Friday, December 30, 2011

Dragon's Year in Review

Stats! We got stats!


32 picture books
9 novels
9 nonfiction
30 YA/juvenile literature
5 memoir/biography
9 short story collections
1 reference book
3 graphic novels
3 poetry
3 books I can't easily classify

104 books total

Which is really pretty abysmal. All I can say is that I worked a lot this year. I had 2 short stories published. I finished writing 2 novels. I read a couple unpublished novels that didn't make this list. And it took me more than 2 months each to wade through The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Partner to the Poor. Theoretically, I could review another Rosemary Wells book right now, but I'd have to get out of bed to find it, so the count stands at 104. Disregarding the kids' books, I scarcely averaged 1 serious book a week.

The YA count was huge, primarily due to the 15 volume Guardians of Ga'Hoole series, plus the Hunger Games, plus my friend Nova's novel, Imaginary Girls

Two of my mentors, Jaimy Gordon and Bonnie Jo Campbell also made the list this year (both with award-winning novels) as did my darling friend, KJ Kabza, with his collection of previously published short speculative fiction. Wow, I know a lot of writers. 

Oh! While I'm name-dropping, I also visually interpreted a poem from one of Ofelia Zepeda's books for the kids at the elementary school where I'm a literacy volunteer, and my fiance emailed Ofelia Zepeda a photograph of the bulletin board (they're both employed at the University of Arizona) and she wrote back, telling him to thank me, and that it was beautiful. And Tom Angleberger also emailed, thanking me for my review of Origami Yoda on another site, saying that I was pretty much the only reviewer to get his book, and I interviewed him. I should publish that interview....

Also this year, my local library system purchased 2 books that I suggested! Partner to the Poor was one. I'm still waiting for the second (about octopus intelligence) but they've cataloged it, so I'm guessing it will be available pretty soon. And, if you didn't catch it above, I'm engaged, so look out for my upcoming review of Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding. Anyone who knows me will be surprised that there's any element of dignity to my wedding.

Happy New Year!
 



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Written by: L. Frank Baum

First line: Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer's wife.

Why you should read this book: This classic tale of whimsy and travel through a far-flung terrain where animals may be friends and plants can be enemies has been beloved by children and adults for over a century, told and retold in many different forms. Dorothy, the kind-hearted heroine, her little dog, Toto, and her new friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion walk clear across the land of Oz in their quest to send Dorothy back to Kansas after a cyclone carries her to this strange country. Highly recommended for any age, brimming with charm, delightful imagery, and abundant imagination.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Still hung up on the ruby slippers.




The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Written by: Robert Browning

First line: Hamelin Town's in Brunswick, By famous Hanover City; The river Weser, deep and wide, Washes its wall on the southern side; A pleasanter spot you never spied, But, when begins my ditty, Almost five hundred years ago, To see the townsfolk suffer so From vermin was a pity.

Why you should read this book: I'm looking at the classic text, illustrated by Kate Greenaway's classic drawings, both of which evoke the gentle romanticism of the nineteenth century, when tales of lost children and other such horrible events could be sighed over from a distance of time. In some places, the language and meter may trip up modern young readers, but overall, it's a document that has truly stood the test of time and deserves its many reprints. Whether read as a cautionary tale, a historical document, or a fairy lark, it's an evocative story about a strange man who enters into a good faith business contract, fulfills his end of the bargain but finds his partners renege on remuneration, and takes his revenge with style.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't pay your debts.










The Legend of the Bluebonnet

Written by: Tomie DePaola

First line: Great Spirits, the land is dying.

Why you should read this book: This simple retelling of an old legend recounts a time of drought, when many people have died, and the Comanche people are praying for rain. Upon learning that the gods feel people have become too selfish and require a sacrifice of each individual's most valuable possession, the adults equivocate and rationalize to avoid giving up their favorite things, but a little orphan girl who owns nothing besides a doll given to her by her dead parents understands the true meaning of sacrifice and saves her people. To symbolize their acceptance of her gift, the gods send the bluebonnet, or wild lupine, to indicate their pleasure, and bring back the rains.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Not comfortable with other people's polytheistic traditions.




Lola's Fandango

Written by: Anna Witte

First line: Lola and her family live in a small apartment in a building called The Park.

Why you should read this book: A touching story about perseverance and dance, this is the story of little Lola, who feels inferior in every way to her big sister Clementina, even though Clementina promises Lola will be just as pretty, and talented, and popular when she's bigger. After stumbling upon a pair of interested shoes in her mother's closet and learned that Mami used to dance flamenco, but no longer does (this issue is not addressed, but adult readers may suspect it is related to Lola's grandmother's death) Lola badgers her father into teaching her this dance. With constant practice, lots of duende (spirit) and a thoughtful gift from Papi, Lola is able to entertain guests at Mami's birthday party and inspire Mami to dance again.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You live in an apartment beneath a rowdy, floor-stomping family.








The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail

Written by: Melissa Higgins

First line: This is one of my before drawings.

Why you should read this book: This is a kind-hearted and sympathetically written work for small children struggling with the aftermath of a loved ones incarceration, although the subject matter seems to be of interest to most young children, even if their parents are not prisoners. Sketch, a sad-eyed rabbit child, witnesses his father's arrest; deals with social services, cruel schoolmates, and volatile anger; visits his father in jail and in prison; and eventually, with much support, learns to adapt to a life where he can cope with his father's mistakes and absence. This book includes informative sidebars and an appendix with a glossary, a list of books and website for more information, and an index.

Why you shouldn't read this book: A bunny goes to jail!




Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Written by: Gregory Maguire

First line: A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind's forward edge, as it she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air.

Why you should read this book: I know I'm pretty late to the party, but I really adored this intense, imaginative work, which paints a full picture of the life of the so-called Wicked Witch of the West, who, in other works, tormented Dorothy during her journey through Oz. Glinda (bubble-headed and class-conscious, but essentially kind-hearted), the Wizard (cruel, calculating, amoral, and self-serving), and even the Wicked Witch of the East (crippled and full of pious self-righteousness) are given detailed treatments and complex personalities, but it is Elphaba, the green-skinned Animal-rights activist and lifelong outsider who becomes the most sympathetic protagonist. Civil rights, political machinations, religious argument, and, above all, a running discussion on the nature of good and evil are among the thought-provoking terrain covered in this ground-breaking fantasy novel.

