Levithan, David. The Realm of Possibility. 2006. Alfred A. Knopf. 978-0375836572 pp. $
Hello everyone! I did nothing this past weekend but read YA books for the Popular Paperbacks Committee (will it never end?), except for allowing myself one non-committee read. I must therefore gush about David Levithan’s newish book The Realm of Possibility. I was a huge fan of Boy Meets Boy (soooo cute!), and I wasn’t sure if his latest prose poetry collection would be more schmoopy goodness or instead be a disappointment and pretentious. While it is occasionally pretentious, it is so in the way that teen poets are, so I didn’t really mind. I loved some of his ideas, and his celebrations of all kinds of relationships. Unlike Boy Meets Boy, this world is basically our own (instead of a world to aim for), and all of the heartbreak, awkwardness, and contemplation is spot on. And, as is necessary with poetry, there are some excellent lines and lingering images.
Also, just as a note, one of my favorites from the Fairy Tales list we’ve been working on is Nobody’s Son by Sean Stewart — excellent fairy tale from the point of view of the hero (a rare occurrence in these tales), and explores just what happens after the low-born hero gets the youngest daughter of the King’s hand in marriage. Shielder’s Mark, our hero, is happy in gruffness and common attitude, but is terribly out of his depth at court, intrigues and all. Also, though he’s defeated the curse and freed the land from a gloomy curse, he may have set something else loose in the process. Good stuff.
Lehman, Barbara. The Red Book. Clarion, 2004. ISBN 978-0618428588 32 pp. $16.99
P.S. I also love The Red Book by Barbara Lehman. Very cool wordless picture book. And Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, a fun and colorful concept book.
Just feel the love as I open up boxes and boxes of new picture books since I am working on the day after Thanksgiving and my first patron did not come in until and hour and a half after being open!
Stewart, Sarah. illus. by David Small. The Friend. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. ISBN 978-0374324636 pp. $
What librarian does not love The Library by Sarah Stewart? I love all her books with husband David Small and so it comes as no surprise that I love The Friend, their latest collaboration. The illustrations are so beautiful and expressive in their simplicity. The story outlines Belle’s relationship with her housekeeper, no make that her friend, Bea. They do chores together and end each day at the beach or in the garden or even relaxing in Bea’s room. The double page spread beach scenes transport me to Newport RI (Does Belle live in The Breakers???).
A tragic close-call at the beach seems to only strengthen the bond between Belle and Bea… a friendship that continues into Belle’s adulthood. As with Stewart’s other books a sense of mystery lingers after the story is done… What happened to Bea? Did Belle grow up to become Sarah?
For a fun winter story (one that would make a great read-aloud or storytime book) try Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. Cute rhyming story with fantastic picture by Mark Buehner.
Klise, Kate illus by M. Sarah Klise. Shall I Knit You a Hat? A Christmas Yarn. Square Fish, 2007. ISBN 978-0312371395 32 pp. $
And speaking of great new picture books, my Christmas orders came in earlier this week and you all must buy Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise. Because of an impending blizzard, Mother Rabbit knits a hat for Little Rabbit. He likes it so much that he asks his mother to knit hats for all their friends for Christmas so they won’t be cold in the snow. What makes this so adorable is the hats themselves. Little Rabbit’s hat is fitted to his ears – kind of like toe socks. The other animal’s hats are giant and bizzare-looking (bells hanging off and the like). The expressions on their faces wearing their new hats for the first time is priceless as is Deer saying “My antlers have never been drier.”
Shusterman, Neal. The Schwa was Here. Puffin, 2006. ISBN 978-0142405772 pp. $9.99
I also read The Schwa was Here by Neal Shusterman. What an odd little gem. Anthony “Antsy” Bonano first notices the Schwa while attempting to destroy an indestructible plastic mannequin. The Schwa is Calvin Schwa, a young man who is “visibly challenged” as in no one notices him to the point that Antsy’s mother repeatedly hits him in the face while talking with her hands because she doesn’t see him there. There’s a lot going on in this book: Calvin’s story and that of his mother who disappeared nearly a decade earlier and Antsy’s relationship with his family. There’s also a cranky old man and his blind grand-daughter, 14 Afgan dogs, and a butcher with a tale to tell. Definitely one worth picking up.
