48 Hour Book Contest

June 8, 2009

48hbcOver the weekend I participated in the 48 Hour Book Contest hosted by MotherReader.  If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is to read as much as you can or want to over a consecutive 48 hour period.  Time you blog about your process or the books you’ve read also counts toward your time.  This year socializing – time you spent reading other participating blogs, commenting, or twittering – was also allowed to add into your time.  My friends and I decided to participate together at NerdGirlBlogging, the blog we share, so head over there if you want to see our posts.

I ended up with a grand total of 15 hours, 30 minutes and 1162 pages.  It was a great experience, and I got to read & hear about a lot of great books.  These are the books I read.

specialsSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book in the Uglies series, published in 2006.  It has quite a bit of action in it, especially toward the end.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I had Uglies.  Probably because then the series and concept of the books were still new to me.  I  see Specials as the final act of the UgliesPrettiesSpecials trilogy.  However, there is a fourth book called Extras, but Tally is not the main character.  I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I’ve been told by others that they really enjoyed it, so maybe I’ll pick it up after a little break from the series.  I would definitely recommend Uglies to any YA reader, and you can read my review of that book here.

drums20girlsDrums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

This is a really great story from 2004 about Steven, a geeky 8th grader trying to deal with school,  a girl who doesn’t know he exists, and an annoying five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, all while finding time to get better on the drums.  Steven’s year quickly goes downhill when he learns that Jeffrey has lukemia.  Written in first person, Drums really gives us a feel for what Steven and his family are going through.  It has a lot of really sweet, sad, funny, angry, and quirky moments, and I cannot recommend it enough.

devilishDevilish by Maureen Johnson

This was my first Maureen Johnson book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It turned out to be a fairly quick read with supernatural elements.  Jane attends an all-girl prep school with her best friend Allison, who has somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Allison changes drastically when new girl Lanalee arrives at school, suddenly owning expensive things, dying and cutting her hair, and stealing Jane’s ex-boyfriend.  Jane soon discovers Allison has sold her soul to Lanalee, a devil-in-training who also wants Jane’s soul.  I enjoyed the character of Jane; she’s intelligent, witty, and fiercely loyal and protective of her best friend.  Devilish is a pretty light read, though it does have some slightly graphic descriptions at times, so I would recommend it to older readers who like out-of-the-norm supernatural books.

savvySavvy by Ingrid Law

This 2008 book has won numerous honors, including 2009 Newbery Honor and ALA Notable Book for Children 2009.  Main character Mibs is about to turn 13.  A big deal for anyone, yet in her family, turning 13 means you get your savvy — a special talent.  Mibs’ oldest brother creates electricity and another brother can cause hurricanes.  Two days before her birthday, Mibs’ father is in a bad car accident.  Mibs KNOWS her savvy is to wake him up, so she, her older brother Fish, her younger brother Samson, and the preacher’s kids Will & Bobbi embark on an adventure.  Along her journey, Mibs learns a lot about herself, her family, and growing up.  This was a fantastic story with great characters and an exciting adventure.  Highly recommended!  I’m looking forward to more from Ingrid Law.

lincolnsThe Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

I have only read the first two chapters of this massive book so far, but I’m enjoying it.  It’s a nice book to pick up every now and then to supplement reading typical chapter books.  I love the scrapbook feel, with the pictures and various chunks of text.  It’s such a great way to learn about two important figures in history and what living in their time was like.  I’m looking forward to finishing the book and learning more, but I can already see why it’s so popular and has earned so many praise.  A great book for a variety of ages!

masterpieceMasterpiece by Elise Broach

I’m still working my way through this chapter book too, but so far it’s very enjoyable.  Published in 2008, Masterpiece is the story of Marvin, a beetle who lives in a NYC apartment with a human family, including 10-year-old James.  Of course, the humans don’t know they are there, until one day when Marvin goes into James’ room to leave a birthday present and ends up creating a beautiful ink picture.  When James awakes and sees the picture, he’s amazed and even more surprised when Marvin reveals himself as the artist.  I love that the book is from the perspective of a tiny beetle.  I can’t to find out how Masterpiece ends.

