Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Graphic novels you might have missed

Graphic novels can be great fun! Some are even based on movies and stories you may know. If you're a fan of graphic novels and looking for some new reads, here are some to check out from your local library (use the WorldCatalog search box to see if your library has them) or find a copy using the Amazon search box also here on BookBag.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, written by F. Scott Fizgerald & adapted by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir; illustrated by Kevin Cornell (Quirk Books) Classic. Perhaps you've seen the 2008 movie starring Brad Pitt as a man who ages backwards after being born a full-grown, elderly man in Baltimore in 1860. This witty and handsomely illustrated graphic novel sticks closer to the original F. Scott Fitzgerald short story than the somewhat melancholy film does, preserving its satirical humor (among other things). Literature buffs--and anyone who enjoys tales about people who fail to meet society's expectations of them--should thoroughly enjoy this version of the story that Fitzgerald himself declared to be "the funniest thing ever written."

Prince of Persia, created by Jordan Mechner; written by A.B. Sina; illustrated by LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland (First Second) Adventure. Based on the Prince of Persia video games and composed by the game's creator, Jordan Mechner, and Iranian author A.B. Sina, this "magnificent and complex" (Booklist) graphic novel illuminates the underlying legend of the games' world. Make no mistake, there's plenty of action, adventure, and mayhem here--but players who appreciate the substantial storylines of the games will be eager to delve deeper into the mythology laid out in the book, which should also please fans of historical fantasies rich with political intrigue, battles, and elemental magic. Both the new Prince of Persia gameThe Forgotten Sands and the movie The Sands of Time (which stars Jake Gyllenhaal) will be released this May, making April a great time to check out the book!

Aya of Yop City, by Marguerite Abouet; illustrated by Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly) Fiction. This sequel to Aya plunges readers right back into the "good-humored soap opera" (Booklist) of studious, responsible Aya and her boy-crazy friends, all of whom live in the Ivory Coast of the late 1970s. Aya's friend Adjoua has had her baby...and he looks nothing like her rich, slacker husband, Moussa. Meanwhile, Bintou thinks that she's found the perfect man--but is he too good to be true? Once again vibrantly bringing all of Yop City's characters and their day-to-day drama to life, this 2nd of three graphic novels in the series -- Aya: The Secrets Come Out is next -- will have readers laughing, crying, and sighing as that drama unfolds. (New to the series? Be sure to start with Aya, or you'll be lost.)

Kin, by Holly Black; illustrated by Ted Naifeh (Graphix) Urban Fantasy. Goth-girl Rue Silver ("like kangaroo or like 'you'll rue the day we met, MWA-HA-HA!'") claims that she's not a worrier--but when her mom goes missing, her father is accused of murder, and she begins to see impossible creatures that no one else sees, worrying might be sensible. Rue thinks she's going crazy, but in the course of this darkly compelling graphic novel, the existence of the faerie world and the source of Rue's connection to it are revealed. Fans of Charles de Lint's books (such as Dingo) or of Neil Gaiman's highly imaginative and menacing Neverwhere will be entranced by this first volume in the Good Neighbors series--and will clamor for the second volume, Kith.

Emiko Superstar, by Mariko Tamaki; illustrated by Steve Rolston (Minx) Realistic Fiction. Being a geek never really bothered Emiko...but now her geeky friends are excited about attending a young executives' retreat over the summer, and Emi isn't interested. Then, just when it seems that her summer will be all babysitting, all the time, shy Emi is handed a flyer advertising weekend performance-art "Freak Shows," and she's both intrigued and terrified. After she finally works up the nerve to go to one of the shows, her whole life changes. Check out this slightly angsty, gently funny, and completely engaging read to see how Emi goes from geek to superstar on the road to becoming herself.

