In 2008, Jen is working as a costumed tour guide in a Victorian Nottingham gaol. Fresh out of an unsatisfying relationship and unsure about future car...moreIn 2008, Jen is working as a costumed tour guide in a Victorian Nottingham gaol. Fresh out of an unsatisfying relationship and unsure about future career prospects, Jen feels most comfortable in the enclosed exercise yard, tucked away from the modern world. Her ease there is disturbed by some strange noises in the dark passageways, and a vision of one of the long-ago prisoners. On a trip to the library to research the name that pops into her head, she meets Owen. Her first date with him is pretty miserable, and she makes an escape with a cute charity collector who happens to be a girl. Over the course of the novel, Jen has to begin figuring out who she is and what she wants in life.
In 1808, Elizabeth Cooper has just been sentenced to death for the crime of "stealing in a dwelling house". Conditions in the prison start out miserable and quickly get worse; her only comfort comes from one of her fellow prisoners, a woman facing transportation to Australia.
The two stories alternate throughout the book. Jen's story is told in first-person, while Elizabeth's is in close-third-person, so the reader only sees events through those two particular viewpoints. Both stories are about truth and lies and the cost of both living lies and embracing the truth. The two women are connected in a way that is gradually revealed.
Overall, the writing is good, but I had a few quibbles. For one thing, there was really only one Elizabeth Cooper in a couple hundred years of prison records? Also, the mystery behind the vandalism really wasn't much of a mystery; Jen just seemed a little slow in figuring it out.
Equal parts historical fiction and contemporary romance, with dashes of mystery and paranormal, it's an enjoyable (though predictable) read. Buck is clearly a promising writer, though, and this is her debut novel. I look forward to her future work.(less)
The physics law works not only on objects but on people. Because of Sarah's action, her force and thrust on your life, you went flying into space and...moreThe physics law works not only on objects but on people. Because of Sarah's action, her force and thrust on your life, you went flying into space and spinning out of control.
At the beginning of her Junior year of high school, Alyssa thought she had things under control. She got along with her stepmother and her half-brother. She worked hard and got good grades. She was out to her friends Ben and M'Chelle and the other members of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, and closeted to everyone else, especially her homophobic father. When she met and started dating Sarah, it seemed like everything would be fine if they could just keep their relationship a secret from their families. But secrets have a way of getting out, and now Alyssa has been disowned by her father and sent to stay with the mother she barely knows.
Peters skillfully presents Alyssa's intense emotions as she processes her anger and grief over her first love. The first-person present-tense narration gives her a compelling voice, bringing the reader into an immediate intimacy. While Alyssa tries to move on in the present, getting to know the mother who left when she was a baby, she recalls the last years in flashbacks. These flashbacks are written in second-person, an odd stylistic choice that unfortunately breaks up the flow of the narrative. That weakness aside, this is an excellent portrayal of first love and first heartbreak that will be familiar to anyone who has lived through it, regardless of orientation. Peters' new novel is a welcome addition to a growing segment of queer YA literature - stories in which the character's orientation is not the central issue. Alyssa is already comfortable with her sexuality. The challenges she faces are the more universal problems of growing up: recognizing an idealized parent's flaws; learning to relate to parents as fellow adults; becoming a person with an identity separate from that of the family. The story of her relationship with Sarah - a romance between young people that is looked upon with disapproval by their families - is a classic tragic tale. Her struggle to move forward and allow herself to fall in love again speaks to anyone who has ever had a broken heart.(less)
All her life, Henrietta has been on the move. Born into a traveling clown circus, she lives with her parents in an RV, part of a caravan that journeys...moreAll her life, Henrietta has been on the move. Born into a traveling clown circus, she lives with her parents in an RV, part of a caravan that journeys from city to city, putting on shows. She loves performing as part of the act, and she is mystified by the idea of ever leaving the circus and settling down somewhere. But Filbert's Traveling Clown Circus has had some tough times, and some serious changes are coming Henrietta's way.
With a smooth flowing narrative voice and short chapters, the book pulls the reader quickly into Henrietta's world. It is packed with details about the clowns' vagabond lifestyle, from how the Hornbuckles' RV is arranged to how dinner is prepared to how Henrietta and her father work out a new routine. For curious readers, it is a fascinating glimpse into an entirely different lifestyle. Fans of realistic fiction will appreciate the way Henrietta faces both the everyday challenges of life on the cusp of becoming a teenager and the much bigger issues that are altering life as she has known it.(less)
Like his cousin Mibs in Savvy, on the eve of his thirteenth birthday, Ledger "Ledge" Kale is convinced he knows what his special talent will be. And,...moreLike his cousin Mibs in Savvy, on the eve of his thirteenth birthday, Ledger "Ledge" Kale is convinced he knows what his special talent will be. And, like Mibs, he is mistaken. Instead of the expected super speed, he discovers that he has a gift for making things fall apart. After his uncontrolled talent wreaks havoc at his cousin's wedding, his parents make an abrubt decision to leave Ledge and his sister in the care of their uncle on his ranch outside Sundance, Wyoming, while he learns to "scumble" - rein in - his savvy.
