Jul 28, 2012

#TheList. No. 200: Mr. Popper's Penguins

Look at this:


Now this:

And this lil' guy:

I LOVE PENGUINS.  So it should come as no surprise that I loved reading Mr. Popper's Penguins while on the elliptical at the gym the other day.  What might be a surprise is that it was the first time I had ever read this children's book.  I know, I'm shocked too.

A synopsis for those who also have never encountered Mr. Popper, or a refresher for the many who have:  Mr. Popper is a house painter who loves reading about the Arctic or the Antarctic.  One day, an admiral on a South Pole expedition responds to the equivalent of a fan letter by sending along a penguin. From there, the Poppers acquire a penguin family and while that's incredibly fun in ways, they need to figure out a way to financially keep these penguins and the family afloat.  

What struck me immediately was how well this book would work for either reading to a child or a child reading it on their own.  The story is broken down into 20 short, illustrated chapters.  The language lends itself to vivid images, which is necessary for read-alouds, but it's not too daunting for a young reader who wants to tackle a book on her own.  It's captivating, amusing, and well-written. 

The only thing that irked me about this book was the description of Mr. Popper being absentminded because he was always daydreaming about other countries.  This absentmindedness comes into play in the ending, but there's a large span of story where he seems to be the most together person trying to walk a penguin on a leash.  For a younger audience, they may not remember that aspect of his character.  They also might not care, but it irked me at least.  

This book offers a wide variety of active and passive programming ideas.  First up, movie night! There's a Jim Carey movie adaptation of this book that I've never seen, but he makes great facial expressions which is something that kids just love.  Or you could offer a bunch of other penguin themed entertainment: Madagascar, Happy Feet (but not the second one because it's not as good), March of the Penguins, etc. etc.  You could have kids draw their own penguins or make paper bag penguins: 

Kids could write their own short story about what they would do if they got a penguin in the mail.  Or you could just make a penguin display with this book, the above movies, And Tango Makes Three, nonfiction, Arctic books, etc. etc.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  Now go do some!!

Jul 26, 2012

#TheList, No. 987: The Running Man

First things first.  This book was not what was advertised.  Don't call something a "thriller" unless it's a thriller.  It's one of my biggest pet peeves. Like the re-issued classics that have Twilight styled covers.  One of those fans who now wants to rip Kristen Stewart's heart out will be hypnotized by the cover, go home expecting a sheriff father observing an abusive relationship that is deemed perfectly acceptable, and be saddened when that's not s/he they gets.

Other than that misleading bit of information, Michael Gerard Bauer's The Running Man was a fairly competent young adult novel. 

The premise: A young teen, Joseph, needs to complete a portrait for an art class and ends up using his recluse neighbor, Tom, as a subject.  Tom is the focus of much gossip spread by the token nosy neighbor, Mrs. Mossop (rhyming!), causing Joseph to feel hesitant about undertaking such a project.  But while working, he comes to know Tom better, and learns why he's become the recluse he is today.  He also helps him take care of silkworms...it's part of a whole symbolism thing.

The story is a typical "kid reaches the age where he learns that adults have problems too." To quote the first episode of Friends: "Welcome to the real world! It sucks. You're gonna love it."  What sets The Running Man apart from similar stories, is that Tom isn't the only adult shown to have problems.  The titular figure, the "running man," a seemingly psychotic man who runs raggedly around the town and the subject of many of Joseph's nightmares, also has deeply rooted problems that impact his behavior.    Even Joseph shows signs of experiencing some of these "grown-up" problems as the novel progresses toward the revelation of Tom's terrors. 

The silkworm symbolism was a little heavy, but for young readers, it'll help them understand the novel's happenings. 

Who would I give this too: Not someone expecting a thriller, that's for sure.  I still don't see how that reviewer could see "thriller." Maybe an emotional thrill? Anyway, I would give this to someone who likes realistic fiction and serious subject matters. 

Also, this novel has nothing to do with the popular dance move of the same name.  I know, I was sad too. 


NPR is asking people to vote for the Best-Ever Teen Novels!  Vote for yours!!

What did I pick?
-Annie on my Mind
-The Book Thief
-The Catcher in the Rye
-Harry Potter (DUH)
-The House on Mango Street
-I Am the Cheese
-The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Obviously, their List is not exhaustive and some of the selections might be better qualified as "children's lit" for some people.  I wish I could pick more than 10.  What did you vote for?

