Newbery News

The Newbery Medal is given to the most distinguished work of children's literature every year, and is announced in January. Though the real candidates are kept secret, here are some books that are getting lots of Newbery buzz on a few different mock Newbery blogs. Will one of them be the big winner? Do you have any recent books you've read that you would love to see get the Newbery medal?

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (who also wrote After Tupac and D Foster) is a lovely autobiographical book of poems chronicling her early life.

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza is the last of five books about Joey Pigza (of Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key fame) by author Jack Gantos. Will Joey win the hearts and minds of the Newbery committee?

For nonfiction, people are talking about The family Romanov : murder, rebellion & the fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming. A nonfiction book hasn't won the Newbery in a long time- could this be the year?

Last, but certainly not least, is The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis. Curtis already won the Newbery Honor for 2007's Elijah of Buxton. This book is a companion to Elijah of Buxton, and tells the story of two boys who encounter a mysterious man in the woods.

Happy reading!

Animalium

If you have not yet seen this giant beauty resting on the new youth nonfiction shelf, please allow me to draw your attention to it. I know I will forever be indebted to the person who first showed Animalium to me. It is one of those rare books that is both captivating to look at and to read. Maybe I should make myself clear here, it is captivating if you enjoy learning about animals and reading facts about them. If you are expecting a great fictional story, then perhaps it would be best if you check this out for the sole purpose of enjoying the pictures. Furthermore, please don't dismiss this book because it is intended for youth, I choose to believe "youth" really just stands for "youthful" and there really is no age restriction when it comes to appreciating beautiful illustrations of wildlife.

The large colorful illustrations are wonderfully detailed and the shadowing and chosen colors give the pictures great depth. Being an amphibian girl myself, I was particularly drawn to the page including the the Darwin's Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) which has "an oversize vocal sac in which it rears its young." Little tadpoles in a frog's throat never looked so pretty.

Be warned though, when I say "giant beauty" I mean bring a sturdy bag because this is no pocket book.

You may also want to check out Welcome to Mamoko or Maps, both published by Big Picture Press and with equally fascinating pictures and intriguing concepts. Or maybe this has piqued your interest about animals and now you want to learn more. Great! Here is a list of other Awesome Animal books that may help you with your research.

Small Gems (and Fabulous Fiction Firsts #500)

It's that time again. As we approach winter solstice, the days are getting shorter and we are getting into high gear for the holidays, don't despair. Here are some suggestions for SHORT titles that you could curl up with.

46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day, great reads under 200 pages. Mostly.

From GoodRead: Popular Under 200 Pages Books - wonderful time to catch up on some classics and new award winners. The Huffington Post also jumps on the bandwagon with their thoughtful and inspired reading list. Here is a list for nonfiction readers.

My personal find this year?

Our Lady of the Nile (in French) by Scholastique Mukasonga, winner of the 2012 Renaudot Prize and the Ahamadou Kourouma Prize - a moving and nuanced portrait of violence and survival; a debut novel of "rugged beauty and unbearable suspense".

The conflict between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority is expressed through the microcosm of Our Lady of the Nile, a Catholic boarding school for wealthy and influential young ladies in Rwanda. Virginia and Veronica are two Tutsi girls in the lycee because of quotas, and they are keenly aware of the dangers they face as ethnic minority. When Gloriosa, the daughter of a Hutu politician, starts telling lies about being attacked by Tutsis, the retaliatory violence costs Veronica her life and Virginia her education.

Born in Rwanda in 1956, the author experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of ethnic conflicts. In 1973, she was forced to flee to Burundi and settled in France in 1992. Two year later, she lost 27 members of her family to the genocide of the Tutsi.

Slightly longer but spectacular in every way is Lily King's Euphoria * * *, a thinly-veiled account of the love affair between Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, her third husband while she was married to Reo Fortune as they were conducting anthropological research in the remote territories of New Guinea. (Readers curious as to the accuracy of the storyline might want to check out this article called "Mead's Folly").

"A taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace—a love triangle in extremis… The steam the book emits is as much intellectual as erotic…King is brilliant.”

Little wonder that it has been named winner of this year's Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the New England Book Award. New York Times, as well as Time Magazine, and NPR named it one of the 10 Best Fiction of 2014. I promise you that it is well worth the wait.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Waiting (not so) patiently for The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters?