Why you shouldn't read this book: For you, it was all about Judy Garland and those ruby slippers.










Monday, December 19, 2011

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

Written by: Chris Van Allsburg et al.

First line: Is there any author more mysterious than Harris Burdick?

Why you should read this book: The celebrated picture book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick offers up fourteen deliciously bizarre drawings, each accompanied by a tantalizing title and caption, with no other indication as to what the heck is going on in the magical and speculative illustration. After twenty-five years, this volume clears up the confusion with fourteen unique stories written by accomplished authors such as Sherman Alexie, Gregory Maguire, Linda Sue Park, and Jules Feiffer. For fans of the original picture book, the contributing authors, or surrealism and fantasy in general, this beautiful volume offers a perfect escape from the mundane world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You prefer the mysteries.






Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Time for Outrage


Written by: St├ęphane Hessel

First line: Ninety-three years old. The last leg of my journey. The end is in sight.

Why you should read this book: More of a small pamphlet, these are the thoughts of a veteran of the French Resistance who survived World War II and helped draft the U.N.’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights. With the perspective of years, he explains why the gap between rich and poor is unconscionable, how indifference is the most dangerous attitude, and why peaceful insurrection is required to fulfill the promise of human rights. Mass media, mass consumption, relentless competition, and an overall lack of respect, he argues, feed the injustices of our world, and must be resisted.

Why you shouldn’t read this book:  You refuse to compromise your support for aggression on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 




Weird Parents


Written by: Audrey Wood

First line: There once was a boy who had weird parents.

Why you should read this book: As far as weird parents go, the parents in this book are mostly guilty of overexuberance and really atrocious taste in clothing. In fact, even the mortified child can admit that the ice cream, comic book, and Parcheesi part of the routine is pretty good. In the end, he concludes that his parents are good enough for him.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’ve never been mortified by a family member's behavior.

DK First Animal Encyclopedia


Written by: Penelope Arlon

First line: The animal kingdom is huge.

Why you should read this book: A beautiful reference book for little kids, young readers, and curious adults, this book breaks the animal kingdom down into five parts and then divides each category up into manageable two-page spreads with quizzes and “links” to related sections in the book. Like all DK books, the draw here is the remarkable, full-color photographs, making this book perfect for perusal by pre-readers. A lovely and kid-friendly reference work perfect to be cherished for many years by any animal lover.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t like animals.



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Three Names of Me

Written by: Mary Cummings

First line: Ada Lorane Bennett. That is my name.

Why you should read this book: A little girl born in China and adopted by American parents pieces together her own personal history through the story of her names: the one her birth mother whispered to her, which she can never remember; the one given to her by the nurses in the orphanage where she was abandoned, and the English name she was given at her adoption. She examines the parts of her that are Chinese (her looks, her love of a red silk outfit, the few Chinese words she knows) and those that are American (her family, her love of hot dogs), and concludes that she is a person who is loved. The book concludes with a small scrapbook and a note from the character encouraging readers to create their own personal scrapbooks and, if they are American children of Chinese origin, to learn more about their homeland.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't believe kids should be told they are adopted.










The Hero Beowulf

Written by: Eric A. Kimmel

First line: Beowulf, son of Ecgtheow, had been a hero since childhood.

Why you should read this book: The beginning of the ancient epic is retold as a tense and edgy story for children who enjoy battles, monsters, and death. The story begins with Beowulf's heroic childhood killing trolls and sea serpents before shifting to King Hrothgar's trouble in the mead hall. Although this version ends with Grendel's death and the subsequent celebratory feast, it is otherwise fairly faithful to the original text.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have taught your seven-year-old to read old English.










Klara's New World

Written by: Jeanette Winter

First line: Our little plot of land was poor and full of stones.

Why you should read this book: This detailed and evocative book provides a realistic picture of a Swedish family's journey from hardship in their homeland to a new life in America. Klara's family is coming closer and closer to starving when a letter from her father's friend convinces them to leave everything behind and start again. Detailing their preparations, goodbyes, the ocean voyage to America, the land voyage to Minnesota, and the ways they create their new home, this realistic tale is an eye-opening, child's-eye view into 1860s immigration.

Why you shouldn't read this book: One dead baby.








Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

Written by: Gary Zukav

First line: When I tell my friends that I study physics, they move their heads from side to side, they shake their hands at the wrist, and they whistle, "Whew! That's difficult."

Why you should read this book: After attending an afternoon conference on the subject, the author set out to create a book that would explain, to the lay reader, all the intricacies of quantum physics, using accessible language, without any mathematics at all. The resulting classic work of non-fiction covers the evolution of human knowledge concerning the nature of the universe, combining scientific theories with the eastern philosophy that quantum physics more and more resembles as the nature of our perceived physical reality is revealed to be nothing more than probabilities, not at all what it appears on the surface. Space and time, matter and energy, it seems, are all one single, interconnected thing and, on a subatomic level at least, the possibilities are mind-boggling and perhaps unknowable.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's still kind of difficult.








Monday, November 21, 2011

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

Written by: Simon Winchester

First line: In Victorian London, even in a place as louche and notoriously crime-ridden as Lambeth Marsh, the sound of gunshots was a rare event.

Why you should read this book: A fascinating historical volume, it recounts the tale of three protagonists, two human and one comprising ideas made manifest. The Oxford English Dictionary is the most ambitious and complete catalog of the English language, which took the better part of a century to compose; its chief editor, Professor James Murray, was a determined autodidact with a single-minded devotion to the task, while one of its chief contributors, Dr. William Chester Minor, was a paranoid schizophrenic murderer who completed his work, and indeed lived more than half his life, confined to an asylum for the criminally insane. The story of these three lives (for indeed, the book has a life of its own and is very much a character in the story) unfolds with wonderful pacing, humor, sympathy, and intelligence.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have a very small vocabulary, and you'd like to keep it that way.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception

Written by: Pamela Meyer

First line: I didn't set out to become a liespotter.

