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National Book Award nominees

National Book Award nominees

posted by:
October 11, 2012 - 10:20am

EndangeredOut of reachNever Fall DownFinalists for the 2012 National Book Awards were announced yesterday. In the category of Young People’s Literature, three teen novels earned nominations. All three center around conflict and struggle, sometimes due to outside forces and sometimes from within.

 

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer examines the complexities of parent-child relationships with a unique twist. Sophie does not understand her mother’s dedication to the bonobos of the Congo, and she resents her life of forced compliance. When the sanctuary is attacked by armed revolutionaries, they must flee into the jungle with the apes. Sophie finds herself a surrogate mother to an infant bonobo named Otto, and she understands for the first time the worries of being a parent as they struggle to survive. View the author’s introduction to Endangered as well as footage from his trip to the Congo.

 

Family strife also figures prominently in Out of Reach, the lyrical debut by Carrie Arcos. Rachel’s idol has always been her big brother Micah; however, there is a darkness in him that threatens to engulf them both. Micah is a drug addict, albeit a “high-functioning” one, and he has always been able to control himself long enough to win the battle with his addiction. When he fails to come home one night, Rachel blames herself. As she searches for Micah, her own inner darkness rises to the surface and the lies that have woven through the fabric of their family begin to unravel. View the emotional book trailer.

 

Patricia McCormick earns her second National Book Award nomination with Never Fall Down, a novel based on the true story of a young survivor of the Cambodian Killing Fields. Read the previous Between the Covers review.

 

Sam

 
 

Stop by and Set a Spell

 

Visiting TomVisiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace is a quirky biography of eighty-two-year old Tom Hartwig, who is equal parts Rube Goldberg and Hunter S. Thompson.  The only reason we are so fortunate to learn about the enduring spark and eccentricities of Tom is due to the many neighborly visits made by Michael Perry, author of Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting. Perry recognizes Tom’s uniqueness which embodies a rare and rustic Americana spirit that is seldom seen today.

 

The Hartwig resistance, a white clapboard farmhouse, is situated in rural Wisconsin. It has been Tom’s home since his birth in 1929. He admired the tranquil landscape with Arlene, his wife of sixty years, until President Eisenhower enacted the Federal -Aid Highway Act which ran a four lane interstate right past his kitchen window.  Although he is quick to shake his head at the ceaseless stream of cars that disfigured his farmland, Tom has his own ways to make known his charming yet anomalous independence.  From stationing an operable cannon on his front lawn, to leading a team of oxen through local parades, it is obvious that little in this life, not even a highway, can get in this man’s way. For readers who want an off the beaten path biography, Visiting Tom is the perfect collection of astute yet humble musings, and authentic snapshots from the life of one extraordinary man.

Sarah Jane

 
 

You're My Boy, Blue

You're My Boy, Blue

posted by:
October 11, 2012 - 6:01am

Little Boy BlueIt started with a search on PetFinder.com for dogs available for adoption near Kim Kavin’s New Jersey home. That's where she found Blue, the dog who would inspire her to research and write Little Boy Blue: A Puppy's Rescue from Death Row and His Owner's Journey for the Truth. Kavin soon learned that Blue (named for a character in the movie Old School) was actually being brought to her local rescue organization from a shelter in Person County, North Carolina. Blue’s vet raised some questions about his previous care, so Kavin began to dig deeper into his past, finding that her puppy had been at a shelter where 95% of dogs who enter are euthanized and a gas chamber is regularly used.

 

Kavin’s search led her to find that Blue’s story isn’t at all unusual. There are volunteer organizations that work to ferry dogs from high-kill shelters to other parts of the country where they will be adopted. The harsh reality of those shelters and how many dogs are put to death there is both shocking and sad. Kavin was motivated to do what she could to help these dogs and began to foster rescued dogs in her home until permanent homes are found for them. To date, 12 foster dogs have had a temporary home with Kavin and Blue. She shares the ways that readers can get involved and help these animals. This is a heartbreaking but worthwhile read for animal lovers.

 

Unlike many of the dogs that Kavin learned about, Blue's story has a happy ending. He has a permanent home with Kavin in New Jersey where he revels in all varieties of peanut butter-flavored treats and enjoys long walks with her. He recently got a newly adopted canine sister named Ginger. Catch up with him on his Facebook page. A portion of the proceeds from Little Boy Blue will go to the Petfinder Foundation to help other dogs have long, happy lives like Blue's.

Beth

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Quiet Strength

Quiet Strength

posted by:
October 10, 2012 - 7:01am

HomerBear Has a Story to TellLIttle BirdThree picture books recently published use the power of simplicity and silence to communicate strong messages of warmth, friendship, and love. Homer, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper, is a sweet story of an older dog who prefers to spend his days just watching the world go by. When asked to join the others on a frolic on the beach, or a romp through the field, Homer is content to witness the proceedings from the comfort of the porch. Cooper’s illustrations are pitch-perfect, using watercolors in warm sunset tones to capture the satisfaction of a life well-lived.

