This book was a fun combination of fantasy and finishing school. Sophronia is growing up in a Victorian-ish era. The ‘ish’ is there because it’s also a world of vampires, werewolves and flywaymen. That threw me off for a bit, but once I figured that out, the rest was smooth sailing aboard the floating Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Except for the flywaymen attacks and the espionage. It was a quick, fast-paced read and I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!
Sarah Nelson and her father move every time someone uncovers the secret she and her father avoid talking about. Her list of forbidden questions and words seems to grow whenever she asks her father about her mother. But, sometimes Sarah Nelson needs to dig for answers. Her alcoholic mother and her mentally-ill mother do not have many answers for her, and so it is up to her to search alone, wondering if her personal idiosyncrasies are really signs that she is crazy like her mother. When, once again the press finds out the family secret, Sarah decides that courage is not only found in books, like her favorite novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. So Sarah sets out to face her greatest fear and biggest mystery.
Sure Signs of Crazy is a journey of discovery and mystery, and it was a pleasure to get to know Sarah Nelson as she discovered her true self.
I just thought I’d give you all a head’s up that your first night of spring break could be spent doing something awesome! If you are going out of town, then the night before spring break could be spent doing something awesome!
What is it you ask? Well, dear readers, you can go to a…
… book signing. Yes, that’s right! J. Scott Savage, author of the Far World Series (I haven’t read them yet, but I want to), is coming to do a book signing at our very own Deseret Book!
Thursday, March 21st, 6:30-8:30PM at the Meridian, Idaho Deseret Book
Friday, March 22nd, 6:30-8:30PM at the Boise, Idaho Deseret Book
He has other books too, in case Zombies are your style… check out this one:
What? You’ve never been to a book signing? Book signings are so fun people! You get to stand in a line (that’s not the really good part, come back here!) The best part comes when you get to the front of the line. That’s when you get to meet really cool people called authors. What? You want to know how I know Mr. Savage is cool? Okay, I’ll tell you: He’s teaching a class at WIFYR this summer. You know, that amazing writer’s conference Cari and I keep telling you guys about every summer? Well, they only let cool authors come there. That’s how I know. And I would love to go to his class. I would sign up tomorrow if I could. But, I already agreed to take 25 giggly girls on a campout all week. Yeah, it’ll be fun. So you should sign up and go instead of me. Then you can tell me what I missed out on. We could be writing buddies!
Get ready to kick off your spring break to a fantastic start! It’s also a great finish to read week if you happen to be celebrating that this week at your school. My kids are at theirs, and Mr. Savage is even doing school visits. Is he coming to your school? He’s coming to ours, and I am so excited. I should go back to school just so I can be part of things like that.
Okay, okay, okay, I know you all don’t want to write books. You like to read them. So go! Write it down on your calendar, don’t miss it. Your kids need something great to read over spring break!
I just read Matthew J. Kirby’s debut novel, and I’m about to start devouring his next book, Icefall, which just won the Edgar Award in the juvenile ficiton category. I am looking forward to it. Unfortunately, we are putting in some landscaping- flower beds and such, and so I am going to have to work hard to sneak in some reading in between gardening. Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll work it in somehow.
But… back to The Clockwork Three… I had a great time reading this novel and seeing how the lives of Frederick, Guiseppe and Hannah worked together like the intricate gears of a clock. Frederick is an orphan clockmaker’s apprentice, Hannah is a maid and the sole provider for her poverty stricken family, while Guiseppe is a busker and slave to his Padrone (a really mean man that is basically a child-extortionist and slave-master). I love the name Guiseppe- it’s so Italian, and the Italian aspect of his heritage was a small part of what endeared Guiseppe to my heart.
I’ve heard great things about Kirby’s next book and I can hardly wait to get started. I also am looking forward to meeting Matthew J. Kirby in person this summer at the WIFYR conference and having him sign a copy for me. That’s one of the great perks about this conference. Not only do they have a First Line Contest (open to everyone) going on right now, but they usually have a first line contest at the conference and they have author/illustrator signings. It’s like a celebrity meet and great for the literary world. I can hardly wait to see all my favorite people @WIFYR!
For those of you who like to celebrate holidays with a good book- here’s a great one for St. Patrick’s Day! We all know that Irish folklore is filled with tales of faeries and supernatural beings. So, although the specific country is not spelled out in Princess of the Wild Swans, it seems an ideal fit for the setting to be in an Irish country. Especially with the fact that the villagers in the book dance Ceili dances together. Cari and I grew up with Ceili dancing as part of our family’s involvement in Irish step dancing. There’s a great site with a thorough history on this form of dance that you can check out at Ceili Dancing. However, there is no mention of kilts in the book, so if you imagination takes you to another land of faeries, kudos for you.
