Month: June 2014

Review: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

vanishing season

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

After her mother lost her job in Chicago, Maggie and her parents move to Door County, Wisconsin to a home they have inherited.  Just as they move to the peninsula, teen girls start to disappear and are found floating in the water.  Maggie misses her best friend and all of the activity of Chicago, but she is also taken in by the quiet and the beauty of Door County.  She quickly makes friends with the unusual girl next door, Pauline, who is beautiful, wealthy but also ignores both those facts and is downright childlike most of the time.  There is also Liam, a boy desperately in love with Pauline, though Pauline just wants to remain friends forever.  Maggie enters their world of canoe rides, building saunas in the woods, bonfires and marshmallows, that is interrupted as the winter comes with more deaths of teen girls.  Soon a curfew is imposed and no one is allowed to travel on their own.  Maggie can still hang out with Liam and Pauline, but the isolated peninsula begins to become even more separated from the rest of the world.  Add to this a voice in the novel that speaks of death, of being dead, and you have a haunting teen read.

Anderson’s prose is incredible.  She has written a book where it is all about isolation, winter, and death.  Yet at the same time it is rather desperately and fragilely about life too.  There is warmth, first love, beautiful friendships, and the wonder of nature.  It is a novel of contrasts, one that hints at a ghost story but is not overtaken by it.  It is a book about love, but it moves beyond that as well, turning to life and death eventually.

As I said, Anderson’s writing is beautiful.  She captures moments with a delicacy and poignancy that makes even the smallest moments of life spectacular.  Here is one example from Page 61 in the digital version of the ARC:

If I could show you the lives of the people below me – the colors of what they all feel heading into this chilling, late fall – they’d be green and purple and red, leaking out through the roofs, making invisible tracks down the roads.

She plays with perspectives in the novel.  Maggie’s story is told in third person, while the voice of the ghost, as seen in the quote above, is told in first person.  Anderson is not afraid to create a book filled with tiny pieces that come together into one full work by the end.  She writes without the need for action to carry the book forward, instead capturing a place and a time with an eye for detail and discovery.

Haunting and wildly beautiful, this quiet book is not for everyone but those who love it will love it desperately.  Appropriate for ages 14-16.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and HarperTeen.

Review: The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

midnight library

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

The Midnight Library only opens at night.  Then a little librarian and her three owl assistants help all sorts of animals find the right books.  The library was quiet and peaceful until a band of squirrels showed up looking for a place to practice.  Luckily, the library had an activity room where they could play music without disturbing anyone else.  It was quiet again until it started to rain, but it was raining inside the library.  It was Mrs. Wolf crying about something she read in a book.  The librarian and her assistants helped her finish the story and reach the happy ending.  Finally, it was time to close for the night and there was one very slow patron who would not leave, but the little librarian solved that situation happily too.  This is a clever and creative look at libraries and their services in a way that children will easily relate to.

Kohara is author of several other picture books all done in her signature style.  Here she cleverly takes a library and adds mystery by making it open at night.  The addition of animals as patrons also creates an interesting twist.  I also appreciated a library being depicted as a place that you can play music.  So often the focus is on the quiet and solitude, but this is one happening library!

Kohara uses the colors on the cover of the book throughout the story.  The deep blues and blacks are enlivened by the bright yellow-orange that forms most of the background.  Her use of printmaking techniques creates thick lines with an organic dappling effect.  These prints feel like woodblocks but have lines that swirl and curve unlike most block prints.

Clever, lively and great fun, this picture book is perfect for sleepy library fans.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Nancy Garden Dies

Annie on My Mind 

Nancy Garden, author of Annie on My Mind, died on June 23rd at the age of 76.  Garden created books that spoke to the needs of LGBT teens and families.  She wrote in many genres, but my favorite will always be Annie on My Mind.

I first encountered the book in library school, reading about diversity and completely fell head over heels for it, so much that I made sure that it was in my first library I served in as a librarian.  There, in the early ‘90s in southern Missouri, the library director decided that because an influential member of the community had complained, that Annie did not belong in our collection.

The tiger came out in me, and when I found out my director had pulled the book from the shelves, I confronted him.  I’m sure that my arguments were not very well put together, but my passion moved him.  The book returned to the shelves.  Soon after that, I got to add Heather Has Two Mommies and other important LGBT books of the time to those shelves. 

Annie on My Mind was not just an amazing read, but also an inspiring one.  I learned that even as a very young librarian, I could rescue books and make sure that families in my community had access to them.  I’ve never stopped doing that.  Thank you, Nancy Garden.

