If I could get away with it, that's how I'd begin every essay I write.
Those are the four best words to use when you start tell...more"Once upon a time..."
If I could get away with it, that's how I'd begin every essay I write.
Those are the four best words to use when you start telling about yourself because anything that begins that way always, always finishes with another four words, "... they lived happily everafter."
Synopsis: Deza's family firmly believes that they "are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful", but times are hard. The year is 1936, and in Gary, Indiana, there are few jobs to be had, and even fewer for black men. After her father sets out for his mother's home in Michigan to look for work, things go from bad to worse. Deza, her brother, Jimmie, and their mother head toward Flint after him, but they end up in a Hooverville outside the city. Jimmie's talent for singing offers him a way out, while Mother and Deza find a new home and keep hoping to bring the family back together.
Review: I came to this book without having read Bud, Not Buddy (I know, I know. Bad Librarian!), where Deza Malone first appears. In a note to the reader at the beginning of the book, Curtis explains that one of his prompts to write the story was the question he was asked at a visit to a Detroit mother daughter book club: "... what we'd really like to know is what business that little girl in the Hooverville had kissing a stranger like Bud Caldwell the way she did." In The Mighty Miss Malone, Deza tells her version of that night, along with events before and after. Despite the reservations about writing from a girl's perspective that he mentions, Curtis does an admirable job bringing Deza to life. Deza is, of course, a born storyteller, and her personality shines through in her strong voice. Her story takes sharp twists and turns; just as I would settle in comfortably, a chapter would end with a sentence like, "I walked upstairs and got in bed to finish my last good night of sleep for a long, long time." Still, her irrepressible spirit kept me going, believing, just as she does, that things will work out all right.
Deza refuses to give in to self-pity. Her life is what it is, and Curtis uses this to masterfully set the scene. Important details about the hardships faced by the Malones and the families around them are given freely and naturally, without the sort of extra explanation for modern readers that sometimes crops up to thoroughly destroy the mood in historical fiction. This title is getting some Newbery buzz already, and for good reason.
On shelves January 10, 2012.
Final Word: Spirited storyteller Deza tells her own tale of hope and hardship in this companion to Newbery winner, Bud, Not Buddy.
I read this book back in January and originally gave it 2 stars. I liked it a lot more the second time around, and I've...moreReview to be published in SLJ.
I read this book back in January and originally gave it 2 stars. I liked it a lot more the second time around, and I've added a star to the original review. The audiobook gets four stars because Kirby Heyborne's narration is really, really good.(less)
In church of a Sunday when the parson preaches about the sins and failings of women, I would swear he gazes straight at me with a stern, disapproving...moreIn church of a Sunday when the parson preaches about the sins and failings of women, I would swear he gazes straight at me with a stern, disapproving look.
Patience Martin knows she is hardly the model of good behavior. But what incentive does she have? After her mother's death three years ago, her father bound her as a servant to the wealthy Mrs. Worth. Then her father died in the same shipwreck that left Mrs. Worth a widow in the middle of a difficult pregnancy. She has four long years to serve a woman who never has a kind word to say to her. Of course, things are about to get much, much worse. Mrs. Worth is found dead, and her brother-in-law plans to sell Patience off with no concern for her well-being. Patience takes her chance to run away, but soon learns that she is suspected of stealing Mrs. Worth's money, and there is a reward on her head. With the help of a smart young printer's apprentice, she just might save herself and bring the murderer to justice.
As in Wicked Will, MacDonald sets the scene with period details. Patience is a winning heroine - quick-witted and determined, clearly a girl ahead of her time. The young Ben Franklin is charming, depicted with just enough human faults to remind the reader that even such an American legend was once a teenage boy. Filled with humor and nods to historical events, this is a classic locked-room mystery for the younger set.(less)
Ben wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system. That way you'd be able to find whatever you were looking for, like the meaning of your...moreBen wished the world was organized by the Dewey decimal system. That way you'd be able to find whatever you were looking for, like the meaning of your dream, or your dad.
With The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick smashed open the category of "picture book", using his fabulous pencil illustrations to tell the story of early cinema in an organic way. In this book, his innovative style is perfect for simultaneously telling two stories.
In 1977 Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, Ben Wilson is feeling lost six months after the death of his mother. He has never met his father, but a chance discovery makes Ben think he might be able to find him.
In 1927 Hoboken, New Jersey, Rose Kincaid is trapped in a lonely world. Her father keeps her cooped up at home, convinced the world is too dangerous for a Deaf girl to venture out alone. Determined Rose does just that, running away with no plans to return.
