Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book review - Meet the Bigfeet

Title: The Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet
Author: Kevin Sherry
Genre: fantasy
Similar books: Kung Pow Chicken series by Cyndi Marko
                     The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson
Silly fun

Summary: Blizz Richards' life mission is to protect cryptids from human detection. Cryptids like himself. Blizz is a yeti. Along with his assistants (a goblin and an arctic wolf) Blizz is headed to a family reunion in Canada in hopes of finding his cousin Brian, a bigfoot who has been in hiding since being spotted by a photographer, putting the whole family at risk of discovery.
My opinion: How cool is it to have a kid's book starring cryptids?! Ashely Spires' picture book Larf (the story of an isolated sasquatch, if you're unfamiliar) is already a hit with our young patrons and this book seems like the next logical step for kids beginning to read independently. The plot is pretty simple, making it easy for the youngest readers to understand. Mostly, it is just a lot of fun. The illustrations are cute and silly. The Bigfeet have these really cool, involved, lairs. Each character has a distinctive personality,even the supporting characters. This is a fun start to what should be a pretty cool new series.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A slouchy beanie

A friend recently asked me for a slouchy beanie made out of Lion Brand Homespun yarn. A little bit of searching lead me to this pattern. It is really simple to follow and gives instructions for DK, Worsted, and Bulky weight yarns. I'm relatively pleased with the results.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book review - The Madman of Piney Woods

Title: The Madman of Piney Woods
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Genre: historical fiction
Similar books: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
                     Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
Absolutely engrossing

Summary: Benji wants nothing more than to be a newspaperman, to finally be good at something that will get him praise like his younger siblings get all the time. Red is trying to make it through each day with his angry, sometimes viscous, Irish grandmother. These two very different boys have never met but when a local competition brings them together they for a loose bond, a bond that will be cemented by a mysterious man in the forest.
My Opinion: While this is a companion to Elijah of Buxton, one need not read it first to understand the plot of this novel. I didn't. And I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Curtis has this almost conversational writing style so that even the sections narrated by Red, which were far more formal in their narrative style, felt like the narrator was sitting nearby talking to you. Pair that with a great plot, a sense of play but also of duty and respect for those who have gone before. While the conclusion is somewhat dark and serious, it's a great book for a middle grade reader and could spark some excellent discussion.
More Information: The Madman of Piney Woods releases September 30.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pick 6: Heists

This is actually the list that inspired this whole feature. I was noticing a surprising number of books with plots that centered around heists and complicated plans. So, here are six heist novels published in the last six months.

6 new heist novels
1. Fat Boy Vs. The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach

2. The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

3. Coin Heist by Elisa Ludwig

4. Loot by Jude Watson

5. Pretenders by Lisi Harrison

6. The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?
Famous Last Words by Katie Alender
When Willa moved in with her new step-father in Hollywood. she didn't have a lot of expectations. Life had been rough since her father died two years ago. Meanwhile, Hollywood is under siege by a serial killer attacking young actresses. These two things converge when Willa begins to see things. Is she hallucinating? Or is there a spirit trying to tell her something about the killer?
Who doesn't love a serial killer story? This one has started out really well and I look forward to seeing how the case unfolds.

What did you recently finish reading?
The Madman of Pine Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
Benji wants nothing more than to be a newspaperman, to finally be good at something that will get him praise like his younger siblings get all the time. Red is trying to make it through each day with his angry, sometimes viscous, Irish grandmother. These two very different boys have never met but when a local competition brings them together they for a loose bond, a bond that will be cemented by a mysterious man in the forest.
I haven't actually read the book that precedes this one (Elijah of Buxton) but that really isn't a big deal. The story stands very much on it's own. While race does play a role in the plot, at heart it is much more than that. It is more about what it means to be human, to be a good person. Curtis does not bully us into any conclusions, but leads us gently to some thought provoking ideas. This will be a great one to discuss with young readers.