British author Sarah Waters is beloved for skillfully incorporating suspense, illicit attractions, and even supernatural elements, into her atmospheric historical fiction novels. The Paying Guests takes place in the upper class home of the Wrays, a mother and daughter who have fallen on hard times after WWI and make ends meet by taking in “paying guests.” The addition of a working class couple to the family dynamic initiates a series of changes, not least of which is daughter Frances’ attraction to her new boarder.

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt - Byatt’s historical fiction/family saga explores privileged, artistic families in pre-WWI Britain, and the darkness and social struggles that lie beneath the surface.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton long-simmering secrets come to light when a filmmaker comes to fact-check details of a 1924 event with a now-elderly maidservant, who recounts the loves, rivalries, and secrets of the family she served.

The Lodger by Louise Treger - Against the background of the British suffragette movement, Dorothy Richardson’s life takes a turn for the unconventional when she begins an affair with a friend’s husband, only to have her attractions shift when a new woman moves into her boarding house.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters - The story follows four Londoners during and after WWII who are recovering their senses, trying to restart their lives, and guarding their secrets now that the blackouts are over and the fighting is done.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones - Enjoying Downton Abbey-style luxury while teetering on the edge of debt, a Torrington-Jones family gathering at their estate unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary for survivors of a nearby railway accident, but the circumstances become murkier as constructs of class and society fall away.

PreK Bits - Noisy!


Ms. Rachel's Storytime featured noises this week.
TOO MUCH NOISE! ... said Peter, and the Rabbi had a solution.
We sorted noises .... from Leslie Patricelli's book QUIET. LOUD!
We danced the "Noisy-Pokey" ... clapping IN, snapping OUT, stomping ALL about!
And we read the rhyming storybook NOISY NORA by Rosemary Wells ... Nora experiences complex feelings on one complex day.

For more Noisy Stories try the following:
TICK TOCK DRIP DROP A Bedtime Story by Nicola Moon
HOLLER LOUDLY by Cynthia Lettice Smith ... a tall tale that finds the best job for a boy named "Holler"
The MOUSE THAT SNORED by Bernard Waber ... there was a quiet man and a quiet woman who lived in a quiet little house until ... the mouse!
MONKEY WITH A TOOL BELT And The NOISY PROBLEM by Chris Monroe.
The LOUD BOOK and the QUIET BOOK ... both by Deborah Underwood ... offers sound (and silences) that deserve pause for thought.
ZOOM! ZOOM! Sounds Of Things That Go In The City by Robert Burleigh
NOISES from the Stories To Go kits

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #499

Having been a fan of Tony Parsons for many years now, I have been waiting with bated breath for The Murder Man * - his first try at crime fiction. And let me tell you, you won't be getting much sleep.

Meet DC Max Wolfe - recent widower (to cancer), single father (daughter Scout, 5), indulgent owner (Stan, holy terror of a puppy), insomniac, caffeine junkie, and a new transfer to London's Homicide and Serious Crime.

Someone has been violently killing members of London society. First, it was Hugo Buck, a pedigreed banker with an appetite for the hired help. Then there was the homeless junkie Adam Jones. Nicknamed "Bob the Butcher" by the press and social media, the killer is strong enough and smart enough to kill with a single knife stroke, and bold enough to kill in public. The victims first appeared to have absolutely nothing in common, except for a decade-old group photograph. Wolfe noticed that at each of the murder scene, someone had painted in blood "#KILLALLPIGS".

The hunt leads Wolfe to Potter's Field, an exclusive private school; a long-buried brutal murder; and right into the killer's path.

"Spectacular - tense but human, fast but authentic..." ~ Lee Child

"A relentless plot, evocative prose, and compelling (and wrenching) portraits of the characters, good and evil, conspire to make this a must-read. And I have two words for hero Max Wolfe: More. Soon." ~ Jeffery Deaver

Enough said.

If you are fascinated with the private (sorry, public school) culture, you might also enjoy The Secret History, Donna Tartt's debut novel (arguably her best, in my humble opinion); and A Murder of Quality, an early George Smiley novel by John Le Carre.

* = starred review

Waiting (not so) patiently for The Rosie Effect

Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Effect will be released on December 30, and fans of Simsion’s hilariously charming first novel The Rosie Project, cannot wait.

In The Rosie Project, genetics professor and master of regimented routines and social missteps, Don Tillman, strikes out in search of a romantic partner, and instead gets entangled in determined grad student/bartender Rosie’s scheme to identify the father she never knew through genetic testing. Hijinks ensue, and the bumpy road of life and love continues straight through The Rosie Effect.

To tide you over while you wait for The Rosie Effect to be released, here are a few titles that share some elements with Simsion’s quirky but lovable stories.