After an opening illustrated dream sequence, Ben's story is told in conventional prose, alternating stretches with almost-wordless scenes from Rose's life. The two tales, originally separated by 50 years and over a thousand miles, intertwine and become a single narrative by the end of the book.
Selznick appends a note on his inspiration and historical liberties taken, plus a bibliography for more information. He has clearly done his research on the various topics woven into Ben's and Rose's stories: the history of museums, the cities of Gunflint Lake and Hoboken, and Deaf Culture, as well as details specific to life in 1927.
It is a spectacular book, truly unlike anything else out there, with the possible exception of Hugo Cabret. Which is a bit of a shame, really, as it would be a mistake to come to Wonderstruck thinking, "Oh, yeah, I've seen this sort of thing before." This is even better. Let yourself be amazed.
This is one of those books that I wanted to like more than I did. Bono talks about his life in roughly chronological order, following his growth from...moreThis is one of those books that I wanted to like more than I did. Bono talks about his life in roughly chronological order, following his growth from the daughter of celebrities to a middle-age man. Unfortunately, for someone examining his life on the page, he reveals a certain lack of self-awareness. He notes the difficulties his status as a public figure added to his transition, but never seems to notice how the resources at his disposal made things much easier for him than for some other people.
The writing style is very straightforward, with prose that is serviceable rather than beautiful. The entire tone of the book feels flat, as even events that should have been dramatic are related just as dully as anything else.
Kudos to Bono for putting the book out and giving people a chance to understand his experience. I just wish it were written a little better. (less)
It was kind of like that scene where Han and Leia think they're going to breakfast with Lando. And they're walking down the hall thinking, "I'd like s...moreIt was kind of like that scene where Han and Leia think they're going to breakfast with Lando. And they're walking down the hall thinking, "I'd like some chocolate chip pancakes," and then they get to the dining room and all of a sudden... there's Vader. (And no chocolate chip pancakes.)
Welcome back to McQuarrie Middle School. Tommy, Kellen, Sara, Dwight, and their old nemesis, Harvey, have started the seventh grade. Dwight's maybe-magical finger puppet, Origami Yoda, has a new nemesis as well: Harvey has introduced his own origami puppet, Darth Paper. And Darth Paper is on a mission: get everyone to admit, once and for all, that Origami Yoda is just a piece of paper. If Dwight gets expelled from school and sent to the Correctional and Remedial Education Facility along the way, well, that's just how it is. Tommy is determined to save Dwight (and Origami Yoda), so he is compiling a new Case File of student accounts of how Origami Yoda (and Dwight) helped them since the events detailed in The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.
Angleberger puts the form established in the first book back to good use here. The voices of the different students are clear and distinct, and there is just enough explanation of previous events to bring the reader up to speed. The lively depiction of the drama and humor of middle school life will delight readers from the middle grades on up. While waiting for the next installment (predicted for sometime in 2012), they can work on their own origami skills at Angleberger's website, OrigamiYoda.com.(less)
I'd spent most of the summer in London, and quite a few hours in Cambridge, listening to Aubrey [de Grey] over pints of ale. I'd heard him predict fiv...moreI'd spent most of the summer in London, and quite a few hours in Cambridge, listening to Aubrey [de Grey] over pints of ale. I'd heard him predict five hundred years for us, I'd heard him give us a thousand years, he'd hinted about a million years. He'd foreseen the coming of this new age of man in fifty years, or even as swiftly as fifteen.
Science-writer Jonathan Weiner takes the reader on a brisk tour of developments in the study of aging and longevity, beginning with an ancient Egyptian prescription for antiwrinkle cream, briefly touching on Renaissance thought, moving right along through the early 20th century (Carrel's "immortal" chicken cells, discussed in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, merit a mention here), before slowing down to explore findings in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 21st century. He circles back repeatedly to the larger-than-life figure of Aubrey de Grey, adding a sort of running biography throughout the book.
Source notes provide further reading on longevity science from various angles, from de Grey's own Ending Aging to articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Weiner's own writing is uneven, wandering into overblown prose at times, but this is a serviceable introduction to the topic.
Book Source: Checked out from the public library(less)
Yet, for most, even after the book is finally shut and put back, the memory of the image proves hauntingly and lingeringly distracting, and for a long...moreYet, for most, even after the book is finally shut and put back, the memory of the image proves hauntingly and lingeringly distracting, and for a long while.
Winchester begins this slim volume with a description of a photograph Charles Dodgson (better known today as Lewis Carroll) took of then-six-year-old Alice Liddell, after a discussion of how the photo ended up in a library at Princeton. This first chapter is a good indication of what is to come: a curiously circuitous look at the life of Dodgson and the creation of both Lewis Carroll and his famous book, the girl who inspired it, and quite a bit about the history of photography.