What do you think you will read next?
The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
When I was a kid in history class I occasionally found myself wondering what life would be like if a key battle or something had ended differently. Clearly I am not the only one who thinks this way as Richmond has written a whole novel about a world where the Nazis won WWII. This could be amazing. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book review - Tabula Rasa

Title: Tabula Rasa
Author: Kristen Lipperty-Martin
Genre: sci-fi/thriller
Similar books: BZRK by Michael Grant
                     Slated by Teri Terry
action-packed, pretty engrossing

Summary: All Sarah can remember is the hospital. She's been told she is undergoing treatment to erase painful memories, that she's being given a chance to start over. That doesn't explain the wariness of the nurses who seem to treat her like a dangerous animal. And it certainly doesn't explain the soldiers who burst into the hospital as Sarah is undergoing one of her final treatments. Soldiers who gun down staff, blow up rooms, and seem intent on hunting her down. She is in a fight for her life that she doesn't understand.
My opinion: Amnesia as a plot device is an old idea but each author seems to find a new approach. The nice thing here is that the reader finds out information right along with Sarah. This novel has a pretty solid cast of characters, some with complex motivations. While the plot gets a little muddy at times, it follows a largely sensible line of thought. Constant motion adds to the appeal here. A great action story.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Monday, September 22, 2014


When I first got started with polymer clay it was my intention to make beads. That was it. My attempts at beads quickly gave way to small figures and Christmas ornaments. As time has passed, I find myself in a never ending quest for new projects to try. One thing I've attempted has been earrings with small polymer clay shapes. Here are some of the better ones I've made.

Golden Snitches

Saturday, September 20, 2014


My big program during the school year is a puppet making workshop. We meet once a month and teach the kids how to make a puppet. We also do some cumulative work towards our annual puppet show. Yesterday was our first workshop of the school year. We taught the kids how to make a bird sock puppet. Here are some pictures of the kids in action.
Our youngest participant this month was just 3 years old. He had a great time.
This bird sports a spectacular hat.
This bird has eye spots at the end of it's beak to protect it from predators. An ingenious choice on the part of this young puppeteer.
This puppeteer was incredibly focused and managed to color the entire sock and beak with markers (both were white to begin with) while also helping a younger kid with his puppet.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book review - I'll Give You the Sun

Title: I'll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
                     Made of Stars by Kelley York
Lovely and a little dizzying
Summary: Growing up, fraternal twins Jude and Noah were inseparable. They communicated without speaking, never played rock-paper-scissors since they always threw the same shape. Jude was the only one who understoond Noah's eccentricities. Now that the twins are teenagers, things have changed and they could not be more different. This book is told in two voices and time periods - Noah at age 13 (when they begin to change) and Jude at age 16 (when they hardly know each other any more).

My opinion: This book has been getting a lot of buzz and I can certainly see why. What a masterpiece. Nelson deftly manages two vastly different characters and two different points in their lives. Noah is very much an "other", so off from "normal" that anything is possible. Jude is incredibly damaged, broken by fears and secrets. And secrets play a huge role in the plot. We see these secrets and their effects slowly unfold, revealing how these previously close kids got to a point where they don't even talk. Beyond plot, this book is beauty and art. There is this great exploration of the artist's temperament and the process of creating. And absolutely wonderful phrasing. There's a beauty in the description of even little things. One of my personal favorite lines is "the strong smell of the ocean too, like he's carrying it on his back". That line just blows me away.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by Net Galley

