Monday, April 18, 2011

Storytime 4/12/11.

Slightly belated, but here it is. Thankfully a fair amount of the three and four set showed up, so it wasn't all babies. Hurray!

The GruffaloThe Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler (illustrator)
(Puffin, 4+)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How had I missed The Gruffalo? I think maybe it was just one of those things that got a little over-hyped for me, but we'd just got it back in stock at work, so I picked it up for storytime. And it's brilliant.

A little mouse walking through the woods keeps running into different predators (fox, owl, snake) all of whom he scares away with threats of the fictional Gruffalo (whose favorite food is the animal in question). It's an unpleasant surprise when he runs into the Gruffalo who turns out to be real and exactly as he described, except his favorite food is mouse. However, the little mouse handles himself with aplomb, convincing the Gruffalo that he's the baddest cat in the woods by having him follow along to see the predators run away from him. And of course, the mouse's favorite food is Gruffalo.

Smart and funny, it's a brilliant read aloud because the rhyme scheme is so good and natural. It has a nice repetition without getting boring and there's still some room for interaction with the kids over it. I can't recommend it highly enough for storytime.

Break for ABC's. And kids actually sang along. Huzzah!

I Am Invited to a Party! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)I Am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems
(Hyperion Book CH, 4-8)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly think this is my favorite Elephant & Piggie book (which is saying a lot). It's certainly the one I recommend the most, although that's partially cause it's the one we always have in stock.

Piggie gets invited to a party and she's never been to one before. Thankfully, Gerald knows parties. But what if it's a costume party? Or a pool party? Or a fancy pool costume party? THEY MUST BE READY!

Cute, fun and witty. Also, Elephant & Piggie books are my favorite recommendation for early readers. The text is simple and often repetitive, but the plot will still keep them engaged. I mean, it keeps me engaged.

Slipped some Itsy Bitsy Spider in here. One boy was particularly excited about it.

Llama Llama Mad at MamaLlama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
(Viking Juvenile, 3+)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SO cute. Mama drags Llama Llama to run errands at the Shop-O-Rama, when all he really wants to do is play. As we can imagine, this does not make Llama Llama a happy camper. But my favorite thing about this book (aside from the amazing rhyming scheme) is how Mama Llama handles his inevitable tantrum. Llama Llama throws a fit (and a good portion of the shopping cart) but Mama just coolly calms him down by saying how she doesn't like shopping either but she's just happy to spend time with him. How ridiculously sweet is that? And b) can all parents learn to function this way? I have worked in retail for much too long and have seen far too many parents throwing a bigger fit than their children or treating them abominably. Mama Llama wins at life.

I also like it better than Llama Llama Red Pajama, which mostly just sees Baby Llama being whiny and Mama being busy. The shopping experience was just a little more relatable as to why he was so unhappy. This book also gets props for being my favorite counter-recommendation to the creepiness that is Mad at Mommy.

Also really cute? The teenaged girl who was forcing her mom to sit through her reading it today. The mom then tells me her daughters are fifteen and sixteen and love to buy picture books. Clearly girls after my own heart.

And in the in between we did the Hokey Pokey. The best part? The four Asian moms who would chime in "Hokey Pokey!" in between the verses.

OtisOtis by Loren Long
(Philomel, 3-5)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh, I want to love Otis. The illustrations are the most super gorgeous and Otis and his little calf are too cute, but it's just kind of boring. That might be a little harsher than I mean, but there's too much text for not enough plot. And frankly, that "puff puff puttedy-chuff" business was just hard to read. It might work better in a single child bedtime story situation, but unfortunately for storytime, it just fell a bit flat. It does nicely fall in the vein of Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel, but it's trying a little too hard. A little bit.

Definitely this would rank as one of my favorite storytimes. Otis is going to lose out in the future, but the other three I would pick up again anytime.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011: New Releases

Big Tuesday for kids books this week. As ever, synopses come from the back of the book.