Why you should read this book: Following years of research, Meyer collected enough data on lying and human perception to develop a system that can improve anyone's ability to spot a lie by twenty-five to fifty percent; her work shows how detailed analysis of facial expressions, body language, and, most importantly, speech patterns, can help the average person determine whether he or she is being lied to. While primarily geared towards people in business and detecting whether partners, employees, customera, or other businesspeople are being truthful, this system, laid out with charts and images, can help anyone undercover the reportedly hundreds of lies we are each told every day. The book helpfully explains how to lead a discussion when searching for the truth, how to lie-proof your company, and the best ways to surround yourself with truthful people, and includes important information is summarized in the appendix.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a sociopath trying to figure out how to get through an interrogation.


Friday, November 4, 2011

The Giver

Written by: Lois Lowry

First line: It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.

Why you should read this book: Above all, sameness is prized in Jonas’s community, where everyone is content and cared for, and everyone conforms to the rules, unless they want to be “Released” and go live “Elsewhere.” When he turns twelve, the age at which all children have their future careers revealed to them by the Elders, Jonas is selected to become the Receiver of Memories, to learn and hold all the history—good and bad—that the community has chosen to forget in order to create their perfect society. What Jonah learns from the old Receiver, now the Giver, shreds his faith in his world and causes him to question everything and everyone he has ever known.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You never question authority.


I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato

Written by: Lauren Child First line: I have this little sister, Lola. Why you should read this book: Lola does not eat carrots, peas, potatoes, or fish sticks, along with a long list of arbitrary foods that offend her delicate sensibilities. This makes it difficult for her big brother, Charlie, to feed her dinner, until he renames the despised foods and provides them with fabulous back-stories, which turn carrots, peas, potatoes, and fish into tempting treats. Once she realizes how delicious a varied diet is, Lola decides that she can transcend the limitation of her own restrictions by reimagining the names and origins of other formerly untouchable foodstuffs. Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t eat green things either, and you don’t think it’s ever OK to lie to children, whether or not it's in their best interest, whether or not they're in on the joke.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mockingjay

Written by: Suzanne Collins

First line: I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather.

Why you should read this book: After surviving an unprecedented two Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is scarred, physically and mentally, still reeling from a concussion, and no more free as a rebel than she was as a resident of District Twelve. Now that she understands the nature of the game that's still being played even outside the arena, she recognizes that everyone wants her as a pawn, and she's determined not to be manipulated. Who will she trust, who will she betray, and, ultimately, who will she love?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've met the new boss and determined that s/he is the same as the old boss.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Catching Fire

Written by: Suzanne Collins

First line: I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea bag has long since leached into the frozen air.

Why you should read this book: Katniss and Peeta have survived the Hunger Games, but they realize they can never relax or enjoy the luxurious lifestyle their victory should afford them. Katniss's subtle acts of rebellion have fueled uprisings all over the districts, and the presidents holds her personally accountable for the dissent. The Capitol will never allow her to live her own life, but will remind her, at every turn, that she, and everyone she knows, is subject to the whims of a hard-hearted government that encourages unfeeling citizens to look upon her survival as fodder for the world's greatest entertainment.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You will tolerate no acts of treason.










Thursday, October 20, 2011

Every Thing On It


Written by: Shel Silverstein

First line: Although I cannot see your face/As you flip these poems awhile,/Somewhere from some far-off place/I hear you laughing—and I smile.

Why you should read this book: Fans of Silverstein’s previous collections of ridiculous rhymes for precocious children and immature adults have cause to rejoice. Every Thing On It is more of what made the author’s poetry for young people famous: ridiculous reversals, tender magic, bad manners, creatures that eat children, and illustrations that feature strangely proportioned humans and unusual animals. Mixed in with the giggle-worthy poems are some more thought-provoking themes demonstrating Silverstein’s growth as a writer and his more introspective side.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You disapprove of nonsense, bad behavior, and whimsical deaths.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil


Written by: M. Scott Peck, MD

First line: This is a dangerous book.

Why you should read this book: The central thesis of this work proposes a new diagnostic category of neurosis, in which evil should be considered a subset of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Using a small number of case studies, the author describes individuals who, due to extreme selfishness, lack of self-examination, and some other, inexplicable delight in irritating other people, literally suck the life and liveliness out of those around them. The narrative also includes a discussion of the author’s personal experience with Satan, as witnessed in two successful exorcisms, along with a look at group evil, as seen in the Mylai Massacre, and offers a short summary of what such a diagnosis would mean for psychological professionals at large.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Even the most open-minded secular reader is likely to experience intense skepticism throughout the chapter on exorcism, which tends to diminish some of the argument.

The Rebellious Alphabet


Written by: Jorge Diaz

First line: The Little General was the ruler of a very big village, even though he was very small.

Why you should read this book: A grown-up political story allegorized as a childrens’ picture book, it tells of an oppressive regime wherein reading, writing, and thinking is outlawed by an ignorant and childish tyrant. A freedom-loving intellectual discovers a way to create a natural printing press using clever canaries and an ink-soaked sponge, and is able to spread a message of liberty to his people, eventually eliminating the power of the oppressive regime. This is an intelligent story that be enjoyed by people of all ages who love freedom, liberty, and literacy, and bristly under the threat of censorship, tyranny, and lies.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You oppose freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression.


What My Mother Doesn’t Know


Written by: Sonya Sones

First line: Most people just call me Sophie/(which is the name/on my birth certificate)/or Sof/or sometimes Sofa.

Why you should read this book: This easy-to-read novel in verse offers a glimpse into the mind of fifteen-year-old Sophie, who enjoys sketching, worries about her parents’ constant fighting, and thinks obsessively about kissing boys. From the physical attraction to Dylan, which fizzles and fades as she gets to know him better, to her intellectual desire for Murphy, the least popular boy in her class, this honest story shows the progression of Sophie’s growth. Along the way, she defies her mother, foils a cyber-predator, gets improperly grabbed by a drunk sophomore, purchases five pairs of ridiculous panties, and learns that things are going to be all right.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You are disgusted by teenagers with raging hormones.

