Review: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

love in the time of global warming

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Released August 27, 2013.

Seventeen-year-old Pen has survived the earthquake and tsunami wave in her native Los Angeles, but all of her family and friends have disappeared.  For weeks, Pen stays in her destroyed home, living off of the canned goods that her paranoid father kept in the basement.  But when the group of men come, she flees, aided by one of them and given a van, food, water, a map, and the promise of her family being alive.  Leaving her home, Pen finds only desolation and monsters.  There are giants on the loose, stomping around and leaving piles of gleaming clean human bones behind.  When Pen meets her first giant, she blinds his last good eye and flees.  She lands in a house where everyone is high on lotus juice and meets Hex who encourages her to dally there with him.  But Pen is on a quest to find her family, hoping that they are alive in Las Vegas.  Hex joins her and soon others aid her in her journey that is filled with love, butterflies, and danger.

A retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, Pen is a modern Odysseus on her own journey home.  Block’s writing is amazing.  There are passages that are piercingly true like her description of a mall: “The mall, with its greasy smells and labyrinth of silver escalators leading nowhere, always made me hungry and tired like I needed something I could never have.”  Her phrases sing and move, illuminating the truth beyond our surface world.  Block writes of crushes and lust and love in a way that speaks to what happens in the heart and under the skin, a blistering wonder.

Pen is a curious heroine.  She is a reluctant hero, at first unable to leave her home, then blinding the giant in defense.  The book is about her transformation from normal teen girl to rocking hero willing to put it all on the line for those she loves.  She grows in confidence and skill in natural way.  But much of this book is wonderfully unnatural.  The ties to The Odyssey make for a book that is monstrous as well as beautiful.  It is a tale that is unable to be categorized thanks to its genre-bending mix of dystopian fantasy, myths, and modern reality.

Block has created another amazing read in this book.  Her fans will rejoice at a new book from her, but this is also one that will create new fans.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Henry Holt and Company at ALA.

Review: Cousin Irv from Mars by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Cousin Irv from Mars by Bruce Eric Kaplan

Family can be difficult to get along with, especially distant cousins who come to stay for a long time.  But what if that cousin is from Mars?  Teddy is not excited about his Cousin Irv coming to visit.  When he arrives, he is so different.  He eats everything in the kitchen, takes Teddy’s pillow, wears Teddy’s clothes, and plays with his toys.  When Irv takes Teddy to school one day, Teddy is scared of what everyone would think.  But everyone loves Irv, partly thanks to the way he can vaporize things.  Teddy starts to really enjoy being with Cousin Irv, and right about that time, Irv decides to return to Mars, after all they have better coffee there.

Told in a wonderful modern tongue-in-cheek and filled with asides that speak to our culture today, this book will appeal to children and adults alike.  The humor is well developed and sophisticated, yet manages to still be child-friendly.   The text is meant to be read aloud, offering just the right comedic timing.  Kaplan’s art is simple and even minimalist.  Using lots of white space, the fine-lined art is awash in bright watercolors.  But it is the language and humor here that are really the stars of the book. 

Modern and very funny, this book will appeal to parents and children alike.  It has a great quirky oddness to it that makes it all the more fun to read.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts this week that you might find interesting:

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

RUNAWAY BUNNY starring Liam Neeson mashup http://buff.ly/18B9vgb #kidlit

Seven ways to inspire your kids’ summer reading | Fox News http://buff.ly/160g8ER #reading

10 Books I Didn’t “Get” Until I Was Older http://buff.ly/15QY3Xz #kidlit

LIBRARIES

Amazon versus your public library – Fortune Tech http://buff.ly/18yDOUD #ebooks #libraries

Designing Better Libraries » Who Is Your Library’s Chief Customer Officer? http://buff.ly/160ssVJ #libraries

A library is not just about books: it’s also a place for the vulnerable | Angela Clarke | Comment is free http://buff.ly/132z7JJ #libraries

Turn the Page KC: Home http://buff.ly/132ArMK #libraries #reading

PRIVACY

Watch Cory @Doctorow explain why Comic-Con fans should care about NSA surveillance http://youtu.be/Nlf7YM71k5U #sdcc

