Monday, February 28, 2011

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book Jacket

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts.  The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games.  But Katniss has been close to dead before--and survival, for her, is second nature.  Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.  But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.


You guys.  I just can't even talk about Hunger Games without flailing.  When I created this blog I decided not to review anything without reading it just before the review.  So even though the Hunger Games (and its sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay) is my favorite recent series, I couldn't review it until re-reading.  This makes my fifth time entering the world of The Hunger Games, and it's just as good as the first time.  What more do you need as proof that this book is awesome?

I'll start with the world Collins created.  This dystopian future is horrific and eerily remniscent of today.  The Capitol's obsession with reality TV, violence, beauty, fashion, and celebrity highlights and perverts our own cultural interests. 

Within the world of Panem, Katniss stands out as a super-cool girl heroine who has crazy survival skills (the result of sneaking out to hunt for food most of her life) and a reluctance to love (wouldn't you if every day might be your last, and marriage will only lead to children who might have to fight to the death in future Hunger Games?).  She is incredibly intuitive and clever about fighting and survival, but when it comes to relationships--familial or romantic--she is absolutely hopeless.  I love Katniss like whoa, and she is one of my top three literary female role models (along with Hermione Granger and Eowyn).

Besides Katniss, Peeta is just the most perfect boy in all of fiction.  I would marry him if he were real.  He is smart, charismatic, hilarious, and a hopeless romantic.  The character love doesn't stop with the two District 12 tributes; Rue, Haymitch, Cinna, and Thresh are also heartbreaking, brave, and wonderful.

This book kills me.  You know going in that only one person can survive the Hunger Games, so meeting and loving new characters is excruciating.  The action never stops in this book, and I would almost dare someone to put it down for more than fifteen minutes. 

The Hunger Games has action, satire, romance, fantasy, science fiction, and drama.  I know 12-year-olds who love this book.  I know 55-year-olds who love this book.  It hurts so good.

Five out of five nightlock berries.

Release Date:  September 2008
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL COL

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Book Jacket

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.
As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna--and readers--have long awaited?


This book is held back by a seriously embarrassing title and cover.  I read reviews everywhere saying it was one of the best books of 2010, even comparing it to the love child of John Green and Maureen Johnson (which is, of course, a WIN).  But really, that cover?  Eek.  Once I overcame my prejudice, OH MY WORD.  If you like romance at all, you must read this book, even if it means taping it up in a brown bag.

This story makes me want to move to Paris, make awesome friends, and fall in love.  And that's really all it sets out to do.  What makes this book special is the way it brings Paris to life.  I felt like I was nervously walking the streets with Anna, hesitantly trying out my faltering French.  Never before have I wanted to watch an old movie in a Parisian cinema, but now I desperately do.

And the romance!  Anna and St. Clair have a fantastic love story.  It's not overdone like so many high school melodramas.  They meet, become friends, have witty conversations, and slowly fall into a relationship.  Which is how it should be done, I hereby declare, in all books everywhere (and in real life).  Sure, St. Clair has a girlfriend.  And towards the end, there's a little more melodrama than I like.  But that's only for maybe twenty pages, and every other page is pure comic and romantic gold.

This book is perfect for any wannabe world traveler or old-fashioned romantic.

Five out of five chocolat chauds.

Release Date:  December 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL PER

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Book Jacket

Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe.  I wonder whether the procedure will hurt.  I want to get it over with.  It's hard to be patient.  It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet.  Still, I worry.  They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness.  The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.


I was crazy excited for this book, which is a dystopian novel in which our future society develops a cure for amor deliria nervosa--love.  Lena can't wait until her 18th birthday when she will be treated, and will never have to worry about the delusions and pain caused by the disease of love.  She has a deeply personal reason to look forward to the cure, as her mother committed suicide because of love when Lena was only a child.

This book is incredibly fascinating.  It very nearly convinces its readers that a world without love might actually be a better place (or at least, it nearly convinced me).  And when love is defined by romance only, I do agree with Oliver's fictional government that a lot of the world's problems could be avoided if it were eradicated.  But then the full implications of a life without love were shown, in which parents must read books on how to properly raise their children without parental love, and friendship is unnecessary, and hobbies and passions no longer exist.

What a horrible, dull world.  Oliver does an excellent job creating a believable future as well as a believable protagonist.  Lena's journey to rebellion is rightfully slow and marked by some regressions.  Because let's face it, a world without heartache is a tempting possibility.

My only disappointment was, ironically, with the love story portrayed in Delirium.  It seemed to me that Lena's romance proved the ridiculousness of love, with melodramatic emotions about rather dying than being without him (a boy she's only known for a couple months).  Maybe I'm a cynic, but I would have preferred that Lena's rebellion had focused on all the society's flaws instead of being driven primarily by infatuated love.

Perhaps all the other issues will be the focus of the sequel, because MAN, does this book end on a cliffhanger.  Write fast, Lauren Oliver!

Four out of five Books of Shhh

Release Date:  February 2011
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL OLI

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Goddess Girls: Persephone the Phony by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Book Jacket

As Persephone's mother encourages her to do, she often "goes along to get along" instead of doing what she really wants.  But when she meets Mount Olympus Academy bad-boy Hades, she finally feels she has found someone with whom she can be herself.  He's the first person who actually listens to her, and she finds herself liking him, despite the fact that the other goddess-girls think he's bad news.  But if he makes her feel so special--and so comfortable--can he really be all that bad?