A Step from Heaven


Written by: An Na

First line: Just to the edge, Young Ju.

Why you should read this book: A powerhouse of a YA novel, this award-winning story tells of the childhood of Young Ju, a little girl born in Korea, who moves with her family to America in search of a better life. While navigating the currents of the American public school system when you don’t speak English isn’t difficult enough, Young Ju’s home life—which she must keep secret from all the Americans around her—can never be a place of refuge. Growing up in the miasma of her father’s alcoholism and abuse, she struggles to satisfy her parents’ expectation for a Korean girl, her friends’ understanding of American customs, and her own hopes and dreams.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Some graphic domestic violence.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Magic of Spider Woman

Written by: Lois Duncan


First line: This is the story of Wandering Girl, who came to be known as Weaving Woman, and of the terrible thing that happened when she disobeyed Spider Woman.

Why you should read this book: In Navajo tradition, Spider Woman is a world maker whose knowledge of spinning and weaving is given to the People so that they can make blankets and stay warm in the winter. In this story, a single girl who has lived outside of society is given the knowledge, but told never to practice her craft for too long. When the girl forgets this warning and devotes herself to a wonderful weaving to honor the Spirit Being, her own spirit is woven into the pattern until Spider Woman comes to save her.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re OCD.

Behold…the Dragons!


Written by: Gail Gibbons

First line: A long time ago, people began telling stories about happening in their world that they couldn’t understand.

Why you should read this book: Illustrated with accessible and wonderful pen and watercolor examples, this is a nonfiction book for the youngest readers, explaining what dragons are, and what they are not. The author begins with the primitive mind and its desire to explain the complexities of the natural world with a details mythology that helps to order that world. An overview of world mythology as it pertains to dragon stories helps children understand the dragon’s place in the human psyche, while a small appendix at the end mentions dragons a little more firmly rooted in reality, such as flying dragon fossils and Komodo dragons.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Who doesn't want to read a book about dragons?


Hansel and Gretel


Written by: Will Moses

First line: Long ago there lives a woodcutter, his wife and his children, Hansel and Gretel.

Why you should read this book: It’s a faithful retelling of the Grimms’ creepy original, with the themes of poverty, parental abandonment, and cannibalism intact. The illustrations are lush paintings in a vibrant folk art style, replete with small details like patterns in woven cloth, moonlight on tree leaves, and cobwebs in corners. A warm and happy ending, followed my the admonishment that children should not be afraid of the story’s contents, since their parents love and protect them.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You are a wicked stepmother or possible an evil witch.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Imaginary Girls

Written by: Nova Ren Suma First line: Ruby said I'd never drown--not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone's bottomless backyard pool. Why you should read this book: Ruby is the girl everyone looks up to, admires, emulates, and wants to be around and Chloe is Ruby's little sister, who worships and trusts her implicitly. In the emotional absence of their alcoholic mother, they've always faced the world together, with Ruby protecting her beloved sister with maternal ferocity, until the night a dead body floating in a reservoir propels Chloe from her sister's orbit. Creepy and surprising, if not wholly explained results will change the way Chloe sees her perfect, praiseworthy sister and her entire life. Why you shouldn't read this book: You're very good at manipulating people.

Learning to Swim in Swaziland: A Child's-Eye View of a Southern African Country

Written by: Nila K Leigh First line: When I was eight my mom and dad took me to live in Swaziland. Why you should read this book: A delightful work of nonfiction written and illustrated by an eight-year-old girl, based on a series of letter she sent home during her year abroad, discussing her experiences in a foreign country. Dress, customs, food, living arrangements, animals, language, and mythology are touched upon, and the bright crayon drawings are supplemented with photographs to provide a very real picture of the author's experience. Adorable and precocious, this is an excellent book for children who may be nervous about traveling to new places, as long as a nice introduction to a culture very different from their own. Why you shouldn't read this book: Not interested in other cultures or in what kids think about anything.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, The Brownies, and Other Tales

Written by: Julia Horatia Ewing

First line: Lob Lie-by-the-Fire—the "Lubber-fiend, as Milton calls him—is a rough kind of Brownie or House Elf, supposed to haunt some north-country homesteads, where he does the work of the farm laborers, for no grander wages than "—to earn his cream bowl duly set."

Why you should read this book: This old volume of moral tales for naughty boys (and one tale for naughty girls) manages to inject a measure of whimsy and fantasy into the narrative even as it instructs good English children in obedience and appropriate class-based behavior. Fairies, real, imagined, dreamed, or related in stories, correct willful children and turn them into helpful and useful members of society. Additional magic is found in a number of Christmas tales.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Includes the standard racism, classism, and sexism one would expect of a nineteenth century manuscript.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lucy and the Green Man

Written by: Linda Newbery

First line: First light, first misted light.

Why you should read this book: Lucy loves working in the garden with her grandpa, and listening to his stories about Lob, who does useful odd jobs to special people. Most people can't see Lob, but Lucy and Grandpa can, so, when Grandpa dies and Lucy must return to London, she becomes distraught, worrying what will become of the mystical green man. Lob's journey to find a suitable place for a garden spirit highlights the ways in which the modern world is often unwelcoming to magic and wonder.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's important to you that your child not exhibit any signs of creativity, and that their imagination be squelched if they do.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 15: The War of the Ember

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: The light of the low-hanging, full-shine moon slipped into the cave, making it glow like a lantern of ice, above that tiny gut of sea linking the Southern Kingdoms to the Northern Kingdoms.

Why you should read this book: Everyone knew it would come to this: on one side, Nyra and her Pure Ones, aided by the Striga and an army of runaway Dragon Owls, with hundreds of hagsfiend eggs just about to hatch; on the other side, Coryn and the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, supported by wolves, bears, snakes, and a host of other surprising factions and creatures. The prize is the right to rule the world, choosing either a path of darkness or one of light. Sacrifices will be made, lives will be lost, but in the end, only one creature can decide the ultimate fate of the powerful, magical Ember of Hoole and, therefore, the fate of the world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If you haven't read the previous 14 books, it will be pretty difficult to decipher. Aside from a cast of dozens of characters, many of whom have strange names, and the invented words of the Hoolian language and the various words used by other species, there are several other languages being spoken. Decoding the end of this story is a challenge even for those who have been following the whole way through.