PRODUCTIVITY

Why Productive People Take Better Notes | Fast Company – http://buff.ly/164fqnV

READING

From a woman who knows readers, is a reader and what is means to not be able to do what you love. @frankisibberson http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/a-life-without-reading-by-franki-sibberson/ …

I’m Tired of Reading Out Loud to My Son, O.K.? – http://NYTimes.com http://buff.ly/160QRIF #reading

What Kind Of Reader Are You? (INFOGRAPHIC) http://buff.ly/161RG66 #reading

TECHNOLOGY

3D printing will explode in 2014, thanks to the expiration of key patents – Quartz http://buff.ly/1bJtdXq

Goodreads Grows to 20 Million Readers http://buff.ly/18AqLlL

How Google+ and Pinterest Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly http://buff.ly/13ACOLg

How to Get Rid of Google’s Annoying New Gmail Ads http://buff.ly/18AqOhp

Preserving Indigenous Languages Via Twitter | Fast Company | Business + Innovation http://buff.ly/18B2zj4

TEEN LIT

Nat Wolff cast as Isaac in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ | Inside Movies http://buff.ly/137tt9k #yalit

Review: No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora

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No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora

Everyone has temper tantrums, but you haven’t seen a tantrum until it is one thrown by a huge blue gorilla.  Nilson has tantrums over even the smallest of things like putting on shoes, his block castle being knocked over, or other people having bananas.  Amelia tries to keep him calm with treats like banana pancakes and holding her frog purse.  But Nilson still has fits.  Amelia though is calm throughout, always acting kindly.  That all changes though when the ice cream vendor runs out of banana flavor! 

This picture book nicely captures tantrums and children, offering a welcome bit of humor for children and parents going through this phase.  By using Nilson as the one who loses his control, the book nicely distances the tantrums from the child reader.  It also adds a wonderful sense of fun to the entire read.  The ending of the book is particularly satisfying as Amelia finally loses her cool and the truth of who Nilson is really is revealed.

OHora’s art is modern, filled with bright colors and black lines.  Somehow it has a feel of wood cuts, but with freer lines.  The friendship of these two characters is lovingly shown in the images, then beautifully shattered with the tantrums too. 

An engaging and funny look at tantrums and anger, this book will neatly fit into any story time on anger.  It is also one that is a perfect bedtime read.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

Review: Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack

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Ah ha! by Jeff Mack

A picture book told in just two letters and four words!  Frog is all set to have a relaxing day at the pond (AAHH) when a boy and his dog appear and scoop him into a jar (AH HA!)  But Frog escapes out into the pond once more and settles down on a rock.  It isn’t a rock and suddenly a hungry turtle is after Frog (AH HA!)  Frog escapes once again (AAHH) but finds himself being chomped at by an alligator (AH HA!)  Frog clings to a reed, except it isn’t a reed, it’s a bird’s leg and he has to escape once again.  Right into the boy’s jar.  (AH HA!)

With a similar feel to his Good News, Bad News picture book, Mack once again creates a book that is very cleverly done.  Despite being written with just a few words and two letters, this book tells a complete story that has a wonderful pacing.  With all of the wild predators that Frog faces, the book’s pages will turn quickly. 

Mack’s art is vibrant and colorful.  He draws in a large format that will work well when used with a group.  Even his words are large enough to be read by an audience.  The art has a friendly feel to it, cartoony and bright.

This one is ideal for new readers who are just starting out or for toddlers who will enjoy the fast pace and the shortness of the text.  It would also make a great inspiration for a writing challenge using only a few words to tell a complete story.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Caterina and the Perfect Party by Erin Eitter Kono

caterina and the perfect party

Caterina and the Perfect Party by Erin Eitter Kono

Caterina is planning a party and she just knows that it is going to be perfect.  She creates the most inviting invitations, cooks the most delicious food, and hangs the best decorations she can craft.  Everything seems to be going perfectly, even with the twists thrown in by her little brother Leo.  But when the day of the party arrives, so does a great big storm.  Suddenly things are no longer perfect.  Everything is drenched, there is mud and puddles everywhere, and nothing is going as planned.  But one list does turn out to be the most important of all, her list of friends. 

