Archive for January, 2013

200 years of Pride and Prejudice

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “Austen Power,” reminding me that this is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. Author Alexandra Alter noted that over a dozen books relevant to this conversation will be released in the next few months. While my enthusiasm for Austen doesn’t reach the level of the devoted Janites and I’m unlikely to pick up any of the new offerings, I am inspired to return to the originals one more time. After all, there is no opening sentence so enticing as,  “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

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Educator Day at The Book Stall

My friends and colleagues at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL hosted another successful educator event yesterday. While I think I’m up to speed on middle grade reading they never fail to surprise me. Thanks to their recommendation, on my short list is The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann. The first two books, The Unwanteds and Island of Silence are currently out. Kirkus Reviews described this middle grade dystopian fantasy series as “Hunger Games Meets Harry Potter.” That was enough of a recommendation for me. With the popularity of the Hunger Games franchise, I have a number of lower grade readers asking for it. I’m thrilled to have an age-appropriate recommendation. Book #3 of the seven book series is slated for release this fall.

I don’t pick up a lot of YA fiction, but now on my short list are two recommendations — Just One Day by Gayle Forman and Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. When you have such knowledgeable book sellers making the recommendations, you can’t go wrong. Oh, so may books and so little time. :-)

 

 

You Only Die Twice by Dan Gutman

The Genius Files #3: You Only Die Twice. By Dan Gutman. HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. 304 pages.

Having not read any of Dan Gutman’s latest series, The Genius Files, I felt compelled to give the newest addition, You Only Die Twice a try. I have to admit, I made it about half way through the book and had to stop. I couldn’t take any more of the nonstop action, run-ins with bad-guys-maybe-turned-good-guys, undecipherable plot, and crazy (but real) tourist attractions. While certainly not my cup of tea, I can see the appeal for a broad set of readers. Kids will love all the things that drove me nuts reading the book — the fast pace, the plethora of bad guys, local “attractions,” and unfathomable death defying scenarios. This is the perfect recommendation for Gutman fans who have outgrown Miss Daisy is Crazy, but aren’t ready to settle into Honus and Me. The prompt to look up the travel routes mentioned in the book using Google Maps is a plus. For readers in 3rd-5th grades.

Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

Road Trip. By Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen. Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House Children’s Books, 2013. 128 pages. $12.99

Like dogs? Love a good road trip? On a school bus? Add in a cast of colorful characters and you have the book Road Trip, a joint venture of Gary Paulsen and his son Jim. Dedicated to “all the dogs who make us better people,” Road Trip is in fact a homage to all that is good about dogs and our unique caretaking relationship with them. Narrated in part by Atticus, the family Border Collie, we are treated to a special a dog’s eye view of the goings on complete with his insightful editorial comments. The first person narration of Ben holds up well in the comparison to his beloved canine.  Best read snuggled up next to a furry friend. For 4th to 6th grade readers.

Authors Galore

Its been a week filled with writers and discussions of writing! Thanks to my friends at The Book Stall in Winnetka, IL, Clare Vanderpool came to speak to the 4th and 5th graders at my school. Ms. Vanderpool was promoting her recently released book, Navigating Early.

Navigating Early is the quest of two boys, Early Auden and Jack Baker. The boys don’t quite fit in at their Maine boarding school and when a school holiday leaves them to fend for themselves, they set off on the Appalachian Trail to discover the great black bear. A second, parallel, quest is featured in the book. Early, being a math wiz, has created a story of pi. Not the number, per se, but of Polaris, nicknamed Pi. Vanderpool’s ability to weave the two narratives into a cohesive whole is nothing short of masterful. I was spellbound by her practice of the craft — multiple story lines and nuanced characters brought to like with beautiful descriptions and authentic dialogue. It doesn’t get any better than Navigating Early.

Several weeks ago, I reviewed Todd Hasak-Lowy’s novel 33 Minutes. The launch party was held on the weekend at The Book Stall. I wanted to meet Mr. Hasak-Lowy. There were references in the book to locations that I was sure I knew from my high school years in Farmington Hills, MI. Sure enough, Todd graduated from the same high school I attended. Comparing notes on his setting was great fun!  The reasons I liked 33 Minutes still hold and I enjoyed hearing Todd describe the writing process for the novel. Using such a narrow time frame to tell the story is not all that common, maybe even unique.

I enjoyed the week immersed in books and talk of writing. Thank goodness for the lingering warm feelings it created as we settle in for a cold week here in the Chicago area.

 

 

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy

33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. 224 pages.

33 Minutes and counting until Sam Lewis has his date with destiny. Or at least a confrontation at recess with his former best friend Morgan Sturtz. The likely outcome? Sam’s butt will be kicked. But Sam is saved by the bell — actually a food fight followed by a fire alarm, but who’s keeping track? Moments of 33 Minutes are laugh-out-loud funny and yet, there is a certain poignancy to Sam’s dilemma as he navigates his middle school world. Hasak-Lowy creates a nuanced bully/bullied relationship, with Sam understanding he has some culpability in his situation and its resolution. The book will have broad appeal — beginning with readers who have exhausted the Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise and are looking for something equally funny, but a little meatier. For 4th to 6th grade readers.


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