Teen Stuff: Eleanor & Park

A realistic young adult love story, Eleanor & Park is set during one school year in 1986. Riding the bus in high school can be perilous. With the anxiety of “assigned” seats and bullies yelling comments, it’s a terrible way to start the day and the school year. Eleanor & Park meet on the school bus, and eventually their hearts burst open for each other as they pour over comics and mixed tapes. They are a pair of misfits who end up matching perfectly. The book is touching and funny, and reminds us what it is like to be young and in love, and to stop at nothing to try to be together, even with family situations that make loving and living all too hard.

The book is written in the voice of both Eleanor & Park, with alternating chapters, so it’s nice to get a sense of what’s behind both teen’s thoughts. Author Rainbow Rowell’s new book Fangirl is also getting a lot of buzz.

The Kings of Summer on DVD & Blu-Ray

A sleeper hit of the summer, The Kings of Summer is a thought provoking coming of age tale that tells the story of teenage Joe. Living with his controlling father is becoming unbearable and he wants to escape. He decides that he and his friend Patrick are going to build a house in the woods to live in, just for them, with no parents to tell them what to do. As they head into the woods they are joined by the bizarre Biaggio, and the three boys discover independence, girls, freedom, how to make choices, and what it really means to need others.

It’s a great dramatic, somewhat comedic, film directed by Royal Oak native Jordan Vogt-Roberts. I saw the film at The Michigan this past summer, and Vogt-Roberts was there to do a Q & A after the film, and it was delightful to hear him speak of his film and where it came from. This film gets filed under little boy adventure stories along with things like Stand By Me and The Goonies, both of which inspired the feel of The Kings of Summer.

One Zany Audiobook for Kids

How much mayhem can one fake mustache wreak? A whole lot, it turns out. If you need proof, just check out Tom Angleberger’s Fake Mustache, Or How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind. (The title really says it all.)

When nerdy seventh grader Lenny Flem Jr. lends his best friend Casper ten dollars to buy a fake mustache, he has no idea what hair-raising adventures will follow. First, someone robs the local bank, and Lenny seems to be the only one who realizes it’s Casper in disguise! As Casper’s crazy criminal plan unfolds, Lenny is determined to stop him, even teaming up with teen rodeo queen and former TV star Jodie O’Rodeo to get the job done.

This very silly story, narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross and Jessica Almasy, will appeal to listeners who enjoy slapstick action, gross-out humor and just a little bit of yodeling.

Giddy Read-aloud Picture Book: 'Dozens of Cousins'

This is my favorite book yet by Shutta Crum, the librarian, author, poet, and speaker who lives in Ann Arbor and has delighted so many readers with her writing. Dozens of Cousins, Shutta's latest picture book, is rhythmic, lyrical, warm, and hilarious.

As the annual family reunion approaches, the cozy chaos of cousins begins. "We are wild and fierce. We do not wait for invitations. We run through front doors, arms extended, slap dirty feet on cool linoleum, grab from plates thrust out at us -- and holler for more." Some wiggle their fannies toward distracted adults, in the cutest possible way. Splashy, rip-roaring illustrations are by David Catrow, editorial cartoonist and illustrator of more than 70 books for children.

Initial reviews are glowing, including one in The New York Times. Looks like another hit for the author, a former AADL youth librarian and storyteller. Check out Shutta's books and accomplishments on her website.

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

David Sedaris, a comedic author of several bestselling books, recently published Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. This satirical work of subtle humor makes the reader giggle and occasionally laugh out loud. Much like his previous publications, this book is a compilation of essays about Sedaris' personal life. But the all-new, hilarious stories and ridiculously funny descriptions make it worth your time.

Although the tales of David Sedaris cannot be considered 100% factual, his actual experiences show through the exaggerations with biting realism. In two essays he writes from the perspective of a murderous man followed by a female Tea Party activist -- vehicles he has chosen to convey his political leanings. In his more realistic essays, he describes his frequent visits to the dentist, a lack of support from his father, and his experience abroad when President Obama was elected. In total, these stories give the reader a glimpse into Sedaris' comedic perspective on life and leave one curious about his daily ruminations. Similar works by Sedaris include: Me Talk Pretty One Day, Barrel Fever, Naked, and Holidays on Ice.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #412

Big Girl Panties * by Stephanie Evanovich is one of the most anticipated debut this summer. Being released this coming week, it won't surprise me to see it hit every bestseller list and as many sand chairs.

