Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Nifenegger

Book Information
Nifenegger, Audrey. The Night Bookmobile. New York, NY: Abrams ComicArts, 2010.

My Summary
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Nifenegger (bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife) is a haunting and thought-provoking book. While on a "cool-down" walk after an argument with her boyfriend, Alexandra stumbles on a bookmobile whose operating hours are "dusk to dawn." She learns that the bookmobile carries every single item that she has ever read. Her visit brings an overpowering desire to read and to work within the strange bookmobile, despite all of the sacrifices that she must make.

My Review
The Night Bookmobile raises questions about the act of reading. Is reading a selfish pastime that absorbs a person, preventing him or her from interacting with the community? What are the social dangers of becoming isolated, and of living life vicariously through books? The abrupt ending leaves many questions unanswered, especially with regards to Alexandra's happiness. Reading The Night Bookmobile in a graphic novel format is an "enhanced" reading experience. The graphics complement the story, and provide subtle hints to the reader about Mr. Openshaw, the nature of The Library, and about Alexandra's future. The pop culture music references provide additional food for thought.

In its few short pages, The Night Bookmobile offers readers many opportunities for reflection. Highly recommended.

My Notes
The Night Bookmobile is the first in a series of books collectively entitled The Library. I look forward to the next book!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan

Book Information

Yolen, Jane and Adams, Steve. Lost Boy: the Story of the Man who Created Peter Pan. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2010.

My Review

Jane Yolen, the award-winning author of Owl Moon  and the How Do Dinosaurs series, has written yet another bewitching picture book. Readers who enjoy Peter Pan and Finding Neverland should open Lost Boy, a biography of James M. Barrie.  Lost Boy illustrates how James M. Barrie was inspired to become an author, his early writings, and his source of ideas for Peter Pan. It also addresses difficult subject themes, including the death of his brother and the end of his marriage, quite sensitively.

The illustrations are elegant. They often appear to be old-fashioned and as "wooden" as the stage props that appear to have been used for the original staging of Peter Pan. Combined with the many Peter Pan-related quotations, the illustrations give an added dimension to the book.

This book is a wonderful way to introduce children to biographies!

Picture Books that Adults Will Enjoy

Book Information
Smith, Lane. It's a Book. New York: Roaring Brook, 2010.

Book Review
The latest bestseller from the award-winning artist, Lane Smith. Smith's explanation of a "book" involves a lot of smart humour that is targeted to a more mature reader. Clearly, the donkey is only too familiar with the concept of "e-books"! What would the donkey do with a Kobo? An enjoyable read for older children and adults.

Older readers might also enjoy picture book biographies, including Lost Boy by Jane Yolen, as well as the funny ways in which a boy "shows" his dad to do ordinary activities in Oh Daddy by Bob Shea.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Autobiography of the Queen: a novel by Emma Tennant

Book Information
Tennant, Emma. The Autobiography of the Queen. London: Arcadia Books Ltd, 2007.

My Summary and Review
The Queen escapes palace life and finds a seemingly restful getaway in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, her passport, money and luggage soon disappear. What should an undercover royal do in such circumstances, especially when her "rescuer" is a dubious neighbourhood rum shop owner?

The book is a must for anyone who enjoys reading about the royal family. Though the villain is obvious and the situations are outlandish, it is fun to see how the Queen faces each escalating problem with an aloof dignity and grace. Also enjoyable are the many miscommunications between the Queen and the rum shop owner, who thinks that she is just a "crazy old lady."

Read This Book?

Try The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.

If you were Queen for a day, what would you do? Travel the world? Make a large donation to the charity of your choice? Take a trip to... the library? The LIBRARY! For a Queen, after all, reading is a luxury as she always busy with public duties...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fast Food (Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints series)

Book Information
Friedman, Lauri S., ed. Fast Food (Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints). Missouri: Greenhaven Press, 2010.

My Review
Readers who enjoy a well-rounded discussion about current issues should open any book in the series Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints. Fast Food  covers almost every issue imaginable on the subject of fast food. Is fast food making Americans fat, or is obesity a question of lack of self-care? Should fast food be regulated, with restrictions on its marketing? Can fast food ever be considered healthy?

The essays included in Fast Food are drawn from a variety of sources, from the New York Times website to, an independent news website whose aim is to "inspire action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, health care issues, and more" ( Fast Food presents information in a way that is simple and clear, with thought-provoking questions at the end of each essay.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Faces of Opportunity by Opportunity International Canada

Book Information
Opportunity International Canada. Faces of Opportunity. Canada: Opportunity International Canada, 2009.

