Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy A. Bastian YP FIC BASTIAN

Cursed Pirate Girl is her name and adventure and calamity follow her in equal measure.  Tired of being scoffed at and looked down upon, she and the physical embodiment of her curse (a parrot named Pepper Die) head off to find her Pirate Captain father in the legendary Omerta Seas. First she must travel through the Obscurium per Obscurious, a door of fire on the ocean floor.  And what dangers and wonders await her beyond the portal shall shock and astound.  

This is a true treasure.  It begs for very, very close reading, because the illustrations are so finely detailed. Each beautifully illustrated page is chock filled with wonderful humor, hidden gags, and intricate details.  This is a book that is meant to be reread many times to spot all the little hidden touches as well as enjoy the hilarious and whimsical main storyline.  It’s a weird and hilarious mix of Alice in Wonderland , Little Nemo, and classic pirate dime store novels. It feels both classic and timeless the first time you read it.  CPG is a great heroine, because she’s strong, resourceful, and almost insanely fearless. There’s also a lot more to this book besides whimsy and swashbuckling.  Bastian skewers classism, empire, and all other manners of pettiness and hypocrisy.  Another great touch is the books design. It has rough-hewn edges for every page and thick paper to make it feel like a very old book. It is absolutely the best graphic novel I have read all year and it is going to be incredibly hard to top.

You can check our catalog for Cursed Pirate Girl here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ALA's Most Challenged Books for 2012 sadly contains no real surprises.

It’s that incredibly troubling time of year again!  The American Library Association has announced the most challenged books of 2012. According to the ALA:

A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported. Therefore, we do not claim comprehensiveness in recording challenges.

So with 464 reported challenges that’s an estimated 1,600-2,000+ challenges! Now no one should ever complain that someone doesn’t want to read a book or doesn’t want their family to read a book.  However, when someone starts trying to deny everyone else form access to the book, that’s when us librarians get all worked up!  Below is the most challenged books along with the reasons they were challenged. 

Out of 464 challenges as reported by the Office for Intellectual Freedom
  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
These not be for every family, but Captain Underpants mix of crude and silly humor has made THOUSANDS of non-readers into readers.
  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
The ‘racism’ complaint boggles my mind.  The book is partly about the HARM of racism.  The book itself is not racist, however often books that tackle racism are complained about for ‘racism’. 
  1. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
Suicide in and of itself seems like an odd complaint to me. I mean it exists, we have to confront it on some level, right?
  1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
Well, apparently adults shouldn’t be allowed to read books written about adult situations.
  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
This is definitely a book that each family should decide for themselves about, but it’s only unsuitable for ALL children if the idea that homosexuality exists is unsuitable for ALL children.  That’s difficult to enforce.
  1. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Religious viewpoint is one of my least favorite protests.  We live in a country FOUNDED ON THE PRINCIPLES OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM!
  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
These are all the MAIN reasons for books being removed.  I think they are absolutely good reasons for anyone to choose not to read a book.  Unfortunately, each of these reasons is also very subjective and so it’s a problem to say what is offensive language to you is offensive language to me.
  1. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
I will say if this book had been removed from my library as a child it would have saved me LOADS of nightmares, but scary books and nightmares are supposed to be a part of growing up!
  1. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

  1. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
So in summation, always feel free to reject a book for you or your family for ANY reason, but when you are trying to remove access to a book for ALL families it should be done with great care and consideration.  

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell YP FIC ROWELL

1986. Eleanor: new kid, big, awkward, crazy-curly super-bright red hair.  Wants everything to just stop. Park: virtually the only Asian in school. Nerdy without being officially classified as a nerd. Wants to drown out the world.  There was no reason they should be together, except for an empty bus seat and a love of X-Men.  Now they’re finding about the power of first love and the powerlessness of love to overcome some obstacles.

This is smart, fun, funny, sweet, genuine, sexy (sta-sta-sta-steamy in parts!), and sad love story that will ABSOLUTELY win over anyone that believes in first love.  You have to love a book where a guy tells a girl, “You can be Han Solo and I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”  You simply have no choice. I think it could almost function as a human test.  If this book doesn’t make you happy and sad all at the same time you may have to turn in your human card and join the Robot Registry. It takes two very real characters and puts you in both their heads.  The book alternates between both their points of view so you see how both of them view the same situations.  This really makes you feel for and root for this couple, which makes it all the more heartrending when their young love is threatened.  It was also super smart to set the book in the near past.  It brings in obsolete technologies like mix tapes and landline telephones that made connecting with people harder, but perhaps more personal (but that could just be my oldness showing!) Like The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman (which I LOVED as well), this book is realistic about how rare it is for teenage love to work out. So fair warning: this is a definite have a hanky handy read.  Without giving TOO MUCH away, I will say that I loved the ending and it melted by cold dark heart.  It is sweet sad and totally open-ended, so you can write your own ending for these kooky kiddos. 

