Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Winners for 2011

And the Winners are:

Mock Printz - They Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Mock Newbery - Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Mock Caldecott - Art and Max by David Wiesner

Some of the voting was very close.  If anyone there that day remembers the honor books please post in comments.  I know Finnikan was a close one in Printz and took the online voting.

The actual Awards from ALA:
Winner: "Ship Breaker" by Paolo Bacigalupi
Honor Books
Stolen--Lucy Christopher
Please Ignore Vera Dietz--A.S. King
Revolver--Marcus Sedgwick
Nothing--Janne Teller

Newbery Medal

Winner: Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Honor: Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
Honor: Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
Honor: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
Honor: Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

Caldecott Medal

Winner: A Sick Day for Amos McGee illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Honor: Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave illustrated by Bryan Collier
Honor: Interrupting Chicken illustrated by David Ezra Stein

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mock Printz: Jump by Carbone

P.K. is a normal teen who loves to rock climb and whose parents just don't understand her.  She's not doing well at her school where they focus on standardised tests and traditional classes, plus her parents don't like her non-conformist friends.  So they want to send her to a nice boarding school where they believe that she will focus on classes and become a 'good' student.  Her answer is to run away on a rock climbing trip, but none of her friends can go with her.  Enter Critter.  Critter is a patient in the psych ward and has been kept drugged up on various pills.  He believes he doesn't need them and manages to skip doses and escape the hospital.  The first night out he stops the gym where he and his father used to go rock climbing and there he overheads P.K. asking her friends to go with her.  He volunteers when none of them will and the next morning off they go.  A new take on a road trip story, the pair start out as strangers and get to know one another and for P.K. herself a bit better. 

I liked this book for a lot of reasons.  Short chapters and two very unique voices that both rang true were two of the first I discovered.  The mix of mundane and dramatic details was another.  I loved the fact that P.K. wasn't running from horrible, abusive or neglectful parents....just normal parents who loved her, but just didn't understand her or agree with her.  She still loved them as well and in the end, even if everything wasn't perfect they all found a way to make peace and live with each other.  Critter's story unfolds slowly as he reveals it to P.K., and is left open but hopeful at the end.

This one will be added to my list of favorites for the year, at least for now.  It's definitely one that is worth the read.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mock Newbery/Printz : Guardian Angel House by Kathy Clark

Title: Guardian Angel House
Author: Kathy Clark
Publisher: Second Story House
ISBN: 978-1-897187-58-6
This historical fiction about a young teen living in Budapest, Hungary who winds up hidden with her younger sister in a Catholic convent makes a contribution to this genre. It is 1944 and of course in Hungary, which was one of the last countries to affect the Jews, it is no longer safe. Even though Hungary was slow, it was particularly effective in instituting an accelerated program of eradication of the Jews. Fortunately for Susan, a young teen, her mother's close family friend is accutely aware and pushes her mother to place the two girls. The placement winds up being a Catholic convent. The description of life with the nuns is excellent. From becoming one of the gardeners to caring for the younger children, Susan learns and appreciates their generosity. She especially develops a close relationship with one nun who later sacrifices herself to protect Susan and her sister. This book will not be a candidate for either Printz or Newbery but I did enjoy it. The author based the story on that of her mother and aunt who stayed at an actual convent called the Sisters of Charity. The way the nuns cared for the girls and expanded their dormitory to help other children is very touching and vivid. The fact that some of the nuns do lose their lives shows how dangerous the entire operation really was. The whole relationship between these youngest Jews and the nuns is very respectful and humane, something to think about and consider.
Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Mock Printz: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Marchetta, Melina
Finnikin of the Rock
Melina Marchetta brings her gift of writing to the field of fantasy. Finnikin makes a blood oath with a prince and the prince's cousin at the age of nine to protect his country of Lumatere. A short time later, a blood bath ensues when an impostor king takes over the country. Finnikin himself loses all his family and everything. Killing, rape, and death spreads throughout the land. The devastation is complete until ten years later. Finnikin, under the tutelage of the former King's First Man meets a young novice, Evanjalin. Unbeknownst to Finnikin, they begin a quest of a sort as they slowly gather around them the key people to restore Lumatere back to its original humanity. The rich character development and complex plot gives this story a mystery and suspense until the reader discovers who the players really are. Throughout their journey they deal with language and culture differences, personality complications and genocide. How does a society recover? This is an interesting fantasy with a lot of deeper meaning. My only criticism was the long, protracted ending. But aside from that, it is the best YA book I have read all year. I think it should be a Printz candidate. It is well worth the read.
Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A bunch of books that aren't going to win the Printz...

but they are awesome and you should read them or at least buy them for your library.