In this contemporary take on My Fair Lady meets The Biggest Loser, recently widowed Holly Brennan, 32, is seriously afraid of flying. Logan Montgomery is seriously hoping she won't sit down on the seat next to him on a flight from Toronto where he has just finished a personal training session with one of his superstar athlete clients.

Well, you guessed it. Holly is mortified having to wedge her sweaty obese self into the coach seat next to this gorgeous Adonis while Logan is surprised to find he is actually charmed by Holly's sharp wit after the initial chagrin. In a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, Logan offers to get her back in shape. Before either of them can stop it, the easy intimacy of their training sessions leads to even more steamy workouts away from the gym. But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn't fit his ideal? A "chubby- cherub" who will never see a single-digit dress size? Or would the "ugly duckling" have a few wise tricks up her fluffy boa (wink wink) for the "swan"?

A rollicking, sensuous, feel-good romantic comedy that takes on the issues of body image, eating disorder, self-acceptance and actualization.

"Quality writing, memorable characters, hot sex scenes, and an emotionally satisfying story add up to a marvelous gem".

* = starred review

Wise and Witty Mo LoBeau, 11-Year-Old Mystery Solver

Middle grade readers who are looking for a good book for the summer, check out Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage. This was a Newbery Honor book for 2013 and it is an excellent mystery story for readers in about fourth through seventh grades. It's also available as a book on CD, so if you have a car trip planned, take this one on the road.

The story stars 11-year-old Mo LoBeau, a wise and witty “rising sixth grader” who lives in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo was discovered as an infant washed ashore during a hurricane and has grown up with the Colonel, a restaurant owner with a mysterious past, and Miss Lana, hostess at the restaurant. When a murder occurs in her quiet town, Mo and her pals are on the case. While touching on a few serious issues such as family abuse and alcoholism, the novel is mostly light and highly entertaining. There are plenty of plot twists and turns to keep you reading. Mo has a wonderful quirky sense of humor, and when she talks about the people in her town, readers won’t be able to stop laughing. A sequel is planned.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #400 -The Bumbling Ornithologist

No doubt some of you read the NPR review of debut novelist Brian Kimberling's Snapper * - hilarious, poignant, all-too-human recollections of an affable bird researcher in the Indiana backwater as he goes through a disastrous yet heartening love affair with the place and its people.

New grad Nathan Lochmueller (IU, Philosophy) stumbles onto an unlikely job tracking songbirds within one square mile of south central Indiana near Bloomington. "Told with precise and memorable prose in beautifully rendered, time-shifted vignettes, Snapper richly evokes the emotions of coming to adulthood". The poor pay is compensated by the woods that provide solace and the colorful, if occasionally scarifying, array of characters: He meets diner patrons who reply to kids' letters to Santa Claus, would-be mushroom-hunters, ersatz Klansmen and dimwitted bureaucrats who legislate on the environment without knowing the first thing about it".

Southern Indiana native, "Kimberling (a former birdwatcher himself) writes gracefully about absurdity, showing a rich feeling for the whole range of human tragicomedy. A delightful debut."

Will appeal to fans who enjoyed the quirky characters and colorful setting in Karen Russell's Swamplandia!.

* = starred review

Scaredy Squirrel and Chester (two flawed but hilarious characters)

Have you ever planned for a vacation or a birthday party only to have nothing go as you expected? Well Scaredy Squirrel knows just how you feel.

Scaredy Squirrel has many fears. Just to name a few, he is afraid of germs, walruses, bunnies, beavers, Godzilla, pirates, sea monsters, falling coconuts, and biters (anything that may bite him). In order to do what he wants Scaredy Squirrel develops elaborate plans that will help him avoid all of his fears. But when things don't go according to his plans, Scaredy Squirrel is forced to face his fears and realize that there was not anything to be scared of in the first place.

If you enjoy Scaredy Squirrel, you might also want to check out Mélanie Watt’s other books, like Chester.

Chester is a cat who loves to be the center of attention and the best way he can do this is to insert himself into stories that Mélanie writes. With his trusty red marker, he quickly hijacks the stories and becomes the main character in Chester, Chester’s Back, and Chester’s Masterpiece. The plots turn increasingly frantic and comical as both Mélanie and Chester fight for the power to write the story.

Pioneer Theatre Guild Presents Shrek: The Musical

Pioneer High School Theatre Guild will present Shrek: The Musical April 27 through May 5. The show is based on William Steig's 1990 book Shrek! and the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek. Should be a fun show for both kids and adults. More information about the production and tickets is here.

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