Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Uglies - by Scott Westerfeld

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I often do, which is why I glanced at a copy of Uglies when it came out a few years ago, and I wasn’t even tempted to pick it up. As the adult Chick-Lit genre has blossomed so has the young adult version. I have no problem with the popularity of the genre, I’m just not particularly interested in it myself. I mistook Uglies to be one of those books with a female main characters obsessing over romantic possibilities and clothing, and while it contained both of those elements, it turned out to be much more.

Uglies is set in a futuristic society where everyone receives plastic surgery at the age of 16 to make them beautiful. The idea behind the transformations is that if everyone was beautiful, no one should feel better than anyone else, no wars would be fought over the color of people’s skin if everyone looks similar.

Tally, the main character, begins the book eagerly awaiting her 16th birthday so she can join the other “pretties” in their carefree lives. The thought that someone might not want to be changed never occurs to her until she meets Shay, another girl in her class about to turn sixteen. At first she doesn’t believe Shay’s stories of a place that people escape to if they don’t want the surgery, but after Shay disappears the authorities show up to question Tally and they confirm Shay’s story. They tell Tally she must help them find Shay and the other runaways or they will never do her surgery and she must remain ugly in a world of beauties forever. Tally is torn between her promise to her friend, her curiosity to know the truth, and her desire to become beautiful.

I found myself thoroughly caught up in Tally’s predicament and my reading became progressively slower as I neared the end of the book because I didn’t want it to be over. Luckily for me, it’s part of a trilogy and I just picked up the next book, Pretties at the library.

Now that I look at the cover, it’s more appropriate than I originally thought. I hesitate to classify this book as science fiction simply because it might discourage chic-lit readers from picking it up too, and I think they would enjoy it. Stephenie Meyer says that Twilight is a vampire novel that she wrote for people who do not like vampire novels and her next project is a science fiction book for people who don’t like science fiction. In the meantime, that’s what I’m calling this novel. Besides, who can resist picking up a book that begins with the line, “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit”?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Olivia & Eloise Dolls

I'm not the biggest fan of Madame Alexander dolls, but I love their version of Olivia. I could only find the complete bedroom set on the Madame Alexander site (which is a bit pricey to say the least), but on this site you can buy just the doll or extra outfits for your doll.

Now Madame Alexander is making a doll version of Eloise too.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

I received a review copy of Jeremy Fink in a flood of books for consideration for the Middle Grade Fiction Cybil Award, and it took me awhile to get to it. I couldn’t help thinking, “What kid wants to read about the meaning of life? I’m an adult and I don’t even want to read about it.” I could eat those words now because this book was wonderful from start to finish. Wendy Mass is a genious. How does she draw her readers into a quest for the meaning of life? She makes it a mystery even the most skeptic of readers can’t help but be curious about.

12 year-old Jeremy Fink and his best friend Lizzy are hanging out in his New York City apartment when the mailman delivers a package addressed to Jeremy’s mom. Jeremy lives by the rules, but Lizzy can’t overcome her impulsive nature and convinces him to open the package. Inside they discover a wooden box with a keyhole on four of it’s sides and the words, “THE MEANING OF LIFE: FOR JEREMY FINK TO OPEN ON HIS 13TH BIRTHDAY.” Jeremy immediately recognizes the box as the work of his father, who passed away several years earlier. This makes the note explaining that the friend taking care of the box lost all of the keys, even more disappointing. Jeremy and Lizzy are determined to find a way to open the box. A locksmith tells them that he can’t pick the locks or break it open without destroying the box and possibly the contents so they set a goal to find the keys by the end of the summer so Jeremy can still open the box on his 13th birthday.

Lizzy’s impulsiveness gets them into trouble and they wind up having to spend a good part of their summer performing community service. Luckily they are assigned to work for Mr. Oswald, an antique dealer preparing to retire to Florida. He assigns them to run errands for him delivering some special antiques. They have no idea until they reach the first home that they are returning valuable items to their original owners who pawned the items dearest to them when they were only teenagers. Each item is being returned with the original letter stating why they chose to pawn the item.

They are countless mysteries in this book: what is the meaning of life, where are the keys to the box, did the people who pawned their items get what they wanted, why is Mr. Oswald returning the items now? Interwoven between the answers is the story of an admirable friendship between Lizzy and Jeremy as they try to grow and transition into the teenage years. As with any book by Wendy Mass, there are also millions of delightful details, only she could invent.

