Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mock Printz: A Summer of Kings

Title:A Summer of Kings
Author:Han Nolan
Review:This excellent book retells the story of the summer of 1963 through the eyes of a young, perceptive, adolescent girl named Esther Young. The summer of 1963 isn't just any summer but an important one, that is, before the Civil Rights Act, during the contention between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, during the protests when the fire department in Alabama turned their hoses on children and before the assassination of JFK. Esther is a privileged white girl from a wealthy playwright's family who lives in Westchester County, NY. She is the black sheep in the family, the one without talent, who was left back in the third grade, and is struggling to find her skills, her identity, and her place in the family and in the world. She gains an insight into the brutality of race relations in the south when an 18 year old African-American boy who is accused of murder in Alabama gets sent up north to stay with her family. As she gets to know him and her crush turns into a real caring bond, she learns about the great sadness and hardship in his life. This book is so touching and more than anything else it is about the characters you as a reader come to care about. They are real people who change and grow as they must make decisions. Unfortunately, they live in "interesting times", and get caught up in a powerful period of time where their decisions have huge ramifications. This is definitely a contender for my Printz list. I loved this book and will look for more by the same author....
Reviewer:Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mock Printz:Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd

Title: Monkey Town
Author: Ronald Kidd
ISBN: 1-4169-0572-3
Starred Reviews: School Library Journal
Review: I picked up this book since it is so timely. As it turns out, the main character, a teenage girl named Frances Robinson is loosely based on a person Ronald Kidd actually met. Frances has a crush on her teacher, Scopes and lives across from the courthouse where the trial takes place. The girl and her father become intimately involved in the trial because her Dad is the school board chairman and instigates the case as a publicity trial. As the trial takes on a life of its own, it forces Frances to question her religious and moral values as well as her relationship with her Dad. The town becomes a laughing stock of the intellectual world but affords Frances to expand her own world as she meets H.L. Mencken, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. But the one individual who is irrevocably changed is the teacher, Scopes. Because of Frances' crush, she sees his perspective and life will never be the same for her or her family or the town. This book has some meat on it and tries to show the complexity of the characters and the times. I enjoyed the book very much and intend to use it in the fall with my Mohter-Daughter Discussion Group. It could be one of my top ten for the Printz but I am not sure yet.
Reviewer: Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Mock Printz: Voices by Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin
Starred Reviews: School Library Journal
Review:I always enjoy Ursula Le Guin and Voices is no exception. Written in the same world as Gifts, published in 2005, Voices sets up a new situation which although vaguely linked, stands very well on its own. Memer is the main character here living in a defeated country, Ansul, where the oppressors, the Alds, have subjugated the whole place and removed all books and education. Memer lives with the Waylord ad clandestinely learns how to read in a secret room. Things change several years later when unexpectedly a poet and his wife, who has special bonds with animals, come looking for an original manuscript rumored to be in Ansul. Their visit serves as the catalyst for Memer's people to restore their once peaceful, highly civilized way of, life. Although not outstanding, this book presents interesting ideas and very memorable characters. I have not yet decided if it will be on my list ....
Reviewed by:Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mock Printz: Theodora Twist by Melissa Senate

Title: Theodora Twist
Author: Melissa Senate
ISBN: 0385733011
Starred review in: Kilatt (May '06)
Review: Reality television's next star is already a star in her own right. Theodora Twist (formerly Dora Twistler), discovered at age thirteen while trying to talk her way out of a shoplifting charge at Bloomingdale's, has earned a Paris Hilton-esque reputation as a bad girl. To fix her damaged rep, Theodora's agent concocts a plan to show the world how much of a "real teen" Theodora really is. Theodora will return to her hometown in Bergen County, New Jersey, live in the house she grew up in, and go to high school.

Emily Fine moved into Theodora's house after the Twistler family left for California. She's dealing with some real teen problems of her own, including a new baby stepsister and the fact that the guy she likes doesn't know she exists. But she's catapulted to reality TV stardom when she learns she'll be sharing her room with Theodora.

Mixed into this enagaging story of Hollywood and high school are some serious but well-handled themes of grief, sex, and superficiality. Emily is charming, and Theodora, despite her best efforts, comes to like Emily very much. The girls have a lot of typical teenage fights, but in the end they support each other and make the most of Theodora's life as a "real" teen. This is a bettter addition to collections than Jen Calonita's Secrets of my Hollywood Life, which tackles many of the same themes of teens and Hollywood, and it's a terrific readalike for fans of Meg Cabot and Lola Douglas.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mock Printz: The BookThief by Markus Zusak