Pride of Baghdad, by Brian K. Vaughan; illustrated by Niko Henrichon (DC Comics) Fiction. As American bombs rain down on Iraq in 2003, four lions escape from the Baghdad Zoo--only to struggle for survival in the battered, unfamiliar city. Having relied for so long on their keepers, the lions ponder the benefits of their captivity and the price of their freedom as they wander in search of food and safety. Both a gripping adventure and "a thoughtful allegory about the war in Iraq" (Library Journal), this provocative, expressively illustrated, and occasionally violent graphic novel was inspired by a pride of lions' real-life flight from captivity.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Problems, problems: teen stories about coping with real life

Stepping into someone else's shoes can help you see your own life more clearly. The characters in the books below -- whether as a result of their own mistakes or due to circumstances totally beyond their control -- all find themselves in chaotic, seemingly unworkable situations. Look for copies of these books using the Amazon and WorldCatalog search boxes here at BookBag; their methods for coping with the chaos, getting a grip, and taking control of their lives make for some great stories.

Marcelo in the Real World, by Franc
isco X. Stork (Arthur A. Levine Books) Fiction. Marcelo Sandoval isn't interested in sticking even a big toe out of his comfort zone; he'd be happy forever just listening to the music in his head, obsessively reading books about religion, and caring for the ponies in his special school's stables. But his dad, a high-powered attorney, insists that Marcelo take a summer job in his law firm's mailroom to get a dose of "the real world." There, Marcelo has to let go of his familiar routines and face challenges: having to tell true friends from false ones, doing the right thing even if it's dangerous, and taking the risk of loving someone. Unpredictable, moving, and memorable, Marcelo in the Real World offers a unique view of life.

Hot Lunch, by Alex Bradley (Dutton Children's Books) Fiction. When blue-haired, smart-mouthed Molly is paired up with her nemesis--blonde, perky Cassie--for a class project, they clash. And clash again. Then they get lunch duty and end up in a food fight, causing the lunch lady to quit. At their private, hippie-run school, punishment fits the crime, so Cassie and Molly have to take over for the lunch lady--but besides not being able get along, neither of them can cook! The two of them find out whether they should spend time around sharp knives together. Hot Lunch is a fast-paced, funny read with some great

Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Joan Druett (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) Adult Nonfiction. This slice of history shows how the way people react to a drastic situation can make a huge difference in its outcome. In 1864, two ships, the Grafton and the Invercauld, wrecked on opposite ends of the same remote South Pacific island. The Grafton's five-man crew, through determination and sheer force of will, overcame the harsh environment and eventually built a small ship to carry them to New Zealand -- but the crew of theInvercauld descended into anarchy. After a year and a half, only three of theInvercauld's original 25-man crew survived to be rescued by a passing ship. Fans of adventure and survival stories (or TV shows) will find this descriptive history

Keesha's House, by Helen Frost (Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) Novel in Verse. Keesha's father gets violent when he drinks (which is often), but she has finally found a safe place to live--a house owned by a man whose aunt took him in when he was young and in trouble. Keesha, in turn, invites other teens to take refuge and start fresh there: Stephie, who's pregnant and terrified; Harris, whose dad kicked him out after Harris revealed that he's gay; Katie, whose stepfather crossed a line but whose mother won't believe her; and several others. Heartbreaking yet hopeful and with painfully realistic characters, Keesha's House will mesmerize readers who like emotionally intense, brutally honest books like E.R. Frank's Life is Funny.

Nation, by Terry Pratchett (HarperCollins) Fiction. Mau is headed home in a canoe, ready to take part in the ritual that will make him a man, when a tsunami kills every member of his island nation but him. The deadly wave also wrecks an English ship on the island's shore, depositing a girl named Ermintrude there. Soon, refugees from nearby islands begin to arrive, and Mau and Ermintrude must take the lead in establishing a new nation if they hope to survive. But Mau isn't sure who he is without his people, Ermintrude no longer knows what to believe about the world, and great danger awaits them both. Part survival adventure, part fantasy, and full of marvelous characters and comic relief, Nation is a riveting and memorable read.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Self-published mystery and fantasy for YA readers

Lots of books for readers of all ages are published by writers who use the self-publishing tools available everywhere, as well as the small publishers who use the internet to spread the word and don't depend on bookstore shelf-space to get attention. Here's just a short selection of new novels that are filled with action, adventure and fantasy available by self-publishers (and in book form, too). Look for them using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag!

