Monday, April 30, 2007

Three Clams and an Oyster

Book: Three Clams and an Oyster
Author: Randy Powell
Published: 2006

Four-man flag football team Three Clams and an Oyster is cursed when it comes to Oysters. Their first one, Glen Como, died suddenly the summer before ninth grade. Their current one, Cade Savage, keeps missing practices and even flakes out on a game, forcing them to forfeit. They choose to hold tryouts for the Oyster position, but Cade is always in the back of their mind.

Now the three Clams--McCallister, Deshutis, and Beaterson--have a hard choice to make. Should they jettison an unreliable player or do everything they can to support their oldest friend in his time of need?

From the cover you would think this is about the team adjusting to having a (gasp!) girl on the roster. In fact, this is nowhere near what the book is about. I suspect the publishers latched onto this one, fairly minor element and ran with it, leaving Powell scratching his head and going, “Huh?”

Instead, this book is about a complex five-way friendship. Glen, in spite of being dead, is still very much present, haunting the story in bits and pieces. (Thank you, Randy Powell, for NOT flashing back.) How much can you hang on to the past? How much should you? And at what point does your friend forfeit the right to your support by slacking off on his responsibility to be there for you?

Pick up this book to find out how three young men try to find the answers.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Banning Hound is on the Scent . . .

Maureen Johnson's book The Bermudez Triangle has been banned from the school library in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. If you live around there, go to the local public library, to which she will be donating copies of the banned book (plus another one) and make sure everyone sees you reading this NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY book. You're in luck, because besides having no moral fiber (without moral fiber you get moral constipation!), it's a great, heartfelt story about relationships and friendships and identity, sexual or otherwise.

Also drop by MJ's blog and show support.

Banning Hound wants a Milk Bone, too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Have Nothing to Say . . .

. . . because this is way too cool for words to express.

Okay, fine, it has nothing to do with kidlit. Unless you're figuring on doing a kid's book about William the Conqueror or the Bayeaux Tapestry. Hmmm . . . kind of a cool idea . . . I call it!

Large congrats to David Newton, whoever he is.

P.S. Music is also v. cool.

P.P.S. Thanks to Diane Duane's blog for the link.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Book: Changeling
Author: Delia Sherman
Published: 2006

Neef is a changeling--a mortal child stolen away from her parents and taken to live in the fairy world. She has lived all her life in Central Park. Protected and cosseted by her fairy godmother (Astris, a white rat) and fairy godfather (Pooka the trickster), she had no idea how dangerous it is for her in the rest of the fairy world. But then she snuck into the Summer Solstice dance and enrages the Green Lady, who retaliated by kicking her out of Central Park and revoking the protection that’s always kept her safe. Neef can only come back home if she ventures out into the city and brings the Green Lady three little trinkets . . . trinkets that belong to the most powerful fairy folk in Manhattan. Now she's about to find out just how dangerous New York City can be . . .

I'm not the first person to go gaga over this book--it's gotten plenty of buzz on the kidlitospehere and it just made the VOYA 2006 Best of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror list. But having read it, I can join the crowd with glee.

This is one of those books where a place is as important as any character. In this case, the place is New York City--Central Park, the harbor, Broadway, Wall Street, and all sorts of environs in between. The character of the city also permeates the fairy world, where vampires tap-dance on Broadway and the Green Lady wouldn’t be caught dead talking like that pansy Titania.

Neef is no fluffy fairy child--she is savvy, nervy, and mouthy enough to be instantly recognizable as a New York girl, even if her New York is populated with dragons, mermaids, and other magical folk. Her changeling counterpart isn’t as instantly likeable. It took a long time for me to warm up to her, and almost as long for her to start serving any purpose other than annoying Neef. However, even she becomes invaluable at the end. Pick this up for a delicious blend of quest, fairy tale, and love song for New York City.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Save Yourselves!

It's the VOYA Best of 2006 Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror List!

I've read about 25% of this list, and about 50% more is already in my Blue Journal of Stuff I Gotta Read Before I Die. But that still leaves 25% new-to-me titles! I'll never run out of things to read!

Everyone should have this problem.

Thanks to Kids Lit for the heads-up.