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Picture books for everyone

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett

This is an entirely singular book. The base story is a sweet tale of a bunny celebrating his birthday with his friends. What really makes this book is the second story, the one that "Alex", the child to whom this book was given, wrote over top. This is the story of Battle Bunny and his evil plan to take over the world. With "pencil" additions to both the text and the illustrations, this is exactly what you might expect a boy to do to a book he doesn't like. Even the title page and copyright information have additions. It is certainly a different way of looking at a picture book and one that older kids will enjoy. It might also serve as inspiration for a writing project with the right kids.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?
Skink - No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
Richard is worried about his cousin Malley. About to be shipped off to an all-girls boarding school in New Hampshire, Malley has taken off with someone she met online. Richard is at a loss for how to help when he meets Skink, former governor of Florida and current eco-vigilante. Skink might just be wild enough to help him track Malley down and bring her home.
I'm not familiar with the character of Skink, though I understand he's a long standing character of Hiaasen's. I do enjoy the straight-forward writing style and ecological undertones. I've enjoyed what I've read of this so far and am looking forward to seeing the plot play out.
What did you recently finish reading?
Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
All Sarah can remember is the hospital. She's been told she is undergoing treatment to erase painful memories, that she's being given a chance to start over. That doesn't explain the wariness of the nurses who seem to treat her like a dangerous animal. And it certainly doesn't explain the soldiers who burst into the hospital as Sarah is undergoing one of her final treatments. Soldiers who gun down staff, blow up rooms, and seem intent on hunting her down. She is in a fight for her life that she doesn't understand.
With a great sense of pacing and a careful disbursement of details, this is a novel that will keep you reading. As Sarah meets a wide range of characters, each of whom reveal something about her past (sometimes directly, sometimes in a more general manner), we learn a lot about her character and begin to wonder with her what the future could possibly hold for someone like her. Great visuals and plenty of action.
What do you think you will read next?
On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers
Set in the near future, this is somewhat of a departure for Myers. I'm curious to see his approach to this concept of oppressive government and revolutionary teens. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review - The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth

Title: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth
Author: Ian Lendler
Genre: graphic novel
Similar Books: Fairy Tale Comics Edited by Chris Duffy
                     Knights of the Lunch Table by Frank Cammuso
Some silly fun

Summary: Late at night, after the Stratford Zoo closes, the animals put on plays. Specifically, the works of Shakespeare. Tonight they are undertaking the Scottish play - Macbeth. Watch as the animals relate the story of Macbeth in a kid friendly way (with some interruptions from the audience).
My opinion: I'm a big fan of books that introduce kids to works of classic literature in a more palatable manner. This fun graphic novel actually hits on all the major plot points of the original play. Macbeth the lion actually eats all of his enemies, including all of Macduff's family (though they are eventually rescued from his stomach to keep it from becoming too grim for little ones). A heavy dose of humor and high visual appeal make this a fun read. This series will be a great way to introduce Shakespeare to young readers.
More Information: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth releases September 30th.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A gift for my mother

My quest to complete Christmas gifts continues. I've been working on this little nativity set off and on for a few months. I'd like to add a few more pieces, but this is what I have completed so far.

Joseph is a little tippy, but we'll just say he's kind of bowled over by what has happend.
And the cow's head is overly large but it had to be to keep her upright.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review - Nest

Title: Nest
Author: Esther Ehrlich
Genre: Historical fiction
Similar books: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
                     Revolution by Deborah Wiles
A lovely weep-fest

Summary: For Naomi, nicknamed Chirp, life follows a familiar pattern - school, dancing with her mother and sister Rachel, awkward conversation with her psychologist father, and avoiding Joey and his mean brothers across the street. At least, it used to. Lately, though, her mother has been unwell and her sister has grown more distant. Even Joey seems different after Naomi's mother is first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and then institutionalized with a sever bout of depression.
My Opinion: In the beginning, Chirp is incredibly innocent, almost annoyingly naive. But, as the plot progresses, she must grow up alarmingly quickly. We see her belief in goodness and beauty, her love of birds and nature, shaken and twisted by the blows she is dealt. Without getting into any spoilers, I will say that the later chapters will take you through and emotional wringer. And while the book is set in the 1970's and there are a lot of dated references, the plot itself has a sort of universality that keeps it from becoming too distancing. Even those who are not fans of historical fiction will connect with the book.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Books on Screen

