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Creature Features

It's All About Me-OwWhat to Expect When You're Expecting HatchlingsEver wondered what your cat is thinking? Why do they do what they do? It’s All About Me-Ow, written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott, deciphers all those mysteries and more in a hilarious romp through the life of felines. Spot on and laugh-out-loud funny, Buddy, the family’s older, experienced orange tabby takes on the schooling of three new kittens with "A Young Cat’s Guide to the Good Life". From comical explanatory charts, lists of "fabulous feline features", to instructions for making the most appealing face for every situation, Buddy schools the wide-eyed kittens in the rigors of "cat-itude", as well as the proper training of humans. Endlessly amusing, the cat’s antics, interspersed with actual information and a bit of history, will keep readers in stitches. Slyly humorous, the cartoon illustrations in watercolor, colored pencil and ink, charm and disarm as does the worldly Buddy and earnestly ingenuous kittens. This is a purrfectly fun book for all ages.

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Hatchlings: A Guide for Crocodilian Parents (and Curious Kids) is another cleverly humorous picture book, notable as children’s nonfiction. Author Bridget Heos (whose favorite book as a child was Lyle, Lyle Crocodile) blends witty reptilian wisdom with real facts in an easy to read Q & A format and playful conversational tone. Turns out reptile parents have the same concerns as human parents – "where should I lay my eggs?"; "what happens after they hatch?" Hatchlings have questions too, like "when do I eat my first water buffalo?" The colorful anthropomorphic cartoon-style artwork, by Canadian illustrator Stephane Jorisch, adds to the whimsy. Included are a glossary and a list of books for further reading and websites. Readers will also want to check out two similarly amusing titles from the author: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Joeys: A Guide for Marsupial Parents and What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae: A Guide for Insect Parents.

Andrea

 
 

Handicapping the Michael L. Printz and Coretta Scott King Awards

Code Name VerityThe Mighty Miss MaloneI Have a DreamThe most prestigious awards for children's literature, and literature for teens, will be announced by the American Library Association at the Midwinter meeting in Seattle next Monday. A longstanding tradition of fans of literature for young people is guessing which titles will receive these prizes, which guarantee a sort of immortality for the books. "Honor" books, or runners-up, will also be announced for each category. One of these is the Michael L. Printz Award, given for literary excellence in the field of books published for teens aged 12-18. Some of the top contenders for the Printz Award include Elizabeth Wein's tour de force, Code Name Verity, a historical novel set in the World War II era; Ask the Passengers, by A.S. King, which infuses elements of magical realism into a story of a teen girl coming to terms with her sexuality; Steve Sheinkin's Bomb, an engrossing history of the development of the atomic bomb; and The Fault in Our Stars, John Green's popular novel about two teens with cancer forging a friendship and romance against difficult odds.

 

Another is the Coretta Scott King awards, given to African-American authors and illustrators for excellence in the field. Front runners for the author award include Newbery Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis' The Mighty Miss Malone, the Depression-era story of a 12-year-old girl's family facing tough times; Pinned, about the first girl on the school's wrestling team, by Sharon Flake; No Crystal Stair, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, an autobiographical novel about a famous Harlem bookseller, and Brian F. Walker's look into the pros and cons of scholarship and diversity in Black Boy White School. Kadir Nelson, a previous Coretta Scott King award winner, is again a leading contender in the illustrator category for I Have a Dream, a rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at the Lincoln Memorial; E.B. Lewis' haunting illustrations of passive bullying in Each Kindness; Shane W. Evans for We March, also about the March on Washington in 1963; and Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington, covering his journey to learn to read and eventually become a scientist, illustrated by Bryan Collier.

