Saturday, July 31, 2010

Win Some ARCs--Contest Extended!

Since I only got a few entries for the latest ARC contest, and due to my little mix-up approving comments, I'm extending the deadline for this contest for another week. You now have until Friday, August 6 at 12 noon EDT to enter.

Leave a comment at this post to enter the contest.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Happyface

Stephen Emond
2010; Little, Brown; ISBN 978-0-316-04100-3 (hardcover)

Summary: Forced to change schools due to his family falling apart, the nameless narrator decides to reinvent himself. No longer Mr. Comic Book Guy with a seemingly hopeless crush on his friend Chloe, he's now Happyface. At his new school, his smiles and positive outlook leads to relative popularity, a group of new friends, and even a possible girlfriend in Gretchen. Slowly, though, his past starts to interfere with his new life, and Happyface grows desperate to hold on to what he has. But his desperation just leads to his friends drifting away, including Gretchen. Can he keep smiling and remain Happyface, even when his life completely sucks?

Designed as a journal, complete with sketches and homemade comic strips, Happyface shows one boy grappling with several issues. The family turmoil he experienced gradually reveals itself, and shows how the main character is more affected by this drama than he first let on. The storytelling is layered, with illustrations and plot twists keeping the story from becoming predictable. Happyface is an intriguing, unreliable narrator, and his coming-of-age story will strike a chord with many readers. Pair Happyface with Drawing a Blank by Daniel Ehrenhaft for two examples of stories enriched by illustration without being graphic novels.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Crosspost: Serving on the Printz Committee

I wrote a post for the YALSA Blog talking about what it's like serving on the Printz Committee. If you're curious about the process of serving on an awards committee, take a look!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: The War to End All Wars

The War to End All Wars: World War I
Russell Freedman
2010; Clarion Books; ISBN 978-0-547-02686-2 (hardcover)

Summary: World War I was originally known as the Great War. At the time, no one could conceive a conflict more terrifying, more destructive. After the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, a network of alliances started a war marked by failures of diplomacy, advanced weapons of great power, and the use of outdated military tactics. By the end of the war, with the signing of an armistice on November 11, 1918, 65 million men had gone to war--with over 35 million killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. And World War I would continue to impact the world beyond the end of the hostilities.

It's often been said that to understand the Roaring Twenties, World War II, or the Middle East Conflict, you must understand World War I. By reading Russell Freedman's thorough work, readers gain that understanding. With words and photographs, the horrors of trench warfare, mustard gas, and civilian casualties are vividly presented. And while the war created many innovations such as tanks, the costs were much too high as explained in The War to End All Wars. Pair this nonfiction title with fictional coverage such as Hattie Big Sky to show what life was like on the home front.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Half World

Half World
Hiromi Goto; illustrations by Jillian Tamaki
2010; Viking; ISBN 978-0-670-01220-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Melanie and her mother are poor, living on the edge of existence. Then, Melanie comes home from school and discovers her mother has disappeared. Her mother has, in fact, returned to Half World, the shadow world between the Realm of Flesh and the Realm of Spirit. Held captive by an evil creature called Mr. Glueskin, Melanie's mother seems lost. But Melanie won't give up on her mother and sets out on a journey into the nightmare of Half World. By saving her mother, though, Melanie just might save all three realms.

A seemingly simplistic story reveals great truths in this illustrated novel. Drawing upon concepts of Buddhism such as rebirth and the cycle of samsara, Half World illuminates these concepts for unfamiliar readers. But these lessons do not swamp the heart of the novel: Melanie's love for her mother. Through the awful sights she sees, Melanie keeps her mind set on saving her mother. Yet standing in Melanie's way is Mr. Glueskin, a vividly-described, creepily atmospheric creature. Other characters like Jade Rat, Ms. Wei and Gao Zhen Xi are equally memorable. At the end of the novel, not only has Melanie achieved an epic feat, but she has come of age as a young woman. Pass this novel to fans of The Graveyard Book or Zen and the Art of Faking It.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reviews: The View from the Top

The View from the Top
Hilary Frank
2010; Dutton Books (Penguin); ISBN 978-0-525-42241-9 (hardcover)

Summary: Graduation is in the past and college is in the future. Now is summer: the last summer Annabelle will spend in Normal, Maine. She expects to use the summer to spend time with her boyfriend Matt and with her friends. Instead, Annabelle will break up with Matt, consider a relationship with Matt's best friend Jonah, and form new friendships. In a series of interconnected short stories, Annabelle and the people in her life will reassess just what they know about her, culminating in Annabelle's ride on the Ferris wheel at the local amusement park. Who has the truest perspective on Annabelle: her friends or herself?

One story is told from multiple perspectives as one girl experiences a summer of transition. The short stories, overlapping to form this novel, feature a cast of thoughtful, observant teens. Some stories resonate more, like Lexi's: the sister of Matt, she has a crush on Annabelle and wonders if she, Lexi, is the only lesbian in Normal. Matt's heartbreak over Annabelle ending their relationship is mitigated with his knowledge of how this pain will aid his writing and art. And Annabelle herself, who has the opening and closing stories, progresses in unexpected ways over the course of the summer. Fans of Deb Caletti and Elizabeth Scott are bound to enjoy Hilary Frank's introspective novel-in-stories.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Somebody Everybody Listens To

Somebody Everybody Listens To
Suzanne Supplee
2010; Dutton Books (Penguin); ISBN 978-0-525-42242-6 (hardcover)

Summary: For years, everyone in Starling, Tennessee have been asking Retta to sing. She can sound like Dolly or Loretta or Patsy or Tammy--all the greats of country music. Once she graduates from high school, Retta sets out for Nashville, determined to get on the radio. But all her advance studying of the past hasn't taught her much about surviving in the cutthroat world of modern country music. It will take some hard knocks, a few trips back home, the support of her friends, a lot of hard work and a pinch of luck to set Retta on the road to being somebody everybody listens to.

An inspiring, believable look at the perils of a show business career, Somebody Everybody Listens To is a worthy sophomore effort from Suzanne Supplee. Retta's voice is distinct and true, and her personality is full of gumption, determination, and hope. A cast of warm, realistic supporting characters adds depth to the story. Retta's journey is only beginning at the end of the novel--but the reader feels confident that Retta will eventually make her dreams come true. Fans of Supplee's first novel, Artichoke's Heart, will snatch up this book. Pair this with Sorta Like a Rock Star for a master class in writing characters with a specific voice and how to create a heart-warming novel.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mea culpa!

This is the first time it's ever happened, but I accidentally rejected some comments that were entries to the ARC contest, rather than approving them. So if you've entered the contest but don't see your comment on the contest post, please resubmit it.

Also, remember that these prize packs are ARCs, or advanced reader's copies. That means they cannot be added to your library's collection: they are purely to be read and enjoyed by you or your teens.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Contest: Win Some ARCs!

Yes, it's another ARC contest! This time, there are two different sets of ARCs. Please leave a comment with your name and contact info to be entered in the contest; if you have a preference for one ARC set over another, feel free to indicate it. And please publicize this contest by linking or tweeting!

ARCs #1: Fantasy

Another Pan by Daniel & Dina Nayeri (Candlewick, coming in October 2010)
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (Philomel/Penguin, coming in October 2010)

Arcs #2: Contemporary

The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams (Chronicle, published in June 2010)
Beat the Band by Don Calame (Candlewick, coming in September 2010)

You have until Friday, July 30 at 12:00 noon EDT Friday, August 6 at 12:00 noon EDT to enter this contest. Thanks, and good luck!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Opinion: Reference vs. Reader's Advisory

Thanks to Liz, via Twitter I found out about a recent article in Library Journal called Reader's Advisory: Kissing Cousins. Hang in there and read the whole article, in spite of the lack of paragraph breaks, because it's eye-opening.

The upshot of the article is that for decades, reference librarians have resisted answering reader's advisory questions, due to either a lack of expertise in finding popular titles for patrons or because reader's advisory is not a "serious" pursuit for a degreed librarian.

All I can say to that is, Really?

Perhaps it's because I graduated from library school in 2000, a time cited as being past the strongest resistance to RA. Or maybe it's because I've primarily worked in children and young adult services, where reader's advisory is the bread-and-butter of the job. Even with that, though, I can't imagine working on any service desk, serving any patron group, and not responding to questions about "What do I read next?"

I will admit that since my expertise is in teen literature, I do have difficulty in helping patrons looking for adult fiction advisory. Since I work on the adult desk--not the children's desk--this does occur fairly often, especially now that summer is here and RA questions have increased dramatically. But even without having the same comfort level in helping adults look for books, I still have the techniques and tools to help patrons find a book, most of the time.

The article does indicate that the reference vs. RA mindset has changed quite a bit, and that it's part of the bigger overall picture that sees libraries constantly affected by change. Still, it was quite surprising to me to read about this historical attitude still having an impact on today's library service. I feel the same way about this as I did when I learned that libraries used to be anti-paperback: amazed about the opinions the library field once held, and pleased that we've learned to adapt to change. Because honestly, as the line goes, life is change. Libraryland is no different. What really matters, though, is how you handle the change; for the most part, libraries do a pretty good job at that, even if it sometimes takes us a while to get there.

What are your thoughts? Does anyone have experience working as reference only, with no RA questions permitted? I'd be curious to hear how that worked in a real library!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Birthmarked

Caragh M. O'Brien
2010; Roaring Brook; ISBN 978-1-59643-569-8 (hardcover)

Summary: In a bleak future world, Gaia lives outside a city known as the Enclave, perched on the shore of a dried-out Great Lake. Gaia is a midwife, following in her mother's footsteps--her only option in life due to her scarred face. But when her parents are arrested for an unknown crime, sixteen-year-old Gaia is plunged into confusion. The arrest seems related to Advancement: the practice of each midwife to take the first three babies delivered each month to the Enclave, to be adopted into new families. The only way for Gaia to learn her parents' fate is to sneak into the Enclave. In the city, helped by unlikely allies, Gaia will learn the Enclave's darkest secrets--and she will reveal them.

A densely-plotted dystopian novel, Birthmarked combines genetics with family. Feisty, independent Gaia has an outsider's perspective on life within the luxurious Enclave. Determined to save her parents, Gaia will make difficult choices, ones that could risk her developing relationship with Leon, a soldier who has a secret of his own. As Leon's past combines with questions about her parents, Gaia must find freedom once she has learned the truth. Readers in search of a meaty, futuristic story with romance and action will find all those characteristics in Birthmarked.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: Sisters Red

Sisters Red
Jackson Pearce
2010; Little, Brown; ISBN 978-0-316-06868-0 (hardcover)

Summary: Sisters Scarlett and Rosie are no damsels in distress. They hunt Fenris, what some call werewolves. For Scarlett, who bears scars and is minus one eye thanks to a childhood Fenris attack, hunting is all she cares about. She's determined to destroy all Fenris, to protect all the young women who are their prey. Rosie, though, cannot put her heart into the hunt. She craves a different life--a craving made even more pronounced as she falls for Silas, a family friend and the son of a woodsman. As the different Fenris clans band together in search of the next potential Fenris, it will be up to Scarlett, Rosie and Silas to stop them. Can they be successful--and at what cost?

An innovative retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Sisters Red gives a girl-power twist to the original fairy tale. Both sisters are well-rounded, dynamic characters, their relationship the true essence of the novel. With a gift for description, whether exploring emotion or laying out an action scene, Jackson Pearce creates a world much like ours, at least on the surface. But underneath, there is a darker, more dangerous environment, one that the March sisters protect others from. Pass Sisters Red to those who enjoy fairy tale retellings like Jessica Day George's.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Review: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Morgan Matson
2010; Simon & Schuster; ISBN 978-1-4169-9065-9 (hardcover)

Summary: Ever since the death of her father--in a car accident while she was driving--Amy has tried to stay numb and invisible. While her twin brother has been sent to rehab, Amy's mother has taken a new job across the country, leaving Amy behind to finish school. But now it's summer, and the family car has to be brought from California to Connecticut. But since Amy refuses to drive, enter Roger, the nineteen-year-old son of a family friend. Rather than follow the itinerary planned by Amy's mother, Roger and Amy decide to take a few detours. As they go from Yosemite, America's Loneliest Highway, Louisville to Graceland, the two will explore America as they search their own souls.

A heartwarming travelogue of a novel, Morgan Matson offers an insightful look at grieving and coming of age. Amy slowly finds her own path as she gets to explore America. Roger, meanwhile, manages to throw off the influence of his ex-girlfriend as he spends time with Amy. With playlists, photos and other memorabilia, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour speaks of the appeal of lesser-known paths, both for road trips and for personal growth. Recommend this novel to teens who have enjoyed Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt or Cashay by Margaret McMullan.

Monday, July 05, 2010

ALA Annual 2010, Washington, D.C.

ALA, as always, is an energizing experience. While you're tired and busy and perhaps a bit stressed, there's also the time to have conversations with your friends who are scattered throughout the country, even the world. Plus, there's great events to attend, ARCs to pick up, and authors to meet. Here are some of my memorable moments:

--Having dinner at John Green's table, thanks to Penguin.

--Attending perhaps the best Printz reception I've ever attended, with wonderful, hilarious, heart-warming speeches from Adam Rapp, Deborah Heiligman, Rick Yancey, John Barnes, and Libba Bray.

--Showing masterful self-restraint and not grabbing every ARC I could, since thanks to the Printz Committee I know I'll be sent most books I saw at ALA. So, more for others!

--Having great meetings with the rest of the Printz Committee, discussing the merits of several books. There will be a post at the YALSA blog soon talking about the process of serving on the Printz Committee.

All in all, it was another great conference. If you couldn't make it, there's plenty of info at the YALSA blog about how to be part of the conference, even after the fact, if you weren't able to make it. If I saw you there, I'm glad we did, and if we didn't connect, there's always next time I hope.