 

Bear Has a Story to Tell, by the husband-and-wife Caldecott-winning team of Philip and Erin Stead, is an autumnal tale of a bear and his forest friends. When Bear wants to tell his story, his friends Mouse, Duck, and Frog each politely decline, as all have preparations they must finalize before winter sets in. With Bear’s help, each of them gratefully attain their goals. When Bear wakes from his hibernation, will he remember the story he wanted to tell months earlier? The Steads once again bring elegance and charm to each page. The illustrated expressions of the sleepy inhabitants of the woods are captured beautifully.

 

The Swiss import Little Bird is a fable of sorts. A man drives deep into a desert landscape to release the birds he carries in the back of his truck. All of them fly away, except for a little black bird. No amount of coaxing by the man seems to get this small bird to fly. With minimal text, a cinematic feel is portrayed. While having a very different tone and feel to most American picture books, this unusual but ultimately gratifying tale sends a message that should resonate with both kids and adults.

Todd

 
 

Happy Birthday, Lyle!

Happy Birthday, Lyle!

posted by:
October 10, 2012 - 6:55am

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Storybook TreasuryThe House on East 88th StreetSWISH, SWASH, SPLASH, SWOOSH -- get ready to become reacquainted with Lyle, the loveable green crocodile happily installed in the bathtub of the Primms’ new townhouse in New York City. Readers can celebrate the endearing croc’s 50th birthday with the Lyle, Lyle Crocodile Storybook Treasury. This big, beautiful book includes an introduction by author Bernard Waber, four classic Lyle stories, author biography, a new Lyle story adorably illustrated by Waber’s daughter, Paulis, and a bonus downloadable recording of Waber reading The House on East 88th Street.

 

The pages are filled with engaging, black and white line drawings, dotted with splashy washes of color, timeless stories, and endearing, gentle characters. Children will love Lyle’s sweet ways and silly adventures, and adults will love sharing a special friend from their own childhood with the little ones in their lives.

Andrea

 
 

While You Were Sleeping

While You Were Sleeping

posted by:
October 9, 2012 - 7:01am

Anything But OrdinaryAnything But Ordinary, by Lara Avery, is a candid, touching story of a girl who needs to create a new identity for herself while struggling to cope with how everyone close to her has moved on with their lives, while she was sleeping. Seventeen-year-old Bryce’s promising future as a high diver is tragically derailed due to an accident that occurs during her Olympic diving trial. Her family, friends, and a greater portion of her hometown turn out to support her during the diving meet. They witness as the dive goes horribly wrong and she cracks her head on the concrete platform. When Bryce awakens in the hospital she learns that she has been in a coma for five years, and everything in her life has forever changed. There is no Olympic gold medal in her future, her best friend and boyfriend have finished college and are backpacking across Europe. Her parents now have a strained and distant relationship and her younger sister acts angry at the world.

 

Tired of being kept in the hospital under observation, Bryce neglects to tell her doctors about the stabbing headaches or the shooting pains down her back. Nor does she mention the flashes of visions she periodically gets of things that occurred while she was in the coma and sometimes even of future events. Although alarmed by this, she refuses to let it impact her recovery. Readers will admire and possibly envy Bryce’s inner strength as she fights to regain her mobility, combat loneliness, and cope emotionally with the changes that have taken place in those she loves. While reclaiming her life, she assists her family in the rebuilding of their relationships. Bryce discovers her world may not be the vacuum she initially believed when she first wakes up. This is an inspirational and poignant story that will leave you wanting to cherish each and every day.

Jeanne

 
 

Online Voyeurism

Online Voyeurism

posted by:
October 9, 2012 - 6:55am

ButterJournalist Erin Jade Lange turns to fiction to shine the spotlight on the epidemic of childhood obesity in Butter. Alternately chided by his mother for being too heavy and then for not eating enough, teenaged Butter cannot win the battles in his life. Worse than the bullying is the way his classmates, teachers, and even his father seem to look past him rather than at him. One day, a news story about an airline charging obese fliers for 2 seats prompts a reaction in Butter. Tired of being invisible, he decides to do what he does best…he will eat and eat and eat until he dies, and he invites his classmates to watch online.

 

The reaction to Butter’s announcement is swift and unexpected. Rather than prompting more taunting, the "event" gains him a morbid popularity. Everyone is talking not just about him but to him. He no longer sits alone at lunch, and everyone wants to wish him luck and make suggestions to his last meal menu. For the first time, Butter has friends, and it is intoxicating. If only things could be this way all of the time. But as his self-imposed deadline approaches, can he go through with it?