The Lake, by William Crawford (BookSurge Publishing) The Lake is a novel that is part science fiction, part environmental commentary. A group of people threatened by a truly curious natural disaster confront the vulnerability of their lives. After Southern California's Lake Crowley is split at its foundation by an earthquake, the water becomes an elixir -- and a truth serum. As desperate people migrate to its shores to drink from its waters, pandemonium besets Los Angeles and a group of public servants, including the California governor and American president, will be forced to intercede between human nature and Mother Nature.

Shamra Divided: Book Two of the Sharma Chronicles, by Barry Hoffman (Edge Books) In Book One of the series, Curse of the Shamra, author Barry Hoffman introduced Dara, a young Shamra girl who defies the oppressive rules of her society and leads a ragtag resistance in the hopes of defeating their conquerors. Although she is criticized for being outspoken, "different", and wild, she never gives in to the pressure to conform. Shamra Divided continues Dara's adventures, as she sets off to faraway lands to learn more about her heritage, why she was the one who was meant to lead her people to freedom, and what future challenges are in store for her that she must mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare for.

The Prophet of the Pentacle, by Marilyn Privratsky (Outskirts Press) In this first work of her epic fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Farro, Rafar the Elder, the Osarian Knight's Prophet of War, must find away to stop Lord Jarden, the ancient evil one who has suddenly and accidentally been unleashed back into the world and is now bent on destroying it. A great battle had been fought in ancient times between the ruthless Lord Jarden and the powerful sphinx Berecynthia. She defeated this evil one, but was mortally wounded before vanquishing him altogether. Five ages pass before a royal advisor investigating the mysterious and lonely Ice Isle inadvertently sets free the ancient evil one and becomes his host. Only the sacred alliance of prophets called the Osarian Knights can now save the mystical realm of Andora from turning into a desolate wasteland of burnt ash, its innocent population annihilated by Lord Jarden's perverse genocide.

Mara's Flowery Arrows, by Siam's Unnamed (CreateSpace) Does a mysterious manuscript, discovered by chance in the library of a Burmese monastery, contain the oldest thriller story of Southeast Asian literature? In the far east of the Indochina peninsula during the Ninth Century A.D., Prince Asaka fights against the intrigues of the Khmer Court. A prince of the Court, son of the King, is found assassinated: why would somebody want to accuse a poor slave unjustly of such an important crime? Our hero is also involved in the crime (as owner of the slave, as well as more directly). He manages to extract himself and to identify the true culprit, thanks to the help of two friends: one, a wise old Hindu, reminds us of the figure of the western investigator who is part Sherlock Holmes and part Perry Mason.

Fortuna by Michael Stevens (Oceanview Publishing) Jason Lind, a brilliant but boredStanford computer science major is longing for escape from his mundane existence. Jason signs up to play Fortuna, an online role-playing game set in Renaissance Florence. From the first, fateful mouse click, Jason tumbles into the vibrant, lush, and anonymous world of Fortuna. Swept up in this highly complex, highly addictive game of fame, fortune, and power, Jason quickly transitions from casual gamer to compulsive player. Soon tangled up in a steamy, virtual love triangle, Jason becomes obsessed with breaking Fortuna’s code of anonymity. But Fortuna is anything but fun and games, and when a sizeable debt incurred in the game spills over into reality, Jason is forced to leverage the legacy of his father, a high-tech legend killed in a car accident years before, to pay off the debt. What starts as a great escape may only leave Jason trapped, as the game that transported him deep into the past exposes a shocking present-day reality. In the world of Fortuna, it’s not how you play the game -- it’s if you survive.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New books for teens: Spirits, witches and quests

Readers looking for something spooky to get them in the Halloween spirit can find it in these new books. Look for them using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes on BookBag and be prepared to be scared!