Todd

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Sea Swept

Sea Swept

posted by:
January 22, 2013 - 7:01am

The Brides of Rollrock IslandPrimarily found in Scottish and Irish folklore, Selkies are seals who have shed their skin to reveal an enigmatic human form. Australian author Margo Lanagan makes the Selkie myth her own in the transporting novel The Brides of Rollrock Island. The youngest of seven, Misskaella Prout is clearly a different kind of child. Her dying grandmother warns that with her unusual looks, she “harks back” and will be difficult to marry. As she becomes a young woman, Misskaella discovers she has the unique power to draw handsome men and beautiful women from out of the seals that come up on the rocks at the base of the cliff at Crescent Corner.

 

The men of the remote Rollrock Island are eager to pay a high price for one of sea witch Misskaella’s attractive, eligible women. Obedient, devoted, and servile, they make excellent wives and mothers. But these brides suffer a deep melancholy, as they long to return to the sea and take their true form. The author tells her story from the points of view of five different characters over the course of several decades, and each has been affected in their own way by the introduction of the Selkie wives.

 

A two-time recipient of the Printz honor medal for excellence in young adult literature, Lanagan is known for her evocative, poetic language and her ability to bring a foreign setting alive through vivid detail. The Brides of Rollrock Island is a standout novel for teens that should find crossover appeal for adults who enjoy a rich, well-crafted story with familiar folkloric roots.

Paula G.

 
 

Lingerie, Louis Vuitton, and Murder

Lingerie, Louis Vuitton, and Murder

posted by:
January 18, 2013 - 7:01am

Murder UnmentionableIced ChiffonTwo delightfully determined women join the ranks of amateur detectives in these wonderful debuts marking the start of two cozy series. Both ladies are used to a little more glitz and glamour, but circumstances have reduced them to investigation while they maintain their senses of humor and careers in the world of fashion. Emma Taylor heads to Paris – Paris, Tennessee that is – in Murder Unmentionable by Meg London. She’s trading in her big city digs, job, and philandering ex-boyfriend to help revitalize her Aunt Arabella’s struggling lingerie boutique, Sweet Nothings. When her pesky cheat of an ex shows up, Emma is surprised, but unmoved. When that same pesky cheat shows up dead on the floor of her boutique, Emma becomes the prime suspect. Emma and her friends are determined to clear her name, but quickly realize that she will need more than silk and satin to keep her out of the big house. Readers will enjoy heading back to Paris, Tennessee again and again in future installments of the Sweet Nothings series to reacquaint themselves with this independent woman and her quirky friends.

 

Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown introduces Reagan Summerside, still rebuilding after a nasty divorce left her with one dilapidated house and her expensive wardrobe. She and her Auntie Kiki turn the first floor of her home into a consignment shop called The Prissy Fox. Sales are slow at first, but my how things change when her ex-husband Hollis’ cupcake of a new wife turns up dead! Hollis is quickly the focus of the investigation, and Reagan realizes that he is going to use her home to finance his legal battle. Determined to solve the case, her boutique becomes rumor central as customers share leads while trying on vintage Vuitton. While enjoying this well-constructed mystery, readers will fall in love with the spunky Reagan and her witty asides as she struggles to make her new life work in fabulous Savannah, Georgia.

Maureen

 
 

Who's Next

Who I AmPete Townshend’s biography, Who I Am is not only the story of The Who but also a deeply personal memoir. Townshend shares intimate details from his sometimes bleak early childhood, revealing that these years caused him lifelong fears of abandonment. Who I Am also gives a personal view into cultural and historical developments in post-World War II England.

 

Compared to other rock memoirs, Townshend’s stands out for his lack of bitterness toward other members of The Who. He resists the temptation to disparage his bandmates. Given The Who’s colorful history, no doubt he has countless stories that would entertain readers but may embarrass fellow band members. Because this is such a well-crafted and honest memoir, the absence of descriptions of debauchery is not missed. Readers who prefer their musical biographies to be full of name-dropping gossip will not be disappointed, though. He shares numerous stories about Sixties icons such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger.