Jul 23, 2012

Bad Blogger

I live on the second floor of an unairconditioned apartment. My bedroom is currently 101 degrees. I know, I know, first world problems to the max.  But when I get home, I tend to pass out from heat exhaustion and not blog.  I'm bad.

But hopefully I will be back and ready to write about books and lists and fun things that teens/kids enjoy that could be worked into library related activities.  For instance, I watched the entirety of Bunheads yesterday, something I predicted would happen back in May.  Someone could incoporate the unrelated (but similar in subject matter/intended audience) novel of the same name into a fun summer library program.  Maybe throw in a relaxed ballet/yoga lesson? In an air conditioned room? That's all I can focus on lately. 

Anyway, I leave you with this:

Jul 17, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for People who Like The Hunger Games

Clearly The Hunger Games are officially a "thing."  Tons of people are reading the series.  Others are seeing the movie.  Most are doing both (Yay!).  So here are where you can go after you finish the trilogy and are either looking for another dystopia, a strong female lead, some social commentary, or just something catchy to read. 

Top Ten Books to Read for Fans of The Hunger Games:

1. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
It's a dystopia with a strong female lead.  The sequel, Insurgent came out recently, and the last entry is due next year.  A lot of people feel like they enjoy this book more than The Hunger Games, so it's a great place to go after reading Collins' trilogy.

2. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Not just for younger fans of THG. This childhood favorite is a dystopia that a lot of adults enjoy revisiting.  I think this book is usually one of the first dystopias children are exposed to.  If you missed it or you just miss it, definitely check it out!

3. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman
It doesn't have a female lead, but the prominent female character definitely possesses Katniss-like wisdom.  This book also moves at a fast pace, plus there's some violence.  Male fans of THG would definitely like this book, I think.

4.  Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Probably more for the older THG fan, but not out of reach of younger teens.  Fans will appreciate this dystopia that includes genetic castes because the District system in THG has many similarities, i.e. assigned jobs per caste. 

5. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
More people seem to be getting into this series these days, or at least my friends and I are.  These books require a little more effort, but there's similar action - kids training for battle and political commentary.  They're also incredibly tough to put down.

6. Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shappard
I know, this seems weird, but hear me out.  THG is a really fast read, which is exactly what the PLL series brings to the table.  It is by no means a well-written work of art, but it's entertaining, hard to put down, and features a murder or two.  The audio versions are also hilarious.

7. Almost Astronauts, 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, by Tanya Lee Stone
This one is a nonfiction entry, for the THG readers who loved seeing a strong female character as the protagonist.  This book details some real life tough girls who fought to be astronauts and were christened the "Mercury 13."  The photos in this book are incredible and the stories are moving, empowering, and sometimes anger-inducing.

8. The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness
I thought this dystopia had an original premise: the men of the town have "Noise," all of their thoughts spoken aloud for all to hear.  Thus, no privacy and also, no women.  THG fans may find the action and unique world interesting after reading about the world where people watch children fight to the death.

9. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Granted, I recommend this book to everyone.  But, I think there's a lot of heart to THG; beneath the violence, there's a lot in there about helping and protecting others who are weak.  So this book could appeal to those who enjoyed those aspects of THG.  Plus, it's just one of the best books ever.

10.  Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
This book is more of a stretch from the comfortable - it's a paranormal young adult story that involves time travel and supernatural powers rather than a dystopia with a lot of butt kicking and sticking it to the Man.  BUT, it's new, it's popular, and it keeps you hooked in the plot.  Teens like those things.  When this book isn't as new, I think it could still work as a recommendation because it's still an adventurous story and involves saving a distinct group of people.

I purposely left out Battle Royale because I felt that was a little too obvious.  But what would you recommend to a Hunger Games fan? What did you read after you finished Hunger Games?

More lists over at The Broke and the Bookish!!

Jul 10, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Covers

I know I know, you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover.  Blah blah blah.  I don't know why, but I always associate that saying with Stephanie Tanner from Full House.  Seriously, no clue why.  Anyway, some covers are just downright beautiful or, upon closer look, include insight about the book inside.  So here are my

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers:

1) The Westing Game

2) Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself

3) The Giver

4) The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (I disliked the book, love the cover)

5) The Book Thief

 6) The Invention of Hugo Cabret

7) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

8) Ramona Quimby, Age 8

9) The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

10) Where the Wild Things Are 

More top tens at The Broke and the Bookish!

50 Shades of Whatever

Alright, let me set the record straight.  I have no qualms with women (or anyone) reading porn/smut/erotica whatever you want to call it.  One of my favorite episodes of Friends deals with the subject:

Here are my issues:

1) People have been reading Harlequinn romances for AGES.  Middle-aged women come storming into libraries when a new one is available. What is all the fuss about a bunch of people liking this book? It's not some shocking, new trend.  Teens passed around page 81 of Judy Blume's Forever,  for years.  Yes, that is the exact page number.  Look it up.

So what is the big deal about a bunch of people reading porn?  Afraid the women folk are gonna learn something? "OMG we can have sex not for BABY MAKING?!?!" Think there's going to be an apocalyptic orgy after women read this book? Well maybe, it is 2012.

2) My second issue may seem to contradict the first. I hate that people are reading this book.  Why?

a) It stems from TWILIGHT fanfiction.  Why do people not know this? Do you not recognize the poor writing? 
 "My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves"
WTF is that? From the quote list I suffered through, apparently the "inner goddess" is a recurring thing. Why is she doing stuff? Why can't we just be outer goddesses?

Do you not research your books before reading them? (Okay maybe only I do that).  All of my friends who have read/are reading this book seem dumbfounded when I tell them this.  Then they feel ashamed, their inner goddesses recoiling from my strike of wondrous wisdom. 

But seriously, this "novel" began as a sexual fanfiction written by E.L. James with Bella and Edward as main characters.  She then rewrote it as an original piece with the new characters (I don't know if the story changed or whatever because I refuse to read either).  So it's just...yuck.  Twilight characters.  Twilight inspiration.  Just...no.  If you're going to read porn, read well-written porn.

b) People keep telling me I have to read it.

No I don't.  Thanks to the glorious internet, I know enough about it that if I ever needed to recommend it to someone (Lord, help me), I'll do just fine.  Also, I have good books to read in my spare time. "But you'll love it" they say.  Ahhh, no.  Library school teaches you to know your audience when you're recommending books.  People don't realize it's an artform.

c) Too many people I know are talking about it and it's ruining my newsfeed.

I have no problem with people talking about sex and all that jazz.  I think it's healthy.  But when I see Facebook photos of my aunt opening up 50 Shades themed birthday presents---well, it's vomit inducing to say the least.  STOP THE MADNESS.  #please

Jul 9, 2012

Review: Bunheads

Like Hannah, the main character in Bunheads, I'm not a ballerina.  Unlike Hannah, I freaking hate ballet.  I can do it, don't get me wrong.  But man is it boring.  To perform and watch.  Yeah I said it.

However, I love reading about and watching ballet focused media because traditionally that's where all the drama lives.  It's a profession that causes eating disorders, severe competition, and has a cutoff age that makes Hollywood standards seem realistic.

In the opening of Bunheads, by Sophie Flack, Hannah tells us that she is a ballet dancer, not a ballerina.  Ballet dancers are part of the corps, while ballerinas are the ones who succeed beyond that in a life that is somehow more occupied than that of the busy busy busy corps dancer.  But as you read through her story, you realize she's slowly morphing into a ballerina.

I liked the book just fine, but there are some boring romance tropes stuffed in to make the readers see how the glitz and glamor of the ballet world/high society isn't worth missing out on the little things in life.  I feel like that could have been accomplished in a different way.  The main character herself is 19, but because she missed out on the majority of her childhood to devote her life to dance, she reads like a child in many of her reactions to the people surrounding her.  If that aspect was developed a little more to replace the aged romance plot devices, I might have more praise for the novel.  Maybe not in a crazy Black Swan way, but something.  Who knows?

I enjoyed it though.  I read it in one sitting, maybe about 2.5 - 3 hours combined, with some Facebook chatting on the side.  There are some funny parts, some swears, and some tiptoeing around the topic of sex, so I'd say that it's that Bunheads is definitely geared toward a middle school/early high school audience. 

There's a show on ABC Family called Bunheads with Sutton Foster.  Apparently they are not connected.  But I'll probably still watch.