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
ISBN: 0-375-83100-2
Review: This is a story of a book thief. Now why would anybody need to steal books, one can ask, especially since we're all librarians. Well, in Nazi Germany, stealing a book was an act of rebellion. And this is the story of a girl whose life gets caught up in that whirlwind. She is the daughter of communist parents and winds up in a foster home in a Munich working class neighborhood. She first survives through the kindness of the foster father, who teaches her how to read. Because of his kindness and decency, the foster father eventually offers a hiding place to a Jewish man. This girl then forges a deep bond with this Jewish man in the basement. How they mostly cope and survive is a courageous story. The book is peopled by wonderful characters who grow and change as their world gets increasingly dangerous. This book has stories within stories and that complexity makes the story even more real. The perspective of the book offers a glimpse at how much freedom and reading of books are intertwined. This is an original and fine book which stuck with me for a long time. It is definitely a candidate for the Printz list.
Reviewed by: Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mock Printz: Dead Connection by Charlie Price

Title: Dead Connection
Author: Charlie Price
ISBN: 1596431148
Starred review in: Publishers Weekly (March 20), nominated to BBYA
Review: Murray Kiefer sees dead people. He not only sees them, but he talks to them. He comforts them. They are his friends and confidantes, and until Pearl Janochek gets involved, they are his closest secret.

Nikki Parker, average high-school cheerleader, has been missing for weeks. The only lead Detective Roman Gates has in her disappearance is an unreliable, highly medicated eyewitness. He knows a man in a white car is involved, and that his eyewitness can't bear the sight of cars with whip antennae, but most of his investigation is just an exercise in frustration.

While Gates is conducting his investigation, Murray hears a new voice in the cemetery. It's a girl, crying, begging for someone to find her. His friends, including his favorite Dearly Beloved, who died in a car wreck, don't seem to know who she is. Teamed with Pearl, the cemetery groundskeeper's daughter, he starts an investigation of his own. His exploration and Gates's come together in a meeting, which is interrupted by a failed police officer bent on getting "revenge" on Murray.

Short chapters and alternating points of view make this story a must for any fan of Law and Order or CSI. Charlie Price has an eye for description and seems to know just what words to use to entice the reader without boring him. There's a large cast of characters, but each character is well-developed, slightly weird, and altogether fascinating. A great addition to the mystery genre and highly recommended.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mock Printz: Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Title: Dairy Queen
Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock
ISBN: 0-618-68307-0
Starred review in: KLIATT (May), PW (May 15), VOYA (June)
Review: Welcome to Red Bend, Wisconsin, where you can breathe our dairy air. And does sixteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk ever know about dairy farming. With her brothers away at college, her mother tied up in her new job, and her father unable to keep the family farm running, it's up to D.J. to milk cows, keep the fields maintained, and get all the other farm chores done. By herself. In addition to going to school and making a faint attempt at doing homework and hanging out with her best friend, Amber. Well, never mind about Amber. They're not talking much these days, anyway.

While milking thirty-two cows a day, D.J. takes on the job of training Hawley High School's star quarterback, Brian Nelson, for the upcoming football season. D.J.'s older brothers, both football players, have taught her a lot about the game, and amid a field of cow pies a romance begins to blossom. At the same time, D.J. starts to envision a better life than just doing what she's told and, as she puts it, "being a
go along doing what they're supposed to do without complaining or even really noticing, until they die." Football gives D.J. strength and identity, and with these new traits she can weather teen dramas and family revelations.

I found this book charming, with plenty of depth but very little of the melodrama. Of course, my memories of living in Wisconsin may color things a little. But the small Midwestern town is perfectly captured, and D.J.'s work ethic is inspiring. My only complaint about the book is the ending, which left me feeling somewhat betrayed. (Also, I've already read Rats Saw God.) I wouldn't vote against this for the Mock Printz, but I wouldn't vote for it, either.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mock Newbery or Printz: The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman

Title: The Loud Silence of Francine Green
Author: Karen Cushman
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
ISBN: 9780618504558
Starred review in: Booklist (July), Kirkus (July 1), SLJ (August)
Review: This is the city, Los Angeles, California. But it's not the LA of today's celebrity tell-alls. It's 1949, a time when conformity kept you alive and questions were not allowed. Francine Green's new best friend, Sophie Bowman, has yet to learn the lessons of safety and silence. Sophie speaks up in their Catholic school class, challenging the nuns' statements about war, peace, protesting, and Communism. For this, Sophie is punished, and Francine, though she's not known for being outspoken in the first place, resolves to stay quiet and out of trouble. For all her resolve, though, Francine can't help but question the oppressive world around her, including her father's plans to build a bomb shelter in the backyard. The book is filled with pop culture and news references that cement the zeitgeist of the McCarthy era.