Riker's High by Paul Volponi
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont
The World as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron
Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mock Printz: A Million shades of gray by Kadohata

A million shades of gray by Cynthia Kadohata

Notes from the catalog: In 1975 after American troops pull out of Vietnam, a thirteen-year-old boy and his beloved elephant escape into the jungle when Viet Cong attack his village.
The Good: This is a historical fiction firmly in the middle grade level which looks at a side of the war in Vietnam that is often overlooked. What did happen in Vietnam after the US left? It's also classic Kadohata. It's tender and the writing solid.
The not so good: Lets start with those notes in the catalog. The attack mentioned doesn't happen until ½ way through the book so they (and the flap text) dismiss the first ½ of the book! They are incorrect or at least misleading. All that is of course not about the book, but about the flap notes and cataloging summaries.

So why wasn't I thrilled with the actual story? For a story which takes it's title from the animal that Y'Tin cares for, it contained little about them. I never felt the personality of Lady, Y'Tin's family's elephant. The 3rd person narrator told the reader what she was like and what Y'Tin thought of her etc, but I was never able to connect to her. When Y'Tin had to contemplate sending her away to save her life, I couldn't feel his pain. None of the characters seemed to have much depth to them and that was disappointing since I loved Weedflower.

All in all this one will not be on any of my fav lists for the year.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Current favorites as of 4/19/2010

Caldecott Faves:
Bildner, Phil                      The Hallelujah Flight
Kimmelman, Leslie            The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah
Schoenherr, Ian                Don't Spill the Beans
Tavares, Matt                  Henry Aaron's Dream

Newbery Faves:
Paulsen, Gary                 Woods Runner

Printz Faves:
Green, John and David Levithan               Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Sonnenblick, Jordan                                     Ever After Ever
Stork, Francisco X.                          Last Summer of the Death Warriors

Agree with these faves?  Disagree?  Read other books you think should be considered?
Read and comment here on the blog or on the Bccls Youth Services Listerv!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mock Printz: Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

This British import might sound like a stock novel if you just look at the quick summary.  Boy is bullied, ends up dead, his friends are working through thier grief and trying to understand what happened.  But if you pass up the experience of reading this book you'll be missing some laugh out loud moments of teen boys doing what they do best; getting into trouble, hanging out, and being friends.

Blake, Kenny, and Sim have all been friends with Ross for years.  Kenny since they were tots, Sim since primary, and Blake since he and his mom moved into town years ago.  So when Ross is killed in a car accident and some of the people who made his last weeks alive miserable show up at his funeral, the three of them decide to take revenge and to give Ross the funeral he deserved.  The one they think he'd have wanted.
This kicks off an insane weekend where the boys bond with each other, fight with each other, break friendship and strengthen it.  By the end, the three friends learn that they didn't know everything they thought they did when the whole thing started and that though they understand alot, there is just as much they won't understand any time soon.  The ending is a bit abrupt, but it also suits the story in an odd way.

This book isn't a serious dramatic lesson on bullying.  It isn't a funny road trip book.  It somehow manages to be both and neither at the same time.  Expect to laugh out loud at some of the images, or maybe that's just my twisted sense of humor.  Expect it to make you think when the guys joking suddenly turns into some fairly philosophical discussions of friendship, death, and afterlife.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Mock Newbery 2010: The Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Title: The Woods Runner

Author: Gary Paulsen

Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books

ISBN: 9780385738842

In Woods Runner Gary Paulsen presents a side of the American Revolution that is not always discussed in juvenile literature. Instead of the glorified rebellion, the 13 year old Samuel is dealing with a dark war that is on his homefront. Samuel has learned to survive in the wilderness of the Pennsylvania colony, although his city parents are not as accustomed to the wild as he is. When Samuel hears about the rebellions in the Massachuesetts colony he rushes home to tell his parents, but finds their farm burnt and his parents gone.

Samuel narrates the story as he uses his survival instinct to track his parents. Chapters are broken up with brief descriptions of some of the more unknown historical details. Paulsen's newest was a quick read, fun, and never a dull moment. Descriptions were detailed and placed the reader in the Pennsylvania wilderness. Paulsen's pacing never slowed and the writing was superb. This is definately a great book to sell!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Anyone Read Happyface yet?