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller shine in this adaptation of Stephen Chbosky's novel. Logan takes us through Charlie's journey from awkward self-contained kid to fully defined adolescent. And Ezra really captures Patrick's irrepressible nature. This is one of those books that people tend to love wholeheartedly and if you're anything like me, that makes watching a movie adaptation a little bit frightening. If that describe you, give this movie a chance. It really does the book justice.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Guest review - Fractured and Shattered

In July, Elizabeth Murphy shared her review of Slated. She joins us again today to review the sequels, Fractured and Shattered.

Title: Fractured and Shattered
Author: Teri Terry
Genre: youth fiction
Similar books: The Program by Suzanne Young
                     Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Kyla, with a happy ending

Summary: In Fractured, Kyla recovers some of her memories. She is not sure what is what and continues her quest to find out who she is. Also, her friend Ben had removed his wrist device and she has no idea if he even survived. Kyla joins the terrorists and helps them prepare to go after the Lorders who control who gets slated.
In Shattered, the plot becomes very iffy. Kyla isn't sure who she is or who to trust -- she is being used by some of the terrorists and her psych doctor seems to be a part of the Lorder system. She continues to try and find out who her parents were. She seems to be protected by the system. Her dreams continue and bring back memories of her past.
Your opinion: These books continued to hold my interest. Kyla had all kinds of close call adventures, but all was resolved in the end -- almost too neatly. I had a little trouble with why she seemed to be so attached to Ben. I hadn't thought it was that serious a relationship in book 1. There were some very surprising developments regarding Kyla's "real" mother. I did love some of the technology presented, such as the "environmentally friendly high speed train" and the coded footsteps to the right train.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book review - Words and Their Meanings

Title: Words and Their Meanings
Author: Kate Bassett
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
                     The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susan Nielsen
Heart-breaking and lovely
Summary: It's been one year since Anna's beloved Uncle Joe died. In one year her family has completely fallen apart. Her parents think it's time for her to move on but Anna doesn't know how. Secrets and guilt weigh her down. Matters worsen when she discovers a note Joe wrote before he died - a note that indicates that the uncle she idolized may not have been such a good person.

My Opinion: What a heart-breaking look at grief and secrets. You've got this family that has completely fallen apart. They are giving up things that they love. Anna is so weighed down with guilt that she is barely living. The events immediately following the one year anniversary force them to confront their secrets and emotions. All of this pain and fear and loss is wrapped up in levels of beauty. Beautiful actions and beautifully written prose. It's a book that you could read several times as continually pick up new gems in the writing. Read it for plot. Read it for beauty.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Playing with marbles

A year ago I bought a bag of marbles for a craft. After using a couple, the rest of the bag has just sat on a shelf ever since. So, when I got out my clay the other day I thought I'd experiment with the marbles. I'm pretty pleased with the result.

Marble snails

Acorn pendants

Saturday, September 6, 2014

My summer faces

As part of our summer reading program this year the head of our youth department, Keli, decided to set the kids a challenge. We wanted them to read a total of 1500 books over the course of the program (a small improvement on last year's 1400ish). As they reached various milestones along the way we wore assorted costumes as a reward. Here's what my summer looked like costume-wise.

Red Day - 100 books
Sports/College Day - 250 books
Cape Day - 500 books
Hat Day - 750 books
Clash Day - 1000 books
Crazy Hair Day - 1250 books
And the biggie:
Mad Scientist Day - 1500 books

