Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup

Stop by this wonderful books and food blog to read a delightful interview with collage artist Melissa Sweet (who just won a Caldecott Honor medal for A River of Words-about William Carlos Williams). There is a great book giveaway at the end!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Along for the Ride & PIE- NEW Sarah Dessen!

First of all, another huge thank you to Scottie Bowditch at Penguin who is keeping me in the loop by sending me ARCs of good books that come across her desk. And, who wouldn't LOVE a copy of Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen before it comes out in June? Even though the girls were DROOLING over it during Reading Workshop today, I managed to finish it in a matter of hours. Again, Dessen doesn't disappoint which is why the envious green faces from 13 year-old girls today.

Auden West is an incredibly driven and intelligent character who hasn't really had a childhood and is scheduled to start college in the fall. Her mom is a tightly wound English professor who has very specific plans for Auden's future, and a map of how to get there. Auden's dad, Robert, and his new wife Heidi have a brand new baby girl and are struggling to make their new lives work. Auden decides to head out to the beach and live with them for the summer to have some new experiences and to get away from her mother for a while. In her time at the beach house, Auden meets Eli, who teaches her how to live and enjoy life by guiding her on a quest to regain her childhood. Eli is haunted by his own ghost and the two make a great pair while they are out "running errands" all night long-neither one of them are good sleepers. The end is a very humane look at how people can each benefit from different parts of a relationship. While Eli is giving Auden some of the experiences she never got in childhood, Auden brings Eli out of his slump after a car accident the year before. The whole story is underscored by this backdrop of biking and jumping. At first I thought it was odd, but it really makes sense and the jumping and trusting you'll land safely is a great metaphor for the entire novel.

I loved these characters! Each one of them grew on me in a way no others have. I've always really loved the character aspect of novels, but I truly loved these characters and who they became. It did, however, make me want LOTS AND LOTS of coffee as that is something Auden drinks constantly. And, the pie at Clyde's sounded like something I couldn't resist. Now, if I could just get off this silly cabbage soup diet, maybe I could control myself enough to have some. Yum...pie!

Castration Celebration

When I got this lovely box from Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, I immediately emptied it and sorted. I have a student at school who reads like no one would ever believe and she wanted to help me review some of the books. As I was flipping through them (because I had NO idea what the content of any of them were), I came across Castration Celebration by Jake Wizner and I yanked it based purely on its title.

Olivia is at a dramatic arts camp for the summer and has sworn off boys. Sure enough, one (Max) begins to hound her. Her roommates are stereotypically hysterical and the play Olivia begins writing for her final drama performance left me in stitches. It's a really good thing I yanked this one and read it because the extreme lewdness makes it totally inappropriate for middle schoolers (but this adult laughed out loud). However, I will be sending it through school mail to my high school friend so the more mature kids can enjoy it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Read Alouds-

I've mentioned before how much I think read alouds are essential for kids of all ages, and my daughter (9) and I have embarked on another series, and her interest shows me she's entering her Tween years. We listened to The Wedding Planner's Daughter by Colleen Murtagh Paratore and fell in love with Willa (Willafred). Her perfectionist mother planned incredible weddings, but Willa really wanted a father (hers died before she was even born). The details of the houses and scenery on Cape Cod really lured me in since I'm such a sucker for cottages. And, Willa LOVES books! Each volume in the series comes with a "Willa's Picks" at the back of great books she's read throughout the novel. As Willa tries to grow up, get her mother married to Willa's English teacher, negotiate her love of books and the Cape, and snag the crush of her dreams, you are transported to this beautiful world of beaches, books and taffy (Grandma owns a candy store). We read Cupid Chronicles after the first one and we're now onto Willa by Heart (again in page form).

Abby and I have loved each one of these novels, but I have a marketing observation. I never picked these up because they looked too young for my 8th grade girls. But, they're not! I truly think they need more sophisticated covers as the ones the have don't seem to portray the depth that's actually in the novels. In Willa by Heart, Willa is reading novels like Wuthering Heights and Walden! I just think the covers could be reworked to attract a more mature reader.

I'm Back....

I guess I need to think short entries more often rather than 4 long ones every six weeks! Yikes. That was what I will call an "unintentional hiatus". Okay. New resolution? Try to blog more often even if I don't have a book to feature. So, on to the two newest (three newest) on my favorites list.

AUDIO: I just finished listening to The Luxe by Anna Godberson and found it much better than I had thought it would be. I describe it as "Edith Wharton meets Lisi Harrison". I thought the historical aspect of "Old New York Money at the Turn of the Century" was very redeeming. And, despite the "classic characters"- good girl, tramp, seductress, bad boy and poor-boy-who-can't-get-what-he-wants- the story was engaging and well done. Though the novel opens with news of her death, we find out through flashback how Elizabeth is a rich girl turned almost-poor-girl after her father's untimely death. It is imperative that Elizabeth's mother marry her to a rich man, and soon. Henry Schoonmaker is a very rich, very bad boy who drinks and carouses excessively, much to the distress of his father and very young step-mother. They have decided that Henry needs to marry a "nice and proper" girl because Henry's father is going to run for office. Henry, however, has been secretly having trysts with Elizabeth's so-called best friend Penelope. There are other twists and turns such as Elizabeth's true love being the family coachman, Will; and her younger and more impulsive sister, Diana, falling in love with Elizabeth's fiance. Such turmoil, but I know my 8th grade girls will love it. And, after all, they are getting some historical fiction too. I did buy the next one in the series (Rumors) so I can read that one and then put it on my shelf. I have to say that I'm getting full use out of my new Audible membership because I joined their Audible Gold membership and for a small fee, I can download a book each month. This works for me since I'm such an avid audio book girl.