This is a cheery book that avoids being too sweet thanks to the character of the little brother and the interrupting storm.  It is a book that will speak to children who enjoy having everything planned out and want things to be perfect.  But it is also one that spontaneous children will feel very comfortable reading too.  I particularly enjoyed that Caterina does all of the crafting and cooking herself.  Even better, that is not the part that goes wrong as I initially thought it might. 

Even though Caterina is a planner, she also has a spark of spontaneity to her that makes her much more relatable.  The little issues her brother creates are incorporated into her final designs without much fuss.  She also does not sulk at the end of the book about the failed plans, quickly adapting to the new party that is happening around her. 

Cheerful and warm, this book would make a great pick for reading at any celebration or crafting program.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

Review: Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell

truck stop

Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Melissa Iwai

Every morning the truck stop has to open for business.  A boy and his family own the truck stop and get there early in the morning before the sun has come up.  The boy squeezes the orange juice while his parents prep the other breakfast foods.  Soon the trucks start arriving.  The boy knows all of the regulars and his parents know their orders by heart.  There is Eighteen-Wheeler who wants all of his tires checked.  Milk Tank and Maisie arrive next for a sweet breakfast of coffee and doughnuts.  The man with the moving van wants pancakes.  But where is Green Gus the old pickup truck?  More trucks arrive, but still no one has seen him.  It’s not until the little boy gets on the school bus that they figure out what has happened to Gus.

Rockwell tells a story that is a fine mix of family, food and trucks.  Children will enjoy seeing how a restaurant runs and also the warmth with which regulars are remembered and served.  Still, it is the trucks that will have this book off of the shelves and into little hands.  It is good to see more than just a list of different types of trucks and instead have a book that can be read aloud as a story as well.  Even better, there is a little mystery at the end about Gus that makes it all the more fun to read.

Iwai’s illustrations are done in cut paper collages.  The types of paper add a richness to the images, combining textures from textiles, slick painted papers, and lots of patterns.  The result are pictures that are colorful and a pleasure to look at closely.

A solid book, this will be a welcome bedtime addition for any family with a truck-loving child as well as a choice pick for story times.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Viking.

Review: Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller

sophies squash

Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf

Released August 6, 2013

When Sophie and her family go to the farmer’s market, Sophie helps pick out a lovely squash.  However, it is not a squash that she wants to eat!  Instead she names it Bernice and takes it everywhere with her.  Her parents offer to cook Bernice so that she won’t rot, but Sophie is scandalized.  Soon though, Bernice is starting to show her age with “freckles” on her skin.  So Sophie heads back to the farmer’s market to ask how to help Bernice not rot.  The farmer suggests, “Fresh air.  Good, clean dirt.  A little love.”  Sophie heads home and plants Bernice in the garden, tucking her into that good dirt.  That night, the snow starts to fall and Sophie has to be very patient.  Her parents get her a fish to keep her company, but he’s not as interesting as Bernice.  With spring come some surprises that will delight and satisfy.

This picture book does not read like a debut book, instead having a confident tone and a quirky premise of more veteran authors.  The story is completely satisfying, offering a conclusion that brings the book full circle and along the way plenty of squash bonding time.  So many children bond with objects in their childhood that this will speak to many children.  Both the humor of it being a squash and the seasonal nature of the story make this a joyful pick.

Wilsdorf’s illustrations reflect the quirkiness of this title beautifully.  The bond between girl and squash is perfectly rendered and while humorous, the images never laugh at Sophie and her new friend.  The warm and loving family is depicted in their kitchen and home, ready to eat the squash but also ready to let Sophie decide. 

Pick this one for your next autumnal storytime though it will also make a nice addition to any garden-themed unit too.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss and Random House.

Watsons Go to Birmingham – The Movie

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This fall, The Hallmark Channel will airing a film version of The Watsons Go to Birmingham.  Here’s hoping it comes to DVD or Netflix!  Huffington Post has the trailer which is certainly worth seeing.

Thanks to Fuse #8 for the link.