Pick up a copy! Even if you don’t discover the meaning of life, you’ll have an enjoyable time trying to figure it out, and even if the plot sounds a bit too ridiculous too you, you’ll find the ending satisfying.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bridge to Terebithia the movie

I know many of you have seen the previews for Bridge to Terebithia and thought the same thing I did, "WHAT? This movie is supposed to be based on the book right? I mean, it has the same title, but I don't remember it being a fantasy adventure!"

Well, a while ago Fuse #8 posted that she heard from friends that the movie actually sticks fairly close to the book and a group of librarians who caught a preview of the movie were happy with it. Add to that this article about the movie by School Library Journal, and I'm actually looking forward to seeing the movie.

The advertising seems fairly misleading and I wonder how many kids will be disappointed when the major plot of the movie takes place in the "real" world.

The Cybils Awards have been announced!

Did you catch the Cybils Award announcements yesterday? If you missed it, you can check out the winners here.

I have to say that I'm a little surprised that A Drowned Maiden's Hair won the middle grade fiction category; it was the last book our nomination committee selected and we had a bit of a hard time agreeing on a fifth book, but I think those who pick it up will really enjoy it.

Congratulations to all of the winners. There are a few that I haven't read and I can't wait to pick them up!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Olivia Fabrics

Continuing my theme of Children's book related products, if you sew or know someone who sews, you must check out this new fabric featuring Olivia by Ian Falconer! They even provide a link to a pattern to make your very own Olivia quilt.

If I ever have a little girl I think I just discovered what her bedding will look like!

And did all of you Olivia fans know that a new Olivia book is coming out in October? It's called Olivia Helps With Christmas.

2007 Schedule

Here's the schedule of our topics for the beginning of 2007:

Topic: Fantasy
Host: Jessica
Treats: Emily

Topic: Books being made into movies
Host: Brooke
Treats: Kim

Topic: Historical Fiction (Cold War Era)
Host: Emily

Topic: Picture books (classics vs. new favorites)
Host: Rebekah

Topic: 2007 Newbery and Caldecott winners
Host: Kim

Topic: New works by past favorites
Host: Tara

I'm updating the list of all our past reads and if you'd like a copy just send me an email or post a comment.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Chronicle Books kids contests

So pretend you're a children's publisher running a contest, how do you let people know about it? Spread the word to the Children's Lit bloggers of course! Here's the info:

We thought you may want to share news of this "Best Books of 2006" Chronicle Kids contest with your readers:

In fact, we strive to always have an active contest at this address, with a different children's books-related theme (and prizes!) changing about every 6 weeks to two months.

Thank you for all of your support of Chronicle children's books!

The prizes include some great books, but be aware that if you enter you'll be on their mailing list (but who doesn't want hear more about some of the great books out there?)

A Pigeon Doll!

I love to surround myself with all things children's literature related so I've decided to start posting about some of the fun children's literature related products that I come across. I know some of you are groaning about the marketing ploys of some big publishers, but I love the idea of t-shirts and toys that tie into books. They inspire all sort of conversations with people you might have never known were fans of the same literature, and the toys help kids expand their imaginations as they come up with new adventures for their favorite characters (and search studies prove that when kids can step into a story and pretend to be the characters their reading comprehension gows way up).

That said, here's the find that I'm most excited about today:

Mo Willems' character are becoming stuffed animals! Check them out on his blog! I just bought fabric to attempt to make my nephew a stuffed Leonardo because that's his favorite book character, but it looks like I can spare myself the work. And who doesn't need Pigeon? Mo says the dolls will be available to the public in late March/early April.

March - Fantasy

We will be meeting at Jessica's house in March to discuss fantasy books. If any of you on the membership list have been wanting to join the group, but have been intimidated by the number of books that we read, this might be a great month for you to start because we are going to scale back a little and we will only be reading two books this month. You can find time to read two chapter books, right? Even if you can only find time to read one, we’d be happy to have you at our discussion. Both books should be widely available at the library so hurry and check them out!

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (which also happens to be one of the books being turned into a movie this year)

If you finish those and are looking for another suggestion, try Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge. It won’t be a big part of our discussion, but you might enjoy it anyway.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Potter Mania

Ok, so this news is everywhere, but what kind of children's literature blogger would I be if I didn't mention it here?

J.K. Rowling announced the release date for the next Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released on Saturday, July 21st! As you big fans know, this is the seventh, and final book in the series. Books are usually released on Tuesdays, but we can be sure there will be lots of celebrations at midnight on Friday, July 20th, which explains the unusual release date.