I enjoyed Diane Zahler’s third princess book- although A True Princess is still my favorite out of her three. Many of us avid readers know the basic story of the Princess and the Swans, but for those who need a refresher, here’s a summary: Like so many classic fairytales, this one begins with a princess who’s mother has died, and her father remarries a wicked woman who is a witch. She is determined to get rid of the king’s 11 sons and 1 daughter. Zahler’s book only has 5 sons and the faerie’s in her story are evil, rather than good, but it’s a great re-telling. Zahler clearly knows her folklore and fairytales well. You can check out wikipedia for fuller details if you care to compare the similarities and differences between the two.
Now, here’s a quick review of some of the highlights and things that I loved. The stepmother was one of my favorite characters. Why? Because she was so evil. You can’t have a really good fairytale without some opposition between good and evil. It was interesting to see just how persuasive she could be with her enchantments and silver tongue. My other favorite, of course, was Princess Meriel. It was especially gratifying to see how much she changed from being a spoiled little brat who thought she was entitled to everything, to a much more self-sufficient, thoughtful person. I think this part was so gratifying to me because I work with girls of this age on a regular basis in our religious community and Meriel’s character was spot-on to things I see consistently among this age group. Often my girls can’t see the point of learning a certain skill. Let’s say, for example’s sake, sewing. And so they pout, and roll their eyes, and sigh and sometimes sit there regally refusing to learn. They can’t imagine ever having a need to use such an archaic skill. Heaven forbid they should ever need it. Luckily for them they do not live in the land of faeries and witches and spells! Otherwise, they might find themselves in dire need of this basic skill like Meriel. Hopefully someday, they’ll be grateful for all those things I torture them with- just like Meriel becomes friends with her governess, who was another of my favorite characters.
If you’ve read the book, who is your favorite character? How about your favorite of the three princess books, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
The mostly True Story of Jack is another compelling, debut children’s book. I seem to be reading a lot of these lately. There is a mystery that pulls you along from the very first page. I think that many younger readers will find this to be a little bit spooky and shivery tale. ‘Something’ magical steals children in Hazelwood, takes their souls and erases them from memory. Their families don’t even remember that they existed. With a creepy old school building built on a magical eruption point, creepy woods, and an evil, rich citizen, this book has enough creep factor to keep middle grade readers up late into the night afraid of their own shadow. It’s up to the children in the town to solve the mystery and save one another from having their souls stolen away. Perfect for a Halloween-season scare, this medium-scary tale may or may not be for your child. It would probably scare my kids too much, but they are easily scared. However, I enjoyed it.
The 2002 winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in Young Adult literature.
Young Ju comes with her family to America. As they fly in the plane, Young Ju thinks they must be going to Heaven. Her Uhmma seems so happy to go to this America, it must be as wonderful as Heaven. An Na’s language took me back to college days when I had 3 Korean roommates. Her subtle language reflects exactly the grammar idiosyncrasies of new immigrants (not in the whole book, but at appropriate places). We had so much fun playing around with different words and the sounds that were difficult for my roommates to pronounce. I remember helping with grammar on English papers and being frustrated because you can’t change a whole paper to sound all-American without taking out the personality of the author, and the heritage they carry.
So, back to the story . . . Young Ju is frustrated by the discrepancies between home life- and true ‘American’ life. Her parents have brought with them traditional Korean ways, which when contrasted with discussions at school, bring Young Ju much difficulty. Americans think it is okay to question everything, but at home Young Ju must not question, or she is disrespectful. This story drives home the importance of family togetherness and understanding. Definitely sad parts, and difficult topics (physical and alcohol abuse), but overall a story of hope in America and the American dream.
I met Debra Terry Hulet this summer during an author event at our nearby Kuna, Idaho library. She has an amazing story and if you ever get a chance, you need to go meet her! Her debut novel, Independence Rock, is somewhat unusual in Mormon Fiction because it deals with touchy subjects that are often glossed over in feel-good, faith-promoting literature. The protaganist, Katie McBride has an abusive, alcoholic mother and an absent father. Kudos to Debra for starting out with such a tough situation!
Although Katie’s ancestors were Mormon, Katie is not. So, when she is offered the chance to go on a handcart trek instead of be locked up in juvenile detention, Katie embarks on a difficult journey towards healing and understanding. I was excited to receive a review copy of Debra’s book, and I must say once I started reading it, I devoured it. Katie’s handcart trek is interwoven with the handcart trek of her ancestor, Katherine, whose journal Katie finds under the floorboards in her bedroom the night before she leaves. As Katie reads journal entries along the way, Katie and Katherine draw closer to one another despite the divide of years. When Katie faces a crisis she can’t see past, Katherine is able to help Katie in a very unusual way.
This is a great read for all youth, and it would especially be a great prep-book for youth groups planning on a handcart trek adventure. It’s made me want to go check out Independence Rock for myself. A big thank you goes to Debra for a great book and visit. I look forward to seeing more of Debra’s books in the future.
Want more handcart resources? Check out www.carenslaser.com for some awesome mini handcarts. If you want to plan a trek, or learn more about handcart treks, check out http://handcart-trek.org/. Don’t forget to check out 17 Miracles, this wonderful (tear-jerker) movie is about handcart pioneers and the many miracles they witnessed along the road to Zion.
