Monday, March 27, 2006

Reading! (Reading!) Reading! (Reading!) Reading down the river! (Reading down the river!)


I have book discussions for Notable Children's Books AND Notable YA Books coming up soon, so all my reading is based around that! Plus, last weekend I read a lot of banned YA titles. (It's a hard life I lead, I know...)


Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's ShadowSusan Campbell Bartoletti

This is a beautiful book, a big lap book, almost a coffee table book with heavy pages. Much in the vien of Russell Freedman's work it uses photographs well to help tell the story. The book talks about the lives of children growing up in Germany and Europe during Hitler's rise to power and reign. Children who were exuberant and reluctant members of the Hitler Youth, children who joined the resistance movements, Jewish children, soldier children. The amazing thing about this book is that it tells the story plainly and truly, with no sugar coating and no melodrama. I highly recommend. I keep talking about it, actually.

Detour for Emmy Marilyn Reynolds

This was on the ALA's top 10 banned books for 2005. (Because God Forbid that a book that is all about the consequences of having sex should actually... contain some sex!) But oh my god. I would really be against this book being assigned in class because it just... sucks. It's so poorly written. I'm all about having it in the library but this isn't what we should be teaching. It's really preachy and sacharine and just didn't ring true at all. AND THE WRITING IS JUST AWFUL. Blech. I like how the girl who gets knocked up is the one with the not-there alcoholic mother and jailbird brother. Because only kids from messed up homes make mistakes like this. But I had friends who were pregnant in high school and this story just didn't ring true and didn't speak to their experiences. There has to be a better book on this subject out there. I have a hard time believing this is the only one that can be taught.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky

I will always love this book if for no other reason than turning me onto "Asleep" by The Smiths. I love this song possibly even more than Charlie does, if that's possible. AND I now have the mix tape he made as a play list on my Napster account. It's OK, but seriously, I love this song. LOVE. (And put it on my new mix CD) I also like the book. Charlie is a freshman in high school, writing letters to someone, telling of his first year and life, as he navigates high school and family and the recent suicide of his best friend. Also, I just love Charlie. He resonates with me as someone who hung out with the arty kids. I totally would have lusted after him quietly and angst-riddenly all through high school. That said, I really didn't like the ending. Click here to read about why, but you know, I'll give it away, which is why it's hidden!

Also, I would just like to point out that the Arizon superindendant of schools has pulled this book out of all school libraries in the entire STATE of Arizona. Probably because of a very non-graphic scence of rape early on in the book. It makes me want to cry.

Geography ClubBrent Hartinger

Also frequently banned. I love that the reason I most recently saw for the banning was that it doesn't deal with the negative consequences of meeting some that you met on the internet. Ha ha ha. We all know it was banned because it's about a bunch of HOMOSEXUAL TEENAGERS! (No! Gasp! The horror! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!)

Seriously. This is a great little story about love and relationships and being the only gay kids in town and how to date and love and be a normal kid and NOT get outed. Not too deep, not to shallow, not hitting you over the head with the lessons you're supposed to learn to much and a quick read. I liked it.

The Penderwicks : A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting BoyJeanne Birdsall

This is just an old fashioned summer adventure story. Birdsall knows that's what she was writing and doesn't try to make it anything more than it is, and she does so splendidly. I also loved the interaction between the four sisters-- it was so true to life and the little things like the OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick) and MOPS (Meeting Of Penderwick Sisters) really made the story special. Also, one more comment on the very very end here.

Son of the MobGordon Korman

On Friday night, I was going to read the first chapter or two of this before I went to bed. It was finished before I turned the light off. This is light and funny and wonderful and unlike a lot of YA novels, doesn't contain seriously messed up kids and GIANT LIFE LESSONS. Just a sweet simple story about a guy trying to get through high school despite the fact his father is the head of the largest crime family in New York and his girlfriend is the daughter of the FBI agent who's been bugging his house for the last five years. Love. I've already checked out the sequel.

There's more to review. But I'm tired.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Aren't you just sick of banned books? I know I am!

So, here are some of the titles I've read lately...

A History of the World in 6 GlassesTom Standage

This book was awesome. Tracing the role of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola and their role in world history. Beer developed to make water safe to drink as we shifted fron hunting/gathering to grain cultivation, and maybe we even started farming in order to get more grain for more beer? The role of wine in Greek and Roman culture and refinement, spirits as Europeans came to new world, cultivated sugar and made rum as a by-product which was then sold for slaves to run the sugar plantations... and the role of the whiskey rebellion in building the new world. Coffee and coffeehouses came with the age of reason and tea came with Empire (the was a major factor in the Opium Wars which ended with the humiliation of China and England's possession of Hong Kong) and then finally, the rise of Coca-Cola and America as a super-power and globalization.

The epilogue then deals with how we have come full circle and the beverage affecting our current events is, once again, water.

Well written and engaging, I highly recommend this title.

Plastic Angel Nerissa Nields

OK, so I got this because I am a big fan the Nields, a band that Nerissa's in. Love. Nerissa and her sister, Katryna Nields actually recorded a soundtrackto this book and it's a damn fine CD. The book itself is nice. I read the entire thing during one very long bath. Randi and Gellie are best friends the summer before high school, Randi is almost popular and Gellie, a child star, is almost famous. Randi wants to start a band and Gellie's keen on the idea, but is having trouble deciding is music or modeling is more important and is torn between Randi and her pushy mother. Add in romance, parental troubles and the joy(?) of summer, and you have a cute tale.