Sleepless, by Cyn Balog (Delacorte Press) Paranormal Romance. Eron DeMarchelle died in 1910 and has served as a Sandman--a spirit who coaxes his charges to sleep--ever since. After completing 100 years of service, Eron will return to the world of the living, but he's got a couple of problems to solve first. Problem one: he's grown too attached to Julia, a lonely young girl who is just one of his many charges. Problem two: Eron's new apprentice, who happens to be Julia's recently deceased and extremely possessive boyfriend, seems determined to violate all the rules of being a Sandman. Sleepless is a fast-paced and suspenseful tale of star-crossed lovers that's sure to haunt your dreams.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June, by Robin Benway (Razorbill) Fiction. Sisters April, May, and June have been through a lot lately--their parents recently divorced, their dad moved from California to Texas, and the girls and their mom have moved to a new town to start over. But even these big changes are small potatoes compared to what happens next: each of the sisters suddenly develops a supernatural power. April, the oldest, can see the future; May can literally disappear; and June can read minds. Alternately narrated by each of the sisters, this hilarious book by the author of Audrey, Wait! will charm readers who like snappy dialogue, strong yet complicated family bonds, and mostly-realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy.

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials, by Stephanie Hemphill (Balzer + Bray) Historical Fiction. This novel in verse takes a fresh look at the Salem witch trials, weaving a tense and plausible story about historical figures Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, and Margaret Walcott, three out of a group of teenage girls whose accusations of witchcraft doomed more than a dozen of their neighbors to hang. Narrated in turn by each of the three girls, this story unfolds slowly and carefully, but once it grabs you, it doesn't let go. Were there queen bees (like those in the movies Heathers or Mean Girls) even in Puritan society? Wicked Girls says, "oh yes, dear readers, and they were most definitely to be feared."

Hothouse, by Chris Lynch (HarperTeen) Fiction. After their fathers, both firefighters, die while battling a house fire, high school seniors Russell and DJ are treated like heroes by everyone in their town. Russell realizes that he doesn't deserve to share in his father's glory, but somehow, it helps. But when an investigation into the tragic incident casts doubt on the dead men's heroism, the community's reaction is severe. With believable characters, emotional intensity, and complex psychological drama, Hothouse is a riveting read.

The Thin Executioner, by Darren Shan (Little, Brown) Fantasy/Horror. Jebel Rum lives in a brutal society where everyone who flouts the law is beheaded and where the position of Executioner--Jebel's father's job--is akin to royalty. As the scrawniest of three brothers, Jebel isn't likely to take his father's place, so he goes on a dangerous quest to gain invincibility from a legendary fire god. In order to win such power, he'll have to sacrifice the slave who accompanies him on his journey...but they'll both have to survive it first. Balancing adventure, social commentary, and action, The Thin Executioner may not be gory enough for fans of the author's Demonata series, but fans of sharp-edged fantasy adventures will be well pleased.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to keep young kids reading during the school year

It's worth noting as the school year gets into the fall holidays that kids can lose a lot of schoolroom smarts during the next few months. Here in a recent post on Reading Rockets, children's literature expert Maria Salvadore brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

There are many activities that enhance reading and will slow or stop that slide — talking, singing, reading aloud, keeping a journal or photo album, and lots more.

One thing that our family still does is cook together. And lots of cooking can start with a story book that involves food and more.

Cook-a-doodle-doo (Sandpiper) by Janet Stevens and her sister is a very funny take-off on the traditional story of the industrious Little Red Hen. Just like his grandmother, the rooster asks for but actually gets help. Together the friends find a recipe for and make delicious strawberry shortcake. (I've tried the recipe and it is quite good!) Along the way, they also learn a few things about following the special language of cooking and recipes.

Another enjoyable story book that includes a tasty cooking activity is Honey Cookies (Francis Lincoln) by Meredith Hooper. A grandmother almost poetically describes the ingredients she and her grandchild need to make this sweet treat. (She's actually telling Ben where each originates.) A recipe for the cookies is included in this book, too (though if you try this one, add a little more butter than called for; makes them moister.)

