Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wild thing: new nature books for kids

Young readers interested in nature might like these new books, published recently by big and small presses. The picture books are big and colorful, and the non-fiction choices feature worlds of information about natural habitats from Africa to your own backyard. You can find copies of these books using the World Catalog / Amazon.com search boxes here on BookBag.

Wild Tracks! A Guide to Nature's Footprints, by Jim Arnosky (Sterling). Nonfiction. Books tell stories with words, but animal tracks can tell "a whole story at your feet, imprinted on the mud or snow or scratched into the sand." In this attractive and informative guide, author and illustrator Jim Arnosky shows how to recognize and interpret the tracks of deer and other hoofed animals as well as those of bears, felines, canines, reptiles, birds, and small animals (such as armadillos, opossums, and mice). Four large fold-out pages show life-sized tracks--just in case you need to know whether it's a bobcat that's been prowling around your house. If you enjoy Wild Tracks!, you might also like Arnosky's Slither and Crawl: Eye to Eye with Reptiles.

Emi and the Rhino Scientist: Saving Species from Extinction, by Mary Kay Carson (Houghton Mifflin). Nonfiction. Sumatran rhinos, the world's smallest type of rhinoceros, are "one of the most endangered mammals on the planet"--and it's part of scientist Terri Roth's job to help prevent them from going extinct. This well-illustrated book tells the amazing story of rhino couple Emi and Ipuh and the baby (the first Sumatran rhino born in captivity in more than a century!) that Terri helped them to have.

Frightful's Mountain, by Jean Craighead George (Dutton). Fiction. This dramatic sequel to My Side of the Mountain and On the Far Side of the Mountain is told from the viewpoint of Frightful, the peregrine falcon that young Sam Gribley raised. After being released into the wild, Frightful must now survive on her own -- but she

constantly searching "for the one mountain, the one tree" where Sam raised her. This book's vivid details about falcon habitat and behavior and the dangers and confusion that Frightful faces will enthrall nature lovers.

Jackie's Wild Seattle, by Will Hobbs (HarperCollins). Fiction. How do you get a coyote out of an elevator? Fourteen-year-old Shannon Young and her little brother Cody are about to find out. When Cody and Shannon's parents leave the country for the summer, the siblings travel from New Jersey to Seattle to stay with their uncle. Uncle Neal works for a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center called Jackie's Wild Seattle, and when he is injured by a hawk, Shannon and Cody pitch in to help rescue every kind of animal from an otter to a bear cub to a seal and many more. Based on an actual rescue operation, this wild adventure in the city is sure to touch the hearts of animal lovers.

Kids' Easy-to-Create Wildlife Habitats, by Emily Stetson (Williamson Books) Nonfiction. Every animal requires its own special habitat, and this fun book shows how kids--whether they live in the city, the suburbs, or out in the country--can help encourage and support the wildlife around them. In addition to providing tips on how to observe wildlife scientifically, author Emily Stetson also shows how to make a variety of simple and inexpensive bird feeders, butterfly gardens, insect and amphibian shelters, and more!

Dolphins, by Seymour Simon (Smithsonian) Nonfiction. If you're interested in dolphins--not the football team, but the friendly, intelligent mammals of the sea who seem to have no fear of humans--then this is the book for you. Award-winning science writer Seymour Simon presents a wealth of fascinating facts about dolphins, their habits, and the threats to their existence (such as people). Plenty of color photographs illustrate this fun and interesting book.

The Woods Scientist, by Stephen R. Swinburne (Houghton Mifflin) Nonfiction. Habitat ecologist Susan Morse has loved "reading the woods" for as long as she can remember. In this fascinating book, she shows how to interpret all sorts of signs that animals leave behind them, from tracks to scat to claw marks on trees. She also explains why conservation of wildlife habitats is so important. If you love nature but think that your passion could never lead to a career, this book can help you think again.

Books or Kindle?

From the "Econundrums" column by Kiera Butler (from Mother Jones magazine):

My friends rave about their Amazon Kindles, but as a bookstore junkie, I’m wary. I’m pretty sure old-fashioned books are aesthetically superior—they look, feel, and smell a whole lot better than an LCD screen. But last year, the book and newspaper publishing industries used 125 million trees, creating as much carbon 7.3 million cars did in the same amount of time. A from the environmental consulting firm Cleantech Group found that the Kindle’s lifecycle impact is much less: In its first year, it offsets the emissions created by its manufacture, and over its lifecycle, its carbon savings even out to about 370 pounds of CO2, or the equivalent of about 22.5 books per year. So what’s a book aesthete to do?

One (admittedly retro) option: a library card. Let’s imagine you buy 20 books a year. According to Cleantech Group, that’s about 331 pounds of carbon. Now say you’re willing to buy only five books a year—new releases that you just can’t wait for—and get the other 15 from the library. The San Francisco library bought 78,445 books in 2008. Let’s assume each of the library’s 2,265,209 visitors borrowed two books. Of course, they’re not all borrowing newly purchased books. But if all those patrons are shouldering the carbon burden of the new books, that evens out to about 0.3 pounds of CO2 per patron. You’ve reduced your reading emissions to 42 pounds of CO2, nearly an eighth of what they would be if you bought all your books new.

Another way to think about it: The carbon impact of reading—either on paper or via e-reader—is dwarfed by that of TV: A typical 34-37-inch LCD-display television creates about 474 pounds of carbon a year—significantly more than the 370 pounds of carbon emitted in a year of reading a Kindle or books—and that’s not even counting the carbon created by your TV’s manufacture.

The bottom line: Borrow more books than you buy—but whether or not you decide to join the Kindle-wielding masses, reading is always better for the planet than turning on the boob tube.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Getting kids to read: some tips and online resources

How do you get a child to read? For many kids learning to read is one of the more difficult (and sometimes frustrating) aspects of school. Parents can help by motivating their kids daily, whether it's reading for an hour to a pre-schooler or getting an older child interested in a reading assignment for class. But how do you do that? Here are a few books with suggestions on how to get your kids reading regularly, from SchoolLibraryJournal.com and Reading is Fundamental.

(You can find a library copy of any book on BookBag, and your nearest library, by typing in the title or author in the World Catalog box at the top left, above.)

Tips for helping your child learn to read
  • Learn more about your child's interests and suggest books, magazines, and articles that relate to those topics.
  • Sometimes good movies are a starting point for pleasure reading — after seeing a movie based on a book, children will be motivated to read the book.
  • Sometimes travel sparks reading, and finding books that relate to a place you visit on a family vacation can get a child hooked.
  • Keep books and other reading materials at home.
  • Read books with your children! Children of any age can appreciate being read to.
  • Be a good role model — let your children see you reading.
  • Try a hands on activity. There are many activities that tie in literacy themes. (Try RIF's activity search for ideas.)

Try one of the suggestions below or search the database of activity ideas.

  • Make a Book Chain
    After they read a book, children add a link on a paper chain. Can one child make the chain reach from the ceiling to the floor? Read more...
  • Around the World in Eighty Books
    Reading can make globe-trotters of your children or send them on a cross-country trek. Read more...

  • Book Adventure
    Book Adventure, created by Sylvan Learning Foundation, is an online reading motivation program for children in grades K-8. Children create their own book lists, take multiple choice quizzes on the books they've read offline, and earn points and prizes for their literary successes, all while parents keep track of their achievements.
  • Reading Rockets: Tips for Encouraging Kids to Read
    Find several suggestions for simple ways to motivate your readers.
  • Raising Eager Readers
    View advice and book recommendations from the Eager Readers website.

Reading Aloud

Getting kids to read: the Parent-Child Book Club

The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading by Melissa Stoller a
nd Marcy Winkler, Horizon Line Publishing, NY, 2009): Whether you're a teacher, a parent, or a librarian, when it comes to motivating young learners to read, The Parent-Child Book Club has intelligent and easy-to-use suggestions.

The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting with Your Kids Through Reading by Melissa Stoller and Marcy Winkler
Stoller and Winkler walk you through the steps on how-to-start a book club, and every page has its own resources and guidelines as well as lots of parent-child book club resources. Here are a few topics: Conducting the Book Club and the First Book Club Meeting Theme-Related Projects, Activities, Puzzles, Games Creating Thoughtful Questions and Discussions.

Also included are valuable sections regarding quick tips for success, book club do’s and don’ts, and real life issues solved. Time-saving lists of common art supplies that relate to many projects, and lists of projects that complement many book themes, are also offered. Especially useful are annotated lists of age-appropriate children’s books, adult reference books, and helpful websites.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Soldiers, heroes, and dogs: Some books for boys

Getting boys to read isn't very hard, as long as the books are fast-paced and filled with adventure. From the Books for Boys website and Kidsreads boys booklist, here's a short selection of fiction and non-fiction titles that are exciting and worth reading -- and re-reading. Look for these books here on BookBag using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes.

The King in the Window, by Adam Gopnik (Disney Children's Books), Ages 10-up. Transplanted American Oliver Parker is living in Paris with his parents when he sees that his reflection in the kitchen window is not quite the mirror image he expects it to be. The boy staring back at him, who calls Oliver "Your Majesty" and wears an old-fashioned doublet, leads him to the mysterious world through the looking glass. There, he becomes entangled in the battle between the Window Wraiths and the malevolent Mirror Master over control of the universe.

The Book of Time, by Guillaume Provost (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic) In the first installment of Guillaume Prevost's trilogy, 14-year-old Sam Faulkner begins his quest to find his missing father, who left for a business trip and hasn't been heard from in more than a week. What Sam discovers in his dad's antique bookstore will change his life and test his courage. But will it help him find his father? Followed by The Gate of Days: The Book of Time II.

Mister Monday: Keys to the Kingdom series Book One, by Garth Nix (Scholastic), Ages 9-12. Seven days. Seven keys. Seven virtues. Seven sins. One mysterious house is the doorway to a very mysterious world --- where one boy is about to venture and unlock a number of fantastical secrets. Arthur Penhaligon is not supposed to be a hero. He is supposed to die an early death. But then his life is saved by a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock. The Keys to the Kingdom series consists of six books so far: Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday and Superior Saturday.

Endurance, Alfred Lansing, 274 pages, Ages 14 and up. In December, 1914, Ernest Shackleton commanded an expedition of 27 men. The goal was to cross over the South Pole, on foot. The crew set sail on the Endurance, from Georgia island, about eight hundred miles from the Antarctic. The ship gets trapped by ice, and the men have to eventually abandon ship. Imagine trying to survive temperatures thirty five below zero -- ice cold winds. Sections of ice getting ready to crumble beneath your feet, tossing you into a frigid death! The men endure hardships such as near starvation and gangrene. Eventually they are forced to eat their beloved sled dogs to survive, and perform an amputation to save a man's life. The book contains 35 photographs from the actual Shackleton expedition.

The Boys From Brooklyn: The Great Robbery. Salvatore Tomasi. 148 pages. Ages 10-14. It's the summer of 1974. Nicky and his friends are typical young teenage boys growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. The summertime living is easy and filled with fun and laughs until Tommy dares the boys to do something risky. Something that can screw them up for the rest of their lives. Themes such as friendship, competing, father-son relations, mom's guiding hand, ratting on your friends, and doing the right thing unfold in a real-life style.

Ghost Soldiers, by Hampton Sides. 384 pages. Ages 14 and up. The time is January, 1945. American forces are starting to push the Japanese army back into Japan. As the Japanese army retreats, there are fears they will kill American POWs, held in Japanese camps in the Philippines. There are 513 POWs at the Cabanatuan Prison camp that may be massacred any day now -- prisoners of war that survived the Bataan Death March. The decision is made to launch a rescue mission, behind enemy lines, by the Army Rangers.

The Last Mission, by Harry Mazer. 188 pages. Ages 13 and up. An intense and gripping fictional drama about WW II. Jack Raab is a 15 year old boy, who hates what Hitler is doing to the Jewish people in Europe. His older looks, and a fake I.D., get him into the Air Force. He trains with a bombing crew in England, to prepare for their terrifying bombing missions over Germany. On their twenty fourth bombing mission, their plane is shot down, and the survivors, including Jack, are taken prisoner.

No More Dead Dogs, by Gordon Korman. Comedy. 180 pages. Ages 10-13. Wallace Wallace is the 8th grade football star and has one small problem -- he is totally honest. His English teacher asks for a report on the novel Old Shep, My Pal in which the dog dies at the end. Wallace tells the truth in his report, which is that the book is boring, predictable, and sad, and starts a mini-war between himself and the teacher. He gets detention, and the teacher makes him attend the rehearsals for a play on the same novel. Little by little, Wallace transforms the play from a boring version of the novel into a rock musical.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

YA reading with an edge

Older teen readers looking for edgier writing than popular wizard and vampire sagas might be interested in these new books and series, reviewed by Cory Doctorow at the Boing Boing website. There are still doses of mystery, fantasy and otherworldly beings here, along with adult themes. There's lots more -- this is just a small sample of recently featured books. You can locate these titles using the World Catalog / Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (Tor Books) is the story of the Wilkes/Blue family, a storied Seattle clan whose three generations unmade and remade the city through a series of scientific and martial adventures that are recounted with great relish and verve. First, there's Leviticus Blue, an arrogant mad scientist who developed a great tunnelling machine (part of a Russian-sponsored competition to improve Alaskan gold-mining) and undermined the city of Seattle, releasing the Blight, a poisonous gas that causes the dead to rise, and to hunger for the flesh of the living. ... Then there's Briar Wilkes, the widow of Leviticus and the daughter of Maynard, who is scraping by in the Outskirts, trying to outrun her reputation but unable to, and unable to escape Seattle because of the great Civil War that is eating America with martial trains and dirigibles and great armies.

And that's where the action kicks off, with son and mother chasing one another through the Blighted city of Seattle, avoiding the zombies, befriending the Chinese laborers who run the great machines that suck clean air from beyond the wall into the sealed tunnels beneath the city, trying to escape the clutches of the evil Dr. Minnericht, the self-appointed king of Seattle (who may or may not be Leviticus Blue), befriending rogue zeppelin pilots, armored giants, and steam-powered cyborg barmaids. It's full of buckle and has swash to spare, and the characters are likable and the prose is fun. This is a hoot from start to finish, pure mad adventure.

(Re)cycler (Random House) is the sequel to Lauren McLaughlin's fantastic debut YA novel, Cycler, a sf story about Jill McTeague, a high-school senior who turns into a boy for four days every month. Like Cycler, (Re)cycler is a smart, sensitive story about gender, sex and sexuality, leavened with a lot of wit and sass.

(Re)cycler picks up where Cycler left off, with Jill and her two best friends leaving small town Massachusetts for parts elsewhere. Jill lands in Brooklyn with her pal Ramie (who is also dating her male alter-ego, Jack) and commences to come of age in a setting that is frightening, dangerous, exciting and exotic.

Both Jack and Jill's voices are carried off fantastically in this story, coming across as confused but confident, and both characters grow in ways that are unexpected and extremely satisfying.

The writer Scott Westerfeld has two careers -- on the one hand, he writes science fiction for adults, and on the other, he writes wonderful young adult genre novels (see previous reviews of Scott's Peeps, a science-fictional take on vampirism and So Yesterday, a mystery novel about a cool-hunter -- and see the review below of his earlier, knockout horror trilogy, Midnighters). Both Uglies and its sequel, Pretties, fall into the latter category.

Uglies and Pretties (Simon Pulse books) are the story of a dystopian world where children are raised by the state and subjected to mandatory cosmetic surgery at 16, wherein they are rendered physically "perfect" on the basis that symmetrical, statistically average people with giant eyes are charismatic, convincing, and are afforded advantages by their peers; in the twisted logic of the Westerfeld's state, imposing this surgery on all creates an egalitarian basis for society. No one is heeded merely because she is beautiful; no idea is disregarded because it originates with someone who is ugly.

The novels tell the story of Tally Youngblood, a 16-year-old small-time rebel who becomes embroiled in a scheme to avoid the surgery, leading to her exile and eventual encounters with outsiders, secret police, and the gradual, sinister unravelling of the dark secret of the compassionate society.

Westerfeld's older Midnighters trilogy of The Secret Hour, Touching Darkness, and Blue Noon (HarperTeen) is about a small group of misfit teens in a conservative town who all share the ability to inhabit the secret hour between 12 midnight and 12:01 AM, a secret hour when time stands still for everyone but them, when the light turns blue, when they gain special powers -- the power to run tirelessly and leap buildings, even to fly.

This is pure wish-fulfillment for the kids, who are picked-on losers in their straight-laced school, harassed by the law and stuck in bad home situations. But it turns out that the secret hour is also inhabited by Cthuluesque Old Ones -- ancient monsters trapped forever in the darkness of the secret hour. And these ancient ones must escape.

The trilogy tells the story of the kids' defense of the town that rejects them, and of the ancient, wicked secrets there. If Lovecraft had a sense of plot and character, he could have written these.

Now the final volume, Blue Moon, has come into print, and it ties the story up nicely. If you're looking for three books to give to a kid in your life (or looking for a romp of your own), these would be a great choice.

Liar, by Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury USA): Micah -- the unreliable narrator of this tale -- is a compulsive liar from a fraught background. Poor and biracial, she attends a posh New York alternative school through a scholarship. Her mother is a runaway, her father is from a reclusive back-woods family of illiterate survivalists, and so it's no surprise that Micah's identity is a little messed up. But Micah isn't just confused: she's deliberately confusing, a compulsive liar who fools everyone around her over and over (she is mistaken for a boy on her first day of school and so she undertakes to live as a boy, lasting days before she is found out).

But Micah's lies start to unravel when the boy she is secretly dating -- he is publicly involved with the most popular girl in school -- is murdered. As the school panics and the social order turns upside down, as Micah grieves, she is also found out, scapegoated, and suspected.

That's the setup. So far, it's your basic YA fare: complicated relationships, complicated identity, fraught situation. But Micah's circumstances grow progressively odder, as Larbalestier twists and turns the story in ways that are decidedly science fictional (or possibly fantastic) and that make this into one of the most original, oddest, and ultimately satisfying YA books I've had the pleasure of reading.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Books by Native Americans for older teen readers

Here are books written by Native American authors that older readers might enjoy -- fiction as well as essays and short stories that don't shy away from some serious topics. Locate these by using the World Catalog (for library copies) or Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Flight: A Novel, by Sherman Alexie (Black Cat) Adult Fiction. In this tragic, hilarious, and unapologetically graphic story, part-Irish, part-Indian foster kid Zits has an out-of-body experience (several, in fact) just as he is about to commit a horrendously violent act. Spun through time and successively into the bodies of a white FBI agent in the 1970s, an Indian child during the battle of Little Big Horn, a 19th-century Indian-tracker, a homeless alcoholic, and finally an airline pilot, Zits emerges from his journey transformed. Fans of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five or Octavia Butler's Kindred will be mesmerized by this brutal yet ultimately hopeful novel.

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins) These ten stories written by contemporary Native American authors including Cynthia Leitich Smith, Louise Erdrich, Richard Van Camp, Joseph Bruchac, and National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie (for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) are beautiful and intense. With themes ranging from painful tales of divorce, poverty, and addiction to proud celebrations of American Indian identity, strength, and humor, this collection "reminds us that the American Indian story is far from over."

Power, by Linda Hogan (W.W. Norton) Adult Fiction. When 16-year-old Omishto sees Ama, an elder from her Taiga tribe, kill a panther, she doesn't understand why her friend and mentor would slay an endangered animal, especially one that the Taiga hold sacred. Regardless, Omishto ("the One Who Watches") stands by Ama throughout her criminal prosecution--and her banishment by the Taiga people. This leisurely, lyrical story, which connects Native cultures' struggle to survive in the modern world with the destruction of the environment, is a haunting and memorable read.

Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing, by MariJo Moore (Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books) Adult Nonfiction. This collection of essays by Native Americans from more than 25 different nations explores the experience of "urban Indians," people who struggle to live in the two different worlds of their traditional heritage and modern society. Writing on topics ranging from identity and languages to Indian mascots and misconceptions of what it means to be Native American, the contributors to Genocide of the Mind bring serious current issues into stark focus and yet also offer hope and ideas for the future.

The Trap, by John E. Smelcer (Henry Holt) Adventure. Ahtna Athabascan poet and author John Smelcer spins a tale of survival in the cruelly beautiful Alaskan wilderness. Native Alaskan Johnny Least-Weasel's stubbornly traditional grandfather Albert has gone out to check his trapline, and he's been gone far too long. Johnny's grandmother urges him to go looking for her husband, but Johnny's uncles on the tribal council aren't concerned. Meanwhile, Albert Least-Weasel has his leg caught in one of his own traps and must fend off wolves, hunger, and bitter cold. This taut, suspenseful story will keep you turning the pages.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fans of "The Lightning Thief" will like these reads

The movie
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief will be in theaters this month. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series of books combine real-world action and adventure with fantastical elements and mythology. Most of the books listed below have a realistic setting with mythical people and/or monsters shaking things up -- just the thing for Percy Jackson fans. Look for them here using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes on BookBag.

Runemarks, by Joanne Harris (Alfred A. Knopf) Fantasy. In Norse mythology, the battle of Ragnarok ends the world with the gods defeated and permanent winter descended upon the globe. Runemarks picks up 500 years after Ragnarok, when the oppressive Order rules everything and forbids magic. The people in 14-year-old Maddy Smith's village believe that Maddy, who was born with a rune-shaped mark on her hand, is a witch ... but, as she learns after a mysterious traveler "reads" her birthmark, she's actually the daughter of a Norse god and has a destiny to fulfill. Readers who like complex, epic fantasies rich with detail won't mind the length of this grand adventure.

The Night Tourist, by Katherine Marsh (Hyperion) Fantasy. Ninth-grade Classics prodigy Jack Perdu is walking with his nose buried in Ovid's Metamorphoses when he is hit by a car. He survives, and while in Manhattan to see a specialist, he discovers a hidden underground city that is populated by ghosts. Because Jack is alive, the city's inhabitants don't trust him and the three-headed dog Cerberus is after him--but he is determined to try to find his mother, who died in New York City years earlier. Incorporating New York history, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and a mystery involving Jack's mom, The Night Tourist is a fascinating, otherworldly read; if you enjoy it, check out its sequel, The Twilight Prisoner.

Gods of Manhattan, by Scott Mebus (Dutton) Fantasy. There's a second city alongside Manhattan that not many people can see: it's called Mannahatta, and it's peopled by spirits, monsters, and gods (some of whom are famous dead people). After witnessing an impossible magic trick, 13-year-old Rory Hennessy wakes up to magic and starts seeing Mannahatta and its residents ... just in the nick of time to help save the Munsee Indians, whose entrapment in Central Park has upset the balance of the spirit city. New York history, kung-fu fighting rodents, and Rory's butt-kicking little sister (who has an alter ego she calls "Malibu Death Barbie") all figure prominently in this fast-paced, suspenseful adventure that's followed by Spirits in the Park.

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by Michael Scott (Delacorte Press) Fantasy. Having discovered the secret to eternal youth, 14th-century alchemist Nicholas Flamel and his wife are alive and well in present-day San Francisco, California. But they won't stay well for long if 15-year-old twins Sophie and Josh Newman don't fulfill their prophesied role of either saving or destroying the world, starting by getting back an ancient text stolen from Flamel's bookstore. (The stolen volume contains the key to the Flamels' immortality, which they must renew every month.) This 1st of three volumes (so far) moves at lightning speed, is rich with mythology and magic, and involves goddesses, werewolves, vampires -- and a cliffhanger ending. The Magician and The Sorceress are next.

Dusssie, by Nancy Springer (Walker) Fantasy. One morning, 13-year-old Dusie wakes up to find that her hair has turned into a writhing mass of snakes! Her mother soon confesses that she and her family are gorgons and that Dusie herself is only half human. This disturbing news is made worse when Dusie accidentally turns the boy she likes, Troy, partially into stone. Seeking advice from the magical realm, she searches desperately for a way to change Troy back--and a way to rid herself of the talking, slithering serpents crowning her head. If you liked the mythology in The Lightning Thief but would also enjoy a lighthearted, funny read, check out Dusssie (the extra "s"-es in the title come from the way that Dusie's snakes hiss her name).

Iris, Messenger, by Sarah Deming (Harcourt) Fantasy. When misunderstood middle-school dreamer Iris Greenwold receives a copy of Bulfinch's Mythology for her 12th birthday, she's delighted; she prefers the company of imaginary people to that of her classmates and teachers, anyway. But when clues written in the margins of her birthday present lead her to actual Greek gods and goddesses, in the flesh and nearby (Poseidon is a short-order cook on the Jersey Shore; Aphrodite does makeovers), Iris starts hanging out with them for real. Even more startling, she learns that they need her help!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

New teen fiction & fantasy for the new year

If you're looking for something really new to read, here are some fiction and fantasy ideas from first-time authors, as well as the final book by Siobhan Dowd, writer of The London Eye Mystery (2007). Look for all these books here on BookBag using the World Catalog (for your local library copy) or the Amazon search boxes, if you'd like to purchase.

Solace of the Road, by Siobhan Dowd (David Fickling Books) Fiction. At age 14, Holly has been at Templeton House for longer than any of the other residents -- and some of the staff -- when she is finally placed in a foster home. But she still dreams of finding her mother in Ireland, and she can't relate to Ray and Fiona, her would-be family. When Holly finds a flowing blonde wig of Fiona's and tries it on, she feels like someone new--someone older, more confident, and ready to face adventures and adversity on the road in her quest to finally find home. Author Siobhan Dowd died in 2007. Readers seeking the lush language and honest emotion of Dowd's previous novel Bog Boy will treasure Solace of the Road.

It's All Good: A So for Real Novel, by Nikki Carter (Dafina Books) Fiction. Gia, Valerie, Candy, and the rest of the Hi-Steppers are working up a new routine to show their school spirit because the Longfellow Spartans are headed to the state football championship. And, as if the diva-drama within the step team and a potential boyfriend weren't enough for her to handle, Gia's aunt wants her to recruit young women to participate in a "purity class" at church. ("Why doesn't she just ask me to make a sign that says LAME and stick it on my forehead?," wonders virginal-but-not-willing-to-announce-it Gia.) Fans of Step to This, the first So for Real novel, will love catching up with Gia and her friends. Anyone looking for realistic fiction that features Christian characters and values should give the series a try.

Flash Burnout: A Novel, by L. K. Madigan (Houghton Mifflin) Realistic Fiction. In photography class, Blake's teacher calls him "Gritty" and his friend Marissa "Pretty" because their pictures have a predictable style. But Blake could never have predicted that, in taking a photo of a strung-out homeless woman, he was capturing an image of Marissa's long-absent mom. This stunning coincidence complicates Blake's friendship with Marissa--and his relationship with his girlfriend, Shannon--and triggers a chain of events that even Blake's constant stream of jokes can't defuse. Blake's honest, funny, and engaging voice will draw you into his story, which is one that fans of well-developed characters and relationship dramas won't want to miss.

Angela 1: Starting Over, by David A. Bedford (Eloquent Books) Fiction. Angela Fournier is a fifteen-year-old girl who has to leave her school, her friends and her home when her parents divorce. Angela’s mother moves her and her little sister to a lovely coastal town in Texas. Angela makes friends easily in her new school, enrolls in the Honors Program and becomes one of the best dancers in dance class. Although Angela has two best friends she can confide in, she finds herself the target of a group of girls who thrive on making life miserable for her. Angela and her two best friends appear to be on their own when it comes to dealing with this crew, but then they discover something far more sinister than having to fend off the verbal attacks from the mean girls and principal’s disdain. Can Angela and her friends set an injustice right and what price will they have to pay for doing so?

Lips Touch: Three Times, by Laini Taylor (Arthur A. Levine Books) Fantasy. This heady volume offers three stories, three kisses--and three otherworldly consequences of kissing that you won't soon forget. With "delectable language" (Kirkus Reviews) and a dark tone that fans of Charles de Lint, Margo Lanagan, and Melissa Marr will savor, Lips Touch draws readers first into the world of high-school junior Kizzy, an offbeat girl whose parents still practice the ways of the Old Country; next into colonial India and the fires of Hell; and finally into the realm of ancient demons grasping for the warmth of human life. Hypnotic and at times startlingly vivid, this beautifully illustrated trio of novellas will entice even those who don't normally read fantasy.

The Pale Assassin, by Patricia Elliott (Holiday House) Historical Fiction. Spoiled and selfish aristocrat Eugenie de Boncoeur is far too preoccupied with the fashion and parties of 1789 Paris to even notice the political turmoil churning in the city. As the French Revolution heats up and Paris becomes ever more dangerous, Eugenie is shipped off to a convent for her own safety ... but a mysterious man is stalking her from the shadows. With political intrigue, spies, danger, suspense -- and romance -- this captivating novel brings the tumult of the French Revolution to life.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Books for Black History Month from The Washington Post

February is Black History Month. For inspiration and a personal sense of American history this month check out the following books, selected by Moira E. McLaughlin of The Washington Post. Look for copies of these books here on BookBag using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes.

Marching for Freedom, by Elizabeth Partridge (Viking) Age 10 and older. In 1965, hundreds of people marched 54 miles in five days across Alabama to the capital in Montgomery to demand voting rights for African Americans. This book includes details about the march and the events that led up to it. King encouraged young people to get involved and question the rules. This nonfiction book tells of the kids who closely watched what was going on around them and then bravely joined the fight. The photos depict the peaceful strength of the marchers.

Back of the Bus, by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (Candlewick) Age 6 and older. (Philomel Books) This sweet fictional story is told by a boy who is on the same bus as Rosa Parks in 1955 in Alabama when she sits down in the front of the bus. The boy is playing with a marble and doesn't realize at first what is going on. After he sees Parks arrested, he starts to look at the world differently. The story is about what it might have been like on that bus and how Parks inspired the people around her that day. The beautiful pictures alone tell a story of strength, hope and determination.

Sweethearts of Rhythm, by Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney. (Dial) Age 9 and older. This true story of an all-female jazz band from the 1940s is told through poetry and illustration. The band was made up of white and black musicians, which was rare at that time. The instruments themselves speak in the poems, telling a lively and rhythmic story about the beauty and power of music, and the passion of the musicians during a time of war. The colorful pictures make the book come alive.

The Hallelujah Flight, by Phil Bildner, illustrated by John Holyfield. (Putnam) Age 6 and older. James Banning is a forgotten man in the history books, but his story is inspirational and courageous nonetheless. He was determined to fly from Los Angeles to New York, and he wasn't going to let anyone (or any mechanical difficulty) get in his way. The author portrays the African American pilot as an easygoing, happy guy with a goal. This is a simply told story about defying the odds.

