Friday, February 26, 2010

The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson J FIC PATERSON

When Meli is 11 years old, she draws a funny picture of her teacher as a pelican, and is caught and kept after school. Her brother Mehmet, who is 13, usually walks home with her and her friend. Their father has told them to stay together, since all of their people (Albanians) have been targeted by the police. Mehmet walks home alone, since his father needs him to help at their store. The police take him and beat him and leave him for dead in the countryside outside their city. He is rescued by Albanian nationalists and after some weeks comes home.

This book tells about Kosovo, a region in the country of Serbia which has mostly people from Albania, a nearby country. Many of these people wanted their own country separate from Serbia. But Serbia resisted this and started a campaign of genocide in 1998 against the Albanians. We find out what’s happening from Meli and Mehmet, and travel with them and their family after they are driven from their homes. They go to the mountains and camp there, go to a refugee camp, and finally end up in the United States. Meli and Mehmet are very different. Meli is quiet and keeps things inside; Mehmet is full of anger for what happened to him and his people. Both the brother and sister stay in your mind after the book is finished.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead J FIC STEAD

Miranda thought she had her life pretty figured out before 6th grade, but then everything (no seriously EVERYTHING) changes. Her best friend Sal gets punched for no reason and won’t speak to her anymore. Then her hidden apartment key is stolen and nothing in the apartment is missing. However,something is left: a note that tells her someone is coming to save her friend’s life, but only if she writes a letter. As notes keep coming they start revealing things no one should be able to know: things that haven’t happened yet. Miranda has to decide if she believes these notes are serious, if time travel is real, and if she can really do anything to prevent a tragedy.

This one is a total brain twister! It starts out like an ordinary girl’s story of growing up poor in New York in the 70s, but slowly starts introducing ideas about time travel and the connectedness of all things. It really works too, because as Miranda starts questioning reality she starts to notice how much larger the world is then she previously realized. Miranda is a great narrator because she is funny in an understated way. She makes really clever observations without realizing it, so she makes you laugh without ever showing off. I really loved how the story develops over time and how almost every character turns out to be more complex and interesting than the reader or Miranda first assumes. This is a can’t-put-it-down-and-think-about-it-for-weeks-after page turner of a book. It’s good for just about any age and I think guys and girls alike will like the book.

If you enjoy the book you may want to check out Miranda’s favorite book that she mentions throughout the novel (and inspired this book too) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle J SF LENGLE.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen written by Alan Moore illustrated by Kevin O’Neill YPFIC MOORE

It is the end of the 19th century and London is in the greatest of perils. She calls now on her greatest heroes and her darkest villains alike to save Britannia. The anonymous benefactor ‘M’ calls forth Miss Mina Murray (Count Dracula’s only surviving victim),England’s finest adventurer: Allan Quartermain, the Mad Mohammedan: Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll (and his secret dark side Hyde), and Hawley Griffin: the Invisible Man. Together they must face the evil and deadly opium peddler Fu Manchu, but also there is another threat hiding behind the scenes. When this dastardly villain reveals himself then the League must become a true team if London is to be saved.

This is a fun action and humor filled romp filled with allusions to classic adventure literature. But even if you’ve never read 19th century American and English adventure books you will still love the characters and the intrigue as well as Kevin O’Neill’s striking and original art. Alan Moore is one of the finest writers comic books have ever produced. You may already be familiar with some of his other books like Watchmen or V for Vendetta, but this is one of his most fun series he has ever written. The series has several volumes, so if you like it pick up the rest.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits by Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson YP FIC MCKINLEY

Fire is five stories about magical creatures born of fire and the people that encounter them. There is Phoenix, a story of an old man that finds the legendary fire bird in a small English forest and is changed in an extraordinary way. In Hellhound a fiery eyed dog from the pound is more than it seems. Fireworm tells of a prehistoric young man that must become one with the spirit world to fight his clan’s ultimate enemy. In Salamander Man a slave must become more than human to fight an invasion of evil wizards. The final tale is First Flight, the story of Ern, a boy that must guide a dragon home.

This is a great collection of stories for almost any fantasy fan. It has very realistic and modern settings in Phoenix and Hellhound and three very different magical settings in the other three tales. It was great to have such variety and I think it will appeal to a large range of fantasy readers. Dickinsion wrote Phoenix, Fireworm, and Salamander Man and of these I would say Fireworm is the best. The ancient world of primitive man is an excellent setting for fantasy because in that time what we see as myth and make believe was reality to people. My favorite of the collection however is McKinley’s Hell Hound. The main character Miri is an animal lover that has a creative mind and finds that her imagination is dead right when she calls her dog Flame a hell hound. The realistic setting and characters make the magical elements really believable and effective. Also check out Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits by the same authors in YP FIC MCKINLEY.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger FIC SALINGER

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

Holden Caulfield is 16 and has just been expelled from his Pennsylvania prep school. Instead of returning home immediately he begins a personal three day odyssey through New York City that includes walking on the seedier side of life, visiting old friends, reconnecting with his little sister, and trying to find his place in a world full of “phonies”.