This Week’s Tweets, Pins & Tumbls

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts this week that I think are cool:

10 Camping Themed Books for Kids

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

2014 Mind the Gap Awards – The Horn Book – Books ignored by ALA Awards – http://buff.ly/UHkaQZ #kidlit

2014 Quaker Books for Quaker Kids — @fuseeight A Fuse #8 Production http://buff.ly/1pxueWh #kidlit

Cathy Cassidy’s top 10 books with secrets | Children’s books http://buff.ly/1jnX3AE #kidlit

Children’s books do not need happy endings, Carnegie Medal winner says – Telegraph http://buff.ly/1pvO8RC #kidlit

Duncan Tonatiuh Wants Latino Children to See Themselves in Books – NBC http://buff.ly/V6SlCn http://buff.ly/V6SlSA #kidlit #diversity

The Giver’ Director Admits Color In First Trailer Was ‘An Error’ http://buff.ly/TrWK19 #kidlit

holy, truth!

EBOOKS

Barnes & Noble plans to spin off ailing Nook as a separate public company — Tech News and Analysis http://buff.ly/1jiY7FY #ebooks

Simon & Schuster expands library ebook lending program http://buff.ly/1mybYgD #ebooks

U.S. publishers’ revenue from ebooks roughly flat in 2013, but unit sales rose – Tech News and Analysis http://buff.ly/1myN7t3 #ebooks

LIBRARIES

Two Major Public Library Systems Are About to Start Lending Wi-Fi Hotspots – CityLab http://buff.ly/Tw2nLO #libraries

#Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction. –David L. Ulin

YA LIT

10 Super Fun Teen Summer Novels That Adults Will Love Too http://buff.ly/TrWSh3 #yalit

Carnegie Medal: ‘the darkest children’s book I’ve ever read’ – Telegraph http://buff.ly/1pvO5oF #yalit

David Levithan on LGBTQ books for teens | The Japan Times http://buff.ly/V6Jv7y #yalit #lgbtq

Men should be able to read YA, too http://buff.ly/UKlrXB #yalit

Planet YA Europe

Stephen Colbert Shares His Definition of ‘Young Adult Book’ With John Green – GalleyCat http://buff.ly/1maPgpV #yalit

Why film adaption soundtracks need to fit with the original books | Children’s books http://buff.ly/TvU0Qg #yalit

Freaky Friday Author Dies

Freaky Friday Freaky Friday Freaky Friday

Mary Rodgers, author of Freaky Friday, has died at age 83.  She is also the composer of the musical “Once Upon a Mattress.”  Though Freaky Friday was her most well-known work, thanks in large part to Disney creating two movies based on it, she did write other books for children as well. 

Review: The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis

good ship crocodile

The Good Ship Crocodile by J. Patrick Lewis and Monique Felix

Snout was a crocodile who lived on a river.  During the rainy season, the water level would rise and other animals would get into trouble.  The fireflies could not fly in the falling rain, so they asked Snout to carry them to the other side of the river.  Across they went, riding on his back and even in his mouth.  Day after day, Snout carried animals across the river to safety.  Finally, when the sun came out again, Snout realized that he could no longer see his home because he had drifted far downstream.  Now it was Snout’s turn to ask the other animals for help returning to his home.

Lewis served as U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate from 2011-2013 and in this picture book, you can see his skill with words on every page.   Lewis creates an entire world here, including an unusually kind crocodile.  His words are so simple and uncomplicated, yet they create a sturdy structure for the story.  He doesn’t offer rationalizations for why this crocodile is so kind, but clearly shows that doing kindness for others will inspire them to do it for you when you need it most.

The illustrations in this book are breathtaking.  Felix creates a crocodile that looks wonderfully real, particularly in the very close up images.  As the crocodile takes different animals across the river, the text goes silent, allowing time for the reader to mentally make the journey too.  It also builds a great tension where readers will wonder if he will snap his jaws shut at any moment. 

Beautifully told and illustrated, this is a strong addition to any story time on crocodiles or kindness.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

planet kindergarten

Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, illustrated by Shane Prigmore

Told in the first person by a little boy, this picture book mixes science fiction, space exploration and Kindergarten into one awesome picture book.  The boy has been training for this day for some time.  He has gotten supplies, been checked by a doctor, and the countdown to lift off has begun.  He arrives at the Kindergarten door and his parents leave, returning to their own planet.  He joins a classroom filled with aliens from across the galaxies.  The commander gives them the day’s flight plan and then they start activities in the capsule, get to explore the planet’s surface for a bit, and even eat space food.  By the end of the day, it is Mission Accomplished!  And then time to get ready to do it all again.

Ganz-Schmitt nicely ties in science fiction touches throughout the book.  The boy’s parents say goodbye with a Vulcan salute!  She also focuses on NASA and space flight, pulling these two related but distinct subjects together seamlessly.  Children who are fans of either will be right at home here, giggling along with the puns and the idea of school being a space capsule.  Her humor is right on, offering just enough to be funny but not too much to lose the concept of it being a Kindergarten book.

Prigmore’s illustrations have a great zany quality that suits the subject matter.  I love the other little boy with the hood so that you only see his nose and mouth as well as the other children who look like aliens but you can also see the person in there too.  He plays along the line of making it about space but also allowing readers to see the human school underneath too.

Funny and filled with action and adventure, this book will get even the most nervous Kindergarten astronaut giggling about their new mission.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.