Thursday, June 29, 2006

Piffle on Independence Day

The heck with July fourth. It's almost BAFAB week! What is BAFAB? It's Buy A Friend A Book week. Plus, BAFAB is a holiday all round the world, which American Independence Day isn't (although many Americans think so).

BAFAB today! Or next week. Or both.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Of Course She Does

Rowling plots to kill Potter characters

Okay, my bets are on Hagrid and . . . erm . . . let's see . . . at least one Weasley parent. I'll be really mad if she kills off Ron or Hermione after I've spent this long rooting for them.

Thanks to Blog of a Bookslut.

Monday, June 26, 2006


You may have noticed that I didn't post any bookish news last week. (Or maybe you didn't. Who knows.) Well, it's like this. I got a job (hooray!) but it's in another state (yargh). So all my time is now spent boxing up my approximately 10,000,000 books in order to flee across state lines. I may not be able to post with a book review next Monday, as I'll be wandering around trying to find apartments with sturdy enough floors that I and my entire collection of Madeleine L'engle novels won't fall through the ceiling into somebody else's living room.

However, when things settle down, it'll be back to worm-eating principals and book reviews every Monday like clockwork. Promise.

Book: Millions
Author: Frank Cottrell Bryce
Published: 2004

What would you do with a million? Damian would really like to know, because he’s all out of ideas. See, he’s got a million pounds. It came down from the sky in answer to his prayer. His materialistic brother Anthony is ecstatic, and they’ve suddenly become the stars of the school yard. But with only a few days left before Britain switches to the euro and all that money is rendered useless, (not the mention that the people who lost the money in the first place would really like it back) the brothers are finding out that even a million pounds is way more trouble than it’s worth.

The basic premise is simple enough, but in the end, Millions is not really about money. It’s about grief, about ethics, and about figuring out what’s right and then doing it. The two boys are reacting to and dealing with their mother’s death in drastically different ways: Damian by absorbing every iota of information he can about saints’ lives, Anthony by knowing the value of money really, really well. Perhaps the trickiest element of this story is Damian's conversations with saints like Claire of Assisi, St. Peter, and even St. Joseph. In the hands of many authors, maybe even most authors, this would have come out cloying, weird, stuff-it-down-your-throat religious, or just implying that Damian is really cracking up. But Bryce handles it lightly and deftly, bringing out the human side of the saints and making Damian's asking for their advice a normal child's desire for guidance by respected adults.

The story behind the story is almost as interesting. Bryce wrote Millions as a screenplay first, and then adapted it into a novel which came out simultaneously or just before the movie. The movie is as charming and possibly even more magical in tone than the book, although it did leave some important bits out.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Boy 2 Girl

Book: Boy 2 Girl
Author: Terence Blacker
Published: 2005

Meet Sam Lopez, the new girl, who’s just moved to England from America. She’s tough. She’s funny. She doesn’t take any guff from anybody. She’s the most popular girl at school--every boy wants her, every girl wants to be her.

If only they knew Sam isn’t Samantha, but Samuel.

Sam’s exasperated cousin, Matt, initially dared him to make the big switch, thinking it would be good for a laugh and teach his wild cousin a thing or two. But his brilliant idea snowballs until it’s bigger than anybody, even Sam, can control. From an obviously biased teacher to the reactions of the other students to the observations of secondary characters, Blacker writes a hilarious novel that examines the way that gender is defined by the outside world.

I really took to this book, which takes a premise right out of Monty Python and uses it as a framework to ask all sorts of questions about sex and gender. Blacker also uses the unusual narrative device of telling the story from a multiplicity of first-person POVs, from Matt to the girls at school to the little old lady walking by in the park. In fact, the only character who never does have his say is Sam himself, which further underscores the theme of one’s gender being defined and interpreted by others.

While much of the focus is on the humorous Victor/Victoria dichotomy of a boy posing as a girl, Blacker also weaves in a more serious and emotional story about Sam, his dead mother, and his absent father. My only quibble with this book is that, until close to the end, the subplot involving Sam’s biological father descends into stereotypical farce rather than the inspired and thoughtful hilarity of the rest of the book.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Holy Schnikes

Mother Reader has not only pledged to blog all she reads for the next 48 hrs, she's sucked others in with her. Dear god, will the world never be safe from voracious readers of children's lit who then blog to share the goodness with others? I hope not.

(But Bibliovore, why aren't you doing this?)

(I like sleep.)



Thursday, June 15, 2006

Red Hot Diggity

Either I'm really bored right now, or there's a lot of cool book news. Given that there's almost always a lot of cool book news, I'm going with option number 1.

As if indexing the rest of the known world weren't enough, Google is introducing Searchable Shakespeare texts.