J.D. Salinger recently passed away so I was inspired to read Catcher in the Rye again and I’m very glad I did. I look at Holden and the other characters so much differently now then when I was Holden's age. It’s a brilliant book about teenagers because it perfectly captures the feelings of disillusionment and isolation that can come with growing up. Holden is hilarious, edgy, and brilliant, but he’s also completely rejected the world around him. This makes him a really fascinating hero because no matter how much we like or identify with him he has already rejected us. Catcher is as fresh and controversial today as when it was first published. With the exception of the small details you could imagine everything happening exactly the same if it were written this year. A great read for older teens and adults alike. Do yourself a huge favor pick it up today.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation by Simone Elkeles YP FIC ELKELES

Amy Nelson Barak is a spoiled princess about to learn that love can be war. Especially if your boyfriend is in the Israeli army and you decided to surprise him by going on a ten day boot camp trip at his base. Unfortunately for Amy, her boyfriend is her training officer and has to treat her like any recruit and to make things worse than terrible he has a secret that could rip their relationship apart. Amy will have to roll up her Gucci sleeves and trade in her Jimmy Choos for army boots to fight for her man.

How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation is a cute and fun romantic comedy. It has a really good Legally Blonde in the Israeli Army feel to it. It's the third in a series, but it's very easy to pick up from this one and I never felt lost. Amy is a great narrator and very likable despite her materialism and childishness. The plot itself is predictable, but the characters and dialogue are good so it makes for a perfect light and romantic read. I also like the original and unique setting for the novel and it was interesting to learn about Israeli mandatory military service. If you want to read the first two books How to Ruin a Summer Vacation and How to Ruin my Teenage Life check them out in YP FIC ELKELES.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Flight: Volume Two edited by Kazu Kibuishi YP FIC FLIGHT

Flight is a collection of 33 short comics from young artists and veterans alike all exploring the general theme of flight. However, many of the stories look at flight in a more emotional sense. The stories range from serious and personal to whimsical and fantastical.

This is a bona fide “gotta read” for any fan of animation or illustration. All 33 works are gorgeously drawn with very rich colors. My faves have to be Kazu Kibuishi’s story of a young boy saying goodbye to first love The Orange Grove and Destiny Xpress by Jen Wang, which is the story of a young girl that resists being reincarnated so that her art can remain pure and joyful. Destiny Xpress is without a doubt has my favorite illustrations with its muted water color art. I also quite like Laika by Doug Holgate (not to be confused with the graphic novel Laika by Nick Abadzis) because it is a really fun short adventure that gives poor little Laika a happy ending! Honestly, I can easily find something to rave about with almost all the stories in this collection, but short story collections should have short reviews! In summary: READ IT!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers YPFIC MYERS

Maurice "Reese" Anderson is locked up and feeling beat down. Reese is serving his 22nd month of a 38 month sentence in juvie for stealing prescription drug pads. He starts working at Evergreen, a senior assisted living facility (old folks home), as part of an early release program. There he meets and is continually belittled by Mr. Hooft, a racist Japanese Internment camp survivor. Soon he finds that his past crime may have him doing even more time as the cops tell him he’s being fingered for another crime (one he didn’t do this time!). If that weren’t enough he has a drug addicted mom, a brother going down the same path as him, a little sister he wants to protect, an inmate named King Kong that wants to bust him up, and a sadistic guard named Pugh looking for any excuse to bust his head. And if Reese can keep all this from breaking him he still doesn’t see any hope waiting for him on the outside, but when he begins to get to know Mr. Hooft he learns that tragedy doesn’t always define us and how to learn to “make up life as you go.”

Walter Dean Myers is one of the best Young adult authors that write about crime and its consequences. All the characters in his books always have real depth and never seem like some TV bad guy. The supporting characters all seem pulled from real life and add a lot to the story. Mr. Hooft especially is picture perfect as a scared old man that knows a lot more about the real world than Reese expects. Reese is smart but is constantly surrounded by violence and Myers recognizes that there aren’t easy choices or easy answers for kids or adults surrounded by poverty. It was also nice that Myers doesn’t have Reese become an entirely new person by the end of the book; the changes Reese makes happen over time and are realistic.