 

Who I Am will be enjoyed by fans of The Who and also readers who are interested in intimate memoirs of artists. Read by Townshend in his distinctly reedy London voice, the audiobook is highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

Zeke

 
 

It's the End of the World as We Know It

Full Body BurdenThree Mile Island, Chernobyl, and most recently Fukushima have all made names for themselves in the history books, but lesser known is Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant in Colorado. In Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, Kristen Iversen draws on her own experiences living in one of the neighborhoods close to the plant and later working there herself. The result is part family memoir and part historical account of Rocky Flats, which was quickly built after World War II. At first, Rocky Flats was seen as a boon to the community, bringing a myriad of jobs and stability to the region. Later, it became known as one of the most contaminated places in the U.S., with high rates of illnesses amongst workers and environmental threats to the surrounding neighborhoods. During its years of operation, several major accidents occurred, including a fire in 1969 that could have turned into a disaster on par with Chernobyl if not for a series of fortuitous actions on the part of plant workers. Activists and residents became increasingly vocal about problems, yet it wasn’t until the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Environmental Protection Agency conducted a joint raid of the plant in 1989 that truths finally came to light.

 

Iversen does an excellent job weaving together the stories of Rocky Flats and her own family with the common thread of secrecy: much like government and plant officials downplayed gross negligence and destructive environmental practices, her parents hid problems in their own home, including alcoholism and financial hardships. She also skillfully charts both her family’s history and Rocky Flat’s legacy to bittersweet conclusions, posing a question still being contemplated today: Are we living under the protection of the bomb, or under its shadow? Readers who enjoy narrative science books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, disfunctional family memoirs like The Glass Castle, or environmental justice accounts like A Civil Action will all find reason to be intrigued with this book.  

Melanie

 
 

‚ÄúRestorative‚Ä̂Ķa Word Which Here Describes a Book That Clears the Brain and Makes the Heart Happy

Who Could That Be at This Hour?Welcome, fellow members of the VFD and other esteemed colleagues of Lemony Snicket. You are apologetically invited to endure the somber account of a celebrated member’s decidedly inauspicious apprenticeship: Who Could That Be at This Hour?  All other readers are invited to stop reading right now. 

 

Oh, all right, tag along if you absolutely must.   

 

By his own account, Lemony Snicket’s education was an unusual one.  Just how unusual?  Well, that would certainly be the wrong question, but since you’re new at this, we’ll indulge your overdeveloped sense of curiosity – a phrase which here is the polite substitution for "nosiness". Suffice to say that Snicket’s education supplied him with the skills necessary to escape drugging by tea; send secret messages through library loans; free-fall, and other similarly uncomfortable exploits encountered in this book.

 

What strange sort of book is this? Call it a prequel to unfortunate events, call it a nod to the noir; whatever the classification, Snicket’s latest is most certainly a restorative. Who Could That Be at This Hour? is the first in the intended four-volume series, All the Wrong Questions. Chronicling the latter days of his uncommonly strange childhood and early career, the authorized autobiography of the dear and drear Snicket is at turns gloomy and startling, but always entertaining. Readers who have enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events will not be disappointed. Staples of Snicket’s style – clever wordplay and melancholic narration – are abundant in this new venture, accompanied by superb woodcut illustrations.

Meghan

 
 

A Carnival of Words

A Carnival of Words

posted by:
January 16, 2013 - 7:45am

Leave Your SleepSinger/songwriter Natalie Merchant wanted to share child-friendly works of the oral tradition with her young daughter, delighting in the gift of words and speech that was featured in poems and stories. The result was a twenty-six song, two-CD set of poems that Merchant set to music. Released in 2010, it also included biographical sketches and a photograph of each poet. Now, paired with well-regarded illustrator Barbara McClintock, many of the poems from that endeavor come to life in the picture book Leave Your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry.