- How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer - alternate reality scientific endeavors and comedy come together in this love story of two scientists who were secretly groomed by their astrologist mothers to be soulmates.

- The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls - light-hearted love story with quirks galore, about falling for someone who doesn’t exactly add up to your ideal partner.

- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - British author Moyes brings great humor and humanity to the story of an angry quadriplegic and the big-hearted, well-meaning, accident-prone, insecure woman who becomes his caretaker.

- The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart - Stuart's historical fiction/mystery/romance is populated with a cast of eccentrics including an Indian princess, a cycling-obsessed doctor, and a maid with unusually large feet, centered around Queen Victoria's haunted Hampton Court, where impoverished aristocrats go to live out their last complaint-filled years. The plot is sprawling, the characters are ridiculous, and the conclusion packs a heartfelt wallop.

- Something Missing by Matthew Dicks - Martin, an OCD thief with an eye for order and a penchant for routine, makes his living stealing minor things from his “clients” and will go to great lengths to keep their lives - and his invisible role in them - unchanged.

Two New, Amazingly Illustrated Picture Books for All Ages!

Two beautifully illustrated picture books have just been added to the library collection.

Before After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui is a wordless book that depicts amazing, related images on each of its pages. On one of the first pages is a drawing of a flower bud and on the opposite page, the beautiful daisy is in bloom. Later in the book, you see a coffee plant, and turn the page to see a steaming cup of coffee itself. I particularly enjoy the humor that subtly permeates this book. For example, on one page there is the image of an egg and on the opposite, the image of a chicken. When readers turn the page, they first see the image of the chicken, and on the opposite page the image of the egg. This is a stunning book and truly worth a perusal by readers of all types.

Telephone, by Mac Barnett and Jen Corace is a hilarious and wonderfully illustrated book about birds sitting on a telephone wire…playing Telephone. When mother mourning dove tells cardinal to “Tell Peter: fly home for dinner,” things get immediately jumbled when baseball-playing cardinal tells goose, “Tell Peter: hit pop flies and homers.” Things only get more confusing from there. I loved the individual personalities of the birds in this book, conveyed so well through Corace’s drawings. This is definitely a fun read!

The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2014

The New York Times released its list of 100 Notable Books for 2014, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

A few of my favorites on this list are:

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson - The complexity of the story told in this debut novel is just awe-inspiring - from the caught-in-the-crosshairs social worker to the twitchy madman in the woods, and the threads that connect them. Henderson's striking portrait of life in rural Montana reminded me of, Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, a stark look at desperate lives in Appalachia that will stick with the reader the same way Fourth of July Creek does.

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart - Shteyngart manages to make the story of his sickly childhood, traumatic emigration and resettlement, and complicated, painful relationship with his parents not just often humorous, but also somehow, even relatable. I marveled at the author's honesty and strong sense of self to be able to look at himself and his life and give such a thorough and intelligent account of it.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan - I have a weakness for the Booker Prize, their winners and shortlists have led me to many excellent books and introduced me to many excellent authors. This title, the 2014 Booker Prize winner, is epic in its scope, love story, and the trials and tribulations of the main character.

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Mac­intyre - It's not easy to tell the story of a life, let alone the life of a spy, let alone a spy who concealed his twisted loyalties decade after decade, promotion after promotion, but Macintyre does an admirable job. Kim Philby is one of the most famous double agents in history and this carefully constructed book lays out as much of the story as we may ever know. If you enjoy a good spy novel, John Le Carre, Alan Furst, Charles Cumming, etc., you can't go wrong with a Ben Macintyre book. I was utterly absorbed by Operation Mincemeat and Double Cross as well.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #498 - "Sometimes, one wants to have the illusion that one is making ones own life, out of ones own resources.” ~ Zadie Smith

Poet and short story writer Greer Macallister's debut novel The Magician's Lie * has been described as Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus.

1905. On a warm summer evening in Waterloo (IA), The Amazing Arden, "the most famed female illusionist in the world" vowed to do the impossible as she "weave (her trademark) web of beautiful illusions to snare them, a glittering trap that drags them willingly with me into the magical, false, spellbinding world". The only deviation from her routine - she would use an axe in her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage.

When Arden's husband was found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, young police officer Virgil Holt who was part of the audience happened upon the fleeing illusionist and took her into custody. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free... and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors as Arden recounted a life and a career "more moving and spectacular than any of her stage acts".

"(W)ell-paced, evocative, and adventurous... a top-notch novel."

* = starred review

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