I don't remember what reviews this got, but it was here waiting for me when I got back from PLA.  I picked it up and it looks really interesting...reminds me of Wimpy kid, but older and deeper.


Oh's by Stephen Emond

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Everyone ready for a new year of BCCLS Mock Awards?

This year I'm reading for the Printz and I just finished a book that Amy from Teaneck gave me a heads up on.
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta.  It's definatly worth a read and I think it will be talked about when the Printz award comes around.  Not just because Marchetta won with Jellicoe Road a few years back either!

Finnikin of the Rock is a fantasy/quest novel, but Marchetta's skill with characters raised it well above the norm for this genre.  She explored questions of national identity, what defines a nationality - thier common language, thier history, or thier land.  What happens to a people without a land and the choices people make to survive, protect the people they love and to protect themselves. 

Don't hand this one to your younger precocious fantasy readers, but to your 13+ readers who are looking for more than fairytale fantasy and definatly give it a try for yourself.

Monday, January 11, 2010

And the results are in! Winners of BCCLS Mock Awards!

Below are the results of the Mock Awards sponsored by the BCCLS Youth Services Committee and held on Friday, January 8, 2010:

Printz Award Winner:

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Dorothy Heiligman

Printz Award Honors:
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Fire by Kristin Cashore

Newbery Award Winner:

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Newbery Award Honors:
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker

Caldecott Award Winner:
The Lion & the Mouse written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Caldecott Award Honors:

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields

Our thanks go to the Washington Township Library for hosting the event! And thank you to all of the attendees who came out in the snow and participated in our lively discussions!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Breathless by Jessica Warman

Title: Breathless
Author: Jessica Warman
Publisher: Walker & Company
ISBN: 9780802798497
Starred reviews in: Booklist, SLJ, BBYA nominee


Gifted swimmer, Katie Kitrell’s life in her small Pennsylvania town changes when her older brother Will (whom Katie’s closest to and who suffers from drug induced schizophrenia) progressively gets worse and attempts suicide. Not close to her distant, barely present psychiatrist father and her alcoholic, artist mother-- 15 year-old Katie quickly warms to the idea of being sent away to Woodsdale, a private school in West Virginia. There she can be free of her fracturing home life, Will’s increasingly erratic behavior and the town whose petty inhabitants she blames for Will’s illness. Pettiness of course follows Katie to prep school but thanks to her talent and love for swimming and her aura of new-comer mystery, she manages to score a spot in popular hierarchy and a relationship with the attractive captain of the boys' swim team. Pressure to fit in and then to succeed mounts. It’s exacerbated by Katie’s determination to hide much of her family’s story. A half-truth turns into a lie (that Will is dead and not in and out of institutions) that eats away at her. Support comes from a surprising place. Katie’s equally secretive roommate, the caustic, standoffish and clever Mazzie, learns Katie’s secret but keeps it. The girls form a true friendship filled with sarcastic but touching dialogue, sisterly bed sharing, sometimes brutal honesty and stints hiding in a cabinet beneath the sink of a girls’ bathroom. Ultimately, Katie must balance her desire to escape and find her own happiness while holding onto unbreakable ties and that which she loves. Even when it's hard to.


What’s most appealing about Warman’s debut novel is that many elements ring true. Though a work of fiction, this could just as easily be a teenage memoir. The setting of Katie’s small town PA, of prep school, even if the reader’s never been or barely experienced, Warman lets you experience both through Katie. Readers aren’t watching- they’re living. The bite of false friends, the strength of true friendships, the pangs and pleasures of first love, the pressure to succeed, the fragile family dynamic, the destructive capabilities of illness…..they are realistically portrayed. Warman’s characters are fleshed out, flawed and funny; friends and foes, sometimes both rolled into one. Breathless is honest and wrenching, a story with the good, the bad and the ugly of life.

Consider this book for a Printz honor and for a place on your shelves.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mock Printz: Carbon Diaries 2015

Title: Carbon Diaries: 2015
Author: Saci Lloyd
Publisher: Holiday House
Starred Review: BL, HB, SLJ
ISBN: 9780823421909

It’s 2015 and the Great Storm has hit. In response Great Britain conducts a grand experiment to try to stem the effects of climate change. Those measures which were to be phased in slowly until fruition in 2030 are now put into effect immediately. Nationwide carbon rationing will be instituted beginning January 1, 2015. What follows is, “Carbon Diaries: 2015”. This is one year in the life of British teen Laura as she watches family and friends struggle with the fall out of this drastic experiment.