2009 Teens’ Top Ten

April 19, 2009

YALSA recently released the nominees for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten!  Voting will take place during Teen Read Week in October, so there’s plenty of time to read them.  Last year’s top ten included Eclipse, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Here are the nominees…

Cashore, Kristin – Graceling
Cast, Kristin & P.C. – Untamed
Clare, Cassandra – City of Ashes
Collins, Suzanne – The Hunger Games
Fukui, Isamu – Truancy
Fukui, Isamu – Truancy: Origins
Gaiman, Neil – The Graveyard Book
Green, John – Paper Towns
Harris, Joanne – Runemarks
Hopkins, Ellen – Identical
Leitich-Smith, Cynthia – Eternal
Lockhart, E. – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Marriott, Zoё – Daughter of the Flames
McMann, Lisa – Wake
Meyer, Stephenie – Breaking Dawn
Moran, Katy – Bloodline
Ness, Patrick – The Knife of Never Letting Go
Noёl, Alyson – Evermore
Palmer, Robin – Geek Charming
Pierce, Tamora – Melting Stones
Scott, Elizabeth – Living Dead Girl
Smith, Sherri L. – Flygirl
Weingarten, Lynn – Wherever Nina Lies
Werlin, Nancy – Impossible
Yee, Lisa – Absolutely Maybe

Iowa Book Awards

March 18, 2009

Yesterday I was at Barnes & Noble and noticed that they had a display for the three Iowa 2009-2010 book awards.  I’m not sure exactly when they’re released, but I was excited to see them.  I love booklists!  Here they are…

Iowa Children’s Choice Award:
One-Handed Catch — M.J.  Auch (2006)
Surprises According to Humphrey — Betty G. Birney (2008)
The Black Tower — Betsy Byars (2006)
No Talking — Andrew Clements (2007)
The Lemonade War — Jacqueline Davies (2007)
Julia’s Kitchen — Brenda A. Ferber (2006)
Eleven — Patricia Reilly Giff (2008)
The Liberation of Gabriel King — K.L. Going (2007)
The Homework Machine — Dan Gutman (2006)
Double Identity — Margaret Peterson Haddix (2007)
Winnie at Her Best — Jennifer Richard Jacobson (2006)
The Year of the Dog: A Novel — Grace Lin (2007)
A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray — Ann M. Martin (2006)
Snap: A Novel — Alison McGhee (2006)
A Friendship for Today — Patricia C. McKissack (2007)
Patience, Princess Catherine — Carolyn Meyer (2005)
Being Teddy Roosevelt — Claudia Mills (2007)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret — Brian Selznick (2007)
The Friskative Dog — Susan Straight (2007)
A Crooked Kind of Perfect — Linda Urban (2007)
Way Down Deep — Ruth White (2007)
Someone Named Eva — Joan M. Wolf (2007)
What I Call Life — Jill Wolfson (2005)
15 Minutes — Steve Young (2006)

Iowa High School Book Award:
For One More Day — Mitch Albom (2006)
City of Bones — Cassandra Clare (2007)
Deadline — Chris Crutcher (2007)
Blue Bloods — Melissa De la Cruz (2006)
Fade to Black — Alex Flinn (2006)
Burned — Ellen Hopkins (2006)
Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland — Mark Kreidler (2007)
Nineteen Minutes — Jodi Picoult (2007)
Dear John — Nicholas Sparks (2006)
Knights of the Hill Country — Tim Tharp (2006)
Blind Faith — Ellen Wittlinger (2006)
The Book Thief — Markus Zusak (2005)

Iowa Teen Award:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian — Sherman Alexie (2007)
The Looking Glass Wars — Frank Beddor (2006)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas — John Boyne (2006)
We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Led to Success — Sampson Davis (2006)
Gym Candy — Carl Deuker (2007)
Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl — John Feinstein (2007)
Invisible — Pete Hautman (2006)
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam — Cynthia Kadohata (2007)
Side Effects — Amy Goldman Koss (2006)
Hattie Big Sky — Kirby Larson (2006)
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life — Wendy Mass (2006)
A Small White Scar — K.A. Nuzum (2006)
Peak — Roland Smith (2007)
Kipling’s Choice — Geert Spillebeen (2007)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp — Rick Yancey (2005)

The Wednesday Wars

February 5, 2009

wednesday-warsHave you ever seen that episode of The Cosby Show where Theo is convinced that his math teacher, Mrs. Westlake, is out to get him?  The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt is a little like that, only better!  It’s a Newbery Honor book from 2008.  I loved it, and I highly recommend it!

Holling Hoodhood is a seventh-grader in 1967/1968.  The setting has some effect on the story, but readers won’t be overwhelmed by people and facts.  Reading The Wednesday Wars would be a great way to get introduced to the Vietnam War and the turbulent times of the ’60s.  Holling’s older sister supports Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and their dad (who made me furious most of the time) watches the news every night, which often reports on President Johnson and Vietnam.