It’s been a very busy summer, as I’m sure you all agree. Cari and I spent our first full week of summer vacation at the WIFYR 2011 Writer’s conference (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers). Boy did we come home changed! Cari took the YA novel class by Emily Wing Smith and I (Holly) took the Picture Book class by Kristyn Crow. I think my inner creator grew three sizes. At least! So, due to opportunities to submit manuscripts and all the entailing writing and revising, things here at Bookscoops have slowed down. I know, you thought they were already slow. It’s probably a little more honest to say they practically came to a standstill. Sorry about that!
I thought that I would make a quick list of some of the books that I have read and enjoyed this summer. I know, I know. How can I have time for reading, if I have no time for blogging? The key to reading even when you’re busy is having a book every place you might have a moment to read. Even with four kids, there is always a moment to read. Like, that 3 minute time slot when everyone is taking forever to buckle their seatbelt… don’t get mad, read! They’ll get the point eventually, and even if they don’t, you’ll get more reading time 🙂 So, without further ado, here is the list:
Hitch by Jeanette Ingold: I actually re-read this book on accident. Apparently, I had no memory of the original first two chapters. Or the cover. But I did, all of a sudden, have one of those Ah Hah! moments, and it all came rushing back. Despite my questionable memory, I did love this book the first time, and the second time. So, since it was worth the re-read to me, it’s definitely worth a look for you. Did you know that during the Great Depression there was a government funded program that paid young men to work? Most of these young men worked on National Parks and agricultural projects. It was amazing. What a concept- provide jobs, and improve our country, all at the same time. I’m a little curious to know why no one has thought of this during our current recession. I have read multiple times in the news about how difficult it is for young people to get jobs these days. Perhaps we are not yet desperate enough to do this kind of back breaking labor.
Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller: How many of you have ever thought of the Helen Keller story from the teacher’s perspective? I loved this peak into the life of Annie Sullivan. Amazing, and profound. I can’t believe what she rose above to become Helen Keller’s key to life. Annie and her brother spent time sleeping in the corpse room at a sanatorium after their mother dies and their drunk father abandons them to relative who can’t handle their handicaps or Annie’s spunky attitudes. Defnitely a must-read.
Dark Fire and Fire World by Chris D’Lacey: Books 5&6 in his Dragon series. My soon-to-be 5th grader and I have been fighting over these all summer. I steal the book from him after he goes to sleep and he steals it from me in the morning. All the time in between is a free-for-all. When his friends are over or he’s at swimming lessons, it’s my turn. I just finished Fire World last night. Anyone interested in dragons and who likes fantasy will find these books a fun escape from reality. If you are, or have, a voracious reader that needs something new to read, this series will keep you busy for a good amount of time as each one is three inches thick. Fire World was quite different than I expected, there definitely will be at least one more book to come. It’s been fun tag-teaming the series with my son, I look forward to the next one- actually, we both do!
The Three Little Gators by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Will Terry: This is a fun remake of the three little pigs, with gators and a big bottom boar. The author and illustrator are the same as the fun fractured tale of the Little Red Hen: Armadilly Chili (loved this one too!)
Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by David Soman and Jacky Davis: a husband and wife team. I was tipped off to this book by a friend I met at the WIFYR conference (Thanks Christy!). It’s a fun book about compromise and friendship- the text is honestly a little long for my taste, but the pictures are adorable.
Mudkin by Stephen Gammell: A rolicking tale of fun in the mud, imagination… you get the drift. Perfect for my kids who turned our backyard dirt pile into a mud slide. What’s amazing about this is that there are only around 55 words! The rest is all illustration. Sometimes I wish I had more experience with illustration. I would love to be like Stephen Gammell and be able to tell stories through my art as well as my words. Maybe someday…
My Cat, The Silliest Cat in the World by Gilles Bachelet: Take a look at the cover. No, that is not an elephant, it’s a cat. Really. I’m not kidding. Neither is Gilles Bachelet. We loved this book, over and over and over. There’s just something inherently hilarious about a cat that’s an elephant. The twist at the end, was very satisfying. Your kids will love this book!
Fuddles by Frans Vischer: Fuddles is a spoiled, fat house-cat. Fuddles dreams of adventure, but when he experiences the real thing, he’s not so sure he dreamed the right dream anymore.
Blue Chameleon by Emily Gravett: Physical comedy in a picture book! An adorable chameleon changes color and shape as he tries to match the things he encounters. What he really wants is a friend- someone like him. This is another author-illustrator project, with few words, and lots of laughs.
Owls Backyard Animals by Nick Winnick: A fun non-fiction picture book full of fun information about these varied creatures of the night sky.
These aren’t all the books I’ve read- just some of them. I do read adult books too, which I don’t review here- anywhere, actually. Plus lots of books that are still in the que for special features, coming soon. I went to a few great book signings and I’ve gotten some fun review books in the mail. Stay tuned for more fun reads!