Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Defining Dulcie – by Paul Acampora

This story is told first person by 16 year-old Dulcie. The book begins right after the death of Dulcie’s father. He was a janitor who died after being poisoned when he accidentally mixed some chemicals while cleaning the floor at Dulcie’s high school. Her mother wants a fresh start so she moves Dulcie across the country to California. When her mother decides to sell her dad’s old truck, Dulcie has had it. The truck is the only thing she has left of her dad’s and she is not willing to let it go. Dulcie sneaks out of the house and begins a cross-country journey to return home where she hopes her grandfather will welcome her with open arms.

I know, it sounds like another one of those morbid books, but it’s not. Dulcie and her family have a great sense of humor that kept me entertained. The beauty of the book is in the details. Dulcie stops at a lot of interesting sites on her cross-country trip like the fainting goat farm in Wakeeney, Kansas and The Great American Museum of Custodial Safety in Missouri, and the Maria Stein shrine of holy Relics in Ohio (which is a real place, who knew?). I guess I connected so much because she reminded me a little of myself, I would totally stop at random sites while traveling cross country and I even have a grandfather whose wife has passed away, but still lives on in his home as shown by the pink wallpaper and pink toilet and tub she left behind.

This book was particularly interesting to me after recently reading The Janitor's Boy by Andrew Clement because the main character in The Janitor's Boy is completely embarassed that his dad is a janitor at his school. Dulcie's lack of embarassment was refreshing, she never seemed to mind that her father and grandfather were janitors and even worked as a janitor part-time herself. I thought it was interesting that both kids used their dad’s keys to sneak around the school and both of them were surprised to discover their dad's were secretly helping other kids in need.

Dulcie was a vivid character, and I loved growing along with her in this novel. I think that you will too.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Born to Rule - by Kathryn Lasky

Harry’s at a school for wizards so why shouldn’t there be a school for princesses someone out there too? Princess Alicia heads for a summer of learning to be a proper princess at Camp Princess, where arts and crafts involve real jewels and there’s a different required outfit for every activity, including swimming tiaras for lessons in the moat.

The premise is kind of silly, but I would have still been entertained if the main characters weren’t so flat, and the main mystery wasn’t really just a sidenote to frame all of the funny details of camp.

All in all, it was fluff, but it was fairly entertaining fluff that some preteens girls will still enjoy. It reminded me a little of One Over-Caffeinated Mom’s post about planning Camp Pickalicious for her daughter and friends. How many girls do you know that would love to have their own Princess Camp?

Author visits

I've been meaning to post for awhile that I got a mailing from Cover to Cover Book Store announcing a few author visits. I'm just going to copy the flyer word-for-word:

Twin sisters and authors, Julia DeVillers and Jennifer Roy, will visit Cover to Cover on Tuesday, August 15th from 6:00 until 7:30. This year, Julia's How My Personal Private Journal Became a Bestseller premiered as the Disney Channel Original Movie "Read It and Weep". Jennifer's historical novel Yellow Star was recognized with a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award for Excellence in Children's Literature. Please join us as we welcome two very talented writers.

Award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt will speak and autograph at Cover to Cover on Saturday, September 23, from 11:00 until 12:30. Her most recent work, Part of Me: Stories of a Louisiana Family, traces five generations during their adolescent years as they face struggles, sorrows, and triumphs. An earlier title, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, recieved a National Book Award.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Book Meme

I've been reading as much as ever, I'm just behind in reviewing, so what's a girl to do? Procrastinate a little longer of course, and do this survey instead.