Law brings back characters from Savvy and introduces new ones while maintaining the tall-tale style and quirky turns of phrase of her Newbery Honor book. Here, the stylistic flourishes are little heavy-handed, especially in the early chapters; the language just doesn't flow as naturally in Ledge's voice. The book moves a little slowly at first as well, but things pick up considerably in the second half. Law's colorful characters are definitely her strength, drawing the reader into the story even when plot turns challenge the suspension of disbelief. Ledge is a believably awkward, likeable teenage boy, just beginning to leave childhood, and the reader wants to know what happens to him and the people he meets in Sundance. There's a touch of romance, but nothing too sickly sweet in this adventure. As "companion novels", both Scumble and Savvy stand on their own, and there seems to be a hint of a possible third volume near the end.(less)
Louise Krueger and Dottie Masuoka have been best friends all their lives. They've been inseparable - going to school together, attending church togeth...moreLouise Krueger and Dottie Masuoka have been best friends all their lives. They've been inseparable - going to school together, attending church together, and watching fireworks on the fourth of July together. Then, in the spring of their eighth grade year, Dottie's family, along with the other Japanese families in the Bainbridge Island area and all along the West coast, are "relocated" inland. Louise creates a scrapbook, bringing together photos, drawings, and letters. Dottie describes in detail life at Camp Harmony, while Louise records her life on the homefront. As Louise visits a rehabilitation hospital, learns to knit socks for soldiers, and works on a Victory Garden, modern tweens get a glimpse of life during World War II. An Author's Note at the end clarifies which elements are fact and which are fiction, and a bibliography is provided for further reading. It is an eye-catching introduction to the subject, and I can see it being easy to booktalk to fifth- and sixth-grade girls, although the appeal to boys is probably limited.(less)
When Flory, a tiny Night Fairy no bigger than an acorn, is nearly eaten by a confused brown bat, she finds herself wingless and trapped in a garden. S...moreWhen Flory, a tiny Night Fairy no bigger than an acorn, is nearly eaten by a confused brown bat, she finds herself wingless and trapped in a garden. Spunky and determined, she makes a home in an empty birdhouse and tries to live as a Day Fairy. Her challenges and adventures are related in simple, flowing language matching the timeless fairy-tale feel of the story. The watercolor illustrations bring the scenes to vivid life.
Schlitz tells a lovely story with lessons about resiliency, friendship, and growing up without ever preaching to the reader. This slim chapter book would be a wonderful, slightly more sophisticated choice for fans of the many fairy books currently available.(less)
Poetry is a tough sell sometimes, but who could resist a poem that begins with the words "I am a baby porcupette"? Or an owl-shaped poem about the noc...morePoetry is a tough sell sometimes, but who could resist a poem that begins with the words "I am a baby porcupette"? Or an owl-shaped poem about the nocturnal hunter from the perspective of its prey? Sidman pairs each poem with a short explanatory section giving facts about the animal or plant described. Each double-page spread features a gorgeous relief-painted illustration. The details in Allen's paintings are incredible; sharp-eyed readers (or listeners) will enjoy spotting the tiny red eft creeping through the pages. Serving as an introduction to various poetic forms as well as different night-time creatures, this is a lovely selection for read-aloud one-on-one or in a small group.(less)
Penelope Grey has a perfectly fine life. She lives in a big mansion in the City, where all the household chores are taken care off by pleasant staff....morePenelope Grey has a perfectly fine life. She lives in a big mansion in the City, where all the household chores are taken care off by pleasant staff. She doesn't even have to go to school, as a tutor comes to her. Her parents - on the rare occasions that she sees them - are nice. She has a couple of nice playmates. Everything is nice. Nice... and really, really boring. She escapes into book after book (the shout-outs to familiar titles are a nice touch), finally deciding to do something that the characters do in each story. That's how she comes to drop a wish into a well: "I wish something interesting would happen when I least expect it, just like in a book."
And then, to her surprise, something interesting happens. Her father quits his job, the family runs out of money, and the unexpected inheritance of an old house in a tiny East Tennessee town seems like a lucky solution. But Penelope is about to learn that good things and bad things tend to come wrapped up together, and sometimes luck is a matter of perspective.
The first section of the book is pretty quiet, underscoring Penelope's serious ennui. When the family leaves the City for Thrush Junction and its colorful inhabitants, the pace picks up. Penelope drops her boring first name for the more cheerful nickname of Penny, and she gets to know the local kids. She starts experiencing adventures instead of just reading about them.