Laura is a very sympathetic character. It can not be said that she takes the carbon rationing with grace and dignity because she doesn’t. She is very real in her reactions to events around her. At times it seems as though society is disintegrating around her. Her parent’s marriage doesn’t look as if it will survive and she suspects her sister is somehow involved in the black market that has developed around selling carbon “points”. On top of all these worries she is still trying to get her punk band off the ground. Life is full of worries for Laura but the book and Laura do have humorous moments. She is a somewhat sarcastic character with at times biting comments. The story is written in journal format interspersed with newspaper clippings, flyers and other items. It works very well in conveying Laura’s personality and innermost thoughts about the changes in her world. This is a well written, engaging book that can be read to promote discussion on eco topics or if one is simply looking for a strong, sympathetic teen character dealing with overwhelming odds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Title: Going Bovine
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Delacorte Press, Random House
ISBN: 9780385733977
Starred reviews in: Booklist, BBYA nominee


Texas teen Cameron Smith was coasting along through high school and life in general with very little effort spent on either. All of this changes when he’s diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human equivalent of Mad Cow disease). He goes from being ignored to being pep rally celebrated. Immediate family members happy to give him a hard time or leave him to his lazy ways change their tune when faced with losing him. A stint in the hospital and Cameron’s story can go in one of two directions: What the rational reader believes or what the hopeful reader wants to believe. 1. Cameron begins to suffer hallucinations in earnest as his brain succumbs to the disease and he fades in and out of consciousness and reality. 2. Our hero accepts the quest Dulcie, the pink-haired punk angel, has lain out before him, accompanied by friend Gonzo (a gaming, hypochondriac dwarf) and a talking, badass lawn gnome evidently the Norse god Balder. On one trippy road trip they face fire giants while searching for the mysterious Dr. X, who can save both Cameron and the world (Dr. X’s time traveling has placed it in jeopardy). This world consists of tabloid code, time traveling, a Disney E-ticket that preserves health gaming style, a smoothie-loving happiness cult, evil-fighting jazz musicians, quotable sci-fi fandom, and the phony culture of both music television and high school.


Bray’s latest is sizable like her Gemma Doyle trilogy. The only other thing they have in common is that Going Bovine is another fantastic tale worth reading. Going Bovine is at once insanely amusing, laugh out loud funny sci-fi but also misty-eye inducing and thought provoking contemporary fiction. Satirical and touching. Star Wars meets Don Quixote. Pop culture melded with philosophy. Bray successfully peppers Cameron’s quest with bits and pieces of real life mentioned pre-hospitalization and readers wonder at their significance to the mission and/or peg them as evidence Cameron’s hallucinating brain is failing. Like Cameron, you never quite know what’s really happening. Characters, specifically Cameron, are well drawn. The dialogue is clever (side splitting) and believable. Bray’s sometimes off the wall humorous sci-fi blends well with spot on observations on the human condition, belief, what’s superficial and what’s real….and what it means to live. While the story plods along at points, weighted by the surreal and the amount of material, invested readers should stick it out till the end. When it comes, they’ll have to decide if Cameron’s quest/hallucination afforded him the chance to really live.

Maybe not THE winner but worth keeping on our list and definitely worth picking up for your library.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: The Demon's Lexicon

Title: The Demon’s Lexicon
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN: 9781416963790
Starred Review: Kirkus
ISBN: 9781416963790

“The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that Nick kept his favourite sword under the sink.”

So starts “The Demon’s Lexicon” by Sarah Rees Brennan. This is Brennan’s debut work and it is the story of sixteen year old Nick, his older brother Alan and their mentally unstable mother Olivia. They live their lives on the run and armed to the teeth ready for attack at any moment. The family is evading the magicians who are after an amulet worn by Nick’s mother. Magicians are given power by demons but this comes at a price. Nick’s own mother was driven mad by magic and other magicians have committed acts of violence in their search for power. Into this chaos come Jamie and Mae, a brother and sister, with a serious problem. Jamie has been given two demon marks. One more mark and Jamie dies. Alan agrees to help and Nick reluctantly finds himself doing so as well, only because Alan wants him to, and not because he cares whether Jamie lives or dies. This is typical of Nick who seems unable to feel or understand complex emotions. All Nick cares about is ensuring his and Alan’s survival. Not even his own mother, who screams at the sight of Nick, enters his sphere of protection.