January's Sparrow, by Patricia Polacco (Philomel) Age 10 and older. Starting with the illustration on the second page of a bloody and tied-up slave named January, the book honestly depicts the horror of slavery. Written in the voice of a slave, this intense story follows 8-year-old Sadie, who escapes north to freedom with her family. They live safely for a while until slave trackers find them. It's a moving story about a strong, loving slave family that survives against the odds.

Henry Aaron's Dream, by Matt Tavares. (Candlewick) Age 8 and older. The book is as
much about Henry Aaron's dream as it is about baseball in America in the 1940s and '50s, with "whites only" baseball diamonds and separate sections at games for "colored." Aaron, inspired by Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play major league baseball, persevered and in 1954, his dream of playing in the major leagues came true. This book is about how Aaron remained focused on the ball -- and his dream.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Start your engines! Books for teen NASCAR fans

The National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) season begins this month with races at Daytona International Speedway. Here's a selection of books, both fiction and nonfiction, that will get readers ready for this season's first lap! Look for these titles using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Sunday Money: Speed! Lust! Madness! Death! A Hot Lap around America with NASCAR, by Jeff MacGregor (Harper Perennial) Adult Nonfiction. In order to fully grasp the appeal of NASCAR, Sports Illustrated contributor Jeff MacGregor and his photographer wife attended nearly every race during the 2002 season--it took their savings, a 26-foot RV, 48,000 miles and 40 weeks to do so, but by the end of their odyssey they'd met revered drivers and wacky fans, camped out in Wal-Mart parking lots and grandstands alike, and picked up a fair amount of NASCAR lore and advice (such as "Go big, baby, or don't go"). Reading this book is almost -- almost -- as good as having been on the road with the MacGregors.

Yellow Flag, by Robert Lipsyte (HarperTeen) Fiction. More at home behind a music stand than behind the wheel, talented trumpet-player Kyle Hildebrand has, so far, avoided being part of the family business of stock-car racing. But when Kyle's older brother, Kris, is forced to sit out a race due to an injury, Kyle has to take his place...and discovers that he likes it. Now he's torn between pursuing a NASCAR career and continuing to study music, and to make things worse, he's got a potential girlfriend in each of these worlds. With plenty of NASCAR details, Yellow Flag is a must-read novel for racing fans.

Hard Driving: The Wendell Scott Story: The American Odyssey of NASCAR's First Black Driver, by Brian Donovan (Random House) Adult Nonfiction. Like many early NASCAR drivers, Wendell Scott learned how to maneuver a fast-moving car by running moonshine. Unlike most talented racers, however, Scott had no sponsorships, no professional pit crew, and no guarantee that when he showed up at a track he'd be allowed to enter the race. Why? Because, in the 1950s, he was the only African-American competing in the sport. This "memorable tale of an unsung American hero" (Kirkus Reviews) is a must-read for any auto-racing fan and has ample appeal for those interested in civil rights history as well.

Saturday Night Dirt, by Will Weaver (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Fiction. The many members of this book's car-obsessed cast are all out to prove themselves, both on and off the quarter-mile, small-town Minnesota dirt track speedway that is the center of their lives. On a collision course to meet at the Saturday night race that could make or break the financially struggling Headwaters Speedway, the characters move through one day, all of them hoping to win--and praying that the predicted rainstorm will pass them by. Exciting race scenes, colorful characters, and mechanical details that will enthrall gearheads make this fast-paced first entry in the Motor series a winner.

Switched, by Jessica Wollman (Delacorte Press) Fiction. Smart, hard-working Laura Mellon longs to go to an Ivy League college, but the house-cleaning business that she shares with her mom will hardly pay for such an education. Willa Pogue, who constantly disappoints her wealthy parents, feels as though she's living a life that's wrong for her (and she has a record of boarding-school expulsions to prove it). When Laura is hired to clean Willa's mansion, the two girls are astonished by how much they look alike...and they agree to trade lives for a while. So, where does NASCAR fit into this modern take on The Prince and the Pauper? You'll never guess until you read the book, but trust us, it does.

Fast Women: The Legendary Ladies of Racing, by Todd McCarthy (Miramax Books/Hyperion) Adult Nonfiction. If you think of Danica Patrick or even Janet Guthrie as the first serious female auto racer, well, guess again. This fun and fascinating book reveals that as long as there have been cars, there have been women who like and are quite talented at driving them--fast. Auto racing's earliest female enthusiasts ran the gamut from moms and socialites to mechanics, beauty queens, journalists, and more, and Fast Women includes stories of not only their triumphs and tragedies on the track, but also of their everyday lives.