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 14: Exile

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: "All right, Otulissa, how does this sound for the lead article?"

Why you should read this book: While Soren and the Band are sent off to do some research for Otulissa, the mysterious Striga develops a close relationship with the King and begins to institute an unusual campaign against frivolity and vanity. Otulissa soon discovers that books are disappearing from the library, while the Band learns that book burnings and owl-burning are growing common on the mainland, the work of Puritanical Blue Feather Brigades. When the Band and knowledge itself are under attack, brave owls must stand up to combat censorship (with a great homage to Ray Bradbury) and save the Great Tree once again.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe that some ideas, and the people who espouse them, should be set on fire.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 13: The River of Wind

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: Threading through the roar of the waterfall, the scratch of pen on parchment could be heard.

Why you should read this book: When the elusive hermit-scholar Bess discovers evidence of and a map to reach the mysterious Sixth Kingdom of Owls across the Unnamed Sea, it's up to Coryn and the Chaw of Chaws to investigate. Meanwhile, Nyra is up to her old tricks, and this time, her target is Soren's own daughter, Bell. A strange blue owl who tries to rescue her helps tie these two story arcs together.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think you can trick karma.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert

Written by: Ofelia Zepeda

First line: In the dark shadows of an early summer morning, the muffled movements in the outdoor kitchen filter around the corner where we sleep.

Why you should read this book: This delicious and refreshing poetry collection, written in English and Tohono O'odham, takes the reader on an intimate journey through the many moods of the Sonoran Desert, though the eyes of a women who grew up immersed in its seasons. Clouds, rain, wind, dust, and heat form the tactile landmarks through a world comprised in equal parts unyielding reality and fluid spirituality. As a child in the cotton fields, as an adult contemplating the ocean, Zepeda's words imbue her experience with radiant energy, illuminating tumbleweeds, long hair, and dish towels so that they possess as much power as the massive forces of nature that surround her.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't take the heat.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 12: The Golden Tree

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: "Look at me, look at me!" the Great Gray hooted.

Why you should read this book: The action returns to the present as the presence of Coryn and the magical Ember breathe new life into the Ga'Hoole tree and the Guardians' society, but Coryn can't be certain that the Ember doesn't bode evil, and is increasingly sure that his own mother is the most dangerous threat imaginable. Attempting to help snap him out of these dark thoughts, Soren and the Band take Coryn on what is meant to be a pleasure trip, but quickly turns into another deadly adventure when he discovers the existence of an ancient artifact that could reintroduce dark magic into the world. In his absence, the Guardians fall under a strange obsession with the Ember and forsake all their principles, really frinking off Otulissa and Madame Plonk in the process.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're all for the worship of idols.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Hunger Games

Written by: Suzanne Collins

First line: When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

Why you should read this book: In a horrifying speculative future, most of what was once North America lives in terror of the tribute owed to their Capitol; every year, two dozen children are sent to battle to the death for the amusement of the empire and to remind those at the lowest echelon of society the deadly price of defiance. Katniss Everdeen, whose black market hunting and gathering business has kept her family alive for years, is no stranger to extreme survival, but when she takes her sister's place in the Hunger Games, she has no doubt that her own death is imminent. An exciting, bloody, and fast-paced page turner of a novel, complete with deep questions about liberty and responsibility.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Extreme, graphic, kid-on-kid violence.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 11: To Be a King

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: It matters not who I am, only that I tell the rest of the tale...

Why you should read this book: Hoole brings his followers to the Great Ga'Hoole tree and begins to lay the foundations of his utopian, egalitarian society, knowing that an epic battle with the hagsfiends is imminent. While he and his friends travel north and south, gathering skilled workers, laying out a spy network, and preparing for war, a particularly evil, intelligent, and Machiavellian hagsfiend called Kreeth uses her magic to create a magical hagsfiend baby who can shapeshift into the form of any kind of owl. The three-novel story arc recounting the ancient legends is completed with a satisfying confrontation, and resolved in the present-day frame as the main characters learn the lessons of the books.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You always prayed for a baby, and when your wish came true, you didn't like the looks of the kid.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 10: The Coming of Hoole

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: Octavia, the pudgy, elderly, blind nest-maid snake, slithered out onto the branch outside her old master's hollow.

Why you should read this book: Coryn and Soren, now accompanied by all their friends in the Chaw of Chaws, continue reading from the secret, ancient books found in their old mentor's chambers, and continue to learn about the time of legends and magic. Little Hoole, the noble child of Queen Siv and King H'rath, hatches out, to be raised in isolation by Grank, the first collier, and Theo, the first blacksmith, so that his existence remains a secret from all the hagsfiends who would use him to further their own dark intentions. With murder, intrigue, bravery, subterfuge, the tale unfolds as many owls, wolves, and polar bears work to ensure the little owl grows into the king his people need to overcome the evil that has infested their world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You had to give your child up to be raised by another, for his own protection.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Huge

Written by: Sasha Paley

First line: "Faster, faster!" Wil Hopkins's trainer, Heather, yelled over the sound of crashing waves.

Why you should read this book: Wil is a spoiled, angry rich kid whose parents made their fortune with a fitness empire, and she's determined to gain weight this summer, to spite them for being ashamed of her and sending her to fat camp. April is a poor, popularity-obsessed girl who saved her money for over a year to afford admission to the same exclusive camp and avoid the influence of her fast-food loving, Rascal-riding, type-II diabetic mother. While Wil and April seem to have nothing in common, a summer of forced closeness, of triumphs and humiliation, punishment and reward, might teach them how to relate to themselves and others in healthy ways.

Why you shouldn't read this book: This might be the first time in the history of video that someone made a TV adaptation this vastly superior to the book. While the show was intelligent and nuanced with developed realistic characters and conflicts, this book is superficial teen lit in which everyone is one-dimensional. Then again, they cancelled the show.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Once upon a River

Written by: Bonnie Jo Campbell

First line: The Stark River flowed around the oxbow at Murrayville the way blood flowed through Margo Crane's heart.