My Review
In Faces of Opportunity, readers meet 20 successful entrepreneurs. These business owners funded their organizations using microloans from Opportunity International, a nonprofit organization that aids the working poor in 27 developing countries

The stories of the business owners in this small, thin book are very clear, concise, simple and powerful. Through their successes, some of these individuals have become leaders within their own communities. Facts on loans, international poverty and small businesses are sprinkled throughout the book. The beautiful pictures of the business owners deepen the links of understanding between the reader and the book. The stories are inspirational and encouraging.

My Notes
As part of a new work project, I have been updating a local tourism directory. Daily, I encounter news of small business closures. I am constantly reminded of the many needs and difficulties that challenge small businesses today. Reading this book was quite a morale boost for me. These successful entrepreneurs are more than faces of opportunity. They are faces of hope.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Little Bear and the Marco Polo

Book Information
Minarik, Else Holmelund. Little Bear and the Marco Polo. New York: Harper, 2010.

My Review
Little Bear is full of themes that children in primary grades will love, including adventures and sailing. Parents will like the book's informative/educational aspects. Note: even though this book identifies itself as a level one book for beginning readers, it is not an introductory reader. There is no rhyme or repetition of words. Sentences do not follow a clear pattern. Some of the vocabulary is quite challenging. Depending on the child's reading abilities, Little Bear would be an enjoyable read for a student in Grade Two (or nearing the end of Grade One).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Love Books

I have created a new page related to Every Child Ready to Read called "I Love Books", with tips on incorporating a story time into your day and on reading the book Brooms Are For Flying by Michael Rex. Find a link to it on the right hand side of this page, and happy reading! Let me know what you think!

Peril on the Sea

Book Information
Cadnum, Michael. Peril on the Sea. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.

My Summary and Review
In the tradition of Pirates of the Caribbean, Peril on the Sea is a thoughtful but thrilling action/romance novel set in 1588 on the high Seas. Sherwin is a young writer/shiphand on board the "Vixen" under the notorious privateer (legal pirate) Captain Fletcher. War with the Spanish Armada looms in the distant future, though Captain Fletcher does not plan on fighting any battles. The story quickly changes after young Katherine joins the crew to safeguard a shady deal between Captain Fletcher and her father, also a captain. A small romance blooms between Sherwin and Katherine, while a Spanish warship appears, and the "Vixen" is now in dangerous waters.

This is a fast-paced read from Michael Cadnum, who was a National Book Award Finalist in 2000. Peril at Sea will be enjoyed by young adults who have a taste for history and/or romance. Sherwin is a believable idealist writer/sailor who is exposed to underhanded dealings of privateers, yet who manages to keep his morals straight. Katherine is a strong female character who knows how to drive a hard bargain. Through Captain Fletcher, Michael Cadnum has created an unreliable character of mixed allegiances. This book also has informative historical references to notable English pirates/privateers and to life on the sea long ago that fit well into developing the plot.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This Book Is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us AllBook Information
Johnson, Marilyn. This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.

My Summary and Review
Picture this: an online site that allows for user reviews of products and services, and which allows users to customize their settings. This online site has an in-person counterpart. Both the virtual and physical locations are techno-friendly and dedicated to providing excellence in customer service.

Sound like a bookstore, or some other retail environment? Think again! Marilyn Johnson's This Book is Overdue! provides a friendly, up-to-date look at the library world.

Librarians are defenders of freedom of information and of privacy, especially in the age of the Patriot Act. They are enthusiasts who take information services to the streets, offering Radical Reference Services. They enjoy sharing information, so it should be no surprise that many embrace electronic/digital technologies, including Second Life, blogs, audio books that can be downloaded to mobile devices, and online chatting. In fact, one 2009 study of university library chat transactions in Alberta, Canada, revealed that local library staff met the library reference transaction standards 94% of the time.

Marilyn Johnson has published a delightful, refreshing take on the library world. The section on Second Life really highlights the tech-savvyness of many librarians, and would make anyone who thinks that libraries are only for books think twice. This book is a must for anyone who values their public library or who wishes to become a librarian.

Personal Note
I particularly enjoyed reading about the "library book cart event" at the American Library Association's summer event. Having pushed many book carts myself, I would have enjoyed seeing this library performance.

Further Reading

Meert, D.L., & Given, L.M. (2009). Measuring quality in chat reference consortia: A comparative analysis of responses to users’ queries.” College & Research Libraries, 70(1), 71-84.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New page: Fun with Vocabulary!