Becoming Naomi LeonPam Munoz Ryan

Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw lives in a trailer named Baby Beluga with her great-grandmother and her little brother, Owen (who is, as his specialists say, an FLK--Funny Looking Kid). Her mother left them there seven years ago, their father is somewhere in Mexico. Naomi is quiet, and has a notebook of lists. And then one day, their mother shows back up and wants to take Naomi to live with her and her boyfriend in Las Vegas, as a built in babysitter for her boyfriend's daughter. Naomi doesn't want to leave Gram or Owen or Lemon Tree and Gram doesn't want to lose her...

Beautifully written, this was a Belpre honor book this year AND was taken of the Wilsona selection list. I highly recommend.

WhittingtonAlan Armstrong

I didn't really like this one. I didn't see what warranted it being a Newberry Honor book this year. Whittington is a cat, who lives in a barn ruled by a duck called The Lady. The barn is full of reject animals that people know Bernie (the owner) will take in and take care of. His grandchildren, Abby and Ben love to play with the animals. As Ben struggles with dyslexia, the animals and Abby help him learn to read and Whittington tells them all the legend of Dick Whittington and his famous cat (of which Whittington is a descendant of). It's a nice story, but didn't particularily grab me in any special way.

Lincoln : A PhotobiographyRussell Freedman

This is one of the 100 Best Books for Children AND a previous Newberry. This is a fascinating look at Lincolns life, relying heavily on pictures and other visual evidence to tell the story. I learned so much about Lincoln! (I was suprised). I highly recommend AND I'm really excited to read Freedman's new one: Children of the Great Depression I've flipped through it several times and it's just beautiful.

The Phantom TollboothNorman Juster

This is one of the 100 Best and why oh why oh why oh why oh why did I not read this when I was a kid??? Was it because all my friends told me to read it and I had been taught to resist peer pressure so well that I didn't??? This is a delightful tale where you can go to an Island of Conclusions (by jumping) and get caught in the dolldrums when you're not paying attention. As they go to restore the princesses of Rhyme and Reason to the Kingdom of Wisdom, our intrepid heroes meet a host of characters in a whimsical tale that needs to be read, and cherished, by all. Seriously.

Also, can I just mention how much I want to read this

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Burn Baby Burn! (Book Burning Inferno!)

Ok, I'm putting reviews on hold to talk about MORE banned books. I know. But seriously? Buy these books and read them. Fight intolerance and ignorance with knowledge! Please!

So, probably first off is the fact that the ALA announced the top ten banned books for 2005.

They are:

It's Perfectly Normal : Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Healthby Robie H. Harris (sex! homos! abortion!)

Foreverby Judy Blume (sex! pregnancy! a penis named Ralph!)

The Catcher in the Ryeby J. D. Saligner (Because apparently, the language is still offensive and it is "unsuited to age group". Please!)

The Chocolate Warby Robert Cormier (sex! language!)

Whale Talkby Chris Cuther (racism! language!)

Detour for Emmyby Marilyn Renoylds (because, apparently, books about teenage pregancy have SEX in them! Cautionary tales about why not to do it, containg some "doing it"! Who would've known?!)

What My Mother Doesn't Knowby Sonya Sones (sex!)

Captain Underpantsby Dav Pilkey (apparently, books about super-hero principals have "anti-family content")

Crazy Lady!by Jane Leslie Conly (language!)

It's So Amazing! A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Familiesby Robie H. Harris (sex ed!)

AND! As if that weren't enough! The Wilsona School district in California recently line item vetoed the following books off the library's selection list (put together by parents and teachers and librarians). I love people who ban books that haven't even been published yet!!

Clifford's Bathtime (clifford Y La Hora Del Bano)Norman Bridwell

Clifford's Opposites (clifford Y Los Opuestos)Norman Bridwell

Clifford's Animal Sounds (clifford Y Los Sonidos De Los Animales)Norman Bridwell

I mean, really! What's wrong with bi-lingual Clifford?!

The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3)Eoin Colfer

The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4)Eoin Colfer

But the other Artemis Fowl books are ok?!

The Burning (Guardians of Ga'hoole, Book 6)Kathryn Lasky

But Ga'hoole 1-5 are ok...

The Real Slam DunkCharisse Richardson

The Real Lucky CharmCharisse Richardson

Peter and the StarcatchersDave Barry

Zoo Day Disaster (SpongeBob SquarePants)David Lewman

Clifford AND Spongebob?!

The Eye of the WarlockP. W. Catanese

The Thief and the BeanstalkP. W. Catanese

Season of the Sandstorms (Magic Tree House #34)Mary Pope Osborne

I really, really don't understand only banning one book in a series. Especially Magic Tree House, which is educational. Gah.

Bionicle Adventures #9: Web Of Shadows : Web Of Shadows (Bionicle Adventures)Greg Farshtay

Princess School #5: Princess Charming : Princess CharmingJane Mason

Princess School : Beauty Is A BeastJane Mason

See? With the series thing? It doesn't make sense! Plus what on earth is wrong with Princess School?!

Twice Upon A Time: Rapunzel, the One With All The HairWendy Mass

This book hasn't even been published yet!!!!

Charlie Bone And The Castle Of MirrorsJenny Nimmo

Tales from the Odyssey: The One-Eyed Giant - Book #1Mary Pope Osbourne

Oh my! Not the Homer! The horror of classic literature! Ahhhhhh!

Becoming Naomi LeonPam Munoz Ryan

OK. I just read this this weekend and it is beautiful. AND! It just one a Pura Belpre author honor book! (The Pura Belpre award is given out every other year to honor a "Latino writer whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)J. K. Rowling

OK, I can understand how maybe this isn't appropriate for elementary school. My library has this and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)in the YA section, but Wilsona still hasHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) and it's really much darker and creepier and less age appropriate than Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)

Disney's Christmas Storybook Collection

Seriously? Disney?!

California (Welcome to the U.S.A.)Ann Heinrichs

OH, and

The Kite RunnerKhaled Hosseini has been challenged in Lawrence Township, IN.