Why you should read this book: Fans of Campbell's will recognize how this novel builds upon material from all of her previous books, while creating a rich and landscape and full-bodied characters that stand alone in a powerful narrative about one girl's quest "to figure out how to live." Margo Crane is an achingly beautiful teen, slow to speak, a deadly shot with a rifle, born and raised on the river, and in love with the old ways: self-sufficiency and simple living. Her quest will catapult her from her family home, through the arms of men good and bad, around the moral quandaries of life and death, and up and downstream, until she chooses for herself the path of the heroine in a story that very nearly defines the phrase, "Great American Novel."

Why you shouldn't read this book: Some sexual and physical violence may be disturbing to sensitive readers.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 9: The First Collier

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: Call me Grank.

Why you should read this book: Lasky takes a fresh look at her popular series, using the familiar characters only as a frame for the first part of the story of Grank, the first collier, who tells his tale in first person from the pages of an ancient manuscript. In times long past, dark magic threatens owls across the north lands, but especially the Queen Siv and her unhatched egg, the future King Hoole. Many of the legends and language from earlier in the series are explored in detail in another fast-paced adventure, brimming over with supernatural effects and brave deeds.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're pregnant.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Where Clouds Are Formed

Written by: Ofelia Zepeda

First line: Every day it is the same.

Why you should read this book: A lovely and refreshing collection of poetry focuses on the land around Tucson, the experience of a Tohono O'odham woman moving through her landscape, and a love of water, dirt, clouds, and stars. The language is evocative, transporting the reader to a desert world where life is abundant for those who know how to see it and science, culture, history, language, and place intersect in a wonderful web. A triumphant and powerful statement set firmly in time and space.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's almost too short: you've only just begun to savor the flavors of the poet's world when the book is over.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader

Edited by: Haun Saussy

First line: People sometimes refer to Paul Edward Farmer, MD, born in 1959, as a hero, saint, madman, or genius.

Why you should read this book: This collection of scholarly essays, spanning a period of more than two decades, collects some of medical anthropologist Dr. Farmer's powerful research on the intersection of poverty, gender, ethics, and healthcare. Based mostly in Haiti, but covering the entire world, with implications for everyone, he discusses infectious disease, particularly AIDS and tuberculosis, and they way in which the modern medical model fails those who need the most help. From "stupid" (easily preventable) deaths, to child prostitution, violence, and the objectification of the poor, resulting in prejudicial attitudes that poverty must be an impediment to healthcare, this book dissects the false beliefs, negated by Farmer's actual success, that have allowed wealthy nations to set aside their responsibility to others.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Although Farmer writes with a quiet wit, this is a rather dense scholarly work and may not be easy for some readers to get through.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Pieces

Written by: KJ Kabza

First line: The first thing Jesper noticed was her parasol, twirling like a ghostly pinwheel beyond the branches and webs.

Why you should read this book: In the fantasy worlds of KJ Kabza, sometimes the ghost saves you, and sometimes you save the ghost; the hero's epic quest is no match for true love, and the holiness of angels is no match for true lust. From the clones of JK Rowling and CS Lewis in the distant future to the shades of Charon and Sisyphus in the mythic past, this collection of previously published short stories offers fresh perspectives on speculative themes and characters you may have seen before, but never quite in this light. When the scientist smashes his time machine after a safe and successful trip to the future, the superhero claims a "guilt-free, socially sanctioned excuse to break shit," after posting his arch-enemy's homemade fetish tapes to YouTube, and small purple dragons live in the bathtub drain and eat soap, you know you've left the mundane world and entered into the author's truly surprising imagination.

Why you shouldn't read this book: In the interest of full disclosure, I am biased toward this book, in no small part because the dedication reads, "For Monica Friedman, who knows it all," and the acknowledgements thank me "for a lifetime of being awesome."

This book is available exclusively on Smashwords: Buy it here.

The Land of the Painted Caves

Written by: Jean M. Auel

First line: The band of travelers walked along the path between the clear sparkling water of Grass River and the black-streaked white limestone cliff, following the trail that paralleled the right bank.

Why you should read this book: If you read the first five novels in the Earth's Children series and are dying to know what happens to Ayla and Jondalar, that would be a decent recent to pick up this monstrosity. If you are interested in reading pages and pages of detailed descriptions of prehistoric cave paintings (which go on for so long that even the main character, whose joie de vivre helps her feel excitement for pretty much everything in the world, admits that she is bored of cave paintings) or willing to slog through hundreds of pages of repetitious exposition with little action, conflict, or character development to learn one researcher's opinion on the ephemera of prehistoric religion, those would also be reasons to tackle this tome. I cannot think of another reason why anyone would want to read this book, which is badly in need of editing and lacks most of the graphic sex scenes, emotional turmoil, and ancient innovation that made the previous novels so delightful.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If you cut out every passage that summed up plots or relationships detailed in the previous five books or earlier in this one, it would be about fifty percent shorter. If you also cut out the tedious greetings, various characters' impressions of the protagonist's accent, dull hunting scenes, long-winded explanations of climate, flora, and fauna that has been explained in the other books, and the description of all the painted caves, you'd be left with a book that was about eighty-five percent shorter and reasonably interesting, although still mostly predictable and really poorly written.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole Book 8: The Outcast

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: You are a mask.

Why you should read this book: In exile from his hateful family, young Nyroc begins to explore the world and contemplate the terms of his destiny. To this end, he changes his name to Coryn and journeys to Beyond the Beyond, for what purpose he can only guess. Along the way, he begins to hone his skills as a hero while collecting allies, until multiple character converge at the sacred volcanoes and the plucky owl can discover the fate that the world offers.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You consider your own offspring, or other people’s children, perfect sacrificial lambs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World

Written by: Tracy Kidder

First line: Six years after the fact, Dr. Paul Edward Farmer reminded me, "We met because of a beheading, of all things."

