Thursday, January 28, 2010

More sad news

On the heels of Robert Parker's death, the literary world has also lost novelist and short story writer JD Salinger and historian Howard Zinn. Children and grown-ups alike have enjoyed the various works of both authors. We will mourn their passing.

This weekend in Greater Boston.....

I was putting up adverts online for our Valentine's event (Alison Paul! Burglar masks! ICE CREAM SUNDAES!) and I stumbled across an ad for a theater production of Rosemary Wells's Max and Ruby! It's up at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton, as part of their Magic Ark Children's Series, on January 31st (this Sunday). You can get tickets at the JCC website or by phone 617-965-5226. I also see they're doing a musical rendition of Junie B. Jones in March....(ooh...!).

Just look at their cuddly bunny ear hats! I can think of a few staffers here who would love a pair of those.

Also this weekend, you can see HONK!, a musical retelling of the Ugly Duckling, at the Wheelock Family Theatre (at Wheelock College). The show continues through February, with additional matinees during school vacation week (the 16th through 19th).

For a slightly older audience (10 up), Coolidge Corner Theatre will broadcast a London National Theatre performance of Terry Pratchett's novel Nation (last year's Printz Honor and a staff favorite here!). The show incorporates music, dance, and puppetry. I hear NT has done a version of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, which must have been incredible! Sigh. I love you Nicole Kidman, but that film The Golden Compass just didn't do the books justice.

Beyond musicals and plays, don't forget to catch the Harry Potter exhibition at the Museum of Science - you still have a month to see props, costumes and sets (Hagrid's hut!) from the films. Stop at your local library before you go, BPL has passes for the museums.

Hopefully all these options will keep you from getting that winter indoors least until THE LIGHTING THIEF comes out!!! That would be on February 12th. I'm a little surprised at myself for how excited I am, but can you blame me? (RIP-TIDE is a sword that can be disguised as a PEN!! See? Now you can excuse my excessive exclamation points and alliteration). There's also news that Riordan is writing a new series called the Kane Chronicles, based on Egyptian mythology. It kicks off with The Red Pyramid, out this May. I'd better reread Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Egypt Game to get ahead of the gang.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Valentine's Day event with special guest ALISON PAUL!

Sunday, February 14th at 1pm, author/illustrator ALISON PAUL will be here to sign her new picture book Sunday Love. Alison will steal your heart with this sweet tale of a burglar who escapes prison to hunt for his true love: an ice cream sundae!

Bring your little jailbirds to enjoy some criminal crafts -- decorate your own burglar mask to pose for a mug shot. Celebrate your escape by making an ice cream sundae, with goodies generously donated by our neighbors at Uno Chicago Grill.

Don't (entirely) spoil your appetite with Valentine's Day sweets, though! After our event, head across the street for Uno's weekly Kids' Night.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fall in love...

...with our new staff favorite picture book, Henry in Love. Written and illustrated by the amazing Peter McCarty, Henry is a puppy -- or should I say "kitty"? -- love story about a young cat with a crush on his bunny classmate Chloe. Chloe's perfect cartwheels win Henry's heart, but what will it take to win hers? We can't get enough of the interplay between simple text and hilarious images. As always, McCarty's pencil and watercolor illustrations radiate light and warmth.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 32

I'm feeling pretty tense this week, as evidenced by a three-day-long crick in my neck, so I picked out a few things to help me get back into a place of relaxation. Check it out!

Cupcake Soap 3-pack by Two's Company
Located on the Hello Kitty table

Fellow staffer Miruna pointed these soaps out to me last week, and we both agreed that they absolutely had to be blogged about. I mean really, who wouldn't want to take a bath with yummy-smelling cupcake soap? I know I do! Three color combos topped with little pink roses, scented like buttercream frosting, and packaged in a cute and convenient box make this set an item not to be missed. The cupcakes also make a great gift--for the upcoming Valentine's Day, or for no reason at all, or for yourself (because you know you deserve it).

