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Showing posts from January, 2012

"The One and Only Ivan," by Katherine Applegate

Sometimes—but not always—I have a hard time with animals talking in books. It bugs me that the author thinks he knows what animals are thinking and what they would say if they spoke our language. And then I have long conversations with my cats about it.
So, I’m not 100 percent sure why I so much like The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. The story is told entirely by Ivan, a silverback lowland gorilla, and it’s based on a true story. The true part: As a baby gorilla, Ivan and his sister were captured in the Congo and sent to the United States. His twin sister died en route. Ivan at first lived like a pet with a man and his wife, then became an attraction at a mall until he was rescued and brought to Zoo Atlanta (he was even featured in National Geographic). In the book, Ivan has suppressed his memories of being in the jungle and even of being a pet. He’s made himself adapt to his circumstances and his glass-walled and concrete “domain.” Then Stella the elephant, one of his best…

My Little "Dead End in Norvelt" Story

Lucky me: I already have two copies of the 2012 Newbery Award winning book: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.

My library is small and I hardly ever order two copies of the same book. That's what interlibrary loans are for. But I do happen to have two copies of Dead End in Norvelt. The company we order books from sent me the copy I ordered several months ago and then sent a copy to a library in Maine with a packing slip that listed my library. The library in Maine sent the book to me, thinking I hadn't received the copy I ordered. I called them and said, "No, you must have ordered a copy. I already have mine. Should I send this back to you?" They said nope, no one up there ordered a copy of the book. I laughed and said, oh, you should... it's very good.

I kept the second copy behind my desk all these months. I figured I would have it cataloged if it won any awards and, if it didn't, I'd give the second copy away during our summer reading program. When it…

"Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick, is beautiful to look at. But it’s so disappointing as a novel. I wanted so much more from this book.
Several years ago, Selznick wrote and illustrated The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which has since been made into a movie called Hugo). Selznick won the Caldecott Award for that book, and many of my colleagues have told me that they thought he should have won the Newbery Award for it. (The Caldecott is given to an artist for the “most distinguished American picture book for children,” while the Newbery is awarded to author for the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”) So, I had really high hopes for Wonderstruck, his latest and much-lauded book. (Full disclosure: I never finished The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I read half of it and stopped. I don’t recall why, but I’ve been told by many that I should read it in its entirety.)
Unfortunately, I found Wonderstruck clich├ęd and expected and rather empty. That’s not to say that the…