Fun with Vocabulary! is a new page on this blog! On it are a tip for developing vocabulary skills with young children, and a review of "Cherry Pies and Lullabies" by Lynn Reiser, which is a great book to use for vocab development. Let me know what you think of the new page!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksSkloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Crown Publishers, 2010.

My Summary and Review

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was written powerfully. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a young mother, died from a vicious form of cervical cancer. Prior to her death, a doctor removed some cancer cells without her permission, and had the cells grown in a lab culture. Over several years, her cells (named HeLa cells) were used in countless experiments, benefitting the field of medicine and medical industries. For many years, her family never knew of her cells' importance, and faced many struggles, including poverty.

Rebecca Skloot covers the HeLa cells' story quite clearly. Readers who aren't medical specialists can understand her descriptions. More importantly, Skloot gives a human face to the development of the field of field of bioethics in the 20th century.

Who has the final say over the medical testing of humans and human tissues: patients or doctors? And should patients know all the risks regarding the tests in which they are participating?

One subject addressed in this book is particularly horrifying: researchers in the 1950s did not seek patient consent or disclose all pertinent information before involving patients in medical tests/trials. New information has been published that is relevant to the medical history provided in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In 2009, information was discovered about a 1940s study in which 696 Guatemalan prison inmates were intentionally exposed to syphilis by American researchers.

Amidst this bleak historical period, Skloot draws an overwhelming portrait of the struggle of a human family to survive and to understand the seemingly impossible information about the use of their mother's tissues to further scientific knowledge.

Further Information

Rebecca Skloot interview with Steve Paikin on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "The Agenda".

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. U.S. sorry for Guatemala syphilis experiment. Updated October 1, 2010.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Page!

There is a new page on my blog! Fun With Books 2! discusses how to develop story telling/narrative skills with young children. Check it out! Feel free to comment on it too! It is on the right side of the screen!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Checkered Flag Cheater by Will Weaver

Checkered Flag Cheater: A Motor NovelBook Information

Weaver, Will. Checkered Flag Cheater. New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2010.

My Summary/Review

Checkered Flag Cheater is a breezy teen read. With a straightforward plot, plenty of "car talk" and lots of racing action, this book will be sure to please teens who are into cars and racing. Will Weaver's many years of experience in racing add a realistic layer to this novel.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Sunshine On My Face by Lydia Burdick

The Sunshine on My FaceBook Information
Burdick, Lydia. The Sunshine on My Face: a Read-Aloud Book for Memory-Challenged Adults. Baltimore, MD: Health Professions Press, 2005.

My Review/Summary
This rare little gem is a picture book that invites conversations with older adults who face memory challenges, including Alzheimer's and dementia. Sentences are simple, and they highlight enjoyable aspects of daily life. There are helpful instructions and accompanying questions that stimulate conversation and involve the adult being cared for in the reading process. This book creates the opportunity for many warm, loving (even if short!) conversations.

The author, Lydia Burdick, holds a master's degree in Clinical Practices (psychology), and wrote the book while caring for her mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

My Notes
My grandmother, at the age of 97, enjoyed reading this book to me. She and I enjoyed the page "I love to be hugged by someone I love" , which always led to at least one big hug. We generally read only a few pages at a sitting, and we always saved the "hugs" page for the happy ending.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ready to Read!

I am starting a series of pages attached to this blog on early reading, since I enjoy leading children's story time sessions. Each page will feature a literacy tip, and a book review of a picture book that teaches that strategy. These are based on the American Library Association's Every Child Ready to Read Program. Feel free to check out the links on the right sight of this page. As new tips get added to each page, and new books are reviewed, the reviews will be moved to the main area of the blog and a link will be included within the Tip section on an as needed basis.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Department Stores by Claire Masset

Department Stores by Claire Masset. Shire Publications, 2010.

For those who enjoy shopping, this is a slim history on the development of department stores in Britain. Readers can breezily flip through the many pages filled with historical photographs and early advertisements. To quote the famous Henry Selfridge, this book demonstrates that a department store is a "social centre, not a shop."

It now seems funny that Harrods, after installing its first escalator, offered smelling salts to help customers recover from the ride. How lifestyles have changed over the past hundred years! And what an enjoyable, colourful trip through the past!

Liked this one?
Check out The Victorian Hospital for more British history in a slim, quick book.

My Notes

Readers might get a good laugh from an early Harrods ad, proclaiming it to be one of the cheapest stores in town! I would like to add that the font size in this book is quite small.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book. By Neil Gaiman. Middle Grade, 2008.

