Showing posts from November, 2014

The Great Greene Heist - Varian Johnson

Jackson Greene has reformed. No, really he has. He became famous for the Shakedown at Shimmering Hills, and everyone still talks about the Blitz at the Fitz.... But after the disaster of the Mid-Day PDA, he swore off scheming and conning for good.

Then Keith Sinclair -- loser of the Blitz -- announces he's running for school president, against Jackson's former best friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby hasn't talked to Jackson since the PDA, and he knows she won't welcome his involvement. But he also knows Keith has "connections" to the principal, which could win him the election whatever the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team to ensure the election is done right: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess and cheerleader. Charlie de la Cruz, point man. Together they devise a plan that will bring Keith down once and for all. Yet as Jackson draws closer to Gaby again, he realizes the election isn't the only thing h…

The Girl with All the Gifts - M.R. Carey

"As fresh as it is terrifying . . . It left me sighing with envious joy . . . A jewel." -Joss Whedon

Not every gift is a blessing...

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end. (Inside Jacket Flap)

Melanie and her fellow students on the army base are kept in locked cells. When they go to class, they are strapped into wheelchairs, held fast with wrist, foot, and neck restraints. The teachers are all a bit odd, but the reader is kept just enough out of the loop to want to know WHAT THE HELL is going on! One teacher has a drinking problem, one is just boring, and another's (Miss Justineau) conscience is unravelling. When stude…

Absolutely Almost - Lisa Graff

Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.
I am going to start this review by talking directly to Lisa Graff: Do you purposely write your books just to make me hungry?! It's making it really difficult to diet when I keep reading about cake and donuts and ice cream! Okay, now that I have that out of the way, let's talk about the book.
Albie finds most things in life to be on the difficult side. He's not a natural at math. He finds reading and writing to be a challenge, and his artistic skills aren't quite what we might call "developed." But Albie is still a good kid, and he means well, even if he doesn't quite get it right all the time. Unfortun…

The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim - e. k. johnston

Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. 
There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim's fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. 
At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes every…

YALSA Symposium 2014 - Highlights

As I sit here in my hotel in Austin, TX, I can't help but feel both satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time. The YALSA Symposium is simply too short, and I feel like I barely got to see all the people I was trying to. At the same time, it was a wonderful opportunity to finally get a bit more connected with YALSA, an organization I've been a member of for a while, though my work has been mostly peripheral where they are concerned. All that being said, I did manage to meet some incredible people and hang out with some good friends as well. Here are some of the highlights!

Lisa Yee and Jonathan Auxier are hilarious and some of the nicest people you could hope to run into in a strange city!

Jacqueline Woodson made me feel totally starstruck. And the same goes for Bruch Coville. I managed not to have a Judy Blume snot bubble incident this time, though, so I guess my suaveness is improving...

I had the opportunity to hear some amazing panels at the Symposium, too (it wasn't ALL …

The Fourteenth Goldfish - Jennifer L. Holm

I love a good quirky novel, something that is realistic but just a little bit "off" or bizarre. In this particular gem, eleven-year-old Ellie is noticing how much life has begun to change after leaving fifth grade... and now her grandfather is living with her and her mom... and he looks to be about thirteen years old. What the whaaaa? Love it!

I took my goldfish home and named it Goldie like every other kid in the world who thought they were being original. But it turned out that Goldie was kind of original.

Because Goldie didn't die.

What starts off as a simple-seeming book about a girl growing up, soon turns into an examination of life, death, aging, science, and friendship. I know, I know, it sounds cliche, but Holm, as always, keeps things from slipping into that realm. Her signature wit and honesty is effortlessly woven into the novel, bringing Ellie and her grandfather to life within The Fourteenth Goldfish.

What I love about this book is that Holm pulls no punches. Wi…

I Don't Want to Be a Frog - Dev Petty & Mike Boldt

Frog wants to be anything but a slimy, wet frog. A cat, perhaps. Or a rabbit. An owl? But when a hungry wolf arrives—a wolf who HATES eating frogs—our hero decides that maybe being himself isn’t so bad after all. In this very silly story with a sly message, told in hilarious dialogue between a feisty young frog and his heard-it-all-before father, young readers will identify with little Frog’s desire to be something different, while laughing along at his stubborn yet endearing schemes to prove himself right.

This book is a fantastic examination of wanting to be something or someone else. Frog wants to be a cat. Of course, young readers will realize that a frog just can't be a cat! But this is a wonderful metaphor exploring what it means to accept ourselves for who we are. Daddy frog tries to explain why little frog can't be a cat, while at the same time little frog slowly begins to understand how he can still be a frog while being himself. When he comes across someone higher up …

And We Stay - Jenny Hubbard

Jenny Hubbard's And We Stay has a lot going on. Emily Beam is haunted by events preceding her move to Amherst School for Girls in Massachusetts; Emily's ex-boyfriend killed himself during a moment of panic after bringing a gun to school. Emily is angry, but she also feels guilty, as though his death is somehow her fault, for breaking up with him. At her new school, she befriends her roommate, K.T., but manages to get herself into trouble time and time again by refusing to follow the rules, even though she has so many supporting individuals helping her to recover from her traumatic past. Along the journey of healing, Emily discovers her love for poetry and its cathartic properties, and her love for Emily Dickinson becomes more and more important as she researches the late poet's life.

As I said, there is a lot going on. There's love, sex, death, suicide, pregnancy, kleptomania, abortion, guilt, and poetry. It seems like it would be rather overwhelming in a novel of only …

Once Upon an Alphabet - Oliver Jeffers

Squeeeeee!!! Is it possible for me to say that I love pretty much everything about this book? Because it's true!

If words make up the stories and letters make up the words, then stories are made up of letters. In this menagerie we have stories made of words, made FOR all the letters.

This book is full of short stories for every letter in the alphabet, "From an Astronaut who's afraid of heights, to a Bridge that ends up burned between friends, to a Cup stuck in a cupboard and longing for freedom." (Official Synopsis)

The concept is brilliant, the illustrations gorgeous. Jeffers has outdone himself this time. Though the book will likely find child audiences due to the adorable drawings and the shortness of the tales, many, many, adults will find this collection of stories to be very enjoyable!

I have a thing for Owls (probably because they're adorable and they have HUGE eyes!) Which makes "O" probably one of my favourite short stories in this collection, beca…

GG Predictions for Children's Text

Like most award related things I try to predict, I will probably get this one wrong, but I'm still going to try and I'm sticking to my guns! I love four of the books, and one of the books I just don't see as YA (When Everything Feels Like the Movies), but I won't go into a tirade here because, having worked on awards, I don't want to poop on the jury that has obviously worked hard all year! I totally respect the hard work and there was obviously a reason that they chose the book to be on the shortlist. But that doesn't mean I understand those reasons.

I haven't reviewed all of these, nor have I read all the way through one of them, but I still feel confident in my choice. So, without further ado, here's my prediction for the 2014 GG Award for Children's Fiction - Text:

And the National Book Award Goes to...

Who knows! I'm not on the jury! 

That being said, all of the books are intricate, rich, and cover important topics in different and stylistically unique perspectives. Three of the books focus on civil rights in some capacity, one focuses on the environment and threatened animals, and one centres on the rather unique topic of death, head transplants, and getting a second chance at life. All of the contenders this year are strong in my opinion (even though I have heard dissenting opinions on a few of the titles), but eventually one has to win. And so, without further ado, and with the knowledge that I'll probably get it wrong, here's my prediction: