Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning numbers big and small

Learning to count can be a fun experience. All you need are items to count, a fun counting book or two, and a lot of enthusiasm! Your child will quickly catch on and will be counting everything in sight in no time at all. Here are some suggested counting books old and new by Elizabeth Yetter at

Counting Books

Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh (Voyager Books) is a classic one-to-ten counting book that children absolutely love.

Who doesn’t love cookies? In Cookie Count: A Tasty Pop-up by Robert Sabuda (Little Simon), children learn how to count to ten while having fun with the nifty pop-ups. With illustrations of cookies, it’s enough to make any hungry adult drool.

If you have a little boy then you know that dinosaur books are an absolute must. In How Do Dinosaurs Count To Ten? by Jane Yolen (Blue Sky Press), children learn to count to ten with funny illustrations and rhyming text.

One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Ages 2–6. (Roaring Brook Press) This clever peek-a-boo book counts from one to ten and also reveals words within words. Young children will enjoy discovering the hidden words—when the boy is alone, the word "one" is revealed within "alone."

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury, Ages 3–5.(Harcourt) The rhythmic rhyming text in this picture book for very young children is addictive. Adorable multicultural babies are added with each new stanza.

Potato Joe by Keith Baker, Ages 4-8. (Harcourt) If it can rhyme with potato, Potato Joe and his nine potato friends have thought of it. The simple illustrations complement the rhymes in this counting book, and kids will be eager to turn the page to see what the silly spuds are up to next.

For children who love stories about animals, you’ll want to check out the Liberian folktale Two Ways to Count to Ten retold by Ruby Dee (Henry Holt and Co). In this story, jungle beasts learn to count. This is a great book for reading out loud.

Count! by Denise Fleming (Henry Holt and Co.) is a colorful book that teaches children to count from one to ten and then count by tens, ten to fifty.

Can You Count Ten Toes?: Count to 10 in 10 Different Languages by Lezlie Evans (Houghton Mifflin) is an exciting book because it teaches kids (and adults) how to count to ten in ten different languages.

Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Ehlert (Voyager Books) is a fun book on counting. Children quickly take to this book because of its bright colors.

Finally, if you’re just looking for a simple one to ten board book, check out Spot Counts From 1 to 10 by Eric Hill (Putnam Juvenile). It’s a classic counting book your toddler will love.

More Counting Ideas

Along with the counting books, there are other great things you can do with your child to teach her how to count. For example, some children like to sort out their wood blocks by color or shape. Help your child sort each block and then count how many blocks are in each pile. Always keep your eyes open for things to count. If you feed the birds, help your child count how many birds are at the feeder. Count flowers in your garden. Have your child help set the dinner table by having him carefully count out napkins or spoons. Count buttons on a shirt.

Here's Jim Holt, in The New York Times, with a further description of One Boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger and some other math-related books for kids:

One Boy acquaints a child with the numbers from one to 10. Each number is introduced with a simple but charming trick: a rectangular cutout in the page reveals a bit of what lies overleaf, inviting the reader to make a guess at the surprise to come with the turn of the page. “Five mice.” Five mice what? Turn the page. . . . “Skate on ice.” It’s not just about counting; it’s about realizing that the word “ice” is contained in “mice.” Seeger’s palette is bold and rich — and those who experience numbers coloristically (in my case, four is blue, seven is green and eight is orange) know how important this can be in making friends with them. Yet the ending of “One Boy” is somewhat dark. (Spoiler alert: it involves a quantity of ants in the boy’s pants.)

For the slightly older child, The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale ought to prove a beguiling mix of number lore and fairy tale. The plot elements will be familiar: three princes looking for brides, a king with three bags of gold and a queen with nine magic peas. But running through Brenda Williams’s story is a riot of numerical coincidences, some turning on the curious fact that if you take various multiples of nine (18, 27, 36, 45 etc.) and add up the digits (1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5), you always get nine back again. This is the kind of hidden pattern that children delight in discovering. And if some of the artsier parents fail to get it, they’ll at least smile at Sophie Fatus’s illustrations, which have a little of Marc Chagall in them, and a little of Joan Miró.

We’re all born with a genetically wired “number sense,” so brain scientists tell us. Even a baby can immediately distinguish two rubber duckies from three. But what if it’s a matter of thousands of rubber duckies floating toward you? To take a less ludicrous case, how can one make a reasonable guess about the number of protesters at a political rally, or of seeds on a dandelion? Don’t count, says Bruce Goldstone — ­estimate! And in Greater Estimations (a sequel to his Great Estimations, which makes the author guilty of serial Dickens abuse) he reveals all the tricks for doing this swiftly and accurately: eye training, clump counting and so on. Is that cool? I don’t know. But it’s empowering — dare I say fun? — to have an instinctive grasp of really big numbers. And, when you grow up, you can get a job estimating the size of the crowd when Simon and Garfunkel sing in Central Park.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tips for reading with a toddler or infant

Here are some timely tips from Reading Rockets on how to read to your toddler or infant and make the experience fun and rewarding for both of you. Simple counting and picture books are available at your local library, free of charge -- just use the World Catalog search box here on BookBag to locate books at your nearest library.

Reading daily to your child is one easy resolution you can afford to keep in 2010 -- enjoy reading with your kids, and have a happy and healthy new year!

How to Read With a Squiggly Baby (or Toddler)

Parents know they should read with their child every day. But reading together requires that your baby or toddler will actually sit still long enough for a book! If you’ve got a squiggler in your house, see if these tips help your reading time go a little more smoothly:

1. Read before bed, but don’t wait too long!

Really tired little ones have a harder time focusing their attention. It may help to pull out your books before the bath, or right after dinnertime. If your child is too tired to read, don’t force it. Keep book times happy times.

2. Choose fun, brightly colored books

The most engaging books for little ones have lots of bright, big pictures. Board books, the ones with stiff cardboard pages, are great for little hands to hold.

3. Sing along, or have some rhyme time

Books meant to be sung, or books written in rhyme, mean that you and your child get to clap along, sing along, and bounce up and down to the rhythm of the language. The fun physical involvement will keep your child interested in reading.

4. Be expressive!

Don’t worry, no one but your child is listening! As you read the book, change your voice for each character. Say loud words

LOUDLY and soft words softly. Add hand gestures and foot stomping to go along with the story.

5. Keep your favorites by your side

Your child will begin to develop favorite storytime books. You know how the story turns out -- but plan to read those books until the pages fall apart! The repeated, enjoyable experience of reading favorite books goes a long way toward developing good reading habits. And the last tip ...

6. Help your child develop a reading habit

Every child develops reading habits differently! It’s important to recognize that reading with a really young child looks and sounds different than reading with an older child. It’s louder, with more action and movement. That’s okay! The simple interaction with you, your child, and a book sends a powerful message about reading.

Be sure to visit the Reading Rockets Read Aloud section for more articles, printables, and video.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Classic books for back-to-school reading

As summer vacations draw to a close and school-age children begin the mad scramble to fulfill their summer reading obligations, author Lesley Blume (author of Tennyson, Cornelia, and Rusty Nail) recommends a few timeless books that may not be on the required book lists. Blume, the author of several books for young adults, says that parents owe it to their kids to introduce them to these classic stories.

"It is our responsibility to introduce classics to the next generation, because there's such a flood of new titles on the book market right now, especially in young adult literature, and we have to make sure that the books that we love go into the hands of our own children," Blume tells Linda Wertheimer.

Her book list includes a fair number of books about orphans, because, as Blume says, kids seem naturally drawn to stories in which the parents are absent: "Any child can relate to the fantasy of creating a kids-only utopia from scratch in the woods... This is something you see over and over again in classic literature and films. No rules, no baths, no schoolwork."

Lesley Blume's recommended list of classic children's books

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Albert Whitman & Company)

The Witches by Roald Dahl (Puffin)

The Devil's Storybook by Natalie Babbitt (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster (Aegypan)

Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers (HarperTeen)

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer (Random House)

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois (Puffin)

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (Aladdin)

Watership Down by Richard Adams (Scribner)

The House with the Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs, illustrated by Edward Gorey (Puffin Books)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New books for young readers

Have you spent the summer re-reading books you've memorized by heart? Here are some great new books that will become fall favorites! Look for them on BookBag using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes and get ready to make new fictional friends ....

Seaglass Summer, by Anjali Banerjee (Wendy Lamb Books) Realistic Fiction. Poppy Ray wants to be a veterinarian just like her Uncle Sanjay, who runs the Furry Friends Animal Clinic in Washington state. This summer, Poppy's parents are traveling to India to visit relatives--and Poppy gets to stay with Uncle Sanjay! She's thrilled that she'll get to help out in her uncle's clinic...but the actual experience is something of a wake-up call (for one thing, taking care of animals can be really gross). But Poppy's no whiner, and so, determined to do a good job, she braves grumpy clinic employees, kooky pet owners, and more than a little heartbreak in the line of duty. Looking for another story about kids helping animals? Check out Laurie Halse Anderson's Fight for Life.

House of Dolls, by Francesca Lia Block; illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Harper) Fiction. Dolls Wildflower, Rockstar, and Miss Selene live in a lavishly gorgeous antique dollhouse that once belonged to Madison Blackberry's grandmother and now belongs to Madison. Odd as it may seem, Madison is a bit jealous of the dolls; they, after all, seem to enjoy one another's company (unlike Madison's family) and even have boyfriends. In fact, Madison is a bit sick of watching the dolls live their perfect lives. This book isn't what you might expect -- and we don't want to give too much away -- but if you're looking for a dark and surprising story with marvelously elaborate drawings and more than a hint of fantasy, you'll want to peek inside House of Dolls.

Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House) Historical Fiction. Eleven-year-old Turtle is wise about the way things are. She's skeptical about her mother's belief in Hollywood-style happy endings, and despite grown-ups' belief that children are sweet, Turtle has "lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten." So, when Turtle's
mom takes a job as a live-in housekeeper for someone who hates kids, Turtle almost understands why she has to go to Florida and live with relatives she's never met. But that doesn't make her happy about it. Set in 1935 and packed with quirky characters, laugh-out-loud adventures, family drama, and references to '30s pop culture (Turtle likes Little Orphan Annie but can't stand sticky-sweet Shirley Temple), Turtle in Paradise is a great August read.

Spaceheadz, by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita; illustrated by Shane Prigmore (Books for Young Readers) Humorous Science Fiction. As if starting fifth grade at a new school wasn't enough of a challenge, Michael K.'s new friends Bob and Jennifer aren't just oddballs who talk like commercials--they're aliens from outer space, and the class hamster, Major Fluffy, is their leader. Worse, the three extra-terrestrials (yes, the hamster can talk) inform Michael that, unless he helps them recruit millions of kids to be SPHDZ (Spaceheadz), planet Earth is in big, big trouble. There's a lot of wacky fun in this book, and it extends online: Bob has a Facebook page, Jennifer has a YouTube channel, Major Fluffy blogs and tweets, and you can track's Michael's recruitment progress (or become a SPHDZ yourself!) at

Hawksmaid: The Untold Story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, by Kathryn Lasky (Harper) Fantasy. You may already know legends about Robin Hood and Maid Marian, but have you ever wondered what they were like as kids? Author Kathryn Lasky weaves a brand new tale of Nottingham's heroes in this suspenseful adventure. After Prince John murders her mother and steals her father's fortune, young Matty assumes the responsibility of training her father's hawks--without their help hunting, she and her father won't survive. Years later, Matty takes the name Marian, and together with her friend Fynn (aka Robin Hood) and their merry band of friends, she helps fight against Prince John's rule. Fans of the author's Guardians of Ga'Hoole series (or Nancy Yi Fan's Swordbird) are sure to enjoy Hawksmaid, in which Matty's birds are fully-drawn characters.

Gator on the Loose! by Sue Stauffacher; illustrated by Priscilla Lamont (Alfred A. Knopf) Fiction. Keisha Carter is planning to practice her cannonball at the city swimming pool on the day that her family's wildlife rescue business gets a call from the pool manager. A young alligator has taken up residence in the pool! Luckily, Keisha and her dad know a lot about reptiles, and they head out with Keisha's fashion-obsessed grandmother and her bratty five-year-old brother to capture the 'gator and find it a better home. But as you might guess catching an alligator is no easy task. Animal lovers are sure to enjoy this first book in a funny and informative new series and should keep an eye out for volume two, Special Delivery.

Friday, August 20, 2010

On-stage and off-stage drama: new books for teens

School's getting back in gear, and for some that can mean school plays and musicals will be coming soon. Here are some stories about the dramas on- and off-stage that can swirl around a school's first-time actors -- and veterans, too. Copies of these books can be found here on BookBag by typing in the title either in the World Catalog or Amazon search boxes.

Talk, by Kathe Koja (Square Fish) Fiction. Kit only auditioned for the high school play because his best friend, Carma, dared him--but he's been cast as the male lead. (While this may be his first onstage role, Kit has been playing the part of a straight guy for years now, so he's got some acting chops.) Before long, leading lady and insufferable queen bee Lindsay has set her sights on Kit ... with no idea that he only has eyes for Pablo Roy, "last year's first gay Harvest King" and Kit's "true and secret love." Intense emotions, stream-of-consciousness writing, and thought-provoking issues--the controversial play is banned by the school board--make this brief story one that you're sure to remember.

Dramarama, by E. Lockhart (Hyperion) Fiction. Sadye (a.k.a. Sarah) and Demi (a.k.a. Douglas) have shed their ordinary names and are departing their ordinary town of Brenton, Ohio--they're on their way to an eight-week summer theater institute at the Wildewood Academy of Performing Arts, and flamboyant Demi is sure that they're going to be its stars. They're saying goodbye to mean cheerleaders and dowdy math teachers and hello to gold lamé, hissy fits, and jazz hands--that's right, we're talking musical theater. Thespians and fans of Broadway musicals will give this witty and surprising novel a standing ovation!

Eyes Like Stars, by Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends) Fantasy. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith, a.k.a. Bertie, a.k.a. the Queen of Improvisation, has lived in the enchanted Theatre Illuminata for every one of her 17 years. But irrepressible Bertie's frequent pranks have worn the management's patience thin, and now she must prove her worth to the theater--or be cast out of it forever. With a fantastically described magical world (characters from all of the world's major plays dwell in the theater, held there by an enchanted book); a twisting, turning plot; and plenty of insider jokes and references to please thespians, stagehands, and other drama buffs, Eyes Like Stars will prompt many curtain calls and leave readers clamoring for its sequel, Perchance to Dream.

Reel Culture: 50 Classic Movies You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends), by Mimi O'Connor (Zest Books) Nonfiction. If you've ever caught your mom or dad laughing at a joke that you didn't get on a TV show like The Simpsons or The Daily Show, chances are that you missed a reference to a famous movie. Chances are even better that said movie is profiled in this book, which catalogs some of the most-quoted, most memorable movies of the 20th century and tells you what's so great (or terrible) about them that they've become part of popular culture. This entertaining "cheat sheet" to recent film history recaps 50 indelible movies (many of them R-rated, FYI), hits their high points, and lists a number of classic quotations from each, such as "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries." (Nope. We're not telling what movie that's from.)

The Four Dorothys, by Paul Ruditis (Simon Pulse) Fiction. "It was a drag queen's worst nightmare," says Bryan Stark, the closeted, "snarkastic" reporter of all the juicy happenings onstage and off during oh-so-exclusive Orion Academy's production of The Wizard of Oz. Bowing to pressure from some well-to-do parents, the musical's director casts four Dorothys, two Glindas, and two Scarecrows. Then strange things start happening to the Dorothys, and Bryan suspects foul play. This 1st of four books (so far) in the Drama! series is a fun, fast-paced read that should appeal to theater buffs and Gossip Girl fans alike.

Saving Juliet, by Suzanne Selfors (Walker & Company) Fiction. The fate of the floundering Wallingford Theater rests with high-school senior Mimi Wallingford, but it's medical school that interests Mimi, not her leading role in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Despite her lack of interest in the family's theatrical dynasty, Mimi bows to pressure from her mother to continue acting. Then Mimi and her leading man, the extremely annoying teen idol Troy Summers, are magically transported to 1594 Verona...where Mimi bonds with the real Juliet and becomes determined to give her a happy ending. Filled with twists and turns, humor, and excitement, Saving Juliet is a rousing and adventurous read.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer mysteries for young teens

If your life can sometimes seem boring and humdrum, here are some stories to keep you on the edge of your chair -- new installments in the Echo Falls and Ghost in the Machine series as well as a funny take on detective work in Australia with a sleuth named Theophilus Brain. Find them here on BookBag -- use the World Catalog search box to find copies at your local library, or buy a copy by typing the title or author in the Amazon search box. Into the Dark: An Echo Falls Mystery, by Peter Abrahams (Laura Geringer Books) Mystery. After 13-year-old sleuth Ingrid Levin-Hill finds the corpse of an environmental agent on her grandfather's property, stubborn, crusty Grampy becomes the prime suspect in the murder investigation that follows. Grampy won't divulge his alibi, but Ingrid knows that he's innocent -- and in the course of proving it, she digs up some shocking secrets from the past. This third book in the Echo Falls series balances its suspenseful, dangerous mystery with family drama, a hint of romance, and (as in previous volumes) fun details about Ingrid's involvement in a community theater production. The Unknowns: A Mystery, by Benedict Carey (Amulet Books) Mystery. Misfit middle-schoolers Di and Tom realize that something sinister is afoot when their elderly neighbor and math tutor, Mrs. Clarke, disappears from her home in the Folsom Adjacent trailer park. Following the clues that Mrs. Clarke left behind--all of them encoded in mathematical puzzles--leads the intrepid pair to the nearby nuclear power plant, where a dark conspiracy is unfolding. One stark, gritty setting + a bunch of quirky and compelling characters * multitudes of mind-bending math problems = The Unknowns, a sure solution for number-nuts and puzzle-crazy mystery fans. Skeleton Creek, by Patrick Carman; illustrated by Joshua Pease (Scholastic Press) Mystery. Ryan McCray is trapped at home, recuperating from an accident that happened while he and his best friend, Sarah Fincher, were investigating strange occurrences in their town of Skeleton Creek. His parents have forbidden him from seeing Sarah, but the friends stay in touch via the Internet--and Sarah continues the investigation, sending Ryan video updates (which readers can view online) of her progress and encounters with a menacing, ghostly presence. Told in Ryan's journal entries, emails between the two sleuths, and Sarah's breathless videos, this tense multi-platform mystery ends on a cliffhanger -- you might want to check out the second book, Ghost in the Machine, at the same time! The Brain Finds a Leg, by Martin Chatterton (Peachtree) Humorous Mystery. As the local wildlife of Farrago Bay, Australia runs amok -- with kangaroos robbing grocery stores and koalas developing homicidal tendencies--a corpse turns up, missing a leg. Young Sheldon McGlone, determined to figure out what's behind it all, joins forces with new kid and Sherlock Holmes devotee Theophilus Brain (a.k.a. "The Brain") to solve the mystery. The Brain Finds a Leg is a wacky, over-the-top romp that fans of "industrial-strength zaniness" (Kirkus Reviews), such as that of M.T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales series, will gleefully devour. Hungry for more from The Brain and his Watson? Check out the physics-themed sequel, The Brain Full of Holes. The White Gates, by Bonnie Ramthun (Random House) Mystery/Adventure. Torin ("Tor") Sinclair has just moved to the resort town of Snow Park, Colorado with his mom, who is the new doctor in town. He hasn't even unpacked when his mom wakes him in the middle of a bitterly cold night; there's been an accident, and Dr. Sinclair wants Tor to go to the emergency room with her. Tor notices that the locals seem hostile toward his mom, and eventually he learns of the curse that a Ute woman supposedly put on Snow Park's doctors many years before. But after his mom's patient unexpectedly dies, Tor is determined to figure out what's really going on. The White Gates is a fast-paced read packed with action, drama, and snowboarding thrills. Cat Burglar Black, by Richard Sala (First Second) Graphic Novel. Katherine, an orphan who's been trained since childhood to be a thief, believes that she's escaping her life of crime when she enrolls at the isolated Bellsong Academy for Girls. But after arriving at the spooky mansion that houses the school and meeting her criminally talented classmates, Katherine realizes that she's only getting in deeper. Bellsong, as it turns out, is really a school for cat-burglars. The illustrations in this gorgeously drawn graphic novel lend a retro flair and loads of creepy, menacing atmosphere to its otherwise light-hearted, fast-paced, and surprising

Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to school, hooray!

School (skool), noun: Where kids go for nine months of the year to learn what made their parents so mixed-up.

A new school year can be confusing and full of questions. Here's a selected list of books old and new to help with the first-day-back jitters of kids and their parents. You can search any book in this list (and on all of BookBag) and locate a library copy near you simply by typing the title, subject or author in the World Catalog search box above on the left. (Booklist courtesy of, an educational-materials organization for teachers and students.)


Amanda Pig, School Girl by Jean Van Leeuwen. Outgoing Amanda befriends a shy girl pig on the first day of school.

Arthur’s Back to School Day by Lillian Hoban. While hurrying to get on the bus, Arthur and his friend unknowingly switch their lunch boxes; later Arthur finds out what surprise his sister had put in hers.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Chrysanthemum loves her name, until she starts school and the other children make fun of it.

David Goes to School by D. Shannon. David's high-energy antics fill each school day with trouble.

First Day, Hooray! by Nancy Poydar. Ivy Green can't wait for school to start tomorrow. But she is also a little worried. What if she misses the bus? How will she find Mrs. Bell's room?

First Grade Can Wait by L. Aseltine. Luke does not feel ready to move on from kindergarten to the first grade, and he is relived when his parents and teacher decide he can stay in kindergarten for another year.

Froggy Goes to School by J. London. Froggy is nervous about his first day of school, but, even though it's hard to sit still, he has a wonderful time.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park. A young girl describes her feelings about starting kindergarten and what happens when she decides not to ride the bus home.

Rachel Parker, Kindergarten Show Off by Ann M. Martin. Five-year-old Olivia's new neighbor Rachel is in her kindergarten class and they must overcome feelings of jealousy and competitiveness to be friends.

When Will I Read? by Miriam Cohen. Impatient to begin reading, a first grader doesn't realize that there is more to reading than books.


Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss. The hand-lettered contents of a nine-year-old girl's notebook, in which she records her thoughts and feelings about moving and starting a new school.

Arthur’s Teacher Trouble by Marc Brown. Third-grader Arthur is amazed when he is chosen to be in the school spell-a-thon.

Fourth Grade Weirdo by Martha Freeman. Mr. Ditzwinkle is a "spontaneous" teacher who does magic tricks and gives all kinds of crazy assignments that Dexter doesn't understand.

How to Survive Third Grade by Laurie Lawlor. Ernest, an unpopular third grader, has a difficult adjustment to make until he finds a friend.

Marianthe's Story: Painted Words and Marianthe's Story: Spoken Memories by Aliki. Two separate stories in one book, the first telling of Mari's starting school in a new land, and the second describing village life in her country before she and her family left in search of a better life.

Moses Goes to School by Isaac Millner. Here, Moses and his classmates, all of whom are deaf or hard of hearing, head back to their special school after summer break. The book combines the words with American Sign Language.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. At first, Trisha loves school, but her difficulty learning to read makes her feel dumb, until, in the fifth grade, a new teacher helps her understand and overcome her problem.

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Howard. In the post-Civil War South, a young African American girl is determined to prove that she can go to school just like her older brothers.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New summer fiction and fantasy for tweens

Is your summer lacking a little adventure? Well here are some stories that will take you out of the ordinary without leaving your chair, from the crowded "stack cities" of a future Earth to an afterworld populated by wayward ghosts. Look for these using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag ... and watch out for aliens.

Little Blog on the Prairie, by Cathleen Davitt Bell (Bloomsbury) Fiction. Thirteen-year-old Gen Welsh is looking forward to a summer of lounging around the pool and hanging out with friends, but Gen's mom has other plans. She's signed the whole family up for a "vacation" at Camp Frontier, where people pay to experience the sort of life that American pioneers lived in the 1890s. No phones, iPods, computers, or other gadgets are allowed; there's no running water or electricity; and everyone is expected to milk cows and tend crops. But Gen manages to sneak in a cell phone (in order to send surreptitious text-message updates to friends back home) and inadvertently causes a wagonload of trouble. This fast-paced, funny story has great characters, family drama, and even a bit of romance--no batteries required.

Dark Life, by Kat Falls (Scholastic Press) Science Fiction. Years after global catastrophes toppled most of Earth's land into the ocean, those who live above ground are crammed into towering "stack cities." But a few intrepid pioneers have built new lives with plenty of elbow room--under the sea! Fifteen-year-old Ty has lived his whole life "subsea" farming the ocean floor with his family, and it's a life he'd love if it weren't for the dangerous, marauding Seablite Gang. When Topsider Gemma braves Ty's world to search for her missing brother, the two of them take on the outlaws and uncover some long-buried secrets of the deep. With all the action and atmosphere of a Wild-West yarn in a fascinatingly detailed, futuristic undersea setting, Dark Life is a must-read for fans of strong world-building.

Boom! (Or 70,000 Light Years), by Mark Haddon (David Fickling Books) Humorous Adventure. After planting a walkie-talkie in the teachers' lounge, pals Jimbo and Charlie overhear two of their teachers speaking in a weird language that's like none they've ever heard. Now irresistibly curious, the boys investigate further ... and find out that their school's faculty has been infiltrated by aliens. Before long, Charlie disappears--or is, perhaps, abducted--and it's up to Jimbo and his cranky older sister to save him (and possibly the entire world). Kooky characters, madcap action, and plenty of old-school sci-fi details make Boom! an out-of-this-world read, especially for fans of Mark Teague's The Doom Machine.

The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye, by Nancy Springer (Philomel Books) Historical Mystery. This 6th and final book in the excellent series starring Enola Holmes (the much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes) wraps up Enola's adventures in a wholly satisfying way. The beautiful high-society matron Lady Blanchefleur has gone missing in the eerie underground tunnels of London's subway, and Enola is on the case. Meanwhile, the plucky and resourceful girl detective has a perplexing message from her mother--who abandoned her a year ago--to decode. Offering a clever mystery to unravel in addition to its vividly detailed Victorian setting, emotionally involving story, and ample adventure, The Case of the Gypsy Good-bye is a richly rewarding read.

Bulu: African Wonder Dog, by Dick Houston (Random House) Nonfiction. After moving from England to Zambia to realize their dream of establishing a wildlife education center there--and despite warnings about the dangers facing a pet in the Zambian bush--Steve and Anna Tolan adopt a Jack Russell terrier pup who becomes a part not just of their family, but of their work, too. When the Tolans rehabilitate orphaned wild creatures, Bulu nurtures and protects them as if they were his own, even challenging deadly predators in order to do his duty. Animal lovers, adventure fans, and those interested in either wildlife conservation or the African wilderness will love this book. For more true stories of remarkable dogs, check out Brian Dennis' Nubs or Leslea Newman's Hachiko Waits.

Ghostopolis, by Doug TenNapel (Scholastic) Graphic Novel. Young Garth Hale is understandably obsessed with death; he's been diagnosed with an incurable disease. But Garth never expected his trip to the afterlife to happen so suddenly...and with him still very much alive. World-weary Supernatural Immigration agent Frank Gallows--whose job it is to send wayward ghosts back to the land of the dead--has accidentally zapped Garth to the other side along with Gallows' intended bounty, a skeleton horse. Surrounded by terrifying creatures and pursued by the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, Garth teams up with his grandfather's ghost and the horse, Skinny, to find a way home. With artwork that fairly pulsates with energy and a plot packed with surprising twists, this creepy, grim-yet-hilarious adventure is a real page-turner.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New summer fiction for teens

Before summer slips away there are still long days and hot nights for reading. Here are some new titles featuring science fiction, fantasy, and -- of course -- vampires! Find your copy here on BookBag using the and World Catalog search boxes ... and stay cool....