“The Demon’s Lexicon” is an adventure packed read. Nick is all brute strength and is very over protective of Alan who has a weakened leg after an attack when they were young. Alan can be just as fierce and deadly but is obviously a very caring person, something that seems completely beyond Nick’s capabilities, much to Alan’s dismay. Nick is such an interesting character precisely because he is so fierce. One gets the sense that he would absolutely do away with anyone in his way and the only thing keeping him in check is Alan. Nick has had an unshakeable faith in Alan but even that faith is tested when family secrets begin coming to light. This rocks Nick’s world as Alan, the one constant in his life, seems to be changing the rules on him. One can’t help but root for Nick as he struggles to temper his ways and at the same time protect Alan who puts his own life in danger in the quest to help Jamie. Some might be put off by Nick’s anger and antipathy throughout the book but stick with it and the twists and turns lead you to a sad, suspenseful, and action packed climax. “The Demon’s Lexicon” is not a Printz contender but is a must read for any fan of the TV show Supernatural since the brotherly dynamic is so reminiscent of that between the Winchester brothers.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

MockPrintz: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Title: Fire
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Dial
Starred Review:The Horn Book, Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal

It is kind of mean of me to mention this book when it isn't released until October, but you'll want to make sure you put your name on the holds list in advance.

Fire is part-human, part-Monster, and while most of the monsters in the Dells are rabid, vicious creatures, Fire is lovely on the outside and inside. She has the ability to read people's minds, talk to them inside their heads, and influence them, but she does not use this power for evil unlike her father Cansrel did before his death. The royal family requests Fire's assistance in investigating spies from opposing forces in the kingdom. She leaves her childhood friend and lover Archer to join the family. This summary does not do the book justice.

Although there is a lot of action in this novel, the story is primarily character driven. The characters are so well-drawn and the writing is stellar. Realistic fiction writers should take note of this book, as the romance is so well-developed you spend the book waiting desperately for the resolution, as opposed to most contemporary YAs in which the love interest is bland and the protagonist barely has a conversation with the guy before the tepid kiss at the end.

Fire is a prequel to the lovely Graceling, but completely stands alone. Only one character appears in both books but the appearance does not require knowledge of the other book.

I would be surprised if this book didn't end up with a Printz Honor sticker, though I'm not quite sure it will take the top prize.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill

Title: Soul Enchilada
Author: David Macinnis Gill
Publisher: Greenwillow/Harper Collins
Starred Review:K

Eunice “Bug” Smoot is having a bad day. Someone has egged her car, she’s lost her job, she is about to be evicted, and if that weren’t bad enough, a demon has come to repossess her car. It turns out her grandfather, Papa C, signed a contract putting their souls up as collateral for his purchase of a 1958 Cadillac. When, after his death, Papa C disappears the djinn Beals comes looking for him. Bug must either produce Papa C or forfeit her own soul. Beals is now permanently attached to the car until the completion of the contract and develops and unwanted fascination with Bug that paves the way for many confrontations throughout the book. Papa C was her last remaining family but lucky for her she isn’t as alone as she thinks. It turns out Pesto, former classmate and current crush, is a member of ISIS the International Supernatural Immigration Service. He uses his connections in ISIS and with Attorney E. Figg to try to figure out a way to cut Beals loose from the car and get out of the contract with Scratch (the devil) so that Bugs can keep her soul and free will.

Author David Macinnis Gill is off to a good start with this debut novel. The story takes place in El Paso, Texas and this isn’t mentioned just for show in the book. Gill infuses the story with plenty of local flavor with his mention of holidays and landmarks found in El Paso. Bug is half Tejana and half African-American while Pesto is Mexican-American and there is a smattering of Spanish phrases in the book, particularly when Pesto's mom, Mariposa (Butterfly) is added to the mix. Bug is a tough young woman who has had a rough start in life. Her dad left and her other family died when she was young until she was left with Papa C who despite his faults was someone she loved dearly and who she knows loved her. This is why she is shocked, hurt and just plain mad that he would sell her soul for a car! Despite the nature of the story this is not an "angsty" book. It is filled with action, legal mumbo jumbo, comedic moments and a touch of romance. The dialogue between Bug and Pesto is snappy and flirtatious. Bug is a diamond in the rough. She is at times awkward and rough spoken, but almost always endearing. Recommend to those who like to read about feisty heroines, supportive maybe maybe-not boyfriends, and/or good-vs.-evil battles with a touch wackiness.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Charles and Emma/The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