Rexlace Gimp/Lanyard Kit by Pepperell Crafts
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

According to Michelle, this stuff is called gimp. When I was a kid, making braided keychains in the summer program at the park down the street, it was called lanyard. I'm sure this is a regional difference, like soda vs. pop, and I may have to buy this just so that I can walk around and ask people what they call it. ;) Aside from terminology research, though, this is a great kit; it includes instructions and supplies for fifteen different projects in a variety of bright colors, even including a bracelet-sized piece of plastic canvas (a favorite item among kid crafters) to use for lanyard/gimp weaving. Repetitive stuff like tying knots to make keychains is just the sort of busy work I need to keep my hands occupied while my brain zones out--I can't wait!

That's all for this week! See you next time.

Sad news.

Robert B. Parker, mystery author and our neighbor here in Cambridge, died on Monday. His death is a loss to a wide range of readers. Parker's 60+ books include best-selling detective novels (many featuring detective Spenser) and westerns for adults, as well as middle grade sports mysteries and "Young Spenser" books. He was also a professor of literature at both B.U. and Northeastern University.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Once upon a Curious George store...

There was story-time! And story-time will be again. Come over with your preschoolers and primary-graders on Saturdays at noon and enjoy a read-aloud with our talented staff (Dave has pleased many a classroom, and even his own kid!). We start this coming Saturday the 23rd, downstairs in our chapter book room.

We're really excited to bring back this favorite tradition! As we go along, please give us any suggestions you may have.

ALA aftermath and awards!

Well, the attendees of the American Library Association midwinter meeting are packing their bags and heading back to their respective libraries, publishing houses, and writer's garrets -- some making a detour to the George on the way out of town -- and with them goes the gigantic-book-clubby feeling Boston had over the weekend. I attended the exhibit hall on Saturday and felt like Charlie in Wonka's factory; there were delicious books as far as the eye could see, and (if you asked nicely) you could even take some home with you. I now have more supernatural YA advance reader copies than you can shake a stake at!

Even more exciting than new ARCs, yesterday the ALA announced its annual Youth Media Awards, including the best known and most prestigious of their awards, the Caldecott and Newbery. And the winners are (cue suspenseful music)...

Caldecott Medal for Most Distinguished Picture Book
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Caldecott Honors
- All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee and written by Liz Garton Scanlon
- Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and written by Joyce Sidman

Newbery Medal for Most Distinguished Children's Literature
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Newbery Honors
- Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, written and illustrated by Grace Lin
- The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Printz Award for Exemplary Young Adult Literature
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Printz Honors
- Tales from the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes
- Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
- Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
- The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Coretta Scott King Award for African American Author of Outstanding Children's Literature
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Coretta Scott King Author Honor
- Mare's War by tanita s. davis

Coretta Scott King Award for African American Illustrator of Outstanding Children's Literature
My People, illustrated by Charles R. Smith and written by Langston Hughes
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor
- The Negro Speaks of Rivers, illustrated by E.B. Lewis and written by Langston Hughes

Giesel Award for Most Distinguished Beginning Reader
Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes
Giesel Honors
- I Spy Fly Guy!, written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
- Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day, written by Kate McMullan and illustrated by R.W. Alley
- Little Mouse Gets Ready, written and illustrated by Jeff Smith
- Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends, written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee

Sibert Award for Most Distinguished Informational Book
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone
Sibert Honors
- The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani
- Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 13, written and illustrated by Brian Floca
- Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

YALSA Excellence in YA Nonfiction Award
Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Phew! You can access the full list (yes, there are more) and view highlights of the conference and ceremony at the ALA Award page. Congratulations to all the winners! Now on to commentary...

Book buyer Donna wants me to tell you that we have "lots and lots" of Caldecott winner The Lion and the Mouse. Not just lots, but lots and lots. As in stacks and stacks. I can also confirm that we have lots and lots of Newbery winner When You Reach Me. Don't forget the honor books! Curious George is your one-stop shop for award winning and honored books.

If you haven't already read Nikki Grimes's excellent essay "Speaking Out," about African American illustrators being passed over for the Caldecott, now is the time to do so. This year Jerry Pinkney is the first individual African American artist to win, despite his and many other black illustrators' essential contributions to the picture book canon.

We're especially happy for our friend and alum Grace Lin, who received a Newbery honor for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Lovely in both story and illustration, this is a book I recommend frequently. I'm so glad to see it -- and wonderful Grace -- recognized! Hooray!