Ship Breaker,
by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown) Science Fiction. Living on the devastated U.S. Gulf Coast, 17-year-old Nailer scavenges for copper wire and other precious metals aboard beached oil tankers, hoping to "make quota," avoid his violent father, and just get by. When Nailer discovers a wrecked clipper ship filled with riches, he thinks
his fortune is made...but that's before he finds wealthy young Nita, the sole survivor, on board. He could kill Nita for a profit or he could help her--but helping Nita might cost Nailer everything. This exciting, action-packed tale takes place in a bleak, carefully constructed future that fans of great world-building (à la the Uglies series) will love.

Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce (Little, Brown) Dark Fantasy. Sisters Scarlett and Rosie March were orphaned when one of the Fenris (werewolves) killed their grandmother, and Scarlett lost an eye fighting him. Eight years later, the sisters still hunt the Fenris, who take the form of handsome men in order to prey on unsuspecting pretty young things. Their neighbor, a young woodcutter named Silas, helps the March sisters on their quest to rid the world of a burgeoning pack of Fenris ... but while Scarlett loves the hunt, Silas and Rosie each secretly wish for a different life. Sisters Red will grab you with action, romance, danger, and suspense and hold you breathless until its shocking conclusion.

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow Books) Fiction. On a train headed to summer camp, Ry finally gets around to opening a letter marked "Urgent" from the camp director ... and finds out that camp has been cancelled. When the train stops, Ry gets off and tries to call his grandfather, since his parents are on a Caribbean vacation ... and the train leaves without him, stranding him in Montana in the middle of nowhere. This, dear reader, is only the beginning of a long, winding, and highly entertaining journey filled with near-misses and misadventures galore (including those of the family dog, which appear in comic-strip form). Believability takes a back seat to wry humor, colorful characters, and the lessons of the road in this meandering, good-humored tale.

Spells, by Aprilynne Pike (HarperTeen) Paranormal Romance. In this bewitching sequel to Wings, Laurel Sewell--still getting used to the idea that she is a faerie (and the fact that faeries are highly evolved plants)--is summoned to the Academy at Avalon for training. While at the Academy, Laurel spends time with Tamani, the electrifying faerie sentry who longs for her...and misses David, her loyal, earthly boyfriend. But when she returns home, Laurel finds trolls on the prowl again, and they're after more than just her. Danger, romantic tension, and unusual faerie mythology make for a delicious brew in Spells.

How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story, by Tracy White (Roaring Brook Press) Graphic Novel. After putting her fist through a window, Stacy Black checks herself into Golden Meadows mental hospital, finally realizing that she has to face the reasons for her depression in order to stop from self-destructing. Readers of this harrowing, honest near-memoir (events in the book are based on author Tracy White's own experiences) get a front-row seat as Stacy works through her issues with relationships, addiction, and, finally, her negative body image. For another brutally honest story of battling personal demons, try Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hot August reads

The long days and lazy weekends of August mean there's lots of time for fun reading. Here are some fiction and non-fiction reads for teens, as well as a short selection of books about music and movies. Search for library copies in the World Catalog box, or buy them through BookBag's link.

Reality Check
, Peter Abrahams (HarperTeen) Football was NFL-hopeful Cody's only reason for staying in high school, so when a serious injury dashed his dreams of going pro, he dropped out. Now working in a lumber yard in his rural Colorado town, Cody takes off for Vermont when he gets news of his girlfriend Clea's disappearance from her boarding school there. Not long after beginning his amateur investigation, Cody finds himself in real danger. With steadily building suspense, a plot filled with twists and turns, and a satisfying love story, Reality Check will appeal to both romance and thriller fans.

The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan (Simon & Schuster) Ever since their father was murdered, brothers Nick and Alan Ryves have been on the run from evil, power-crazed magicians who conjure demons to do their bidding. According to Alan, the magicians are after the protective charm that the boys' mother stole. But brooding, cold-hearted Nick is starting to suspect that his older brother, the only person he's ever trusted, is lying to him about...well, everything. Full of action, surprises, and vividly rendered characters, The Demon's Lexicon will bewitch fans of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments trilogy (which begins with City of Bones).

Carter Finally Gets It, Brent Crawford (Disney/Hyperion) Will Carter, aka "Carter," is about to start high school--and between his ADD, the stuttering problem he develops around girls, and his lack of a cool nickname, he's just not ready. But ready or not, he's barreling into his freshman year gung-ho, trying his hand at football, dating, baseball, flirting, drama club, dating, avoiding humiliation and pummeling, and (oh yeah) dating. Will he ever find his niche? Will he ever get lucky? Will he even survive freshman year? Read this hilariously awkward story and find out.

Peace, Love & Baby Ducks, Lauren Myracle (Dutton Books) Back in her ritzy Atlanta neighborhood after a crunchy-granola summer of roughing it in the woods, 15-year-old Carly is having a tough time. First of all, her little sister morphed into a hottie during the six weeks that Carly was gone, and Carly is trying hard not to be jealous. Second, Carly is beginning to realize that she cares about different things than her image-obsessed family and friends do. But sister-love conquers all, right? If there's a long list of people waiting to check out this sisterhood drama, try I Am the Wallpaper by Mark Peter Hughes or Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone while you wait.

Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia,
Cindy Pon (Harper Collins) With her father missing and a lecherous merchant attempting to blackmail her into marriage, 17-year-old Ai Ling sets out for the emperor's palace, the last place where her father was seen. On her journey, she meets and joins forces with Chen Yong and his younger brother Li Rong, who are on a quest of their own. When evil forces threaten to keep the trio from their destination--and to destroy all of Xia, their homeland--Ai Ling uses her newly discovered powers to fight back. If you're looking for a grand, exciting martial-arts adventure with a kick-butt heroine, look no further than Silver Phoenix.

Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old G.I. Ryan Smithson (HarperCollins) Ryan Smithson, who describes sitting in his high school history class and watching the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 as the "atypical, unpredictable kind of real that you never see coming," enlisted in the Army as soon as he graduated. In this harrowing and powerful memoir, Smithson brings readers inside his tour of duty in Iraq, from basic training through combat and his return home. If you want to know what life is really like on the battlefield, Smithson's story provides a soldier's unflinching viewpoint; for an Iraqi civilian's account of the early days of the war, check out Thura's Diary by Thura Al-Windawi.

I want my MTV

When it debuted on August 1, 1981, MTV was the first television network to broadcast music videos--and only music videos--24/7. Since then, of course, MTV has expanded its programming to include a variety of reality shows, cartoons, movies, and more. Celebrate the network's 28th birthday by reading one of the books below about the music industry, video production, or both.

Pop Princess, Rachel Cohn (Simon & Schuster) Fifteen-year-old Wonder Blake is wearing headphones, mopping the floor at Dairy Queen and belting out "Smells Like Teen Spirit" when talent manager Gerald Tiggs discovers her. Before long, Wonder is on the fast track to fame and fortune--the same trajectory that her sister Lucky had been on when she was killed by a drunk driver two years before--hoping to put her problems behind her and start a new life. Despite dealing with some serious issues, Pop Princess is a fun and frothy read that anyone fascinated with teen stardom will enjoy. For a rise-to-stardom story more in the vein of punk than pop, check out Gillian Cross' Chartbreaker.

Notes from the Teenage Underground: A Novel,
Simmone Howell (Bloomsbury U.S.A.) Gem and her best friends Lo and Mira have nothing but disdain for their "sucker peers," whom they call "barcodes." When film-fanatic Gem, inspired by Andy Warhol, decides the three of them should make an underground movie, creative disputes lead to betrayals and serious testing of their friendship. Movie buffs and fans of edgy humor will enjoy Australian author Simmone Howell's über-geek "Heathers-meets-I Shot Andy Warhol" style drama.

Rock On: An Office Power Ballad, Dan Kennedy (Algonquin) In this darkly comic memoir that Time Out New York calls "snort-audibly-on-the-subway funny," McSweeney's and GQ contributor Dan Kennedy chronicles his rock-'n'-roll a marketing executive for Atlantic Records. Finding the industry to be not exactly what he expected, Kennedy skewers clueless managers, aging stars, his coworkers, and even himself in this expose of the floundering music biz. Random lists (such as "Inappropriate Greetings and Salutations for Middle-Aged White Record Executives to Exchange: #1. Hello, Dawg") ratchet Rock On's humor dial up to 11.

Birdland, Tracy Mack (Scholastic) Still deeply wounded by his older brother Zeke's recent death, Jed is making a video of Manhattan's Lower East Side over winter break, filming the "cacophony of color and sound" that Zeke wrote about in his poetry. While documenting the everyday lives and tragedies in his neighborhood, Jed meets a homeless girl who may have known his brother--and may know the secret behind his death. With rich characterizations, rhythmic and poetic language, and grittily real emotion, Birdland paints a vivid picture of both the NY setting and Jed's disintegrating family.

Play Me, Laura Ruby (Harper Teen) Aspiring filmmaker Eddy has a hit online video series called Riot Grrl 16--and, if he and his friends win the contest they've entered, soon his show will be on MTV! Meanwhile, Eddy, usually somewhat of a playboy, is unwittingly getting hooked on fiercely free-spirited Lucinda Dulko, one of the few girls who isn't completely charmed by him. With great characters, morbidly hilarious moments (such as when Eddy's younger brother Meatball repeatedly fakes his own death), and tons of movie references, Play Me is one highly entertaining read.