Why you should read this book: In turn heartbreaking, inspiring, astonishing, painful, and eye-opening, this Pulitzer-winning book recounts the life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer, as seen through the eyes of writer Tracy Kidder, who accompanies him around the world, from Haiti to America to Peru to Russia and back to Haiti, documenting Farmer's determination to eradicate multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, AIDS, and any other disease that comes him way amidst populations that most of the planet has already decided should be allowed to die. Farmer's unrelenting work on behalf of the poorest and most downtrodden people of the world serves as a wake-up call that anyone, anywhere can make a difference if he or she is determined to change the world, and this book demonstrates how Farmer's advocacy for the poor has changed the world: building clinics and houses, cleaning up water supplies, and negotiating with the international groups that determine treatment protocols, distribute funds, and control drug prices. Kidder's sensitive reporting helps the average reader understand the mind of a nearly super-human genius, rendering his subject accessible and encouraging a little more compassion, understanding, and determination from his audience.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've already assuaged your white liberal guilt with your checkbook.

Go the Fuck to Sleep

Written by: Adam Mansbach

First line: Cats nestle close to their kittens now.

Why you should read this book: Pairing familiar, cozy images of peacefully slumbering animals and happy babies with tongue-in-cheek text in which the narrator begs an overly wakeful child to go the fuck to sleep, this is a satirical look at the desire of all adults for their children to turn off at the end of the day so everyone can decompress. Sleep deprived Moms and Dads will recognize the hysterical juxtaposition: there is that adoration of ones offspring paired with parental desperation; anyone who has ever wondered why their child will not go the fuck to sleep will find their feelings mirrored in the increasingly frantic pleas for a little big people solitude free of further requests for drinks, teddy bears, or bathroom trips. For a truly grown-up treat, check out Samuel L. Jackson reading this text at Audible.com.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think it's for children and are horrified by the language.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 7: The Hatchling

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: "It's the hatchling," a young owl said as the group watched Nyroc, only son of the great warrior Kludd, begin a power dive.

Why you should read this book: The Guardians of Ga'Hoole series takes a different turn, and gives evil a new face, as the action shifts to the enclave of the Pure Ones, where Kludd and Nyra's newly hatched son, Nyroc, demonstrates his amazing ability to do everything his mother asks of him. Nyroc is a likable little owl, clever and open-minded, who possesses talents far beyond anything his power-hungry mother can guess at. Will he grow up to fill his father's battle claws, or will there be tasks set before him that he simply cannot answer to?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think asking a kid to murder his best friend is a great test of loyalty.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ends of the Earth

Written by: Roy Chapman Andrews

First line: Almost every day someone asks me: "How did you start exploring and digging up dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert?"

Why you should read this book: Affable adventurer Andrews provides detailed accounts of many of his expeditions, from his first whale collecting field trip in 1907 through to his scientific exploration and leisure pursuits in China and Mongolia in the late twenties. With rich descriptions of the most imposing animals to ever die at the hands of a gentleman scientist, along with his personal observations on Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Mongolian peoples and culture and dozens of near-death experiences, this book brings the author's journeys to life in a vivid way. This volume includes dozens of black and white photographs, all taken by the author, in the early part of the last century, documenting some of his travels to distant lands.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Contains a lot of the same material as the later (and shorter) Under a Lucky Star.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Javelinas

Written by: Lauray Yule

First line: You may smell them but never see them.

Why you should read this book: A delightful little book about some delightful little creatures, this undersized, square format volume provides a detailed overview of one of the southwest's most interesting characters, the peccary, specifically those known as javelinas. Sprinkled with amusing and adorable photographs, the book begins with a historical explanation of how peccaries split off from pigs many millions of years ago, how their massive ancestors lived in South America, and how these creatures have only recently made North America their home. Information about mating habits, feeding habits, life cycle, family units, behavior, and getting along with the javelinas in your back yard are all covered in this slim but informative book.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You just want to keep them from eating your landscaping.

Monkey Business

Written by: Wallace Edwards

First line: IDIOM: a group of words whose meaning cannot be understood from the meaning of the individual words; an expression, peculiar to a specific language, that cannot be translated literally.

Why you should read this book: Each page provides a lovely and literal illustration of an idiomatic expression: a tiger crawls out of a carpet bag when the cat is let out of the bag, a bulldog eats hot dogs while musing on a dog-eat-dog world. The colorful, animal-themed illustrations are lovingly painted, with a monkey hidden on every page. Laugh out loud fun for anyone old enough to understand the discrepancy between words and meaning.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You take everything literally.

The Purple Coat

Written by: Amy Hest

First line: Every fall, when the leaves start melting into pretty purples and reds and those bright golden shades of pumpkin, Mama says, “Coat time, Gabrielle.”

Why you should read this book: Every autumn, Gabrielle and Mama go downtown, to the shop where her grandfather makes coats, and Grampa measures Gabrielle for a new navy blue coat. This year, however, Gabrielle decides she wants a purple coat, and Mama’s insistence that she always has a classic blue one cannot change her mind. Can Grampa find a solution that will please Gabrielle and Mama?

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t believe in trying new things.

Last Week My Brother Anthony Died

Written by: Martha Whitmore Hickman

First line: I am looking at my shoes.

Why you should read this book: A little girl gives an honest accounting of her reaction to the death of her baby brother, who only lived a few weeks. Despite their short acquaintance, she still misses him and feels as if her family is incomplete without him, and that no one else can really understand what she’s going through. However, she learns that her minister once lost a child, and he teaches her that sadness comes and goes, like clouds, and that one day, when she's ready, she can begin to feel better.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Too sad.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Written by: Brian Selznick

First line: The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris.

Why you should read this book: A wildly inventive marriage of words and images, this brilliant novel takes resourceful orphan Hugo Cabret on a journey through the streets of Paris and the history of magic, robotics, and cinema on his quest to solve the mystery of an automaton that was destroyed in the fire that killed his own father. Descended from a long line of clockmakers and armed with his father's notebook, Hugo is determined to repair the broken machine, but an angry toymaker is equally determined to foil his plans, for reason that Hugo cannot explain. When he becomes friends with the toymaker's goddaughter, the two begin to piece together the mystery, which unfolds with magical precision in words and illustrations.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've destroyed your life's work for reason you refuse to discuss.

Hummingbirds: A Portrait of the Animal World

Written by: Hal H. Wyss

First line: Most of the more remarkable physical characteristics of hummingbirds are in some way related to their small size.

