Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I Don’t)

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley

Miss Brooks is a librarian who loves books.  She tries to share her enthusiasm for books with the children, but Missy is having none of it.  Then comes Book Week!  And Missy is asked to wear a costume and tell the class why she loves her favorite book.  Missy is certain that she will never fall in love with a book, but Miss Brooks remains sure that she will.  Book Week arrives and Missy has yet to find a book she likes.  They are either too flowery, too yippity, or too furry.  Miss Brooks sends more and more books home with her but she complains about them all.  Her mother tells her she is as stubborn as a wart.  Wart?  And Missy is off to find a book about warts where she finds and falls for Shrek!

Yes, this book does my librarian heart good, but it is also told with a great sense of humor.  Missy while dismissive and grumpy is also written with just the right tone.  Readers will wonder if there really is a book for this kid!  The book reads aloud well, and I can see librarians using it and then asking for a chance to find each kid the right book for them.  What a great way to sell our services!

Emberley’s art is a hoot.  I adored all of the costumes of Miss Brooks as she tries to get kids excited about books.  I particularly love the way that Missy is depicted with her overalls, woolly hat and glasses.  She is purely an individual and it shows. 

Recommended for any librarian to read and glow about, this book is also just right for kids who don’t think books are cool.  They just might love this one!  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Firefly Letters

The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle

I have adored Engle and her poetry since first reading her Poet Slave of Cuba.  This historical novel told in verse tells the story of early Swedish feminist Fredrika Bremer and her travels in Cuba.  While in Cuba she inspires and changes the lives of two women, a slave named Cecilia and a wealthy young woman named Elena.  At first amazed and shocked by the freedom Fredrika demonstrates, Elena warms to her as she begins to understand that the future could be different than just an arranged marriage.  Cecilia finds in Fredrika a woman who looks beyond her slave status and a role model for hope.  Told in Engle’s radiant verse, this is another novel by this splendid author that is to be treasured.

As with all of her novels, Engle writes about the duality of Cuba:  the dark side and the light, the beauty and the ugliness.  Once again she explores the horrific legacy of slavery without flinching from its truth.  Against that background of slavery, she has written a novel of freedom.  It is the story of a woman who refused to be defined by the limitations of her birth and her sex, instead deciding to travel and write rather than marry.  Fredrika is purely freedom, beautifully contrasted with the two women who are both captured in different ways and forced into lives beyond their control. 

Beautifully done, this book is an excellent example of the verse novel.  Each poem can stand on its own and still works to tell a cohesive story.  At times Engle’s words are so lovely that they give pause and must be reread.  This simply deepens the impact of the book.  Engle also uses strong images in her poems.  In this book, fireflies are an important image that work to reveal light and dark, as well as freedom and captivity.

Highly recommended, this author needs to be read by those who enjoy poetry, those who enjoy history, and those who simply are looking for great writing.  Appropriate for ages 11-14.

Reviewed from library copy.

Cassandra Clare’s Upcoming Novel

Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life blog has an exclusive first look at the cover for Cassandra Clare’s new novel, Clockwork Angel.  The book is the first in her new Infernal Devices trilogy and is due to be released on August 31, 2010. 

The new fantasy trilogy is set in Victorian England and again deals with an alternate reality filled with fantastical elements.  The trilogy will be tied with some characters to the Mortal Instruments series.

The fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series will be released next March. 

So head over to Shelf Life to see the cover and read an interview with the editor.