A classic activity is planting a garden — even better when you're Growing Vegetable Soup (Voyager). Vegetables, seeds, and garden tools are all presented in Lois Ehlert's colorful illustrations that present a handsome garden. A recipe for vegetable soup is also included. (I've never tried this one, but it looks pretty standard.)

Do you and the children in your life have a book and favorite activity that can stop the reading slide? If so, take a minute to share it with us at Reading Rockets!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Adventure stories for kids: Seven wonders, giant-slayers, and a skibberee

So ... what's a skibberee? Read What-the-Dickens by Gregory McGuire and you'll find out .... There's lots more adventure in these books, from a boy transported to a redwood forest from the subway, to the trials of Bob, the castle rat caught by the King's two cats, Muffin and Brutus. Be sure to look for these books here on BookBag using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes, and get ready for some exciting reading that will keep you turning the pages!

How to Save Your Tail*: *If You are a Rat Nabbed by Cats Who Really Like Stories about Magic Spoons, Wolves with Snout-Warts, Big, Hairy Chimney Trolls -- and Cookies Too, by Mary Elizabeth Hanson (Schwartz & Wade Books) Fractured Fairy Tales. Bob the castle rat loves to read almost as much as he loves to bake, and it's a good thing--because the stories he reads end up saving his life! Distracted by a book on a bench, Bob is caught by palace cats Muffin and Brutus, who plan to make a meal out of him. Thankfully, Bob is able to stall by telling the cats stories about his ancestors (all of which bear striking resemblance to well-known fairy tales) and feeding them some of his freshly-baked cookies. But how long can he postpone being eaten by the fearful felines? Pick up this quick, funny read and find out.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, by Betty G. Birney; illustrated by Matt Phelan (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) Historical Fiction. Fascinated by stories of the Seven Wonders of the World, 12-year-old Eben McAllister longs to leave the small town of Sassafras Springs, Missouri and see some of them for himself. But no one else from Sassafras seems eager to go exploring, so Eben figures he's stuck on the farm with his folks until he grows up. Then Pa makes a deal with him: if Eben can find seven true wonders right in Sassafras Springs, he gets to take a train trip out West and have an adventure after all. Set in 1923, this old-fashioned yarn shows that even places and things that seem ordinary can have extraordinarily magical stories to tell.

Redwoods, by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press) Picture Book. If you've ever heard or read a great story, you probably understand what people mean when they say that books transport them to completely different worlds. Well, when the boy in this story finds a book about redwoods on a subway-platform bench, it really happens! The boy begins reading amazing facts about the giant trees while riding the subway, and when he climbs the stairs that lead to the city street, he instead finds himself smack in the middle of a redwood forest. Combining thrilling adventure (in the illustrations) with fascinating facts (in the text), this book is big -- really big! -- fun.

What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy, by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick Press) Fantasy. Ten-year-old Dinah, her brother Zeke, and their baby sister Rebecca Ruth are stranded in their remote home while a terrible storm rages. Only their inept older cousin Gage is there with them, but he has almost no practical survival skills. So, to pass the time and ease their fear, Gage tells the story of What-the-Dickens, a newly hatched orphan creature who doesn't realize that he is a skibberee--a tooth fairy. After meeting a number of beings who are not like him (a cat named McCavity, a tiger, a bird, even people), What-the-Dickens eventually meets Pepper, another skibberee who shows him what being a tooth fairy is all about. And as Gage spins the tale through the night, the storm rampages on...

The Giant-Slayer, by Iain Lawrence (Delacorte Press) Historical Fiction. Shy, quiet dreamer Laurie Valentine has no friends at all until she meets Dickie Espinosa. The two of them range all over their 1950s neighborhood exploring and playing--until Dickie comes down with polio and is confined to an iron lung. Laurie sneaks into the hospital to visit Dickie and begins spinning a fantastical tale that spreads over many visits, a heroic adventure in which a young boy must slay an enormous giant (with the help of all manner of interesting and unusual characters). We won't tell you what power Laurie's amazing story holds; read The Giant-Slayer and decide for yourself.