This is a solid offering, if only because Karen Cushman on her worst day is still better than most other writers on their best days. Sophie seemed a little caricature-ish, but that could be because she was such a contrast to obedient Francine. I also liked that Francine's innocence as well as her ignorance never slipped; she never seemed wise beyond her years and her growth from accepting to questioning seemed very natural, using Sophie as the catalyst. Not a personal favorite, but far from a bad book. I've marked it as both Printz and Newbery because it seems to be a book that could go in either direction.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Mock Printz: Nailed by Patrick Jones

Title: Nailed
Author: Patrick Jones
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 0802780776
Review: "The nail that sticks out the farthest gets hammered hardest", says his dad. Bret Hendricks is an outcast. With his blue ponytail, his distaste for auto mechanics and sports, and his love for reading classics, he drives his father crazy. Not to mention all the popular jocks in his school who live to torture him, who he's named the "jockarchy". The only things that provide a means of escape are playing in his grunge rock/funk band, "Radio Free Flint" and participating in school plays. When he meets Kylee, the violet haired pixie girl who shares his interests, he thinks he's finally found happiness. He and Kylee become inseparable and Bret feels like he has finally found someone who understands him. Are things to good to be true? A turn of events tests all of Bret's relationships, including his relationship with himself.

Bret is one of the best male characters I have met in YA literature. You like him from page one and are immediately experiencing the story through his eyes- connecting with him, understanding his feelings and struggles. Jones “nails” (sorry, couldn't help myself) the setting as well as shows us some of the most layered relationships I’ve seen. Bret’s interactions with his father teach us more about him and where he comes from and in turn, you learn much about his father through their fights/conversations. I felt differently about him when the book was done.
Overall, great read- totally sucked me in.
*I read this title a while back and am desperately trying to remember details. I’d love some backup/input!
Reviewed by: Annie Miller, PARA

Mock Printz: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Title: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 0-375-83531-8
Review: The basic premise is this: boy meets girl/girl meets boy. Boy and girl spend crazy night in Lower East Side, dodging their crazy ex’s, witnessing nuns stripping to Edelweiss, watching obscure hardcore bands play in random hole-in-the-wall bars downtown. The basic question this: is Norah as frigid as her friends tell her she is? While we’re at it, is Nick completely over Tris, the bombshell groupie who played him and broke his heart? Can Nick and Norah let their collective guard down and make it work?

Take this very modern day, unexpected love story and mix in as much music as one story can hold. Told from both Nick (written by Levithan) and Norah’s (written by Cohn) point-of-view in alternating chapters, this tale is funny, adventurous, and right on. Nick and Norah are characters you easily become friends with that have been created so perfectly by the authors, you can’t believe they aren’t real people. So far, this is one of my votes for the top ten.
Reviewed by: Annie Miller, PARA

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mock Printz: Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller.

Title: Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
Author: Kirsten Miller
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 1-58234-960-6
Starred review in: Booklist (7-06), nominated to BBYA
Review: Ananka Fishbein has resigned her life to social purgatory and boredom, until two extraordinary things happen: A sinkhole reveals an underground furnished room, and petite, white-haired Kiki Strike appears at her school. Employing her minimal detective skills, Ananka trails Kiki and the two eventually go into business together. Their mission is to explore the Shadow City, a world of rooms and streets below the NYC subways. Kiki employs three other girls, including a renegade Girl Scout, in what is both her goal to explore the Shadow City and solve a mystery of her own.

More than anything else, this book is fun. It's fast-paced with one foot solidly planted over the line of reality. The girls display extraordinary talents but also extraordinary friendships, and the book works because the reader cares what happens to the characters outside their adventure. The pursuit of the Shadow City brings out the best in the girls and it becomes their relationships, rather than the adventure (although there's plenty of that right up to the end!) that keeps the pages turning. You'll want to go on a tour of Kirsten Miller's New York when you're done reading.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS

Mock Printz: The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

Title: The Rules of Survival
Author: Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial
ISBN: 0803730012
Starred review in: Kirkus (07-15-06)
Review: Fear rules fourteen-year-old Matthew's life, and for good reason. He never knows when his mentally unstable (never labeled, but bipolar, or possibly borderline personality, but I'm not a doctor so don't take my word for it) mother, Nikki, is going to explode. At once, Nikki can be charming and affectionate, but she is also reckless, even suicidal, conniving, and manipulative. She endangers Matt and his sisters, Callie and Emmy, and most of Matt's life is dedicated to avoiding Nikki, placating her, or protecting his sisters from her. When Nikki begins dating Murdoch McIlvane, a man Matt has seen stop a potentially violent act, Matt thinks that Murdoch might be the key to getting away from Nikki. When all the adults in Matt's life seem to fail him, though, he knows that he has to stop Nikki on his own, somehow.

There are some books that defy reviews, that have to be experienced firsthand in order for the reader to see what's both on and beyond the page, and this is one of them. There is pathos here, and horror, and sympathy and anger. From Matt's unreliable narration, we know that Nikki is a danger to her children, but we can also see why no adults ever did anything about it (hence the reason why the book works so well in first-person and would have never worked in third). Nancy Werlin always writes cerebral, powerful books, and although this is not her usual adventure/mystery fare, it is every bit as good as, or better than, her previous books. This one is in my personal top 5.
Reviewed by: Carlie W., BCCLS