 

Lange’s writing is very matter-of-fact and her tough honesty blends well with her dry humor. She has created a fascinating character in Butter, who is by turns hilariously witty and tenderly heartbreaking. He gives voice to all of the geeks, nerds, and fat kids of the world who just want to be seen and heard.

Sam

categories:

 
 

Identity Theft

Identity Theft

posted by:
October 5, 2012 - 6:03am

The Hollow ManIn The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris, we are introduced to London police detective Nick Belsey.  Even at the start of the novel, we know things are not going well for Nick.  He awakens on Hampstead Heath after having wrecked a squad car, he is still drunk, and has lost his I.D. and phone.  A detective on the skids, he must think fast in order to not lose his job. Back at the station, he sees a missing persons report for the reclusive millionaire Alex Devereaux.  It is easy to convince his bosses to let him investigate the crime, and when he enters the mansion he is able to find a fresh set of clothing to wear, a set of keys to the home, and plenty of food to eat.  Having no place to live of his own, Nick decides to stay at the Devereaux mansion and take his chances.  But what exactly did happen to Alex Devereaux?   Suddenly he begins to realize what sort of man he has decided to impersonate and how much trouble this man was in.  Soon Nick finds himself playing a dangerous game, swapping between the man he is, and the man that he is pretending to be. 

 

Oliver Harris has created a terrific thriller with The Hollow Man.  It is intricately plotted with enough twists and turns to satisfy the most die-hard thriller reader and the suspense builds and builds to a stunning conclusion.  Although Nick is a bit of a rake, he is a compelling and interesting character and the reader will enjoy having his company throughout the novel.  Harris has positioned himself among the great thriller writers of today, and will be a writer to watch to see what he comes up with in the future.

Doug

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Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Loving Lady MarciaHere’s the story of three golden-haired sisters and their mother, and three handsome young men and their architect father who make up the House of Brady. Yes, USA Today best-selling author and RITA finalist Kieran Kramer tackles The Brady Bunch in her newest romance series, getting the ball rolling with the eldest daughter in the fabulous Loving Lady Marcia.

 

On her 16th birthday, Lady Marcia Sherwood was seduced by Finn Lattimore who then fled to America.  Believing his brother, Duncan, the Earl of Chadwick to be behind Finn’s sudden departure, Marcia swears off love and devotes herself to a life of teaching. Five years later Marcia has advanced to the position of Headmistress at Oak Hall Academy and is in London when she crosses paths with Duncan.  At the same time, Finn returns from America (one step ahead of a cuckolded husband) and both brothers are set on courting her.  Duncan is surprised at the independent and beautiful woman Marcia has become, and Finn is still handsome and charming, although his motives are questionable. When Marcia loses her position at Oak Hall, she returns to the comfort of her family who is delighted at this turn of events and hopeful that marriage is in her future.   

 

Marcia is initially pleased by the attentions of Finn, but startled by the growing and fierce attraction she feels for Duncan. However, her priority is to get her old job back. But is she really ready to forget her dreams of true love? This is a delightful tale featuring a strong heroine and a noble hero, a touch of humor, and of course a most interesting and loving family.  Devotees of the original TV series will be happy to see both Alice and Tiger, and thrill to the memory of the football hitting Marcia's nose.

Maureen

 
 

A Family’s Journey Through Darkness

January First“Schizophrenia is a little like cancer. You can’t trust that it will ever go away completely.” Michael Schofield begins with these reflections as he chronicles his journey to understand and combat his daughter January’s mental illness in January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her. For the first five years of her life, Michael and his wife Susan knew only a few certainties about January.  First, she was a genius, with an IQ of 146. Second, she had an extremely active imagination, to the point where she created her own private world and hundreds of imaginary friends. Third, she rarely slept and needed constant stimulation, keeping both parents in a state of total exhaustion and often despair. January was also more prone than the average child to tantrums and fits of rage, which intensified after the birth of her brother, Bodhi. The Schofields had hoped that a sibling would give January a much-needed companion, but were horrified when she tried time and again to physically harm the infant. After many wrong turns and countless battles with California’s mental health and education systems, January was diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia, a condition much more severe in children than in adults.

 

Schofield’s complete honesty, even when it means portraying himself in a less than flattering light, is one of the most powerful draws of this book. He lays bare the family’s physical, emotional and financial struggles. Conveyed particularly well are the immense frustrations the Schofields experience on a daily basis, as they deal with insurance companies, doctors who won’t return calls, and a child who does not respond to traditional reinforcements or punishments.  At present, the situation with January has improved, thanks in large part to a creative living situation – for several years the Schofields kept two apartments so January and Bodhi could live apart - and a drug cocktail which has reduced the severity of her hallucinations. As Schofield concludes, the family has learned to embrace the positive in each day but know that January’s condition may still deteriorate. To find out even more about Jani, visit Schofield’s website, which includes links to media coverage on the family.

Melanie