Each chapter in the book covers a month of Holling’s year in school, and each month something happens either at school or at home.  The story is very episodic, which reminded me of Huckleberry Finn.  There are a lot of great characters in the book, including Holling and his teacher Mrs. Baker, and they encounter several funny, frightening, and heartbreaking things throughout the book.  Definitely a must-read!

ALA Awards Announced

January 28, 2009

If you haven’t heard by now, on Monday the ALA awards were announced at the Midwinter Conference.  Here are winners:

winner…. Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book (listen/watch him read it here!)
honors…. Kathi Appelt – The Underneath;  Margarita Engle – The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom;  Ingrid Law – Savvy;  Jacqueline Woodson – After Tupac & D Foster

winner…. Susan Marie Swanson – The House in the Night
honors…. Marla Frazee – A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever;  Uri Shulevitz – How I Learned Geography;  Melissa Sweet – A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

winner…. Melina Marchetta – Jellicoe Road
honors…. M.T. Anderson – The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves;  E. Lockhart – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks;  Terry Pratchett – Nation;  Margo Lanagan – Tender Morsels

I have to admit that so far I haven’t read a single one of these.  I’m hoping that changes soon.  I’ve heard great things about Savvy and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, so those will likely come first.

The Book Thief

June 16, 2008

In this book by Markus Zusak, Death serves as a narrator telling the story of a young girl adopted by a couple in Germany during WWII. The book starts out slowly because you have to adjust to the writing style. Zusak uses fragmented sentences, short episodic chapters, and lots of metaphors. It’s an interesting style, but it was difficult to get into and by the end it felt too “artsy” for me. However, I did enjoy the characters and the setting of Nazi Germany. Death as the narrator also adds an interesting aspect to the book. The story is really long, though, and I kept finding myself just wanting to finish, not because I really wanted to know what happened but more because I wanted to be done and move on to something else. It’s not a bad book; I think there are a lot of good themes, and I can see why it was nominated for a Michael L. Printz award. It would be a good book to include in a high-school literature class or in a WWII unit.

There are many varying opinions of this book, so be sure to read it yourself and form your own!

Martin’s Big Words

March 30, 2008

With its simple, straightforward words by Doreen Rappaport and large, fascinating pictures by Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words serves as a great introduction to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The biography begins with Dr. King’s childhood but quickly progresses to his efforts for change. Young readers will learn about major events of the Civil Rights Movement, from Rosa Park’s refusal which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis in 1968, which is dealt with very delicately.

Martin’s Big Words earned the Caldecott Honor achievement in 2002. Rappaport’s website includes a learning guide for this and other stories. A video version of the book also exists. Narrated by actor Michael Clarke Duncan and featuring sound clips of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the video provides another good way for readers to meet Dr. King.

First the Egg

March 23, 2008

This multi-honored book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger teaches children about how things develop — first a seed then a flower, a caterpillar then a butterfly, painting then a picture. With its simple pictures and colors, First the Egg is perfect for young children. The book also features a clever cut-out design that will have both kids and adults turning the pages back and forth.

First the Egg is a 2008 Caldecott Honor and Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. The entire book can be previewed online courtesy of Lookybook. Click here to preview.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

March 10, 2008

Since its publication in 2003, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! has been included on many “Best Books” lists and has received several awards, honors, and prizes, including receiving a Caldecott Honor in 2004. The book is a very simple in concept, pictures, and narrative. The story begins when a bus driver takes a break, telling the reader, “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!” For the rest of the story until the bus driver returns, the reader is in charge of preventing the pigeon from driving away. The book lends itself well to storytimes since kids will love to yell “No!” when the pigeon repeatedly asks if he can drive the bus. Parents will enjoy the similarity between the pigeon’s promises, pleads, and ultimate temper tantrum and situations they’ve gone through with their own child.

Once children have experienced the adventure with the bus, they can also enjoy other pigeon stories: Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!, The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!, The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!

Not a Box

March 4, 2008

When I was younger, my sisters and cousins and I made a house out of a refrigerator box. I’m sure you or your kids enjoyed playing with boxes too, much like the rabbit in Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. The box that the rabbit plays with is not a box; it is a rocket ship, a race car, a mountain. With the simple line illustrations, children will be able to distinguish between what the adult sees – the rabbit and box drawn in black – and what the rabbit imagines – the created world drawn in red. The design of the book also cleverly reinforces the concept of cardboard.

Since being published in 2006, Not a Box has been distinguished as an ALA Notable Children’s Book and Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. Portis currently has a sequel to Not a Box called Not a Stick.

Rating (out of 5): 5