Why you should read this book: If you're fascinated by the dazzling colors and zippy maneuverability of these living gems, you have something in common with the author of this text, who has compiled an accessible and informative coffee-table book on the subject of all things Apodiforme. Physiology, iridescence, mating habits, migration patterns, and feeding behaviors are all covered, with gorgeous, larger-than-life photographic illustrations and instructions for attracting more hummingbirds to your yard. All sixteen species commonly found in North America are described in the last chapter.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You hate beauty.

The Report Card

Written by: Andrew Clements

First line: There were only about fifteen kids on the late bus because it was Friday afternoon.

Why you should read this book: Nora has an eidetic memory, remarkable spatial awareness, and an uncanny ability to analyze data, but she long ago decided to turn her remarkable genius to the task of appearing perfectly normal and average. Now, in fifth grade, this C student is ready to take a stand against the endless round of standardized testing, spelling tests, and social studies quizzes with some carefully acquired zeros. Unfortunately, she may be an off-the-charts genius, but there's no way she can hide her secret from the world and make a statement at the same time, but the question is, does she really want to go on pretending that she's not the smartest person in the room?

Why you shouldn't read this book: If there's one thing you can't stand, it's a smart alec, know-it-all pre-pubescent kid.

The Wish

Written by: Gail Carson Levine

First line: The old lady looked wobbly and feeble.

Why you should read this book: After her two best friends leave the district her English teacher reads her extremely creative creative writing piece aloud to all her classes, Wilma Sturtz goes from being a regular kid to being one of the most unpopular people she knows, until the day she gives her subway seat up to a witch and is granted a single wish: to become the most popular person in her junior high. The charm works like a charm: suddenly everyone, boys and girls, adores Wilma, although most of them can’t explain why, and she is the recipient of forty invitations to the Grad Night dance, many of them from other girls’ boyfriends, in addition to sleepover party invitations from the most popular girls in school. Only too late does Wilma realize the implications of her wish, because middle school is ending in three short weeks, and what will happen to the most popular kid in junior high when they all move on to high school?

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re always pandering to the popular kids.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 6: The Burning

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: "Night gathers and your time has come," intoned Barran the large Snowy Owl and monarch of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree.

Why you should read this book: The Chaw of Chaws heads to the Northern Kingdoms, charged with myriad, imperative tasks: they must escort Dewlap, the owl who betrayed them, to the care of the Glauxian Sisters on Elsemere Island; visit the Glauxian brothers, where they will study war strategy and replace the Fleckasia book destroyed by Dewlap; find a snake names Hoke of Hock and convince him to rally the Kielians to their cause; recruit more allies from among the Frost Beaks and Glauxspeed artillary on the Firth of Fangs; and finally, receive the ice weapons and training available only in the Northern Kingdom. The journey is dangerous and the timing difficult, since the clock is ticking toward winter's arrival and the Pure Ones' are fortifying their position in advance of the Ga'Hoolian invasion. Kraals, turnfeathers, katabatic winds, and painful separation all lead up to the thrilling conclusion, as the Ga'Hoolians seek to capture St. Aggie's from the Pure Ones.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You didn't understand half the words in the previous paragraph.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 5: The Shattering

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: It was the same.

Why you should read this book: The battle between good and evil takes a cerebral turn, waged in this book in the mind of young Eglantine, as she becomes a pawn of the Pure Ones, the integrity of her brain and gizzard shattered by the power of flecks. While Otulissa furiously plans an offensive attack that the older owls will never sanction, a new owl, Ginger, poisons Eglantine's mind until she can't tell the difference between dreams and reality, and inadvertently begins supplying information to the enemy. Can Eglantine recover the fragments of her mind in time to save herself and her friend Primrose from a horrible fate?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a treacherous traitor and you're just starting to feel a little bad about it.

Make a Wish, Molly

Written by: Barbara Cohen

First line: I didn't know about birthdays.

Why you should read this book: The sequel to Molly's Pilgrim, this picture book follows Molly, a Russian-Jewish immigrant to America, as she continues to learn about American traditions, overt racism, and the importance of embracing ones own identity. Molly's friend Emma is having a birthday party, and Molly is dying to taste the beautiful pink bakery cake, but Emma's birthday is during the week of Passover, and it's forbidden for Molly to eat foods made with flour and leavening. To make matters worse, Emma's other friend, Elizabeth, never hesitates to point out that Molly's Jewish immigrant ways are weird and stupid and need to be openly mocked.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're on a diet.

The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories

Written by: E. M. Forster

First line: Eustace's career--if career it can be called--certainly dates from that afternoon in the chestnut woods above Ravello.

Why you should read this book: These romantic ("romantic" as it applies to Nathanial Hawthorne, not a Harlequin novel) short stories, written approximately a century ago, glorify the Dionysian freedom of unspoiled nature, as experienced by the Apollonian Englishman. In three of the six stories, the awesome power of nature's mystic majesty (typified, in some cases, by the little goat-legged god) transforms a thoughtless fellow into one brimming over with joy, while a fourth story shows how a pristine patch of woods provides an already unusual woman (Irish and unpolished) with an escape from the stiff and dreadful Britishness being thrust upon her. In the eponymous tale, "The Celestial Omnibus" transports a small child to innocent and epic delight, while casting a pompous and disbelieving academic to his doom.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You fear nature.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mister Wonderful: A Love Story

Written by: Daniel Clowes

First line: 6:09 p.m. Nine minutes late.

Why you should read this book: Marshall is, in his own mind, an abject failure: divorced, broke, and middle aged, he sits in a cafe among younger, more vivacious people, waiting for a blind date who, he expects, will be horrible (if she even shows up at all) but, when Natalie arrives, blonde, unblemished, and unashamed, he falls for her in an instant. This short graphic novel details their night together, highlighting Marshall's negative self-talk as he worries about impressing her and fantasizes about spending the rest of their lives together, and adds depth to a character who may appear dull and mousy on the surface, but harbors deep passions and anger. The night stretches out, giving Marshall room to expand and allowing the relationship between two imperfect but not undeserving people to blossom.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're having a whirlwind weekend with a drug-addicted prostitute.