Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summer Break

Hey, y'all. The Bibliovore is taking a summer break, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. I'll still be posting neat little tidbits of kidlit-related news as I come across it, and perhaps the occasional review, but I won't be on my Monday schedule. It's my first summer reading program as a librarian and I'm anticipating a really crazy summer. But I'll be back on Labor Day, with (hopefully) more great books to talk about.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Things Not Seen

Book: Things Not Seen
Author: Andrew Clements
Published: 2002

Have you ever felt like you were invisible?

Like a lot of teens, Bobby knows that feeling very well. But even he’s not prepared for the morning he looks at himself in the bathroom mirror . . . and sees a whole lot of nothing looking back.

You’d think being invisible would be kind of fun. But Bobby can’t make it stop and he has no idea what caused it. He’s not even lucky enough for his clothes to turn invisible on contact. He can’t go to school, he can only go outside if he’s stark naked (which is a lot of fun in Chicago), and he freaks his parents out every time they try to look at him. The only person who doesn’t get scared is his new friend, Alicia. She’s used to not seeing things. She’s blind.

Bobby just starting to settle into his new life when social services gets wind of his long school absence and suspects his parents of wrong-doing. They can’t be fobbed off for long with stories of the flu and extended visits to Great-Aunt Ethel in Florida. Now he’s only got five days to figure out what caused his invisibility, and reverse it . . . or he’ll be sneaking Thanksgiving dinner into the slammer.

Riffing on the universal teenage experience of feeling overlooked and helpless, Clements takes it one step further in a really cool what-if story. Ironically, it’s only when he becomes invisible that Bobby begins to see the world, especially his parents, who become more real to him as he sees their reaction to his predicament. Alicia, too, is a happy change from the wise-beyond-their-years standard of disabled characters. In her own way, she’s as angry and frustrated as Bobby is, and her blindness seems as random as his invisibility.

Except for a rather pseudo-sciency explanation for Bobby’s condition, I found this story completely believable once I accepted the idea that a seventeen-year-old boy could wake up invisible one morning. Read it . . . you won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Farewell, Lloyd Alexander

Apparently Lloyd Alexander, author of the Prydain Chronicles and the Vesper Holly series, among others, died on Thursday. He was 83.

I love the Vesper Holly books . . . I always pull them out and give them to energetic little girls and boys. Sigh . . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Book: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Author: Carolyn Mackler
Published: 2003

The Shreve family are the perfect examples of--well--perfection. They’re all successful, intelligent, popular, slender, and good-looking. And then there’s fifteen-year-old Virginia. Overweight, underconfident, and directionless, she’s the exception to the Shreve rule, and the unspoken shame of the family. She lives her life under the radar, attempting not so much to get ahead as to get by. She knows the Fat Girl Code of Conduct . . . keep your head down at all times and maybe they’ll let you live.

Then something happens that starts to crack the facade of perfection in the Shreve family, forcing Virginia to re-evaluate herself, her position in the family, and every other member in it. When the yardstick by which you measure your worth begins to crumble, what happens to you?

More than simply the body-image and eating-disorder issues explored in this novel (Virginia flirts briefly with anorexia and bulimia), the way Virginia’s family treats her show clearly how she got where she is. The cues are sometimes subtle, sometimes smack-in-the-face obvious, but always the message is, “We would love you and respect you, if only you were someone different.” Even Virginia’s memories of her rebellious and inspiring older sister have the flavor of pat-on-the-head pity about them. It’s her job, in this novel, to move away from this image and into one unaffected by her appearance-obsessed parents.

For some reason, I was expecting a much lighter-hearted book than I got. Maybe because of the title or artwork, I’m not sure. Anyway, I was blown away by this ferocious story of a girl who’s always considered herself to be naturally at the bottom of the ladder, and discovers that the only one who can keep her there is herself.

Monday, May 07, 2007

First Impressions

Book: First Impressions
Author: Marilyn Sachs
Published: 2006

Alice doesn’t understand why everything thinks Pride and Prejudice is such a great romantic comedy. To her, Mary is her soul twin: a middle child, bookish, and underappreciated. Her glossed-over fate is a tragedy. Alice’s paper, explaining this position, is given a C+, and she is horrified. She can’t get a C+ on anything. Ever.

The teacher relents and says she has the chance to redo the paper, if she re-reads the book over Christmas break. Alice reluctantly turns back to page one, and begins to re-imagine the book, giving Mary a more positive role. But to her surprise, she starts to see the other characters as reflections of the people in her own life, and begins to understand both in a deeper way. Maybe you should beware of first impressions, after all . . .

I should admit, full disclosure, that I am a Jane Austen nut. I’ve read five of the six major novels (still can't finish Mansfield Park), and I feel incomplete if I let more than a year go by without reading Pride and Prejudice at least once. I have most of the movie adaptations. Any retold story, I’m there, enjoying the heck out of it. The upshot is, when I heard about First Impressions, I knew I had to read this book.

However, I wouldn’t give this to anybody who hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice first, or at least seen a movie adaptation and has some idea of the plot. Not just because I’m so partial to it, but because the book reveals certain plot points of Austen’s novel that shouldn’t be experienced second-hand.

This is a quick and fun novel, especially for fellow Janeites like myself. Just be sure to have a copy of the original on hand, because you'll want a re-read.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

There is a God

. . . because Philip Reeve has written a sequel to Larklight. My life is thus complete, at least for the foreseeable future.

Now the bad news . . . it's not available until October. I read fast. I'm certain to finish Harry Potter 7 by then. Le sigh.