While I have enjoyed Winchester's writing in the past (I read The Map that Changed the World a couple of years ago), I don't think this is his best. It just meanders a bit too much, the tone even wavering from conversational to a touch too formal. And there are a couple of oddly repetitious bits; the explanation that Alice's sister, Lorina, was named after their mother and nicknamed Ina appears at least twice, for example.
It is a pleasant read, and a relatively quick one, full of bits of trivia about both Dodgson and his social world. But rather than bringing the reader into Dodgson's world, let alone that of the girl in the title, Winchester's prose maintains the distance between then and now.(less)
Mom says I'm way too serious for a kid my age. She says I'm like this forty-year-old man trapped in an eleven-year-old body.
Nicky is miserable. He use...moreMom says I'm way too serious for a kid my age. She says I'm like this forty-year-old man trapped in an eleven-year-old body.
Nicky is miserable. He used to live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. Then, his parents divorced in dramatic fashion. Now, he and his mom share a cramped one-bedroom apartment in a grimy area. His new class is repeating work he did last year; because he knows the answers, the local toughs have started calling him "brownnoser". His mom, who used to garden and cook, is living on take-out food and wine. And she just brought home an ex-guide dog named Reggie from the pound, expecting Nicky to take care of it. Nicky wants nothing to do with Reggie, but the dog might be just what he needs to get on with his life.
The book gets off to a bit of a rocky start. Nicky's voice sounds off in the first chapter, way too old for an almost-twelve-year-old boy. His wry humor and determination to solve the mystery of how Reggie ended up at the pound are engaging, though. His actions are believably impulsive. As events progress, the reader can see things about Nicky's situation that he takes much longer to recognize, and will be pulling for him as he figures things out. In the end, Nicky Flynn won me over. A realistic, contemporary novel with humor and boy-appeal, suitable for middle-grade readers.(less)
I have mixed feelings about this one. I love the voice so much; Doug just shines through. The story works so well right up until a particular turn nea...moreI have mixed feelings about this one. I love the voice so much; Doug just shines through. The story works so well right up until a particular turn near the ending that I just can't quite buy.(less)
I have a 3.73 grade point average and my body looks like a baked potato. My eyes are brown, my hair is brown, and sometimes when I snack on too many f...moreI have a 3.73 grade point average and my body looks like a baked potato. My eyes are brown, my hair is brown, and sometimes when I snack on too many fig bars and run real fast in PE, I end up with brown streaks in my underpants, too. I'm not just un-cool; I'm anti-cool. I mean, I even know hot to properly use a semicolon in a sentence. What could be more pathetic than that?
With that opening paragraph, Sitomer immediately pulled me in to Maureen's story, and then just as quickly pushed me back out. I hate to grammar nit-pick, but splitting an infinitive in a self-congratulatory comment about the proper use of punctuation is just unfortunate.
Unfortunate is a good word for Maureen. Her two best friends both moved away over the summer, so she is left alone facing the trio of eighth-grade bullies known as "the ThreePees" (for Pretty, Popular, and Perfect). She tries to stop them from tormenting Alice, a new student who happens to be allergic to every substance known to man, but they retaliate by uploading a humiliating video of her to YouTube. Her own older brother and younger sister think they whole thing is hilarious, and her mother is the sort of unrelentingly positive thinker who simply refuses to deal with the problems right in front of her. Nearly against her will, she bands together with Alice and another class outcast known as Beanpole Barbara to get back at the ThreePees by beating them in the school talent show. Now, if only they actually had a talent....
Nerd Girls is reminiscent of Benton's Dear Dumb Diary series, minus the illustrations. The characters and situations in this book feel about as realistic as an episode of Glee. Both teachers and students are caricatures, and convenient twists occur that simply could not happen in real life. The dialogue rushes headlong past "witty banter", with characters uttering lines that sound like they should be accompanied by a laugh track. Barbara and Sophia, especially, get stuck with the comic relief roles. Plot points come pell-mell, with little to no foreshadowing or subtlety. The big secret that Alice is hiding is revealed in an info-dump late in the book, and, oddly, still does not explain something that seemed like it should have been a big clue. Perhaps it will be explained in a later installment in the series, if readers still care enough about the flat characters to read them. (less)
Alice concentrated entirely on the pelican. The bird was so odd and silly looking, a mysterious, mesmerizing wonder. Alice reached out, pressing her p...moreAlice concentrated entirely on the pelican. The bird was so odd and silly looking, a mysterious, mesmerizing wonder. Alice reached out, pressing her palms flat against the half-opened window. She'd seen pelicans before, every year that she had been here, but when you see something only once a year it's always new, as if you're seeing it for the first time. Everything is new here, she thought. New and exciting.
