Monday, November 30, 2015

Book of the Week: Carry On

Carry On

by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Griffin, 2015
528 pages
ISBN: 978-1250049551
Age 12 and older

In her novel Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell referenced a Harry Potter-esque fantasy about a wizard named Simon Snow. Carry On is Simon’s story, or the last volume of it. Now 17, Simon is an orphan who’s been attending a wizarding school since he was 11. He’s considered the chosen one among wizards, and the Mage who oversees the school is a father figure to him. Sound familiar? The world of magic is threatened by the Insidious Humdrum, a force that destroys magic and manifests looking like eleven-year-old Simon. Simon’s roommate, Baz, is a privileged boy from an old, arrogant and potentially dangerous wizarding family. Simon hates Baz, and has spent countless hours over the years trying to prove he’s a vampire (he is). Now in their last year at school, Simon and Baz call a reluctant truce in their ongoing animosity after the ghost of Baz’s mother appears, leading them to investigate the attack that killed her, the former headmistress, years before. The truce is hard on Baz because he relies on hating Simon—it’s the only way he can hide the fact that he’s in love with him—while Simon finds himself acknowledging how very human Baz still is. A novel told from multiple perspectives, and as much Baz’s story as Simon’s, is full of humor (the spells!), depth and poignancy as Rowell examines love, friendship, desire, and also, more darkly, what can happen when good intentions becomes obsession as Simon discovers what he is made of, whom he loves, and what he must sacrifice to save his world. ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book of the Week: Poems in the Attic

Poems in the Attic
by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Published by Lee & Low, 2015
40 pages
ISBN: 978-1-62014-027-7
Ages 5-9 
A warm picture book collection alternates between poems in the voice of an African American girl whose mom is away in the military, and poems in the voice of her mother as a child, growing up in a military family that moved many times. The contemporary girl’s discovery of her mother’s childhood poems has inspired her to write her own, which often reflect on the differences between their childhoods, especially as she is living in one place with her grandmother while her mom is away, rather than moving from place to place. But there are many parallel experiences that play out in the two poems on each page spread, one in each voice. There is a strong sense of connection and continuity—grandmother, mother, grandchild—while in both present and past there is a child missing a parent who is away on duty. The illustrations do a terrific job of distinguishing between present and past on the same page spread. An author’s note talks more about the experiences of military children and identifies the actual U.S. air force bases which formed the locales for the places the girl’s mother lived as a child.  ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 16, 2015

Book of the Week: Dumplin'


by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2015
375 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-232718-5
Age 13 and older

Willowdean routinely introduces herself as a fat girl, but her feelings about her body are much more complicated than this suggests. The daughter of a former beauty queen, she’s rarely allowed to forget she isn’t thin. Still, Willowdean makes no apologies for her weight. She decides to enter the local Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant for her beloved late aunt, who died of a heart attack at 36 and lived largely in seclusion because of her weight. She’s also doing it for the girls she’s convinced to join her—three other teens at school who don’t meet typical standards of beauty. Together, she tells them, they can make a statement. But when Willowdean’s pretty best friend Ellen signs up with them, Willowdean feels betrayed. Meanwhile, Willowdean is growing close to Bo, on whom she’s had a longstanding crush. But she recoils when he puts his hand on her waist while they’re kissing, worried what he’ll think of her fat. She can also imagine what people at school would say if they see the two of them as a couple. It’s easier to picture herself with Mitch. Like Bo, Mitch is an athlete. Unlike Bo, he’s on the heavy side. Both boys genuinely like her. Bo is the one she’s attracted to. Mitch is the one she’s convinced herself makes sense, although she knows she’s not being fair to Mitch in letting him think she feels more. Willowdean’s ultimate struggle isn’t accepting herself, it’s accepting the love of others in an insightful, honest, funny novel that comes with a big ol’ riotous dose of Dolly Parton. ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book of the Week: Queen of the Diamond

Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story

by Emily Arnold McCully
Published by Margaret Ferguson Books / Farrar Straus Giroux,   
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-374-30007-4
Ages 5-9

Lizzie Murphy grew up in the early twentieth century in a baseball-loving family. Lizzie was both eager to play and savvy, bargaining her way onto her brother’s team. By fifteen, she was playing on two amateur teams. At eighteen, she set out to earn a living playing baseball, despite her mother’s concern. “But it’s what I do best,” Lizzie replied. To the manager of the semi-pro team who signed her, as a woman Lizzie was a novelty who would bring more people into the stadium to see the game. But Lizzie was a good player and she demanded to be paid the same as her male teammates. Not long after, her mother gave her a jersey with her name across the front. “You’re a pro now….your fans will want to see your name.” Lizzie played professional baseball for seventeen years. In an author’s note at the end of this spirited account, McCully writes that Lizzie wasn’t the only woman to play on teams with and against men, but she was among a small number, and she was not only the first woman to play a major league exhibition game, but “the first person to play on the National and the American leagues’ all-star teams.” A photograph of Lizzie in uniform accompanying this note is the winning run in this surprising and inspiring volume. ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book of the Week: "Malcolm Under the Stars"

Malcolm Under the Stars

by W. H.  Beck
Illustrated by Brian Lies
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
272 pages
ISBN: 978-0-544-39267-0
Ages 7-10

In this sequel to Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm the rat learns Amelia, the nutter (child) to whom he is closest in Mr. Binney’s classroom at McKenna School, is leaving in a week. Her family has to move because her dad lost his job. Meanwhile, the school itself is at risk of closing because the almost 100-year-old building is in need of major repairs. The district doesn’t have the money and plans on transferring the students to other schools in the fall. Malcolm and the Midnight Academy, the organization of classroom pets who help protect McKenna School, decide to investigate the legend of a hidden stash, presumably left by the man for whom the building was named. Could it be enough to cover the costs? In the context of a satisfying mystery, author W. H. Beck excels at creating appealing and surprisingly complex human and animal characters, and the heart of her story lies with them. The students in Mr. Binney’s class are at once singular and recognizable, and as she further develops two of their characters Beck reveals, as she did with others in the first book, that they shine in unexpected ways. The same is true of some of the animals Malcolm encounters. The lesson for Malcolm? Everyone is more than they might seem. And everyone deserves a second chance. There are moments of tension and drama and a hint of scary before all is well, but the lasting feeling is one of warmth.  © 2015 Cooperative Children's Book Center