My review/summary
Neil Gaiman is a superb writer for both children and adults. What better way to prepare for Halloween than by enjoying his modern classic, Newbery award-winning The Graveyard Book? The plot is simple enough for children, but the characters and the many cultural/symbolic references are enjoyable for adults too. After they have finished the book, readers should further research events, themes and symbols found in this book, including the "Danse Macabre" (or "macabray"), the Sleer and the Hounds of God.

Readers can also enjoy listening to Neil Gaiman read this book himself on his website Mouse Circus.

Neil Gaiman fans will also enjoy the following Youtube clips.

Jian Ghomeshi interviews Neil Gaiman for QTV (affiliated with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Here:

The Graveyard Book trailer.

Follow Neil Gaiman on October 25th, as he appears on the TV show Arthur.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

Book Information
Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. HarperCollinsCanada, 2010.

My Summary and Review
Diana Wynne Jones has done it again! She continues to write gripping fantasy novels! Her latest is "Enchanted Glass", in which Andrew inherits his granfather's magical field-of-care. After mysterious young Aidan suddenly appears one day, both must combine their magical abilities to ward off otherworldly, sinister beings. It's particularly enjoyable to see how Wynne Jones weaves fantasy, magic and Shakespearean fairies into an enchanting plot!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader [UNCOMMON READER 3D]Book Information:
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Isis, 2010.

My Review and Summary

If you were Queen for a day, what would you do? Travel the world? Make a large donation to the charity of your choice? Take a trip to... the library? The LIBRARY! For a Queen, after all, reading is a luxury as she always busy with public duties... And can one stop reading easily after just one book?? Alan Bennett's "The Uncommon Reader" is a lighthearted, fun story of a Queen like Queen Elizabeth who is addicted to reading. It's a relatively fast read as it is quite short, and can be finished in a couple of sittings.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

Book Information
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Brian Lee O'Malley. Oni Press, 2004.

My Summary and Review
By playing in a rock band and dating a cute girl, Scott Pilgrim leads an ideal life for a twentysomething artist. Then, along comes Ramona Flowers (and her evil ex) whom Scott must defeat if he wants to date Ramona.

If readers are looking for complex characters, they will not find any here. "Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life" offers readers a fast read that leaves them hungry for more and eager to see Scott develop, mature, and find creative ways of defeating Ramona's exes. The real highlight of this book is the musical rock band climax, where Scott and one of Ramona's exes "duke it out" comically in song. Canadians will also enjoy seeing Toronto's skyline prominently drawn on one of the pages.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest)

Millennium Trilogy Book Information

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Penguin Canada, 2009.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson. Penguin Canada, 2010.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. Viking Canada, 2010.

My Summary and Review

In an isolated area of Sweden, Mikael Blomkvist, a high ranking investigative journalist, teams up with a stubborn, secretive, and socially awkward computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, to solve an old case of a missing teenager from an elite Swedish family. As the series progresses, dangerous individuals from Salander's past start to emerge, and terrifying events from Salander's past must be resolved.

Stieg Larsson has created a resourceful, tattooed, anti-heroine in Lisbeth Salander. Characterized by silence, secrecy, and a horrifying childhood, Lisbeth Salander often seems to be a real paradox, and her action/decisionmaking processes are gripping. 

Larsson draws on a wealth of experience in journalism in the character of Mikael Blomkvist. Though Blomkvist is never settled in his intimate relationships with women, his unflagging support for Salander, his keen mind for research, and his perceptive abilities add to this series' general appeal.

My Notes

This is one of the rare ocasions where I actually bought the second book in the series to read while waiting for the third, since I just couldn't wait! It's easy to see why the books in this series are bestsellers. I recommend this series highly, even though the first book takes a while to get started. I also advise that these books contain mature subject matter in the form of explicit sexual abuse. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2010.

My Summary And Review

How often do you find yourself caught up in a busy day? You know the type of day: everything should have been done yesterday. Your manager/collleagues/clients are looking at you to get that project/presentation/product completed. Or, if you are a stay-at-home parent, a day of a neverending chores list to finish in between driving the kids/aging parents to various activities and appointments.

And then, there's that moment of quiet. That "regrouping" moment that happens after a major task has been completed. That fifteen minute coffee break. Those precious moments where you have arrived at your child's session/lesson a few minutes early. Those moments where you can quickly read a page from a new book or a new blog post (ideally by Neil Pasricha) and just enjoy the moment.