 

Transforming a musical package to a picture book isn’t altogether unknown, but a book of poems is less common. Covering many famous poets, such as Robert Louis Stevenson, e.e. cummings, and Ogden Nash, the collection varies in tone and level. From Jack Prelutsky’s breezy and fun “Bleezer’s Ice Cream” to Laurence Alma-Tadema’s poignant “If No One Ever Marries Me”, the works focus on language and the way a few choice words coming together can create a memorable portrait. Take “Equestrienne”, by Rachel Field; McClintock’s exquisite illustrations of a rider and her milk-white horse perfectly capture the tone of the poem. Listen to Merchant’s interpretation on the accompanying CD, and the whole package comes together beautifully. The music styles range from Klezmer to jazz to string arrangements.

 

McClintock’s illustrations of “I Saw A Ship A-Sailing” epitomize her style, with a duck captain and mice sailors simultaneously working an old vessel but also juggling, playing with puppets, and riding a hobby horse. The whole package will bring a smile to both children and adults reading and listening along.

Todd

 
 

A Fairy Tale with a Twist

A Fairy Tale with a Twist

posted by:
January 15, 2013 - 7:45am

Princess of the Silver WoodsThe Princess of the Silver Woods, the final novel in Jessica Day George’s trilogy showcasing Westfalian royalty, is part Little Red Riding Hood, part Twelve Dancing Princesses. In this book, readers follow Petunia, the youngest of the dancing princesses who readers first met back in book one, Princess of the Midnight Ball. After escaping the curse of the King Under Stone in the Midnight Ball, the twelve dancing princesses have gone on to lead fairly normal lives...for princesses, anyway.

 

Petunia is on her way to visit the Grand Duchess and her grandson when she is kidnapped by Oliver, a young man who claims to be an earl, whose property was wrongfully taken away. At the same time, she and her sisters begin to have frequent dreams about the King Under Stone. Knowing something nefarious is surely afoot, the Westfalian princesses, along with their respective princes, must again fight against evil to stop the King Under Stone once and for all.

 

Jessica Day George takes a fairytale that has been told over and over, and turns it on its head, much like she did with Cinderella in the middle book of the trilogy, Princess of Glass. Despite knowing the original story, readers are captivated, unsure what will happen next. Fans of retellings of fairy tales, like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, will surely enjoy this novel. Princess of the Silver Woods is a funny, well-written, captivating story, that teen and adult readers alike will enjoy.

Laura

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Cold Case Conundrum

Cold Case Conundrum

posted by:
January 14, 2013 - 8:15am

The Hiding PlaceThere are some murder cases that just haunt you. Detective Stynes was new to his career in law enforcement when 4-year-old Justin Manning disappeared from a community park and was subsequently found dead several weeks later. The Hiding Place by David Bell is a multifaceted story exploring the lives and relationships of Justin’s family and their acquaintances. The title could reference the shallow grave where his body was discovered or the location where the truth to this clever puzzle resides.

 

After 25-years, there is renewed interest in the Manning case as the black man convicted of the crime is finally released from jail. Dante Rogers has always maintained his innocence and now with the case in the media spotlight, Stynes wonders if they actually arrested the correct person. Did the suspect’s race influence the police?  Was the testimony of the children playing at the park that day 100% reliable? Not for the first time, the detective commences second guessing his actions during the investigation.

 

Janet Manning and her daughter Ashleigh have recently moved back into her childhood home in Dove Point Ohio. Late one night a mysterious man appears at her door announcing he knows some secret information about Justin’s death. A few short days later her childhood friend Michael reappears after a 10 year absence. He was with her that tragic day in the park and questions her with a strong intensity about what she remembers from that day. Even Detective Stynes meets with his retired partner to ruminate if they did everything they could to find the killer. With all of the second guessing going on it is a safe bet that there is more to this story than what was initially believed. Bell has constructed a clever novel that is labyrinthine in its twists and turns, dead ends and surprises. Just when the reader thinks they have the mystery figured out … think again!

 

Jeanne