You can check our catalog for Eleanor & Park here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Curses! Foiled Again by Jane Yolen Illustrated by Mike Cavallaro YP FIC YOLEN

Aliera Carstair was happy enough with her life.  She fenced, she had her cousin and best friend Caroline to think up awesome magical adventures with, and she was even more or less used to the nightmare that is high school. Then one of the most popular boys in school just HAD to ask her out.  Then he just had to be a troll! Her cheap practice epee just HAS to really be a mystical sword and she just HAS to be a defender of the faeire realm against the Dark Lord.  Now that all that nonsense has been revealed she doesn’t know who to trust and who the real enemy is.  

I love this series (read my review of Foiled!) and hope the next volume comes out far quicker than the gap between the last two books.  Jane excels at writing young female characters and Cavallaro’s art complements it so perfectly Yolen (if you haven’t already you MUST check out her excellent novels and her breathtakingly beautiful graphic novel The Last Dragon in YP FIC YOLEN).  His art feels loose and fun, but with a lot of expression to really sell the humor and the emotions.  I really loved Aliera, because she handles the insanity with a fun mix of acceptance and annoyance.  She reminds me of any sort of dreamy maybe a wee bit nerdy kid that enters the teen years and isn’t sure what to do with that left over sense of magic. We’re taught to leave that with childhood, but it’s definitely something lost without much gained in return.  Yolen really understands this transitional period and uses the theme to great effect.
I think Yolen really does a great job of giving a feeling of a huge magical world that we are just barely seeing and only having revealed a little at a time. This kept me interested to always know more, but not get bogged down by loads of exposition. She is very dubious of all this magic and fights to at every turn, which makes for some great humor.  I also love all the trolls.  They are dumb in the best possible way.  They are classic comic bumblers and their antics amuse without seeming superfluously silly.  Just the right amount of silly.  So if you want a wonderful comic that is just the right amount of silly, check this one out.

You can check our catalog for Curses! Foiled Again here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Rule of Won by Stefan Petrucha YP FIC PETRUCHA

Caleb Dunne is a total slacker, so there is no way he’d want to join any movement.  However, if he doesn’t then his overachiever girlfriend, Vicky(in theory they’d balance each other out, in practice…eh?) will dump him hard.  So joining the newest fad is easier than finding a new girl, so dutiful club goer is he.  But this club may just be perfect for Caleb.  It’s all about the new book The Rule of Won. The book teaches you to be a Craver to use positive energy to will the universe to give you whatever you want.  That’s as close to a slacker religion as Caleb has ever heard of!  And it seems like it’s working too!  Sure the leader is sort of creepy and Caleb’s girlfriend seems a little too in too him, sure the club seems way more like a cult than an afterschool pastime, sure any dissent is met with violent retribution, but that’s no reason to go rocking boats, is it?  And if Caleb stops slacking and starts “standing up for what’s right” then he’ll lose everything and be the club’s worst enemy. So why is thinking about fighting back, and how do you fight a group with the whole universe on their side?

This is a weird, dark look at the perils of group think and the desire for easy answers.  It looks at the flip side to philosophies that claim just wanting and believing in something is enough to make it happen, especially any philosophy that promises material gain as a means of fulfillment.  Petrucha does a great job of looking at the emptiness of materialism and the dark side of any philosophy that claims that wanting something makes it happen.  After all, victims of violent crimes shouldn’t be told they just aren’t positive enough.  The fact that the book does so with a lot of humor and a brisk pace is really impressive.  I especially like the message board chapters that show the building mania of the group and their rapid dehumanization.  It’s a clever way to use real life uses of these types of philosophies to push the book forward quickly. I was drawn to the book by the great premise, but was propelled through by the humor and by Caleb.  He’s reliably hilarious and Petrucha does a fine job of setting up relatable reasons for him to be so insufferably lazy.  It is galling to see him chase after the truly heinous Vicky, but it fits with his “do as little as possible to get by” ethos.  Petrucha has crafted a wonderful piece of satire that is both thought provoking and genuinely funny.  It definitely deserves more attention than it got and I hope readers will give it a chance.  I WILL IT INTO BEING. j/k.

You can check our catalog for The Rule of Won here.