That moment to read... that time away from the chaos...


My Notes
I waited for months for this to come in at my library, as I'd heard about it on the radio. And was skeptical at first. But after paging through several awesome thoughts, I began to enjoy reading and reflecting on small bursts of awesome moments.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Witch Week by Diana Wynne-Jones

My Review/Summary

"Someone in this class is a witch," begins Diana Wynne-Jones' Witch Week. This book can be read on its own, or as part of Diana Wynne-Jones' magical Chrestomanci series. Diana Wynne-Jones' boarding school novel explores a world in which witchcraft is forbidden, and where witches are burned. In class 6B, there are a few witches, each of whom has different talents and abilities, but no one wants to be identified! Diana Wynne-Jones creatively touches on many different themes in this book, including the dangers of being careless and joking around with something serious, the idea that one action has many possible consequences that could alter history, as well as the importance of including people, and not punishing others based on differences. A thrilling read for fun or for a school project.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea

What an enjoyable, bright, bouncy picture book! This book gives Dad chances to act incredibly funny, and to ask a lot of questions in funny voices too! The lucky listener also develops storytelling skills by saying the way things should go.

SPOILER ALERT! Lots of laughs and hugging to come!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stand Straight, Ella Kate : The True Story of An American Giant by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise

My Summary
When you think of a giant, what comes to mind? Jack and his beanstalk? Fables? Fairy tales?

Ella Ewing (1872-1913) was a real American giant! By the age of thirteen, she was almost six feet tall. At seventeen, she was 8 feet tall. Being bigger wasn't always better, though, as many people were mean to Ella.

Take a walk in Ella's large shoes, and learn how she used her height to become famous, to travel, and to accomplish what many "normal" people from her time could not dream of.

My review
Through the illustrations, readers get a good sense of Ella's size, especially on the title page, where her head bends at the top beside a lamp shade so that her body can fit on the page. Also quite interesting are Ella's size-related facts on the inner cover pages of the book. Imagine having size 24 feet! An excellent beginner biography.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Something Missing by Matthew Dicks

My Review and Summary
Take a good hard look through your pantry. Are all your cans of vegetables there? Your cereal boxes? Have you counted them? Is everything where it should be? If it is, then breathe a sigh of relief -- you have not been visited by Martin yet.

Who is Martin? Until recently, he has been a sort of obsessive compulsive thief who lives off of a series of "clients." Calling himself a career criminal, the star of this fun book would rather steal a can of beans than any cash to avoid being noticed. While he isn't an anti-hero, he isn't a parasite either. If you are one of his clients, count yourself lucky -- he'd more than put his life on the line for you.

However, go and recount your groceries to make sure that there isn't Something

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My Review

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a magical story of a young boy in the old train station of 1920s Paris who dreams of restoring and repairing an automaton (a machine like a robot). Children (or adults) who love reading history, who enjoy looking at art, or who are fascinated by mechanical toys should try this book. Selznick's Caldecott medal-winning illustrations and photographs are integral to the storytelling process, and add key pieces of information that are not written in the text of the story.Through the illustrations and through the story, readers get a real taste of Hugo's world: 1920's Paris and the famous old train station.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

My Summary/Review
Life, for Joey Pigza, is like being a constantly coiled spring. Joey tries to be helpful, but he can never stay focused on one thing at a time. His teacher has to constantly remind him to follow the rules. One day, Joey unintentionally causes a serious accident in his classroom, and is sent to a special school. Will Joey ever learn to change?

"Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key" is a critically acclaimed book about a boy with attention deficit and behavioral issues. For this reason, I suggest that parents and caregivers read this book through before discussing it with their children. Even though he is constantly wired, at heart, Joey often tries to do what is right. Readers will find themselves voting for Joey throughout the entire book.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith

My summary/review:
As Otto, one of the main characters would say: "This book is a fun read OR, a great way to enjoy suspense and get a sense of 1890s Chinatown." Mystery fans will enjoy "The Black Dove", the third in the "Holmes on the Range" series by Edgar-award nominated author Steve Hockensmith. Otto and Gustav Amlingmyer are applying for detective work in 1890s San Francisco, after a disaster on the Southern Pacific Railroad ended their train detective careers. Even though they are more at home on a ranch than in the city, Gustav's abilities to "deducify" situations a la Sherlock Holmes have led them to apply for work at the world-renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. When their friend from the Southern Pacific, Doctor Chan, dies mysteriously, the brothers enlist the help of their old friend, the persausive Diana Corvus, to hunt the killer down. Filled with plot twists and a surprisingly tragic ending, "The Black Dove" manages to be incredibly funny AND suspenseful!

My Notes:
Listening to this as an audiobook, readers get treated to a narrator who can do Western accents, as well as a surprisingly good voice for Diana.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen

Book Summary

Rachel Berman and Len Bean are two single parents who develop a relationship after meeting by the side of the road one day. Rachel is an overprotective mother of her two teenaged children. Len is navigating the difficult waters of parenting his daughter, Olivia, who has a nonverbal learning disability. The relationship slowly strengthens, despite the deep, dark secrets that surround them.

My Review

It is clear to see why this book was a best seller in the "Globe and Mail" newspaper. Inside Out Girl is an easy page turner. Readers can sympathise with Rachel's attempts to be the perfect parent. Olivia is a real, realistic heroine, and Tish Cohen did a wonderful job of developing her character. While the subplot involving Rachel's daughter was weak, the conclusion is optimistic and well planned.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Princess Pigtoria and the Pea by Pamela Duncan Edwards

Princess Pigtoria visits Prince Proudfoot to decide if they should marry. But, after the Princess orders a pizza party…

My Review
A positively perfect new picture book! It playfully updates the classic story. The plot twist will please preschoolers! A fun opportunity to practice “p” words and expand vocabulary.

My Notes
I recently taught programs for preschoolers about farms and farm animals. I highly recommend this book to read aloud, and to make a construction paper pig with the story.

Need to pair this with another good book? Try Dooby Dooby Moo by Doreen Cronin.

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

Book Summary

Thirteen year old amateur lawyer Theodore Boone has unwittingly become wrapped up in his town's largest murder trial.

My Review

In Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, John Grisham has written a mystery/suspense novel that is neither mysterious nor suspenseful. Grisham passes by many chances to introduce action to the novel, and there is no mystery. The law information that Grisham introduces to readers slows down the pace of the plot. 

Devoted young mystery readers should seek out other authors and novels, including:

Richard Scrimger's "From Charlie's Point of View" and
Brian Doyle's "Angel Square"

Young mystery readers will also enjoy Graeme Base's illustrated books: "The Eleventh Hour" and "Enigma"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Real Grey's Anatomy by Andrew Holtz

My Summary and Review

This book is for anyone interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of surgical interns. Grey's Anatomy fans will like the many references to the show that are peppered throughout the book. The book's comparison between the show and real-life will really raise your eyebrows. Find out how surgical interns and residents balance work with relationships during their hospital residency.

My Notes

Though I am not a dedicated Grey's watcher, this book had even me hooked with all of its facts (and the real challenges that surgeons have to go through in order to gain their full license). I am looking forward to finding Holtz's book on the science behind the early episodes of House, M.D.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton

Book Summary

Geraldine is a very fairy princess, from her royal pink dress to her scabby knees. Another hit from the authors of the Dumpy the Dumptruck series.

My Review

This simple story is engaging for all young princesses. The ink-and-colour pencil illustrations are lively and FUNNY.

My Notes

A four year old recently asked me for help with finding princess books that she could read "all by her very self." If I had only had this on hand...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

E-Readers, Kindles and Tablets, Oh My!

What current book blog does not have at least one posting on the new digital reading devices, including the E-Reader, the Kobo and the Kindle??

As I see it, there are different considerations to be made when purchasing an e-book device.

1) It reduces the amount of weight and space in your purse that a book would take. I originally thought that these would be unpleasant and eye-straining, but after using an E-reader once, I saw an immediate difference between the device and a computer screen. The device can also hold multiple books at a time.
2) It is very convenient -- with a few clicks and whirrs from the mouse and your computer, the book is right at your fingertips.
3) It can be considered accessible by multiple user groups, including individuals with vision impairments.

Asides from the cost of the device, I see that there is one disadvantage to the e-reader. The differences between e-book devices means that not all devices can support all e-books (i.e. a Kindle cannot download/store books of the same file type as a Sony E-Reader). 

 At this moment, I enjoy reading novels that are paperbacks or hardcovers. But I also enjoy the convenience of downloading books to my mp3 player and to my computer. I see that, in time, e-reading devices will join these as an equally valuable way to read and learn.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Book Information
Erskine, Kathryn. Mockingbird. New York: Philomel Books, 2010.

Book Summary

Caitlin loves reading and drawing. In Caitlin's opinion, books and pencil sketches are black-and-white, clear, and easy to understand. Especially when you compare them with the challenges of making and keeping friends at school.

