Those who have embraced Perks of Being a Wallflower and A Curious Incident of a Dog at Night Time are ideal readers for this very thoughtful and intense read. I did find the “After” part a tad longer than necessary. Too much emphasis on the soul-searching side without the help of actual incidents to move the story along. Still a worthy winner of 2006.

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Early 2004 Reads

Meet the Austins

by L’Engle, Madeleine
Realistic Fiction (4-6)

What a gentle, charming, old-fashioned fiction from the “olden days.” (1960.) The strong bond of the family is remarkable and yet very common place. This story reminds the readers to appreciate the every day life and to see the extraordinary and often humorous sparkles of ordinary events. A lovely read.


Angels and Demons

by Dan Brown
Mystery (7th, 8th, YA, adult)

I enjoyed the plot for the most part. The characters are really flat and there are a couple of holes towards the end of the story. This definitely does not qualify as an outstanding work of literature but it sure kept me reading. The ambigrams and the art history references are definitely the strength. The romance is not.


Starting with Alice

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Realistic Fiction (3-5)

This first prequel to Naylor’s popular Alice series works. Alice is her smart but lack of confidence self — quite precocious for a beginning 3rd grader, borderlining unbelievable at points, though.


The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place

by E. L. Konigsburg
Recommended
Realistic Fiction (5-8)

Konigsburg’s much-anticipated new novel is as smart, soul-touching, and quirky as many of her other titles. However, I did not fall in love with this story as much as I had hoped for — I wanted another Silent to the Bone — an excellent title with a strong appeal to young readers; instead, I got a Father’s Arcane Daughter — an excellent book that might not have a strong following of young readership. Of course, with the Summer Camp scenes, some children might find it appealing.


Pop Princess

by Rachel Cohn
Realistic Fiction, YA (6-8)

Definitely not as smart, touching, and tender as Gingerbread. It was nonetheless and entertaining read.


The Wee Free Men

by Terry Pratchett
highly recommended
Fantasy, Humorous Story (6-8)

I enjoyed Pratchett’s brand of humor in this Discworld novel. It reminds me quite a bit of Coraline by Gaiman — the whole Dream World being sketchy and not solid to withstand close scrutiny scenario and the entering into this created world to rescue a family member and also to gain self-understanding and self-reliance. It just got to be a bit tedious at the end.


Vote for Larry

by Janet Tashjian
Realistic Fiction, YA (6-9)

This sequel to Gospel According to Larry is definitely inferior to the original — very heavy-handed, message-ladened, and the Mystery part is trite. I can see young readers enjoy it, though.


Doing It!

by Melvin Burgess
Realistic Fiction, YA (9-12)

After the first shocking effects wear off, the story loses my interest quickly. The characters do not seem real to me and although there are moments of extreme humor, the moralistic overtone makes it an unsatisfying read.


East

by Edith Pattou
Recommended
Fantasy (5-7)

This retelling of the Norse fairy story of East of the Sun, West of the Moon is so much fun to read — but did drag a little in the middle, when Rose is journeying north and crossing the sea, too many side characters who mean very little to the readers and too much description without moving the plot along. Both Rose’s World and the Troll Kingdom are well realized and the multiple voices are distinct and work nicely in presenting the whole story.


An American Plague

by Jim Murphy
Nonfiction (6-8)

I could not understand why this book received so much acclaim! It was nominated for National Book Award’s Young Readers category; it won the Sibert Award, and a Newbery Honor…. and yet, it is SO dry, SO unruly, and SO boring. Reading it, I did not sense the urgency or the horror of the plague. And I was so ready to be swept away….


Lyra’s Oxford

by Philip Pullman
Recommended

Fantasy (5-8)
Of course I had to read this book — taking place 2 years after the conclusion of His Dark Materials trilogy, this short tale relates an incident about a witch in Lyra’s Oxford. I loved pouring over the inserted map and all the merchandizes advertised on the back of it. A gem.


Stravaganza: The City of Masks

by Mary Hoffman
Recommended
Fantasy (4-7)

This wonderfully inventive time/space/dimensional travel fantasy/science-fiction blend delivers an intense mystery. I can’t wait to read the sequel — The City of Stars.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

by Mark Haddon
Recommended
Realistic Fiction, YA, Adult (8-12)

The protagonist is definitely a unique creation. I enjoyed many of his insights, reasonings, and limitations. At moments, I found his character is a little inconsistent with what he CLAIMS he is — but, other people have convinced me that that is how an autistic person might function. A wildly popular book with both adults and young people, I see this award winning novel enjoy a long shelf life.


Abhorsen

by Garth Nix
Recommended
Fantasy, series (6-9)

The conclusion of the trilogy that started with Sabriel is powerful, exciting, but at the same time a little disappointing — too short! I’d like to read MORE about what hapstar next in the Old Kingdom and the land of the dead…


The River Between Us

by Richard Peck
Recommended
Historical Fiction (6-8)

I put it down at first reading, but decided to go back and re-read it. When I read the entire story, it worked much better. The characters definitely become alive, the horror of the Civil War war front and the sorrow of the Home Front can both be “seen” and “felt” vividly, and the final revelation of the relationships between the two narrators definitely concludes the story powerfully. I think this is a book that I will go back to re-read and savor more.


Milkweed

by Jerry Spinelli
Highly Recommended
Historical Fiction (5-8)

The dual voices of the narrator whose identity changes several times in this story set in the Warsaw Ghetto works so incredibly well — he is both an innocent 8-year-old (we guess) and an old man in America who wisely recalls his time in great perils. Finely crafted, with a cast of genuine characters, this novel definitely speaks to me and I imagine many many young readers will find it a powerful, although definitely disturbing and devastating story.


Olive’s Ocean

by Kevin Henkes
Reccommended
Realistic Fiction (5-7)

Contrary to what I expected, this story is really not quite about “death” but about savoring “life” and all its colors and lights. Martha is a very sensitive and extremely thoughtful 12-year-old and her relationship with her family rings true. I like the Grandma. But, the scenes with the boy-next-door seem a bit contrived and unconvincing.


Lirael

by Garth Nix
Highly Recommended
Fantasy, series (6-9)
Definitely my favorite of the trilogy! Lirael is such an amazing character, and she is a Librarian, none less. So much of the story hapstar in the coolest Library one can imagine and the Disputable Dog is an absolutely original character. I was completely blown away by this volume.

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