Here's a new book meme that Kelly from Big A little a has passed along. I'm going to make a rule that you can only answer with children's/young adult books.
  1. One book that changed your life? I don't know about a book that's changed my life, but Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin really made me think.
  2. One book you have read more than once? Growing up I read Little Women over and over again
  3. One book you would want on a desert island? How could I possibly choose one book? It probably wouldn't be something beloved, it would probably non-fiction about surviving in that region or how to escape a desert island.
  4. One book that made you laugh? Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher
  5. One book that made you cry? The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. You have to read it if you haven't!
  6. One book you wish had been written? I wish all of the Twilight series was already written so I wouldn't have to wait for them.
  7. One book you wish had never been written? Ugh, gee, let's think about this one. I know a million people love the book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, but I CAN"T STAND IT! Yes, it makes moms everywhere cry, but come on, an elderly mother breaking into her adult son's house to hold him while he's sleeping and chant, "love you forever"? Creepy!
  8. One book you are currently reading? Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng. I've never been interested in reading this book, but it was one of very few book on tape options at the library and I'm liking it a lot more than I thought that I would.
  9. One book you have been meaning to read? Uglies by Scott Westerfeld or The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman
  10. Now tag five people: All the Chld lit bloggers have already been challenge so how about my book club members? If you don't have your own blog, you can post it in the comments here.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Donuthead - by Sue Stauffacher

Since Fuse #8 is always singing praises of Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher, I figured it would be worth picking up, and I discovered Fuse #8 was certainly right about it; it was wonderful. Donuthead (full name Franklin Delano Donuthead) has one main aspiration in life; to remain as safe as possible at all times. He only eats strictly healthy food, he avoids large bodies of water and motor vehicles because drowning and car crashes are two of the highest causes of kids’ deaths, and he measures his arms and legs everyday because he’s convinced one side of his body is smaller than the other. As you might imagine, the closest thing he has to a friend is Gloria, the woman at the National Safety Department that he calls for updates on safety statistics. Then Sarah Kervick shows up at school. Franklin is immediately repulsed by her because she’s filthy, but she bullies him into meeting her to help her brush out her messy hair. Before Franklin knows it, Sarah ends up at his house and his mom becomes her new chum. As Franklin helps Sarah in her quest to be normal, Franklin learns a few lessons himself.

I’m not sure how she manages it, but somehow Stauffacher makes Franklin seems funny instead of a pitiful kid with OCD. I think the author managed to create a main character that kids will be able to relate despite the fact that he’s incredibly quirky. The relationship between Sarah and Franklin reminded me a little of Freak The Mighty, because Franklin seems unsure of why Sarah befriends him in the first place, but he warms up to her and is anxious to help her achieve her dreams.

A few things that I loved about this book: first, that Franklin’s mom is a great single mom (although I’m not sure how she can financially support her family and still have so much time off and I also wonder whether a lot of the intended audience will know about artificial insemination), and second, I love the message that there are kind, wonderful people out there helping people they barely know achieve their dreams. Then add the beautiful ending and you’ll know why I finished this book feeling so happy about life.

I agree with Fuse #8 that I’m not really sure what the author is trying to say about kids who don’t like sport and about fighting, but I found the book highly entertaining. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the release of Donutheart in the fall. In the meantime, I will have to keep checking Sue’s blog on Amazon.

The One and Only - by Holly Hobbie

Ok, I went to the book store yesterday and couldn't find Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, because it won't be release until September 28th; however, I did pick up an adorable new book that I couldn't resist! I have a soft spot for Toot and Puddle so when I saw the newest picture book in the series, The One and Only, I had to read through it, and I was immediately charmed and had to bring it home with me.

In this book a new pig named Bubbles copies everything Opal does, and not only does she suceed in not getting into trouble for it, she becomes the teacher's pet because the teacher doesn't realize that Bubbles is stealing all her great ideas from Opal. Opal listens to Toot's advice and remains patient and kind towards Bubbles and it pays off in the end.

I loved the Illustrations, and I was especially struck by this one. Opal decided to dress up like a monster for Halloween and of course Bubbles does the same. Any kiddie lit fan will immediately notice that Bubbles is also copying another famous picture book pig, Ian Falconer's Olivia. She's wearing hte EXACT SAME costume Olivia wears to scare her brother. I thought it was very clever of Holly Hobbie to Copy Ian Falconer in a book that's all about copying!