We All Fall Down: Living with AddictionWe All Fall Down: Living with Addiction by Nic Sheff
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 15+)

In his bestselling memoir Tweak, Nic Sheff shared a heartbreakingly honest account of his days as a crystal meth addict. In this powerful and engrossing follow-up, Sheff writes candidly about stints at in-patient rehabilitation facilities, devastating relapses with alcohol and drugs, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare
(Margaret K. McElderry, 14+)

Who will be tempted by darkness? Who will fall in love, and who will find their relationship torn apart? And who will betray everything they ever believed in?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge.

In the heart-pounding fourth installment of the Mortal Instruments series, the stakes are higher than ever.

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman
(Dutton Juvenile, 14+)

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Plague (Gone, #4)Plague (Gone #4) by Michael Grant
(Katherine Tegen Books, 13+)
It's been eight months since all the adults disappeared. Gone.
They've survived hunger. They've survived lies. But the stakes keep rising, and the dystopian horror keeps building. Yet despite the simmering unrest left behind by so many battles, power struggles, and angry divides, there is a momentary calm in Perdido Beach.

But enemies in the FAYZ don't just fade away, and in the quiet, deadly things are stirring, mutating, and finding their way free. The Darkness has found its way into the mind of its Nemesis at last and is controlling it through a haze of delirium and confusion. A highly contagious, fatal illness spreads at an alarming rate. Sinister, predatory insects terrorize Perdido Beach. And Sam, Astrid, Diana, and Caine are plagued by a growing doubt that they'll escape—or even survive—life in the FAYZ. With so much turmoil surrounding them, what desperate choices will they make when it comes to saving themselves and those they love?

The Ghoul Next Door (Monster High, #2)The Ghoul Next Door (Monster High #2) by Lisi Harrison
(Poppy, 10+)

Cleopatra de Nile

- New pet snake
- Has Deuce--the hottest guy in school--all warapped up
- Herve Leger bandage dress, strappy gold platforms

Cleo was the queen bee of the RADs, the normies, and everyone in between at Merston High. But now it's "Frankie this" and "Melody that" . . . these new girls sure know how to get her lashes in a tangle. When Cleo lands a golden Teen Vogue photo op for her friends, everything seems to be back on track . . . until they bail to be in some film . . . Frankie and Melody's film! Can't a royal get some loyal?

Frankie Stein

Frankie lost her head over Brett once and vows never to do it again. Not that she has a choice: Bekka is clinging to her guy like plastic wrap. But when Brett comes up with a plan that could help the RADs live free, sparks fly, and Bekka will stop at nothing to put out the flames . . . even if it means destroying the entire monster community.

Melody Carver

The clock is tick-tick-ticking. Melody has a serious deadline to save her boyfriend, Jackson, from being exposed by the vengeance-seeking Bekka. But Cleo is making it royally difficult for the normie while threatening her acceptance into the RADs' exclusive group . . . a group that Melody suspects she has more in common with than she ever thought.

Fitting in is out.

The 39 Clues: Vespers RisingThe 39 Clues: Vespers Rising by Rick Riordan
(Scholastic Press, 9-12)

The Cahills thought they were the most powerful family the world had ever known. They thought they were the only ones who knew about Gideon Cahill and his Clues. The Cahills were wrong.

Powerful enemies — the Vespers — have been waiting in the shadows. Now it’s their time to rise and the world will never be the same. In Vespers Rising, a brand new 39 Clues novel, bestselling authors Rick Riordan, Peter Lerangis, Gordon Korman and Jude Watson take on the hidden history of the Cahills and the Vespers, and the last, terrible legacy Grace Cahill leaves for Amy and Dan.

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning)The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning #1) by John Stephens
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 9-12)

Kate, Michael, and Emma have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey to dangerous and secret corners of the world...a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma's extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.

The Sign of the Moon (Warriors: Omen of the Stars #4)The Sign of the Moon (Warriors: Omen of the Stars #4) by Erin Hunter
(HarperCollins, 9-12)

The end of the stars draws near.
Three must become four to battle
the darkness that lasts forever. . . .

The dark forces that have driven a rift between the four warrior Clans are growing stronger. Jayfeather, Lionblaze, and Dovepaw now know that unless they can unravel the true meaning behind the prophecy that binds them, the warrior code could be destroyed forever.