After her brother dies, Caitlin's world changes. She looks up the word "closure" in a dictionary, and decides that she should find it for her and her father. But since she is only ten, and she has Asperger's, finding closure is not easy. Her search takes many funny missteps that add colour to her world, transforming her from outsider to friend and "big sister".

My Review

Mockingbird is a children's novel that works well on many levels. First, the author's writing style is clear and funny throughout the book. Erskine tackles difficult issues using simple vocabulary and short sentences. She plays with words, exploring their different meanings, and capitalizes some of them for special emphasis. For example, when Caitlin is confused, she often doesn't "Get It".

The title of the book comes from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, which Caitlin discusses many times. Caitlin's brother is the obvious "mockingbird", as he was young and innocent at the time of his death. Caitlin is a less obvious "mockingbird", since she loses some of her innocence, and matures into a more outgoing girl. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Word Nerd by Susan Nielsen

Nielsen, Susan. Word Nerd. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2008.

My Review

What do you get if you mix a thug with a nerd? A lot of deception, and some romance too! Ambrose has had enough of solitude. After three school bullies slip a peanut into his sandwich (he has a deathly allergy), he is homeschooled by his overprotective mother. Before long, Ambrose is sick of solitude. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with Cosmo, the ex-convict son of Ambrose's landlady, which he hides from his mother. When Cosmo falls in love with the Amanda, the director of the Scrabble Club, the deceptions stack up quickly against Ambrose. Will Ambrose ever be able to face his mother with the truth?

Word Nerd  was nominated for the 2010 Red Maple Forest of Reading Award from the Ontario Library Association. Nielsen is creative and quick-witted, and her knowledge of Scrabble and Scrabble clubs is impressive. From the "peanut-free" cover to Ambrose's final confrontation with his mother, this book is engaging and FUNNY. Readers can really see Ambrose develop and mature throughout the novel.

My Notes
I loved the way Susan Nielsen plays with words. Throughout the novel, Ambrose dissects long words and rearranges the letters to form new ones.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Future By Michael J. Fox

Book Information

Fox, Michael J. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future ... Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned. New York: Hyperion, 2010.

My review

Michael J. Fox's newest memoir is short, smart, funny, and targeted to youths and college graduates. In 100 pages, he sums up what he learned from the most challenging school: the School of Hard Knocks. He discusses the "economics" of being a starving young actor. He played with the laws of physics during "Back to the Future" and soon after his diagnosis with Parkinson's. And what better way to learn geography than through travel? Whatever the subject matter, Fox is a master on it through his lived experiences, where valuable mentors and personal interests have taken the place of trained teachers.

Michael J. Fox is also piercingly honest about his past drinking habits, and about his difficulty in accepting his Parkinson's diagnosis at a young age. He is equally clear in his message that adapting to new challenges can create positive opportunities.

My Notes

I enjoyed "Back to the Future" and another book that I recently reviewed: Always Looking Up. This book can be easily read in one or two sittings. I also particularly agree with his views on the importance of mentoring, since I have learned a lot of job and life skills through some important mentors in my life too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Book Information

Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2006.

My review

The Arrival is the story of an immigrant to a new and unfamiliar country. It follows the main character as he journeys from his home to the unknown, which is filled with creatures and scenery that are so strange to him. Will he ever belong in his new home? And who can he trust?

Shaun Tan tell's the immigrant's story by communicating only through pictures. In this wordless graphic novel, readers are able to see the new world through the newcomer's eyes. Unlike many graphic novels, the images are not drawn or coloured with pen or ink. Tan's style of shading with pencils makes the characters realistic and memorable, and gives the impression that this story could have been the story of countless immigrants in the past.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist

Fox, Michael J. (2009). Always looking up: the adventures of an incurable optimist.  New York: Hyperion.

My review

Get ready! Rev up your DeLorean for a short trip through time. Michael J. Fox's memoir of the last decade chronicles his transition from "Spin City" actor to passionate crusader in the fight against Parkinson's. His memoir is divided into four sections: "Work", "Politics", "Faith", and "Family".

The memoir opens with a strong and funny start, describing his average morning battle with Parkinson's. After founding the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Fox became a figure of political controversy for advocating for research on the potential of embryonic stem cells to cure Parkinson's.

His writing style is occasionally over-the-top (at one point, he jokingly refers to himself as "Mahatma J. Gandhi"). While the first two sections are strong, the areas on Faith and on Family can be interpreted as sentimental, and as focusing on trivial events. There is also no question that many people will take issue with his politics. This book is a worthwhile read for many reasons. It's written in a way that people can see a human face behind Parkinson's, and it sheds light on the politics behind research and change.