Okay, not technically kid's lit, but I did warn you I'm a recovering English major. See, it's right up there. There! In the title.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A New Low in School Lunches

Conestoga Elementary School serves worms

Actually, this story is about a principal and a librarian who dared their students to read 100 million words over the course of the school year. If they succeeded, the principal would eat fried worms, in honor of the classic gross-out book by Thomas Rockwell.

Well, they did . . . and did he? Read it and find out.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

File This Under "Hmmm"

Hawking to Write Children's Book

Normally I would rail for awhile against those goonballs who think they can write a children's book in an evening. However, it appears he's writing nonfiction (or possibly fiction with lots of education) in his area of expertise, unlike, say, Madonna. Plus I liked A Brief History of Time, the parts that I understood, anyway.

But I still think I'll wait until it comes out to make any judgements.

The Dewey Donation System

The Dewey Donation System has this really cute logo of a little dot with a book on its head . . . oh, you want to hear what it does.

The DDS (way different from the DDC; and if you laughed at that joke, you're a librarian) calls attention to people or libraries in dire need of books. The libraries set up Amazon wish lists, nice people buy books, Amazon sends them and everyone's happy. The DDS has helped out Oakland Public Library after catastrophic budget cuts, San Diego Public Library after wildfires, Indian schoolchildren after the tsunami, and now have turned their formidable attention to Katrina-devastated libraries in the Gulf Coast.

Do it because you're a nice person. Or because you really, really need brownie points in heaven after that crazy weekend in Vegas when against all reason and laws of mathematics, you may have actually broken eleven commandments. Y'know. Either way.

Monday, June 12, 2006

You Are *So* Cursed!

It's Monday! And what does that mean?

No, it does not mean that I need a caffeine IV. That's not exclusive to Monday. I need one of those every day.

Book: You Are So Cursed!
Author: Naomi Nash
Published: 2004

Vick's the school witch, and she makes sure everyone knows it. She's doing a good job--everyone but her tiny group of misfit friends is terrified of her. But she's got a big secret, and here it is: while she's got a real gift for magic, it's got more to do with Houdini than Hecate. When Gio, a popular and well-liked guy (in other words, Vick's perfect antithesis), realizes this and starts getting close, the first bricks in Vick's wall start to crumble. It gets worse when the friends that she's been protecting for so long suddenly seem to turn on her. In the end, Vick has no choice but to let someone in or be alone forever.

I picked this book up for the title--it made me laugh, especially with the cover photo of a sour-faced, sterotypical goth girl sneering out at you. I kept reading because it inverted and undid my expectations. Although some of the secondary characters suffer from 2D-itis, Vick leaps off the page in full and complex life. Vick's story is bitterly, caustically funny, heaping withering scorn on stratified high school society that never looks beyond the outside. Weaving in a real respect and affection for "street magic," the illusions and misdirection used by stage magicians, Nash tells the story of a tough girl who's a secret marshmallow, and how love and friendship are scarier than even black magic.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Heads up!

Like every other freakin' kidlit blog in the whole entire world, I am posting a link to the Guardian's interview with Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket. It's mostly about his recently published adult novel, but he does chat a little about the Lemony Snicket phenomenon, like he will have to do for the rest of his natural life. I imagine reporters will exhume him after his death to ask him about Lemony Snicket, and he will curse them eloquently.

Anyway . . . enjoy, y'all.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Penderwicks

Book: The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
Author: Jeanne Birdsall
Published: 2005

The four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, with their enormous, galumphing dog, Hound, and their dreamy, permissive dad, are off to have a great summer in a rented cottage. When they arrive, they discover that the cottage is on the grounds of a massive estate, which comes complete with a cute gardener, a really scary owner, and the owner’s bored son, about to be sent off to military school completely against his will. The Penderwicks immediately decide it is their duty to make sure that Jeffrey gets a great summer, and if they can swing it, a way out of that stupid military school.

If anyone can do it, they can.

Much as I love them, the one thing that always grated on my nerves about classic children’s adventure stories (think Nesbit’s The Railway Children, Barrie’s Peter Pan, or Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone) was how annoying the girls were. They were always dragged along against their will, fussing that they’d get in trouble, or whipping out the spotlessly clean, perfectly pressed handkerchief and wiping smudges off their resisting brothers’ faces.

Well, no more. While Rosalind is plenty fussy and mothery, that seems to be more because she’s the oldest. The rest of the Penderwick girls (and even sometimes Rosalind) hurl themselves headlong into trouble, and for once, they’re dragging the boy along. The subtitle has it right: while there are problems and conflicts, this entire story seems to take place in a golden, innocent bubble of summer fun.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

10 Ways Parents (inadvertantly) Discourage Their Kids From Being Readers

Ran across this thanks to another kidlit blog. Read! Now! Especially if you are a parent. #1 and the unnumbered reason are my biggest pet peeves, but all the rest are pretty high up there too.

Post tomorrow! Baking in the oven as we speak.