Travels of Thelonious, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller (Simon & Schuster) Animal Fantasy. Thelonious Chipmunk is the only member of his family who believes that, in ancient times, human beings ruled the Earth (most everyone else thinks that the legends about humans are just old stories--entertaining, maybe, but not true). When the tree that he lives in is swept downstream in a huge storm, Thelonious finds himself in the City of Ruins, where he joins a porcupine librarian and a helicopter-flying bear in their dangerous quest to discover the truth about Earth's past. Alternating written chapters with comic-book chapters, this first volume of the Fog Mound series is a story that both intrigues and inspires.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Strange places and strange stories: new fiction for teens

Sometimes it's good to get away -- even if it's just to get lost in a book. Here are some great recent stories that will make the reader keep turning the pages with anticipation of what happens next! Find them here using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes on BookBag.

Everwild, by Neal Shusterman (Simon & Schuster) Fantasy. Sometimes, children lose their way to the afterlife and end up--at least temporarily--in the bizarre in-between world of Everlost. In this second volume of the Skinjacker Trilogy (after Everlost), deceased teens Allie and Nick are waging a sort of war against Mary Hightower, who wants to keep all of the children of Everlost with her forever. Packed with twists and turns, startling revelations, and even some laughs and a bit of romance, Everwild is a mesmerizing story set in a uniquely creative imaginary world.

Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick (Simon & Schuster) Paranormal Romance. Smart, responsible Nora Grey is irritated by mysterious transfer-student Patch when they first meet, but it isn't long before she finds herself irresistibly attracted to him (despite her persistent doubts about his character). After extremely frightening things begin happening to Nora, she decides to investigate Patch ... and discovers that he is one of the Nephilim, a fallen angel. And he wants very badly to be human. Hush, Hush is a haunting and tantalizingly sexy read that will have you on the edge of your seat--and hoping for a sequel.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner (Delacorte Press) Science Fiction. Thomas wakes up in a metal box that's lurching upward, and the only thing he can remember about himself is his first name. Deposited in the central courtyard of an enormous maze, he meets the boys who were delivered there before him. They've developed a society based on two goals: survival--the maze is populated by deadly mechanical monsters--and escape. But soon after Thomas' arrival, things change, and the need to find a way out of the maze takes on new urgency. This suspenseful novel establishes a fascinating and enigmatic world that's suffused with a creeping sense of doom. Fans of dystopian stories will be riveted--and desperate to learn what happens next.

Goth Girl Rising, by Barry Lyga (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Fiction. Kyra, the girl from The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, has spent the last six months in a mental institution, and Fanboy didn't visit or contact her once. Maybe he was too busy managing his sudden popularity -- the result of publishing his comic in the school's literary magazine while Kyra was away -- but whatever the reason, Kyra is angry, and she's going to get revenge. If you like believable characters and stories filled with raw emotion, don't miss Goth Girl Rising.

How to Say Goodbye in Robot, by Natalie Standiford (Scholastic) Fiction. Beatrice Szabo, forced to start her senior year in a new place because of her father's job, is the new girl at a Baltimore, Maryland private school where everyone else has known each other since kindergarten. She's so emotionally deadened that her mother declares her a robot ... but something tugs at her wiry heartstrings when she meets tortured, antisocial Jonah, aka Ghost Boy. Witty, emotionally intense, and at times startlingly funny, How to Say Goodbye in Robot is the perfect novel for proud misfits; fans of quirky, character-driven stories; and anyone looking for an unconventional love story.

We Were Here, by Matt de la Peña (Delacorte Press) Fiction. Miguel Casteñeda has been sentenced to a year in a group home for a crime that he won't talk about--and honestly, he figures it's better than living at home, where his mother won't even look him in the eye anymore. Then Miguel runs away from the group home with two other residents, Mong and Rondell, with a half-baked plan to go to Mexico. Still keeping the journal that he was required to start in juvie, Miguel relates the hardships, adventures, and epiphanies that the trio have along the way. Part survival tale and part friendship story, We Were Here is a gripping, suspenseful read.