New picture books that I love:
Wallace’s Lists by Barbara Bottner
Doodler Doodling by Rita Golden Gelman
Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
Am I an athiest? Maybe. I think that’s what drew me to Pete Hautman’s novel, godless. Am I ready to convert to Chutengodianism? Not quite. It’s hard to believe that a group of kids would start worshipping a water tower. But they do. Jason Bock’s disgust at the church in his town and all its followers gives him an idea and he starts his own religion. But what does one do when the few followers a religious leader has decide to break the rules of the religion and go their own way? What does a religious leader do when one member takes the religion to the extreme…fundamentalist? What does a religious leader do to increase membership of the church? All interesting questions to ponder in this time, when a kind of fundamentalism is sweeping over our country. I don’t know who I would recommend this book to, perhaps a patron who really liked Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville.
Just read the sequel to Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. Predator’s Gold is amazing. Set in a future where cities are mobile and prowl the landscapes searching for others to “eat” for resources and slave labor, Tom and Hester have left the ruins of London and eventually end up crash landed on Anchorage, a traction city in the Ice Wastes region. What follows is action, betrayal, theft, mystery, more betrayal, death, resurrection of a kind, and races through the Ice Wastes.
Other recent sequels: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins was a great follow up to Gregor the Overlander. And it looks like there will be a third on its way. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ Snakecharm is the sequel to Hawksong, which dealt with races of human-animal shapeshifters working out an uneasy peace between two warring groups. The story is good but I wasn’t as into it as the first. Maybe I’ve just been reading to much fantasy.
My new favorite series to plug to teens is Watching Alice by Daniel Parker and Lee Miller. The first book (there’s only 2 so far) is Break the Surface. It’s the journal of Tom Sinclair. A new senior in a Manhattan high school, Tom has a secret and plans to do everything he can to keep it. Though he tries to be aloof, he attracts the attention of Alice, a fellow senior with some intrigue of her own. At the book’s conclusion, Alice has disappeared without a trace and Tom is determined to find her. The second installment, Walk on the Water is Alice’s diary dating from just before she met Tom to hours before her disappearance. You learn more about the strange group (cult?) Alice is trying to break free of and for the rest readers are forced to wait for the next book due in January.
Eoin Colfer’s “The Legend of Spud Murphy” is a great one for those reluctant readers out there. Unable to handle the havoc wreaked each day by their large family of rambunctious boys, the parents of Will and Marty decide to leave them at the library each afternoon where the spud gun-toting librarian, Spud Murphy, keeps a watchful eye on the two. Illustrations are found throughout the book. My favorite shows Spud holding up a sign reading “Shhh”.
In light of today’s special nature I have 2 great books to tell you about…
A Woman for President: the story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull and Madam President by Catherine Thimmesh with illustrations by Douglas B. Jones. I admire the work of Kathleen Krull, she writes about the most interesting topics and really makes them accessible to young people (I am especially a fan of her recent book The Book of Rock Stars). I wish this book, or any book about Victoria Woodhull was around when I had to do biography reports in school! This title belongs in every public and school library as does Madam President, which provides snippets of information about a variety of women in politics.
I love the format of this book which follows a young girl’s dream of becoming president…her friends and family suggest other, more realistic options such as marrying a president, or serving in the House or Senate. The book profiles some powerful first ladies, women from the suffrage movement, important women firsts in US politics, and also female world leaders. Did you know that America ranks 52nd regarding women in worldwide governing bodies…that’s tied with Slovakia? And that over the course of our country’s history only 2% of the 12,000 people who have served in Congress have been women?
These books brings to light the many ways in which women have been neglected in US government, Thimmesh makes no qualms about her book’s purpose here, but she also remains amazingly unbiased and non-partisan. In addition to sources and an index there is a great timeline that fills in some gaps, giving readers a little more of a taste of women in politics. I also love the illustrations. The retro style is very appealing and perfectly captures the spirit and strength of all the women profiled.