One other illustration that made me giggle was this one. I love Holly Hobbie's pig version of the painting American Gothic. Another clever copycat move!

I hate to admit this, but until today I didn't realize that Holly Hobbie is the very same Holly Hobbie that did the American Greeting cards of the little prairie girl with a bonnet (who is actually called Holly Hobbie so it shouldn't have taken me so long to put two and two together). It seems that Holly Hobbie (the character not the author) has been ressurected and can be seen in a new movie on Nick Jr. You can see more of her here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Chris Van Allsburg

It's no secret that I love Chris Van Allsburg so I was incredibly happy to discover that he has a new book coming out. It's called Probuditi, and Amazon says it's sceduled for release on October 30th. Yay!

I'm on my way out of the office to see if I can find a copy of Mo Willem's new book, Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

September - Recent books

We'll be meeting at Heather's house on Tuesday, September 5th to discuss some great books that are fairly new publications. Here's the list:

Princess Academy - Shannon Hale
While attending a strict academy for potential princesses with the other girls from her mountain village, fourteen-year-old Miri discovers unexpected talents and connections to her homeland.

Weedflower - Cynthia Kadohata
After twelve-year-old Sumiko and her Japanese-American family are relocated from their flower farm in southern California to an internment camp on a Mojave Indian reservation in Arizona, she helps her family and neighbors, becomes friends with a local Indian boy, and tries to hold on to her dream of owning a flower shop.

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
When seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not wholly human.

First Boy - Gary Schmidt

I loved Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt so I was really looking forward to reading his newest book, First Boy. I was a little disappointed that this book wasn’t as beautiful and lyrical, but it was still an interesting read.

14 year-old Cooper Jewett grew up with his grandparents on a dairy farm in New Hampshire. After his grandparents pass away, Cooper is determined to maintain the dairy farm on his own. Soon he is feeling overworked between taking care of the farm, trying to keep up in school, and practicing with the cross country. Things get worse when mysterious black sedans swarm the town, Cooper’s fence is vandalized, his house is broken into, and his barn is burned down. The sheriff denies that anything is going on and threatens to file a report to have Cooper removed from the farm by child services. Senator Wickham approaches Cooper and asks him to join his campaign for the presidency. Cooper wants to stay on his farm, but it seems the Senator won’t take no for an answer.

That’s as far as I can go without any big spoilers.

There were a few things that really bothered me about this book. The first is that I felt like Schmidt really underestimates the intelligence of 14 year-olds. Cooper isn’t quick to put things together and he isn’t curious. What 14 year-old would hear at his grandfather’s funeral that neither of his parents had the last name Jewett (his own last name) and not be curious, especially when he’d never heard anything about them or seen any pictures? What 14 year-old wouldn't have spent years pestering everyone in the town to gather more infomration? It takes Cooper quite awhile to figure out that the Senator might have deeper motives for picking a random kid from a dairy farm in New Hampshire to join him on the campaign trail. It also takes him quite awhile to figure out that the Sheriff is on the senator’s side. It takes him ages to piece together how he might be involved in something that could scandalize the President of the US. I think Cooper would have probably been a little smarter, and I would have liked him more if he was.

Second, the novel never delves into how Cooper might feel angry and hurt that the people who seem to be his real parents totally deny it and make no effort to make sure that he’s ok. I think that would be on the forefront of any kid’s mind.

Third, reading this novel you would think that only the people of New Hampshire get to vote for President because all of the campaigning takes place there and there’s so much talk on the importance of what New Hampshire dairymen think of the candidates.

Even though I did have some problems with the book, it was still action packed, and a lot of kids will enjoy reading about Cooper’s adventures. I have to remind myself that not every book can be as wonderful and Lizzie Bright, and there was still a lot of fun, original content in this novel.