Finally, some savvy staff members knew what was up months ago -- Taylor recommended When You Reach Me in a staff pick:
When whip-smart, instantly likeable 12-year-old Miranda begins to receive mysterious notes with even more mysterious directives, she is catapulted into a mission — à la her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time — to save someone she loves. You will quickly find yourself embroiled in the mystery along with her.
Rachel's been a fan of the Fly Guy series since the first book, Hi, Fly Guy! She wrote in her pick:
Buzz knows Fly Guy is the best pet ever—he can even say Buzz’s name! The judges at the Amazing Pet Show need a little convincing, though…. Be sure to check out the other Fly Guy books, including the latest installment, I Spy Fly Guy!
All this ALA talk is making me antsy to go finish reading Printz Honor The Monstrumologist, so this is your ALA special reporter Katie, signing off!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Staff Pick Buffet Table

We've piled up a few staff picks since you've heard from us... Enjoy the buffet today!

Nation by Terry Pratchett
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: adventure, survival story
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

A tsunami destroys Mau's entire world and shipwrecks a young Victorian girl on his tropical island. Together with other refugees, they rebuild a community -- questioning everything they once knew while battling disease, pirates, and the gods themselves. This may be Pratchett's best book yet - full of action, humor, and thought-provoking questions.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Bookseller: Natasha
Genre: contemporary realistic fiction
Suggested reading level: Teen

Kyra is 13, has a crush on the boy next door and helps with lots of housework. But that's because she has 15 siblings, and lives on a Mormon polygamist compound. When their Prophet has a vision that she's supposed to marry her 60 year old uncle, she has to find a way out...VERY suspenseful!

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Bookseller: Taylor
Genre: general fiction with some futuristic elements
Suggested reading level: ages 14 up

How far would your parents go to save your life? And would you want them to do so if it meant that the life you're left with can never be like your previous one? Don't be fooled by the generous white space; this fast-paced psychological read will have you questioning everything, from the nature of familial love to the future of medicine and bioethics.

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
Bookseller: Natasha
Genre: graphic novel, animals
Suggested reading level: ages 7 up

Binky the housecat is on a special, ultra-secret mission to become a full-fledged Space Cat. His plan is to make it to space with his humans, to protect them from Earthling insects. This is a really funny story with great illustrations. Action, adventure, and space-traveling cats, what more could anyone want?

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
Bookseller: Michelle
Genre: realistic fiction, fans of John Green or Criss Cross
Suggested reading level: ages 13 up

Where else but in a Mackler book can you find new love lying on the floor of the Children's Museum's butterfly exhibit, or rebuilding porch stairs? Paradise, a resort in the Caribbean, interwines the lives of four teens, (brothers, cousins, friends, lovers), changing them forever.

Houndsley and Catina by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Bookseller: Katie
Genre: friendship tales, early reader
Suggested reading level: ages 6-7

Catina is writing a 74-chapter novel entitled Life Through the Eyes of a Cat. Houndsley enters a high-stakes cooking contest. When things don't go as planned, they realize they each have a more important talent: being a great friend. The soft, plump watercolor shapes make the two even more lovable.

Kit's Wilderness by David Almond
Bookseller: Miruna
Genre: magical realism
Suggested reading level: ages 12 up

The Watsons move back to Stoneygate to care for Kit's grandfather. Here Kit meets John Askew, a dangerous boy who teaches Kit the game called Death. A novel full of suspense, mystery, and magic. Probably my favorite book in the store. ENJOY!!!

Ash by Malinda Lo
Bookseller: Rachel
Genre: fairy tale retelling, fantasy, queer
Suggested reading level: ages 13 up

Ash is alone in the world; her parents are dead, her stepmother is cruel, and her only solace is a mysterious and beautiful stranger who walks with her in the Wood. That is, until she meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress. Now she must find a way to fulfill a bargain without betraying her heart. Cinderella as never before.

The Underneath by Kathi Applet, illustrated by David Small
Bookseller: Katie
Genre: animal fantasy, mythology-inspired
Suggested reading level: ages 10 up

Two orphaned kittens, an old hound dog, and a few magical creatures take on one meaner-than-dirt man in the deep bayou. Folksy narration and archetypal characters add a larger-than-life feel to this animal adventure, so you'll marvel at the intricate weaving of legends while you reach for tissues.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Around the World in 17 Picture Books

Around the World with Mouk is a new picture book written and illustrated by Marc Boutavant. It's a larger format book with lush, busy illustrations and a fun cast of characters who go all around the world. It's a great book for kids who are interested in different countries as it offers a lot of smaller cultural details from a varied group of countries. Adults could enjoy it just as much; the illustrations are creative and the details are interesting. The book even comes with reusable stickers that allow kids to accessorize the illustrations.