Friday, September 5, 2014

Book review - Zac and Mia

Title: Zac and Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
                     Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Summary: Zac has been in isolation after a bone marrow transplant for a month. With only his mother for company he's going a little stir crazy. Then he gets a new neighbor on the oncology ward. Mia is newly diagnosed and angry. After only a handful of Facebook conversations (which never seem to end well) Zac is sent home to continue his recovery. He expects to move on with his life and never see Mia again, though he can't help but wonder how she is doing. Then one day, her life going wrong, Mia tracks Zac down.
My Opinion: Firstly, this book is bound to be compared to The Fault in Our Stars. It's inevitable. Both books are about kids with cancer and their romantic connections. My recommendation is, put that out of your mind. Forget John Green while you are reading this and appreciate it on it's own merit. You have these two fantastic characters. Zac is very rational. He believes in statistics and hard science. Mia is emotional. Every response she gives is guttural and instinctual. Their approaches to their illnesses are different. Zac sees it as a trial to get through, Mia as something to fight in every moment. It is more than these things too. It's a story about choosing hope, choosing to fight for every moment. Already an award winner in it's native Australia, I imagine it won't be long before Zac and Mia gets a lot of attention here in the States as well.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Graphic Novel Spotlight: Tomboy

Tomboy: a graphic memoir by Liz Prince

This is, to my mind, the graphic novel for teens who feel marginalized or out of place. Liz is a self-described tomboy. From an early age she refuses to wear dresses, skirts, or anything "girly". She prefers toys that are favored by boys. Her role models are all male. She is quickly ostracized in elementary school and finds herself questioning her own identity. 
This is the story of a girl who doesn't fit into a traditional societal definition. She defies gender norms but still defines herself as female. She simply wants to define womanhood for herself. And that ultimate realization, that you can still be a woman even if you don't act in a socially traditional manner, is what makes this graphic novel stand out to me. Liz Prince has this way of explaining her ideas without becoming preachy, leading us to her realizations, that felt like a conversation with a friend instead of a lecture. Plus, this memoir is equal parts funny and meaningful. You will laugh and you might just cry a little.

Personally, I went through phases like this myself. My favorite outfit in the second grade was my Peter Pan costume.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?
Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett
Anna's beloved uncle died a year ago. In that year she has given up writing, her onetime passion, and begun to emulate Patti Smith. Now at the one year mark, her parents and her therapist think it's time to move on. As she attempts to live by their new rules, Anna begins to discover secrets about Uncle Joe.
From the beginning, this book has great atmosphere. Anna may not be the world's most likeable character but she feels genuine. I look forward to discovering more of this story, all those secrets about Joe and why Anna feels responsible for his death.

What did you recently finish reading?
Starry Night by Isabel Gillies
On the night that she goes to her first formal party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wren meets Nolan and everything changes. She feels different when she is near him. Even her dreams change. As her family pushes her to hang on to herself, Wren just wants to let go and live in the moment with Nolan.
This is definitely one of the more thoughtful teen romances I've read. It explores art, music, talent, and love in their different forms. Romance isn't one of my favored genres so I had a somewhat difficult time getting into this one, but I enjoyed the way it made me reconsider some preconceived notions.
What do you think you will read next?
Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday
A retelling mixed with mystery, murder, and insanity? This book could be amazing. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book review - Rory's Promise

Title: Rory's Promise
Author: Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols
Genre: Historical fiction
Similar books: Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan
                     Behind the Masks by Susan Patron (or really, any of the books in the Dear America series to which this book belongs)
Excellent historical fiction

Summary: 12 year old Rory and her 5 year old sister Violet have been living for the past 3 years at the Foundling Hospital in New York. Now the nuns want to send Violet to the Arizona territory to be adopted. Rory is determined to stay with her sister no matter what, even if it means sneaking aboard the train west. And when she gets to Arizona things get progressively worse.
My opinion: This is the exact kind of series I adore. Take a little known bit of history and spin it into a story. In this book we see the comparison between the Foundling adoptions and the more well-known Orphan Train. It's a story of intrigue, humor, and rather strong lessons. Rory learns about family, the fallibility of her authority figures, and that there is not always a perfect solution to a problem. Plus, the sense of atmosphere is strong. While secondary characters are somewhat weak, the excellent setting makes up for it.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley