Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Small Persons with Wings

Small Persons with Wings
Ellen Booraem
2011; Dial Books (Penguin); ISBN 978-0-8037-3471-5 (hardcover)

Summary:  Mellie has a fairy named Fidius as a best friend.  When she tells the other kids in kindergarten about Fidius, though, he gets mad that he's going to end up in a jar again.  So Fidius leaves, and Mellie is teased for the next eight years.  She finds sanctuary in science, art history, and logic.  When her parents inherit a run-down inn, Mellie thinks this is a second chance to have friends.  Once they move, Mellie helps her parents start cleaning up and meets her next-door neighbor, a boy her age named Timmo.  But then Mellie and her parents discover that there are fairies in the inn.  And Mellie's family has an ancient connection with small persons with wings--they don't like being called "fairies".

An everyday heroine learns to appreciate the fantastic again in this touching novel.  Mellie is a smart, grounded girl who still can't help wishing that she was from Planet Skinny, too.  Yet Mellie's own personality is able to triumph over her appearance--even when she's transformed into a frog.  Whimsical touches like a fairy who prefers bourbon to nectar and a mannequin who appears to be a woman adds magic to the real world setting.  Middle-schoolers who enjoyed How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier will also enjoy Small Persons with Wings.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thoughts: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, whose hundred year anniversary will be next month on March 25, was recently back in the news after the New York Times reported that the last six unknown victims had been identified.

It's interesting to think about this major historical event in light of the recent events in Wisconsin over public workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively.  For the Triangle Shirtwaist fire was a rallying cry for union organizers and workers, showing that there was a need for collective bargaining against the power of owners and managers.

For those of you who are interested in YA lit, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire is well-covered, with a range of perspectives.  These are just some of the titles that discuss this event:

Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch
Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix (guest post at librarian by day)
Lost by Jacqueline Davies (my review)
Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

The time might be ripe for a display about unions in history!  Such a display would be a reminder that history influences the present and helps to explain it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thoughts: Living in a Post-Project World

Over the last three years, I've been involved in two major, non-day job projects: writing my book and serving on the 2011 Printz committee.  They were both great experiences, ones that helped me understand both myself and the profession to which I belong.  By the end of Midwinter 2011, the book had been published and the Printz winner selected.  So the big question is, now what?

Well, for one thing, I've been enjoying reading whatever I want.  Even adult books!  If you look at the GoodReads widget I have on my blog, you can see that I've finally had a chance to read Maisie Dobbs.  I'm catching up on a lot of happenings in comic book land.  The YA lit I'm reading is more tuned to what I like to read, rather than what I should read for my various projects.

This all means that the output at this blog is slowing down a bit.  It's changing in other ways, too.  I don't know if I'll ever go back to the style of posts I wrote when I first started this blog--they were in-depth reviews of books, highlighting important aspects of the books.  Now I prefer the short-and-sweet review that gives a hint of the book.

Bloggerland is a very big pond, with a lot of fish in it.  I'm certainly not a big fish, but I like being able to share my thoughts about books.  It probably will just be a bit more irregular in the future.  Yet on the other hand, I hope to have more time to reflect, to contemplate.  My blog has always been reviews first, and everything else a distant second.  I'm hoping that I can narrow this gap in the coming months. 

I still love finding new books and talking about them.  So if you've got a suggestion for what I should read, hit up the comments section!  (That's another goal for the blog: encourage more discussion from all of you reading my blog).

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Perils of Early Genius

1960s paperback cover
Thanks to a non-librarian friend, I came across this article in Lapham's Quarterly:  Vanishing Act.  It tells the story of Barbara Follett, a child author in the 1920s, and how her early celebrity and true talent wasn't enough to give her a happy life.  Definitely food for thought for all of us librarians who work with talented teenagers.  The article even has quotes from Anne Carroll Moore, the well-known doyenne in children's librarianship who created the children's room at NYPL.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Review: The Big Crunch

The Big Crunch
Pete Hautman
2011; Scholastic; ISBN 978-0-545-24075-8 (hardcover)

Summary: Imagine a love story without love at first sight or swelling music or eyes meeting across a room.  June and Wes meet when June moves to town.  Used to being a new girl thanks to her father's consultant business, June tries to not get in too deep.  Wes doesn't know what to make of the new girl he can't stop looking at.  It takes a few collisions before June and Wes admit that they're perfect for each other.  At least, perfect for right now.  But as another move looms for June, the couple has to figure out how to keep their love from being crunched.

Pete Hautman crafts an engaging romance in his newest novel.  June's reflections on another town and school offers insightful looks into teen life.  Wes comes across as a teenage Everyman: smart, thoughtful, but still prone to avoidable mistakes.  Their romance slowly builds, giving each character a connection they didn't know they were looking for.  Yet their romance is a realistic one; the novel ends at the moment when June and Wes realize that they may not be together forever.  They both know, however, that this first love will always be a part of them.  Like Wendelin van Draanen's Flipped for middle-school readers, The Big Crunch is a romance that can be enjoyed by older teens of both sexes.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Crosspost: New to Me--Seventeenth Summer

Now that the work on the Printz Award is done, my New to Me posts have returned!  They're now featured on The Hub, YALSA's new home for teen reading.  Visit the site to see my latest column on Seventeenth Summer.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Review: The Sweetness of Salt

The Sweetness of Salt
Cecilia Galante
2010; Bloomsbury; ISBN 978-1-59990-512-9 (hardcover)

Summary: Take two sisters. Divide in half and add overprotective parents to one half. To the other, add a dream of opening a bakery and a four-year-old daughter. Keep separate, then combine after high school graduation. Add a heaping cup of lies and secrets and stir vigorously. Wait, letting emotions simmer. Add a dollop of friendship and a pinch of romance. Bake for a summer and enjoy.

The story of practical, sheltered Julia and her impulsive older sister Sophie is part of this coming-of-age novel. After years of her parents planning her life, Julia finally begins listening to the little voice inside her, the voice that says the University of Pittsburgh and law school isn't what she wants. Sophie encourages Julia to make her own choices and break away from their parents, which is a rocky process for Julia. The two sisters seem like total opposites, but over the course of the summer, they find common ground. Set in a small Vermont town that belies the taciturn New England stereotype, the setting and the supporting characters add depth. The Sweetness of Salt will be enjoyed by fans of Deb Caletti.