#TheList, No. 849: Grover

Grover seems like a simple book.  A boy living off somewhere in the country, he helps his veterinarian uncle from time to time, he goes fishing with his friends, he makes up stories to entertain them during their adventures, and he enjoys the simple things in life.  So why is it so special that ti's included on The List (not that special is a qualification...again, Twilight is on there)? It's a book that examines different reactions to death.

Yeah, spoiler alert, the Mom dies.  But it's not really a spoiler because it's in the back cover description. 

Anywho, what happens when you don't feel a terrible sorrow that someone has passed?  What happens when grief seems to hold onto your life and dictate your every move?  Both of these reactions to a loved one's death are presented in the novel, and it's a bit reassuring to a reader that either reaction is acceptable or normal. 

Would I recommend giving this to someone who just experienced a loss? Ehhhh no? Maybe?  It's a little dated, and some of the sparsely used (thankfully) illustrations are downright frightening, and for a novel that discusses death, it sometimes feels like it's pushed into the background.  Yes, I get it, it's because life goes on.  But a kid might not want to read something that addresses a recent loss so nonchalantly through the title character.  I think that this book is more for the reflective type of person.  Maybe someone who experienced a loss, but not recently.  But, like everything, it depends on the person.
Unfortunately, this Grover isn't the main character
Apparently this children's/YA novel is part of three part book series that deals with the same characters.  It obviously doesn't have to be read in order...or else I'm just a rebel.  But no, important character details that came into play in previous books are reiterated in conversations and exposition, so really, it's not necessary to be familiar with the story beforehand. 

Jul 7, 2012

Review: Unwind

As part of my ongoing mission to read more "boy books," I just finished Neal Shusterman's Unwind.  Alright, this definitely isn't a boys only type of book (though, nothing is), but here are my weak reasons for boy appeal:

Unwind "Boy Book" qualifications:

-Male author.  I know.  I said above that the reasoning is weak.  But there's some truth to boys wanting to read books written by male authors and wanting to avoid  female authors like the plague.  Maybe it's because at a certain age boys get those super secret, here's how to fight with a sword and other cool stuff that only men can do lessons while girls get maxi pads and wonder what genius invented them (Wikipedia tells me that the disposable ones may have come from a Benjamin Franklin invention...fascinating). 

-Male protagonist...sorta.  The novel switches perspectives every chapter, but the character I see as the protagonist, Connor, has a huge storyline and he opens the novel.  The majority of the characters are also male.

-Violence.  There are explosions and guns and death. Oh my!

Basic Plot: In the near future, a law has been passed that pregnancies cannot be terminated.  However, a parent can have their child "unwound" between ages 13-18. This means that they undergo a procedure that allows every part of their body to be donated to others.  It also means that they don't actually "die" as they live on elsewhere.  Some teens are unwound because they're too much of a burden, some because of restricted finance, others for religious reasons.  Every "unwind" has a sad story that leads to the unwinding decision.  Now some are fighting back for their right to decide.

Obviously, this novel is a dystopia, which is the latest craze with teens today.  All dystopias tend to focus on a specific issue, and the issue in this novel is abortion/reproductive rights.  But the book doesn't advocate for pro-life or pro-choice.  It voices arguments for both sides and really makes you think. 
"In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference.  But this isn't a perfect world.  The problem is people who think it is."
I say if you have a teen who likes dystopias (Feed, The Hunger Games, Uglies, Divergent, etc), this one is a must-read. 

The sequel comes out in late August and I can't wait.    

Jul 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books For People Who Like J. K. Rowling

Soooooo it's no secret that I like Harry Potter.  Just a smidge.  Apparently, I'm not alone.  Whenever people want to read something that's similar, or maybe they aren't quite ready for the bigger volumes of 4-7, here are some books that might fit the bill:

Top Ten Books For People Who Like J.K. Rowling Harry Potter

1) Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan

2) Savvy, by Ingrid Law

3) A Series of Unfortunate Events, by "Lemony Snicket"

4) The Tale of Desperaux, by Kate DiCamillo

5) Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke

6) The Witches, Roald Dahl

7) A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle

8) The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

9) The Golden Compass (aka Northern Lights), by Phillip Pullman

10) Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie

Obviously there are so many other books that could serve as recommended reading to someone who likes/loves Harry Potter/J.K. Rowling.  It depends on the person/age/what they like about the books/her writing.  What are your thoughts?

More lists and author choices at The Broke and the Bookish!