Every year, in early February, the Rice family travels from wintry Wisconsin to the sandy shore of Sanibel Island, Florida. The week coincides with Alice's birthday, and this year is a big one: 10 years old. Double-digits. Alice looks forward to seeing the same people in the same cottages, doing the same things, as every year before. But this year is different. Mr. and Mrs. Wishmeier are there, but their three grandchildren have too much schoolwork this year and have stayed at home. Single, sophisticated Helen Blair is snowed in back in New York. Mrs. Rice's college friend - Aunt Kate to Alice - is not staying with them this year. Instead, she has rented Helen Blair's cottage and is bringing her boyfriend and her boyfriend's six-year-old daughter, Mallory. All these changes have Alice off-balance, and the more she struggles to preserve her perfect vacation, the more things seem to fall apart around her.
Small illustrations at the beginning of each chapter complement the narrative, and Henkes includes a beautiful drawing of the various Florida shells that Alice collects.
Henkes brings Alice to life in simple, lovely prose. She is a quiet girl, comfortable spending time with adults. She is a girl on the edge of leaving childhood behind. She is caught between embracing the new adventures that changes bring and trying to find a way back to the security of the familiar. She is perfectly ten years old, and her complicated feelings are rendered with great skill. Recommend this sweet, wholesome coming of age story to 3rd to 5th grade.
I love Summer Goodman but she barely knows I exist, which I'm pretty okay with because when you love someone, they don't have to do anything -- and Su...moreI love Summer Goodman but she barely knows I exist, which I'm pretty okay with because when you love someone, they don't have to do anything -- and Summer does nothing, so I think it's all going to work out great.(less)
Edit (12/7/11): I've given this a second read (this time in audiobook format), and I liked it more the second time around.
I knew I sho...moreEdit (12/7/11): I've given this a second read (this time in audiobook format), and I liked it more the second time around.
I knew I shouldn't stare, but I couldn't look away. Girls this strange didn't exist in Boyer. They lived in Columbia or Kansas City or places like that.
High school senior Logan Witherspoon has known all of his classmates since kindergarten. In a town the size of Boyer, MO, everyone knows everyone. So, it's a surprise when a new girl, Sage, joins his biology class. With her outgoing nature and flashy clothes, she seems like the polar opposite of Logan's ex-girlfriend, the girl he dated for three years and thought he might one day marry. Sage is attractive and intriguing, but Logan knows she's hiding something about her past. He never thinks to suspect that her secret is that she was born in a male body.
The first-person narration gives the reader Sage's story filtered through Logan's experience, making this more a story about Logan's meandering journey out of total transphobia than about Sage herself. Katcher creates a believably confused and sympathetic Logan, so it's unfortunate that Sage feels like an amalgamation rather than a fully-fledged character in her own right, as if events from different people's lives were thrown together and expected to become a coherent backstory.
Katcher explores the meanings and boundaries of friendship, love, and loyalty, issues that any teenager struggles with. Logan's interactions with his sister, mother, and friends contrast against Sage's description of her relationships with her parents and sister, just as the relationship Logan had with his ex-girlfriend forms a stark contrast to his developing relationship with Sage. Logan's story will prompt teen readers (and maybe some adults, too) to think about how they would act in his situation. And that can only be a good thing. (less)
The fourth book in the series that began with The Name of This Book is Secret picks up where the third volume left off. In the early chapters, narrato...moreThe fourth book in the series that began with The Name of This Book is Secret picks up where the third volume left off. In the early chapters, narrator Bosch splits attention between two stories: one is about a girl who wakes up in what appears to be a medieval European village unable to remember who she is, where she is, how she got there, or why she happens to be invisible; the other is about Max-Ernest, who is desperately trying to awaken his friend Cass, who has been in a strange sort of coma since taking a dose of time-travel chocolate. The reader can quickly figure out how these two stories mesh (you've probably put it together just reading this review), and it's a relief when the two stories converge into one.
There is a lot of silliness here, in the style of the writing as well as the plot. Cass and Max-Ernest remain the center ground for the reader amid the swirl of outrageous situations and goofy narration. Bosch reads much like Lemony Snicket, explaining things in footnotes and hinting at secrets never quite revealed. Several of these footnotes refer the reader back to previous installments in the series; jumping into the series with this book is definitely not recommended. A cliff-hanger ending (and the fact that our heroes still haven't uncovered The Secret) leaves readers anxiously anticipating the final volume, slated for publication in October 2011.(less)