My notes
I picked up this book because I used to enjoy "Back to the Future." I still struggle with the ethical implications of embryonic stem cell research, but have high hopes for the future in science and research.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Book Information
Martel, Yann. (2010). Toronto: Knopf Canada.

Readers who enjoyed the spare existentialism of Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot or the animal symbolism of Yann Martel's Life of Pi may wish to take a look at Beatrice and Virgil.

The novel focuses on two stories. The first story is of Henry, the author who helps a strange taxidermist to write a play. Much of the novel centres on Virgil and Beatrice, a donkey and a howler monkey who have lived through unspeakable tragedies.

As noted in the Toronto Star book review by Geoff Pevere, this novel is broken up and the pieces do not easily work in a whole. However, Yann Martel provides a fresh perspective on survival and on tragedy through two surprisingly understandable animals.

My Notes
I have mixed feelings for this book. The English student part of me loved all the talk about the process of writing. Martel also captured Becket's style. Sometimes, however, I wished that the issues dealt with by Beatrice and Virgil were approached with more realistically and with less existentialism.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Werewolves by Nathan Robert Brown

Book information:
Brown, Nathan Roberts. (2009). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Werewolves. New York: Alpha Books.

My Review

Are you a fan of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books? When you watch/read the Twilight series, do you like Jacob better than Edward? Does the full moon make your hair curl?

If you said yes to any of the above questions, you may want to take a look at The Complete Idiot's Guide to Werewolves by Nathan Robert Brown. This book covers many areas of werewolf culture, from their mythology and historical werewolf trials, to werewolf videogames and movies. The writing style is quite tongue-in-cheek, and the book is filled with bite-sized trivia. Each chapter finishes with a series of highlights called "The Least You Need to Know". One section that readers really might enjoy is Chapter 15: "Once Bitten.... Then What?", which describes the life of a typical werewolf in such a matter-of-fact way that I feel the author had a really good laugh while writing it.

My Notes

I picked this book up since I am fascinated by reading social/cultural histories and I really enjoyed the Harry Potter books (Remus Lupin was a really sympathetic character). I hadn't realized that werewolves had quite such a long and complicated background. After reading the table of contents, I was BITTEN  and had to read it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Not My Boy

Peete, Rodney and Morton, Danielle. (2010). Not My Boy! New York: Hyperion.

My Review

Meet Rodney Peete, the NFL quarterback. Peete is a born fighter, both in sports and in real life. According to Peete, he was coached during his early years in the NFL to trust his own instincts and to learn to play outside his comfort zone.

Playing ouside his comfort zone took on a new meaning in his personal life after his son was born. Peete and his wife, actress Holly Robinson Peete, started on a quest to support their son R.J. in his personal growth with autism.

In his memoir, Peete speaks directly to readers through his experiences and challenges as a father raising a child with autism. He describes his hopes for his children, and how he had to dramatically readjust his expectations of fatherhood when his son R. J. was small. The strength of his marriage was quickly put to the test as Peete denied his son’s issues and did not support his son’s therapies. In this memoir, Peete transforms from “hesitant father” to “active supporter”, and the successes that R. J. experiences are amazing.

At the end of the book, Peete offers several tips on parenting a child with autism, including suggestions on maintaining a strong marriage, and for including the siblings of the child who has autism. There are some controversial issues that are addressed throughout this book, including the belief that vaccines can cause autism, and the use of chelation (thought to remove toxins, including mercury, from the body). Parents should address any questions in these areas to medical professionals, including doctors and therapists: chelation and vaccines are serious issues that have significant impacts on everyone’s health, and can have other outcomes than the ones that R. J. experienced.

This book is a gripping read for anyone interested in learning about the challenges of raising a child with special needs.

My notes

After reading this book, I felt like I had climbed an emotional mountain. I decided to read this book for two reasons: I enjoy reading about people who succeed despite obstacles. I also know a family whose son has autism. While I know already that many children present different aspects of autism, I really wanted to know more, so that I can be more understanding during their visits. Reading this book, I felt I had a private window on Rodney Peete’s family life that gave me a different perspective on children growing up with autism.

I also note that there are two different subtitles for this book. On my copy, the subtitle is: A Father, a Son and One Family's Journey with Autism. On other copies, I notice that the subtitle is A Dad's Journey with Autism, which is not quite as accurate, since it is clear that the entire family is working together to help R. J.