Monday, June 22, 2009

Girl, Hero

Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones published by Flux, 2008.

I feel like I'm a little behind in reading this book. I started to read it back in January when I attended my first residency at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Carrie Jones was one of the awesome graduate assistants who helped guide us during our stay in Montpelier. Well, during the course of the semester, I got sidetracked by reading all those mysteries. My primary creative project for the past year falls into the mystery genre, so I've tried to read as many of those as I can. And, unfortunately, Girl, Hero fell to the bottom of my reading list.

Now, I can't tell you how awful I feel about that.

Especially because, reading it could've really helped me with what I've been working on. It's not a mystery, but it does feature a girl who is trying to figure out who she is and also deal with Dad issues. Except, this girl-hero has multiple men filling that father figure position – talk about upping the ante! This book is great. It deals with about a dozen issues in a real life way (not like in a talk show, to quote Lily, the protagonist.) It is also incredibly creative. Throughout the book, Lily writes letters to John Wayne. Yes, that John Wayne. Lily's late step-father watched John Wayne movies with her. I think writing these letters helps her feel closer to the dad she's lost. But you should read the book and draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No Book Review Today

I have to give credit to Carrie Jones for blogging about the potential impact US bloggers might have on the situation in Iran.

In Iran, many people are using blogs, Twitter and Facebook to communicate their dissatisfaction about the recent elections. If you don't know about that, open up just about any news site, like MSNBC and you'll find plenty of articles about it.

But, back to the potential impact of US bloggers. The Iranian government has set out to censor the protest blogs in Iran. And how do they find those blogs among the gazillion in cyberspace? I'm told they do a search and check the time zone setting for the site.

So, until further notice Playing With Words, along with lots of other kidlit blogs is now set for GMT + 4.30 - Tehran time.

Also in solidarity with the Mousavi campaign, I've turned my avatar green as suggested by Faeirie Drink Review site.

And finally, I want to say Thanks to those dozen or so folks I saw holding "FREE IRAN" signs this afternoon when I left the State Capitol Builing in OKC. It takes alot of guts and stamina to stand out on Lincoln Blvd in the heat with the aim of moving Okies to action. You Rock! (and it worked on at least one person)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Goddess of Yesterday

Goddess of Yesterday by Caroline B Cooney published by Random House and Recorded Books, 2003.
We're taking a break from mystery today and stepping back in time to the ancient world.
I was vaguely familiar with the Trojan War from selections I’d read in high school and college (why was it again that I took Latin in high school - oh yeah, it was so I could wear a toga at the Junior Classical League competitions!)
I was fascinated by Greek mythology stories during my childhood and that movie, Clash of the Titans.
Trust me, this book is SO MUCH better than that. I was very impressed by the way Cooney is able to explode a scene with description, building a complete image from the sparse passages of the old stories. Cooney also has a gift for revealing character – long before Helen is unfaithful, the reader learns she is not to be trusted. Likewise, the character of Andromeke is revealed with just a few sentences as a comforting friend for the protagonist Annexandra. I was sad to leave this story when it ended. Cooney also includes an author’s note explaining just which parts of the novel came from the traditional myths and which parts she invented. I listened to the audio version, which was excellent. A paperback edition was just released last month.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Young Cam Jansen and the Lions' Lunch Mystery

Young Cam Jansen and the Lions' Lunch Mystery by David Adler (author) and Susanna Natti (illustrator)Viking, Penguin Young Readers Group, 2007.
This is book is for younger readers and could be described as an early chapter book. There are about 14 books in this “young Cam” series at present, aimed at readers in first – third grades. Author David Adler also has a series featuring the same character for slightly older readers with nearly 50 titles published. He has great resources for classrooms and book discussions online.
I was surprised by how well Adler developed the characters in less than 30 pages. The story's protagonist, Jennifer, is nicknamed Cam (short for Camera) because she has a photographic memory. Her ability allows her to solve the mystery of where class clown Danny left his lunch during a field trip to the zoo.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Case of the Missing Marquess

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer, published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006.
Told in first-person, this novel shares the story of Sherlock Holmes' younger sister, Enola Holmes. I was impressed with the clever use of corsets and bustles to conceal large sums of money. I was also intrigued by the complex emotions the protagonist has regarding her older brother, the famous detective. She yearns for his approval, but his dismissive attitude angers her. This historical piece will resonate with young feminist readers.
This is the first book in the Enola Holmes series, and the fifth in the series, The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline was just released last month. Perfect summer reading for a young sleuth.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Night Tourist

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh published by Scholastic Audiobooks, 2007.
The protagonist in this mystery is a classics prodigy and solving the mystery revolves around him using clues discovered through his translation of ancient Greek plays. The setting is the underground of New York City, which just happens to be where recently deads – including Jack's mother – resides. All that, combined with a potential romantic interest make this a great read. This book won the Edgar award in 2008.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo published by Scholastic, 2000.

I love this book. It flows so well. I'm impressed with how much DiCamillo is able to convey about the characters and their relationships with her easy to read prose. It is clear that every word was chosen with great care. It won the Newberry Honor Award in 2001. If you haven't read this, you should. It is destined to be a classic.
Here's an interview with DiCamillo from 2007. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


The Lionboy by Zizou Corder published by Highbridge Company (audio), 2003.
I loved the language and adventure in this book. But it may not be what you expect.
This is definitely a genre-bender. Its near future setting and scientific research plot points might make it science fiction, but the protagonist being able to communicate with felines (everything from housecats to lions) puts it into the fantasy category. However, the UK writing style combined with trains, the circus and handwritten letters give it a historic feel.
I have to admit, I picked it up because of my fascination with big cats that started with my Tiger Troubles article for Ozarks Magazine. (sadly, no longer in publication)
Lionboy was fascinating and I was angry that it was a trilogy because I have to know what happens next! Zizou Corder really hooked me and I definitely intend to listen to the next two.