While Lionblaze remains focused on protecting ThunderClan from another deadly battle, Jayfeather receives a desperate plea for help from the Tribe of Rushing Water. He must travel to the mountains in search of answers that link the Clans to the Tribe in ways no cat could have imagined. But with the summons comes an ominous warning that suggests the power of the stars may not be enough to save the Clans.

Power Play (Kingdom Keepers, #4)Power Play (Kingdom Keepers #4) by Ridley Pearson
(Hyperion Books for Children, 9-12)

For the five teens who modeled as Disney Hologram Imaging hosts, life is beginning to settle down when an intriguing video arrives to Philby's computer at school. It's a call for action: the Overtakers, a group of Disney villains, seem to be plotting to attempt a rescue of two of their leaders, both of whom the Disney Imagineers have hidden away somewhere following a violent encounter in Epcot. A staged attack by new Overtakers at Downtown Disney, startles the group.

One of their own, Charlene, is acting strange of late. Has she tired of her role as a Kingdom Keeper or is there something more sinister at play? When caught sneaking into Epcot as her DHI, acting strictly against the group's rules, Finn and Philby take action.

Has the "impossible" occurred? Have the Overtakers created their own holograms? Have they found a way to "jump" from the Virtual Maintenance Network onto the Internet, and if so, what does that mean for the safety of the parks, and the spread and reach of the Overtakers? Are they recruiting an army from outside the parks?

A dark cloud in the Kingdom Keeper era is unfolding, and with dissention in their own ranks, it's unclear if there's any chance of escape.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why every teenage girl should read Jane Eyre.

This week, I'm rereading my all-time favorite book, Jane Eyre. I've read it more times than any other book: I first picked it up when I was ten, was actually able to read it at twelve and have generally reread it about once every two years since then.

I took it up this time after seeing the new movie in theatres, and then, dissatisfied with the adaptation aspects, also watched the 1944 Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine version (an even worse adaptation, if a solid movie) and the 1983 BBC miniseries starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke (far and away the closest to the novel in many ways and Dalton is a surprising win for my favorite Rochester).

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book for so many reasons. One of the things that most disappointed me about the new film was its departure from the classic and wonderful dialogue. But what I've really realized during this latest rereading is part of what I love best of all is that huge boring bit when she goes off and lives with the Riverses.

Yes, it's arguably the least exciting or interesting part of the story. (And, as my roommate will be sure to tell you, it's completely implausible that they should turn out to be her cousins.) But it's really, very important to her life and it's what differentiates it from other classic love stories of this or any other era. Jane is a singular heroine, in that she leaves Rochester, no matter how unwilling she may be, goes off and becomes an independent, happy person all on her own. She refuses to compromise her own morals in order to stay with him, because she knows whatever happiness she finds will be as the expense of her own self-respect. So, even though she loves him, can't bear the thought of leaving and has no place to go, she goes anyway. When she returns to him, it's because she loves him, but she doesn't need him to complete her, or any other bullshit like that. Strange Dickensian twist of fate it may be, but on her own she has found family and fortune. However, I think even prior to that, she again found a purpose in the world, and when St. John proposes to her, she refuses him too cause she doesn't feel that way about him and she doesn't need a man.

Yeah, there's some feminist lady-empowering stuff in here, but my real point is, man, do I wish more women had this sort of sensibility, so they're not staying with guys they love even though there's some other large impediment to their own self-worth, or they're not just dating guys just to be with someone. Because that is the worst. And as I always say about exes, is that they're your ex for a reason, and unless that reason is resolved (say like his crazy attic wife dies so he's no longer trying to be a bigamist), you shouldn't get back together with them.

Obviously this post is a lot of me imparting my principles on the world, but I really think this book likely shaped these principles, which I feel are some of the best that I have. At no point in the story does Jane degrade herself for any man, and I think that's something that's all too common with women. Also, Jane? Not a looker. This is not like she was going to have offers pouring in. She was just cool with being by herself, rather than settling for something less than what she deserved.

That's it, I guess. Make your teenagers read Jane Eyre. (Look, you can even buy it in a Twilight-esque edition!)