P.S. Why, yes, I have had some sugar today. So kind of you to notice.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pretty Interesting Mix

So the Carnegie Medal in the UK is kind of like the Newbery over here: big honkin' hairy deal, highlighting some of the best in kidlit. So when they put out their list of the best books of the past 70 years, it's one heck of a mix. Here's it is, with itty-bitty summaries.
Carnegie of Carnegies shortlist

* SKELLIG David Almond (won in 1998)

A tale of a creature beneath the garage

* JUNK Melvin Burgess (1996)

The lives of young heroin users

* STORM Kevin Crossley-Holland (1985)

Girl discovers the secrets of a marsh

* A GATHERING LIGHT Jennifer Donnelly (2003)

Novel about a real murder

* THE OWL SERVICE Alan Garner (1967)

A terrifying legend re-emerges


Portrait of a working-class family

* THE BORROWERS Mary Norton (1952)

Tiny people live beneath the floor

* TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN Philippa Pearce (1958)

Adventures in a magical garden

* NORTHERN LIGHTS Philip Pullman (1995)

First of the trilogy His Dark Materials

* THE MACHINE-GUNNERS Robert Westall (1981)

Second World War novel

To read the whole article, click on over to the Independent's website. Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for the link.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Grand and Humble

Book: Grand & Humble
Author: Brent Hartinger
Published: 2006

On the surface, Harlan Chesterton and Manny Tucker couldn’t be more different. Harlan is a popular athlete whose charmed life is all on the surface, as his domineering mother engineers his whole life to reflect well on his politician father. Manny is a theater geek who is discovering that his loving, supportive father has kept secrets his whole life.

But they have some things in common. They were born in the same town, go to the same high school, and even know some of the same people. Most importantly, they both keep having the same nerve-wracking premonitions of death and disaster. So why have Harlan and Manny never met? And what does the intersection at Grand and Humble have to do with it all?

Brent Hartinger is best known for his novel Geography Club, which I haven’t read (yet). However, I just had to blog this story of two very different boys with a terribly similar problem. Family secrets are the key to banishing the nightmares for both boys, if they can only uncover them. Their lives keep brushing up against each other, but never really intersecting until the fascinating twist at the end, which makes a re-read even more fun.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Story of a Girl

Bit late this week . . . sorry about that!

Book: Story of a Girl
Author: Sara Zarr
Published: 2007

Everybody knows about Deanna Lambert. She’s the girl whose dad caught her having sex with her brother’s best friend when she was thirteen and he was seventeen. She's a slut, a pathetic skank.

Except Deanna knows that nobody really knows about her. But what can she do? She’s been branded and filed away into the untouchable drawer by everyone, even her own father. The only friends she has are Lee and Jason, and even they can’t protect her from the slurs and whispers that are as familiar now as her own name. All she can do is keep her head down and make plans for her escape.

First in those plans is to get some cash flow, which means getting a job at the only place that’s hiring, Picasso’s Pizza. But then she discovers that her new coworker is Tommy Webber, the boy she was caught with three years ago. Now it’s her choice about whether she’s going to keep running away from the event and the actions that have defined her life since . . . or stay and face them.

The really cool thing about this book is that there are no angels or demons. Deanna is no falsely accused innocent--she really was having sex with Tommy Weber when her dad caught them. Even Tommy is a 3-D character, young and unsure and getting the story wrong. The central theme of the story is not Deanna "clearing her name," but coming to an understanding of why she made the choices she did, and finding a way to make different ones now.

And in the end, forgiveness and renewal are not instantaneous. It’s a slow process, as painful in its own way as the initial trauma that requires forgiveness.

This would be a heck of a novel for any author, but for a first-time author, it’s astounding. I can’t wait to see what Sara Zarr does next.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Book: Larklight
Author: Philip Reeve
Published: 2006

Art Mumby and his sister Myrtle are having a regular old day at Larklight, their ancestral house which floats on the far side of the moon. The gravity generator has to be turned off so the hoverhogs can eat the floating debris, and they're planning to go out and watch their visitor's spaceship dock at the front door. Also, Myrtle is practicing her new piano piece.

But their new visitor doesn't turn out to be a personable gentleman, as Myrtle was hoping. Instead, he's a giant spider (although he does wear a hat and speak English) who invades their home, wraps their father in a web, and keeps asking for the key to Larklight. Art and Myrtle manage to escape, only to land on the moon. Once there, they almost get eaten by giant moths, are rescued by pirates, and discover that the spiders are actually a prehistoric race from Saturn's rings, intent on destroying the solar system. And the only thing that can stop them is Larklight. But what exactly is the key?

Dear me. This could get a mite sticky.

I adore an off-kilter book, and this definitely counts. Reeves has cooked up a deliciously kooky blend of Victorian adventure novel and space opera, complete with elaborate chapter headings such as "We return home (huzzah!) but discover that it may already be too late to save dear old England from the vengeance of the First Ones (boo!)" It races headlong from exotic locale to exotic locale, bursting at the seams with adventures that are all the more entertaining for their unlikeliness.

For readers that are up on their English history, some of the fun is in seeing how Reeves took actual characters and events (Isaac Newton, the explorer Richard Burton, the Crystal Palace of the 1851 Exhibition) and tweaks them to serve his story. Art’s sister Myrtle can get rather annoying, since she’s usually your traditional fainting maiden, but other than that, Larklight is a grand old time.