This book got a little bump of publicity when a reader objected to the fact that Penny's new neighbors include a pair of lesbian moms and their son, a family presented just as matter-of-factly as any of the other characters. For Penny, the fact that Willa has a wife is no more surprising than the fact that she has "hair to her knees." Like any kid, she's not all that interested in the relationships between the adults around her.
This is an illustrated chapter book, and Abigail Halpin's slightly cartoony style offers the perfect complement to Snyder's text. Throughout the book, the voice of the narrator is excellent. In the first chapter, when Penelope is living vicariously through reading, the narration sounds very much like listening to someone telling the story. As she makes friends and has real-life experiences, the voice of the narrator fades into the background. (With the right voice talent, this could be an OUTSTANDING audiobook.) Filled with gentle humor, quirky characters, and small adventures, this is a good choice for older elementary school readers, especially those who have read and enjoyed some of Penny's favorite books. (less)
After a few introductory pages about the holiday story and symbols, and a two-page spread on how to play Dreidel, brief vignettes describe family cele...moreAfter a few introductory pages about the holiday story and symbols, and a two-page spread on how to play Dreidel, brief vignettes describe family celebrations of Hanukkah in Israel, the United States, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Italy, Australia, Poland, and Tunisia. Each story is accompanied by a note about the Jewish community in that country and a recipe (all of which look delicious), plus full-color painted illustrations. The stories are a little contrived, and explanations of things like why Hanukkah is celebrated in the summer in Australia would have been nice. Personally, I was mystified by the "Hanukkah Wheel". Is this an East Coast thing? Still, the book is a visually appealing glimpse into Jewish customs around the world. Great for browsing, and likely to spark interest in further reading (and cooking).(less)
When this book arrived at my library, I was so charmed by it that I carried it around the staff room, reading passages to anyone who would listen. Unu...moreWhen this book arrived at my library, I was so charmed by it that I carried it around the staff room, reading passages to anyone who would listen. Unusual for a knitting book, right? Well, this is one unusual knitting book.
The 26 patterns are absolutely adorable, but what makes this book really special is the fact that they all have stories. The creatures are split into groups, and each group photo is paired with an introductory description of who they are and what they're doing. The gnomes, hedgehog, squirrel, and mouse, for instance, are holding a meeting to discuss efforts to preserve the Big Cap Oak tree, while the frog, owl, ladybug, and bee are staging a production of ROMEO & JULIET. Then, each individual pattern has a little backstory of its own. (Oh, the poor nervous frog!)
The instruction pages for each pattern are clean and visually appealing, with a nice big font and plenty of white space. Special techniques are clearly illustrated where necessary, with general instructions at the end of the book. The yarn requirements are given using the CYCA Standard Yarn Weight System, while the specific yarns used for each photographed model are listed at the end of the book. In the General Instructions, the knitter can find the yarn weight chart, a needle size conversion chart, and explanations of abbreviations used. This information makes it easy to substitute yarns and understand unfamiliar terms.
I can hardly wait to cast on for just about every creature in this book, and I sincerely hope Amy Gaines puts out another book soon!(less)
Verbena Colter has not been looking forward to the summer after fifth-grade graduation. Over the last year, she has drifted apart from her best friend...moreVerbena Colter has not been looking forward to the summer after fifth-grade graduation. Over the last year, she has drifted apart from her best friend, become self-conscious about having "the heaviest mother and the oldest father" among her classmates, and learned about a huge family secret. Is it any wonder that she's been feeling "mixed up and mean"? Now, all she wants is to be anyone other than herself. When she takes an opportunity to do just that, it turns out to be a bit more than she bargained for.
I love the characters Weeks creates in this quiet novel. They feel like real people, with good points and bad, just trying to get along in the world. Verbena is at that age when the world suddenly looks a lot more complicated than it ever has, and her doubts and confusion ring true. She's figuring out who she is and how to be herself. While she works through her own turmoil, the reader remains pretty sure that things will ultimately work out. Recommend to older elementary students who enjoyed THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. (less)
A must-read for fans of the Percy Jackson series of books, this first volume in a new series introduces new characters and new aspects of familiar one...moreA must-read for fans of the Percy Jackson series of books, this first volume in a new series introduces new characters and new aspects of familiar ones. Action-packed, with a side of mystery to draw readers on to the sequel.(less)
Tommy has a serious question on his mind, and he thinks he knows who to turn to for advice. It's someone who has been giving (mostly) really good advi...moreTommy has a serious question on his mind, and he thinks he knows who to turn to for advice. It's someone who has been giving (mostly) really good advice to his classmates for months. The trouble is that the advisor happens to be a paper finger puppet created by the weirdest kid in school. Before he can ask his question, he needs to figure out whether this origami Yoda is really magic, or if it's just Dwight being his weird self. The collected stories from his classmates are a riot, full of little details of middle-school life that kids and adults alike will recognize.(less)