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Showing posts from 2012

Year End Wrap-Up

I read a lot of books this year. Mostly because I challenged myself on Good Reads to read 100 books this year and I wanted to meet the challenge (I did and am still reading--catching up on adult mysteries and some YA titles). A month or so ago, I was tasked with doing a presentation at a Children's Services Division workshop on 2012 releases, so I read even more. I'm reprinting the handout from that presentation here, with just a few edits and a book I've read since then. Cheating? Perhaps. Or maybe it's just a great way to cover lots of books.

"The Lions of Little Rock," by Kristin Levine

I wish everyone who read and enjoyed The Help (by Kathryn Stockett) would pick up a copy of The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. That's how much attention I'd like this book to get.

Levine's story takes place in 1958--a year after the events of the Little Rock Nine at Little Rock Central High School. In this book, the main characters are younger but integration is still the theme. At the start of the novel, white Marlee is 13, as is her new friend, Lizzie. Lizzie is attending Marlee's school because she is light-skinned enough to pass for white. She's soon found out, though, and when she must go back to her own school, Marlee is devastated. Marlee is exceptionally shy and hardly ever talks outside of her home, but with Lizzie she found a friend she trusted.

Like The Help, The Lions of Little Rock examines how fear and racism intertwine. In The Help, many of the black women were afraid to tell their stories because they didn't want to lose their jobs. In

"Homesick" by Kate Klise

I don't want this blog and its infrequent postings to be negative. I want to celebrate the good books in children's literature and formulate some thoughts about why they are good.

But I read Homesick by Kate Klise, an author whose books I usually like, and I'm bothered by it. So much so that I'm not sure if I can or would recommend it to kids. But maybe I read it with too much of an adult's eye or too much of a present-day eye. I'm not sure.

This partial description from the book jacket sums up the book's conflict fairly well:
[Benny's] mom leaves home after a fight about a mysterious splinter that is supposedly part of an important relic. Benny's dad has always liked clutter, but now, he begins hoarding everything from pizza boxes to old motorcycle parts. Have you watched any of those so-called reality shows about hoarders? Benny's dad would be a candidate for one. He saves everything. And pretty soon, their house and yard are populated by junk…

"Origin," by Jessica Khoury

Jessica Khoury’s Origin, which has gotten good reviews from journals like Kirkus, is a great gateway book. And by this I mean that it can lead librarians and teens, or teachers and teens, to a host of other books and start great discussions.

I mean no disrespect to Ms. Khoury when I say that I was reminded of several other books while reading Origin. This is not to say the story is not, excuse the word, original. In some ways, it is. But it also has a little of Flowers for Algernon (by Daniel Keyes) and The House of the Scorpion (by Nancy Farmer) in it. There’s even a Romeo and Juliet-like scene near the end, and there’s a sequence of native Amazonians dancing that reminded me of Peter Pan visiting Tiger Lily’s camp (I’m sorry to say).

Origin tells the story of Pia, an immortal girl. She was created through years of genetic research and lives deep in the Amazon forest, where scientists working for the Corpus conglomerate have kept her hidden (and imprisoned). Pia longs for the day when…

"A Confusion of Princes" by Garth Nix

Early in my reading of A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, I said, oh, this is a poor man's version of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game--less violent, less anguishing, far simpler. And now that I've finished it, I'm going to stick to that assessment.Somewhat. That's not to say it isn't a good story or that it is a retelling of Ender's Game. It is a good story, for what it is. And it really isn't Ender's Game. For, alas, it lacks passion and dramatic conflict.

Prince Khemri is one of the chosen leaders for the empire and he has been raised in isolation under special circumstances: His body and his mind have been enhanced. He is, truly, faster, smarter, and stronger than other humans. Of course, there are thousands of other "princes" just like him, especially selected to rule the empire. Once Khemri is old enough, he's put into training with other princes (and here's where the book is similar to Ender's Game). But something …