Title: Charles and Emma/The Darwins' Leap of Faith
Author: Deborah Heiligman
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., LLC
ISBN: 9780805087215
Starred reviews in: Booklist, SLJ

In 1838 London, Charles Darwin sat and considered marriage—using a pros and cons list. With the decision to marry resolved, and his father’s two cents sought, fate and family put Darwin in the path of cousin, Emma Wedgwood. The match, as presented by Heiligman (supported with excerpts from letters, journals and notes etc.) proved more than successful. Charles and Emma’s marriage was a loving one, supportive, full of compromise and full of children (they had 10 with 7 surviving). They suffered their share of grief and felt the weight of a continued underlying tension due to conflicting religious beliefs— mainly God’s role in creation and what follows death. As Darwin’s family grew, so did his controversial theories on evolution and natural selection. Theories he knew would not be happily received by the general public, many of his scientific peers and more personally, his wife whose religious beliefs were strengthened following the death of a much beloved sister. In a world influenced by religion, in a class system religion seemed to preserve and in a marriage where his generally, very open-minded wife feared they wouldn’t meet in heaven – Darwin forged ahead in his experiments, observations and his revolutionary writing.
Which, ultimately, Emma proofread, even if she didn’t agree.


Heiligman’s biography is engrossing, with excellent tone and pacing. The integration of historical facts and quotations do not stall the reader. While it’s not a full and comprehensive look at either spouse’s life it’s certainly engaging enough to pique the interest of readers. (Even, or especially, those not inclined to non-fiction or science…like myself.) It’s an introductory meeting with Darwin and his family, historical non-fiction that doesn’t suffer from dry or overwhelming information and it’s also a genuine romance. There’s more emphasis on the Darwins’ life than Charles’ scientific theories in detail. How those theories relate to his marriage, his family and vice versa. Included are source notes, a selected bibliography and a few images (i.e. a copy of that pros and cons list). I would very much like this title to be honored in some way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Heartsinger by Karlijn Stoffels

Title: Heartsinger
Author: Karlijn Stoffels(translated by Laura Watkinson)
Publisher:Arthur A. Levine Books
Starred Review: PW


Heartsinger was originally released, in Dutch, in 2006. It is the story of Mee, the “Singer of Sorrows”. He has the ability to sing someone’s life story and heal their emotional pain but he is unable to heal his own. The story begins with Mee’s childhood as the child of two deaf parents. When his father dies he tries to soothe his mother’s pain but is unable to do so since she cannot hear his song. He soon loses her to her sadness and thereafter begins wandering the countryside unable to cope with his inability to help his mother. As he wanders Mee meets many different people and his song is able to soothe the remaining friends and families as he sings the life story of the one who has passed on. His sadness is at times overwhelming and though we see him surrounded by people he is in fact very much alone.

Born on the same day as Mee, is Mitou, the child of parents who resent each other and ignore her. From them she learns how hurtful words can be but is lucky enough to find that through her music she can make those around her laugh and dance and experience joy. She comes to be known as Mitou the “Merrymaker”. She soon learns about Mee, the Singer of Sorrows, born on the same day and time that she was. Mitou somehow knows that she and Mee belong together and sets out to meet him. The questions then become whether or not she can find him and even if she does can he see past his own grief to realize that the Singer of Sorrows and the Merrymaker belong together?


Heartsinger is an odd little book. At 134 pages one would think that it would be a quick read. However those 134 pages are full of stories some of which don’t connect until the very end of the book. Though it is essentially the story of Mee and Mitou it is also the story of Esperanza the sad princess and Viereg the prince in love. It is the story of the sailor and his wife and also the story of an army captain and all the other characters that Mee meets. Stoffels tells us the story of each one. It can at times be overwhelming and though some stories connect at the end not all do and serve to make the book not confusing necessarily but just a bit more complicated than one would expect from such a short novel. This could be described as a fairy tale with characters that at times seem to have almost magical abilities thought it is not explicitly stated that this is so. This would probably be most appreciated by those who read fairy tales and are looking for a short if not quick read.