It's a book I take such delight in, that reading it fuels travel fantasies. Please enjoy some favorite globally-themed picture books inspired by this new favorite!

Mouk's first stop on his global journey is Finland! I know I've professed my love before, but if you want the best picture book from Finland, it's without a doubt The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My. Great illustrations, playful die-cut pages and a light-hearted yet adventuresome story underscore the imaginative contributions to picture books of Mouk's first stop on his global tour.

From Finland, Mouk travels to India. Stories from India is a great edition of Indian fairy and folktales with rich and playful illustrations. The volume includes tons of great stories to read aloud or on your own to transport you immediately to far away India.

Japan is just a hop, skip and a jump from India for Mouk, and Japan has a lot of great representatives in the picture book arena. Celebrated Japanese author/illustrator Taro Gomi has written a lot of fun and informative books that have been translated into a gazillion languages. My favorite is My Friends, which follows a girl around her neighborhood as she points out her friends including a bunny rabbit, a cat and many more. Really sweet, with simple text that is good for following along as a read-aloud or for the beginning reader to tackle on his or her own. The illustrations are fun, bright, colorful and entirely distinctive. Another great book about Japan that bears mentioning is the non-fiction picture book Japanese Celebrations, that explains all of the Japanese holidays, from the cherry blossom festival in the spring to the moon-viewing parties of autumn time. It's a book with a lot of illustrations and explanations that kids 7+ would enjoy.
From Japan, Mouk travels to Greece. A great book that delves into the sights, sounds and culture of Greece is This is Greece, one volume in a series of books by M. Sasek, that visit foreign countries, cities, and states here in America, too. The illustrations are distinctive, the information interesting and the stories engaging. A great collection to have for any globally-minded kids.

Mouk also visits a couple of countries across Africa. Anansi the Spider, written and illustrated by Gerald McDermott, is a great picture book of an African folktale, with amazing and bold illustrations. From Ashanti to Zulu is a beautifully illustrated alphabet book by Leo and Diane Dillon. The book not only goes through the alphabet but through the entire continent of Africa highlighting tribes from all over Africa for EVERY letter of the alphabet!

Mouk also ventures to China. There are a lot of great books on China, but one of the most fun AND informative is Find Out About China. This is a great volume with tons of pictures and tidbits that is part of a whole series of books about countries all over the world. Kids 8+ will enjoy pouring over them.
Mouk's beach side stop in Australia evokes a lot of images and great picture books, including Possum Magic by awesome Australian author Mem Fox. In the book two possums take a culinary tour through the country.
For Mouk's sojourn in Peru, one wonders if he'll meet the ancestors of one of the most beloved bears in picture books: Paddington. If you'll recall, before his relocation to merry old England, Paddington hails "from darkest Peru." There's also a great series called "Regions of the World" that offers lush photographic glimpses (with plenty of background information) into countries, and the Middle and South America volume will give kids 12+ a deeper look into Peru and other spots throughout Central and South America.

Mouk's last stop on his tour is New York City, and of the many great picture books that take place in the Big Apple, how can one look past Curious George in the Big City? In it, our favorite monkey has no end of things, people and places to tickle his curiosity!

Other great "Around the World" books are:
Around the World in 80 Tales, which is a great collection of folktales from every corner of the globe.

Babar's World Tour, in which our favorite elephant takes his own world-tour.

For a more global message, the beautifully illustrated All the World is a great bedtime read, and though set in California, the calm and simple rhyme reminds the reader of our global place through images of communal comfort and family happiness.

For the scientifically-inclined globe-trekker, Everything on Earth is a recent release from the genius folks at DK. It is a treasure trove of information about literally everything on Earth. From wildlife to weather patterns, this book covers all the extremes of our globe suitable for ages 12+.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thirsty for new teen fantasy?

It's been two months since the New Moon movie adaptation was released - plenty of time to hit the multiple viewing overdose; and six months until Eclipse comes out. What's a vampire fiction lover to do now? Clearly, it's time for a round up of new fantasy adventure books for the Twilight/Harry Potter addict in your life. You can find most of these titles in our "Books with Bite" display in the chapter book room.

Supernatural Romance

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
This sophisticated fantasy follows Grace and too-cute Sam through their blossoming romance. There’s only one problem: Sam’s a werewolf. When the temperature drops, Sam and his pack transform from human to wolf, and each wolf only gets so many years before the change is permanent. To make matters worse, rogue werewolves roam the woods surrounding their small hometown, biting their neighbors and friends. Sam and Grace’s alternating narratives heighten both the character development and the sense of desperate suspense.

Vampires have been sexy and edgy for a good long time now, but why don't werewolves get any love? If you're a "Team Jacob" type, this is the read for you. I'm already antsy for the sequel Linger, which will be out in July. -- Katie

Captivate by Carrie Jones
The sequel to Need, Captivate returns to a rural part of Maine inhabited by pixies and weres. The shape-shifting weres are bound to protect humans from pixies, who are definitely baddies: they kidnap teenage boys for their dinners and force human women to be their queens. Zara lives uncomfortably in the middle; she's part-pixie herself, with a werewolf boyfriend. (I'm on a pro-werewolf campaign, apparently.) -- Katie

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund
As you may remember from an earlier post, the cover of this book grabbed me: Astrid’s intense glare, sword blade a la Graceling, and the unicorn in its reflection! From what I’d seen on the author’s blog, Rampant had gone through many covers, each seeming a completely different genre (my favorite might have been the romance one, with tongue-in-cheek tone nodding to The Princess Bride). The book did live up to its dramatic cover, and that is the key word here… shocking amounts of drama.

Astrid has been trying to ignore her mother’s tales of bloodthirsty, man-eating unicorns, and their ancestors who hunted them. It’s only when her boyfriend is gored by a lesser species of unicorn (by page ELEVEN) that Astrid must face the truth about these one-horned beasts. Astrid is speedily outcast from her comfortable social position – which makes her immediate packing off to unicorn-killer training camp in Rome a tiny bit more palatable. Once installed in the decrepit former convent, she meets an array of unicorn hunter descendants, from obsessed Cordelia, with a dark past, to Astrid’s cousin, Phil, who seems out for just adventure (and dates with Italian men). The characters are likable, and their discussions about the ecological and moral repercussions of hunting any beast to extinction and the problem of negotiating the commitment of being a virgin hunter with modern dating are treated surprisingly well. I did have trouble suspending disbelief in a world that was so quickly and roughly established, especially with the hurried conclusion and the almost caricature-like behaviors of some adults. But really, when it comes to killer unicorns and eating gelato with handsome Italian men, I’m willing to forgive some ridiculous drama – I was entertained, and that’s what counts.
-- Michelle

The Mortal Instruments Trilogy: City of Bones, City of Ash, and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
When Clary's mother disappears, she's astonished to discover an underground world of fallen angels, demons, and demon-hunters - and her own family's part in it. Shadowhunters Jace, Isabelle and Alex promise to help her, but the price of their friendship is more danger and intrigue. Soon the lives of everyone Clary loves, from her mother and her best friend Simon, to her almost-dad Luke and her new-found allies, dangle dangerously in the balance between good and evil. The second and third volumes add inner demons to Clary's long list of adversaries as she's racked with remorse over the fate of a friend and forbidden desires. Magical creatures, mystical tattoos, arcane weapons, thwarted romance, prophecies and plot twists will have you wanting to be a Shadowhunter when you grow up. -- Katie

The Vampire Diaries series: The Awakening and The Struggle by L.J. Smith
Before Angel and Buffy, Edward and Bella came Stefan and Elena - a vampire with a conscience and his mortal girlfriend. Unlike Bella, who's forced to choose between two gentlemen, Elena is torn between Stefan and his bad-boy brother, Damon. The brothers' centuries-old feud puts Elena at risk, just as a malignant force descends upon their small town. Smith originally published the first book, The Awakening, in 1991, but the series was recently reissued with new photographic covers in conjunction with The Vampire Diaries TV show. The latest volume, The Return: Nightfall, was published early last year and will come out in paperback in May. -- Katie

For more forbidden romance, try:
Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
Nightworld and Dark Visions by L.J. Smith
Thirst by Christopher Pike (an omnibus of The Last Vampire series)

Fallen angel romance is the up-and-coming vampire romance...try:
Hush, Hush by Rebecca Fitzpatrick
Fallen by Lauren Kate

Dark Tales

The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
In a town with no women, where everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts, Todd is a month away from becoming a man. When he and his dog Manchee suddenly come across a silent spot in the Noise, though, everything Todd thought he knew about the world is proven wrong. Volumes 1 and 2 of the Chaos Walking series follow Todd, Manchee, and a girl named Viola along the dangerous and twisted path toward saving their world from falling into darkness. These unique and brilliantly written books expose the moral ambiguities of hatred and terrorism, the strength of loyalty and love, and package it all in a thrilling post-apocalyptic sci-fi narrative. -- Rachel

For more dark fantasy stories, try:
Good Neighbors: Kith and Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (graphic novel, faery)
Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler
Fell by David Clement-Davies (werewolves)
Forest of Hands and Teeth and the sequel The Dead-Tossed Waves, due in March, by Carrie Ryan (zombies)


Ash by Malindo Lo
Ash is alone in the world; her parents are dead, her stepmother is cruel, and her only solace is a mysterious and beautiful stranger who walks with her in the Wood. That is, until she meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress. Now she must find a way to fulfill a bargain without betraying her heart. Cinderella as never before. -- Rachel

Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri
Before we really talk about this book, I have to confess that since I have not actually read Goethe’s Faust, I cannot make any legitimate comparisons. But really, from what I can tell of the original, Another Faust is not a retelling of Goethe, but a contemporary re-imagining of the question: What would you sell your soul for? A re-imagining that fuses supernatural drama with mean girl literature, creating a genre I haven’t encountered before.

Five children – desperate or lonely, poor or neglected – across the world disappear one night. No one notices. No one remembers they had even existed. Five years later, with the help of their mysterious governess Madame Vileroy, five teenagers walk in to elite Marlowe School and slowly, subtly wreak havoc with tricks that only begin with cheating, lying, and stealing. Each has a special gift bestowed by Vileroy, which they use to manipulate those around them, with varying consequences. I found the group’s complicated relationships the most fascinating, and repulsive, here. While their individual battles with their insecurities and selfish desires were detailed and of course, important to the plot, I was compelled by the tension between the fallen and the innocent sisters, the constant competition to be Vileroy’s favorite, and their cruel manipulations of each other and their peers. I don’t read the Gossip Girl novels or anything in that mean girl genre, but Another Faust seems like a raw look at that kind of self-preserving/self-harming behavior. I rarely felt much sympathy for the characters, even the more innocent ones, and at times I couldn’t believe the extent of their desperation and cruelness.

Still, I want to believe that’s the point: even if we readers consider ourselves relatively innocent, “evil” is not necessarily an extreme only a few succumb to, it’s a long path that can begin with some of humanity’s unfortunately natural emotions. I’m not sure that the dramatic cover matches the content, though I do like the glowing moths touch. The kind of audience that would be drawn to a photo of beautiful teenagers in elegant dress might like the petty school hierarchy, but not be taken in by the Devil-soul device. Likewise, the reader who may enjoy the supernatural aspects might avoid the vampy, prom night atmosphere. In the end, I wouldn’t call this book entertaining, per se, there was too much emotional manipulation for my taste, but it was interesting and certainly a creative genre blend. -- Michelle

For more spins on familiar fairy-tale motifs, try:
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstad (Beauty and the Beast)
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (Snow White and Rose Red; new in paperback in February)
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev (Shakespeare)
The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

Make sure to revisit our retold fairy tale round-up for some of our other best-loved takes on these traditional tales.

We hope that slakes your thirst for the time being...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Rachel Wants to Buy This Week - Episode 31

It's cold outside, and I've entered that post-Christmas wintertime daze. So I've picked out a few indoor activity items to chase away the midwinter blahs!

Wooden Stringing Beads by Melissa & Doug
Located downstairs in the Chapter Book Room

This set of wooden beads is a huge bit of nostalgia for me--when I was in high school, all the cool kids had keychains and necklaces with chunky letter beads that spelled out their names or any number of other messages (mine said "Let Freedom Ring," not out of any particular patriotism, but because my high school was actually called Freedom). This bead set is much the same, except the beads are wood instead of the ceramic I remember--lighter, more durable, and natural! In addition to a full complement of letters, there are fun-shaped beads in awesome bright colors, and lanyard included to string them on. Of course, awesome company that they are, M&D has also included activities on the back of the kit aimed at younger children, suggestions to help teach letter, color and shape recognition, counting, and fine motor skills. So thanks, Melissa & Doug, for bringing back the trend I remember in an even better form than before! Maybe I'll come up with some other clever phrase to string onto my purse for my tenth reunion this summer....

Shape, Model and Mold set by Melissa & Doug
Located downstairs in the Art Room

Another great idea from M&D, this set makes me itch to open it up and play right here at the Chapter Book Room counter (not to mention makes me want to sing Shake, Rattle and Roll). It includes four little tubs of modeling dough in red, green, yellow and blue, and a host of wooden tools for pressing shapes and patterns into your dough creations. Rolling pins, patterned blocks, a wheel press reminiscent of a grown-up sculpting set, and even cute animal molds pressed into the lids of the dough tubs are all tempting and exciting creative opportunities.

Also, for even more color options and mold shapes, try a 4-pack of Supersoft Dough by Alex to complement the fun!

Ok folks, that's it for this week. See you again soon!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lots of news: New Year's resolutions, new titles, a new Ch Lit ambassador, and a new Horn Book!

If the first week of January is any indication, we're in for a year of excitement -- and awesome reads!

To get 2010 started off right, pick up Eileen and Jerry Spinelli's Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself. Unlike any other daily calendar or "year of blah blah" book I've seen, Today I Will draws lessons from children's literature to help make the new year happy. Each day's features a quotation from a well-loved book, a meditation on the meaning of the quotation, and a promise to act -- in a large way or a subtle one -- on the lesson it illustrates. Some quotations correlate to the date, i.e. Anne Frank's "In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart" on her birthday, June 12. All the entries are opportunities to take a moment from our hectic lives and really think about living. Today's is "Marty, don't you ever run away from a problem" from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Shiloh. I have a copy myself, and while I'm (already) behind, I think Today I Will is a unique way to experience the year.

Our new titles shelves brimmeth over with great new arrivals. Staffer Hannah adores Henry in Love, a sweet new picture book about Henry's crush on a classmate who does exquisite cartwheels. Waiting for Winter, with illustrations in a warm orange and brown palette, tells the story of several furry friends eagerly anticipating the first snow. Be sure to pick up my latest favorite, All the World, written by Liz Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I want it to win the Caldecott this year, but it's an underdog to the critics' pick, Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse. Luckily, with the ALA Midwinter Conference (in Boston!) happening in just over a week, we won't have to wait long to find out the winner! You can attend the ceremony at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center at 7:30 am on Monday, the 18th. If you're not a Boston resident, or not a morning person, never fear: you'll be able to watch it streaming online.

YA authors seem especially busy lately. For the Twilight fan, we've got Captivate, featuring tricksy pixies, along with Hush, Hush and Fallen, both starring fallen angels. (I predict fallen angels will be this year's vampires. Bloodsuckers are so 2009.) Mike Lupica's football drama, Million Year Throw, includes a cameo by the Patriots -- what more could you ask for? Michelle's excited about Carolyn Mackler's new novel Tangled, in which a tropical summer vacation irrevocably changes four friends.

In national children's lit news, Katherine Paterson has just been named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. Paterson is the author of chapter books Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia (among many others). She'll serve a two-year term, during which she'll promote world-wide literacy for young people. Paterson is only the second National Ambassador; the first person ever to hold the position was one of our favorite funny guys, Jon Scieszka.

Last but certainly not least, The Horn Book, the children's lit magazine I hold so dear, has just launched with a new format! I'm looking forward to poring over lots of first-time columns and full color pages.

Can you believe all the good stuff happening in 2010? And it's just begun! To quote Neil Gaiman, literary love of my life (as I am wont to do, probably too often):
I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.