Authors Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams put a modern spin on classic myths with the Goddess Girls series.  Follow the ins and outs of divine social life at Mount Olympus Academy, where the most privileged godboys and goddessgirls in the Greek pantheon hone their mythical skills.


The story of Persephone and Hades has always been one of my favorites.  I have never thought that Hades was as bad as his reputation, and I like the idea that there was a goddess who loved him despite everyone's disapproval.  Obviously, I subscribe to the stories in which Persephone chooses to live in the Underworld, not the ones in which Hades kidnaps her (though there's a nice allusion to that in this Goddess Girls book).

And Persephone herself is so interesting!  A goddess who lives in both life and death, who alternates between the earth and the much is fascinating about her duality.  Holub and Williams deal with that very nicely in their middle grade book, showing that Persephone has both a sweet side and an angry side.  It is only when she realizes that she is both of those moods that she can accept herself and truly be honest with her friends.

Nice lessons, cute story, funny nods to Greek mythology and terms.

Four out of five eight-armed lunch ladies.

Release Date:  April 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 1+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  J HOL

February LEGO Club

We had our first LEGO Construction Club yesterday, and I have to say it was a crazy success.  24 kids showed up and created some of the most interesting trees (there's a theme each month) I've ever seen.  Some were treehouses, some were underwater, and some were part movie theater. 

Pictures of their creations in the link below!

H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden

Book Jacket

Otto Malpense may be only thirteen years old, but so far he has managed to run the orphanage where he lives, and he has come up with a plan clever enough to trick the most powerful man in the country.  He is the perfect candidate to become the world's next supervillain.

That's why he ends up in H.I.V.E., handpicked (read: kidnapped) to become a member of the incoming class.  Inside a volcano on a secluded island, Otto, along with his elite peers--the most athletic, technologically advanced, and smartest kids in the country--will be enrolled in Villainy Studies and Stealth and Evasion.  But then Otto realizes that he's entered a six-year program--where leaving is not an option.  Can Otto achieve what has never been done before and break out of H.I.V.E.?


One of the best book tropes is the orphan who is taken into a new and awesome world (ex: Harry Potter, The Thief Lord, The Graveyard Book).  I love this story line, and I especially love it when an established trope is turned on its head.  That is exactly what happens in H.I.V.E. when orphan Otto is taken into a new and awesome world, the Hogwarts of evil.

There is so much about this book that is fun.  Scarily smart kids, escape plans, classes that teach proper grappling hook lessons, and teachers that are temporarily cats (I'm seeing shades of Harry Potter everywhere). 

My one problem with the book is that it never fully commits to either "yay let's learn to be supervillains!" or "these people are completely evil and I'm getting out of here!"  Instead, Walden tries to maintain a kind of middle ground.  With everyone only partially evil, it's hard to know who, or what, to root for.  But regardless, the story is fun!  Definitely good for a quick read.

Three out of five H.I.V.E.minds.

Release Date:  May 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 5+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL WAL

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anti-Valentine's Day Party

The Dunlap Library's first annual (possibly) Anti-Valentine's Day Party was a success!  By which I mean, I had a good time.  Three girls showed up, and we decorated anti-conversation heart cookies, created an anti-romantic Mad Lib that included the sentence "I'm a weightlifter.  And you are the stinkiest girl I've ever seen."  We ended the night defacing romance novel covers, and my favorite addition was a speech bubble that said, "Let go!  I hate man hair."

More pictures below the cut!

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Book Jacket

Incarceron, the living prison, has lost one of its inmates to the outside world: Finn's escaped, only to find that Outside is not at all what he expected.  Used to the technologically advanced, if violently harsh, conditions of the prison, Finn is now forced to obey the rules of Protocol, which requrie all people to live without techonology.  To Finn, Outside is just a prison of another kind, especially when Claudia, the daughter of the prison's warden, declares Finn the lost heir to the throne.  When another claimant emerges, both Finn's and Claudia's very lives hang on Finn convincing the Court of something that even he doesn't fully believe.

Meanwhile, Finn's oathbrother Keiro and his friend Attia are still trapped inside Incarceron.  They are searching for a magical glove, which legend says Sapphique used to escape.  To find it, they must battle the prison itself, because Incarceron wants the glove too.


My brain is broken.  This book!  I love books like Sapphique that are so crazy, I literally have no idea what will happen next.  Okay, not no idea.  I had twenty million ideas, and the craziest ones were just as plausible as the boring ones.  This book has no limitations. 

And Fisher chose the best story.  A lot of the mysteries are purposefully left unanswered, which will cause some heated debates and discussions, I'm sure.  (Let's have our own at the bottom of this post, below the cut!)  But that's how it should be--we don't always know what is true and what isn't.  People lie, people are wrong, and history is not always factual.  But we, and the characters in the book, have to keep on fighting and trying despite all that uncertainty.  Brilliant.

The characters are once more fascinating, if not wholly likable.  They are simply too....real.  They all have faults, they all have strengths.  Most of the time I was cheering them on, but there were times when I wanted to reach inside the book and slap them around, forcing them to play nice.  However, there is one character that stands out among the rest:  Jared.  He is, quite simply, awesome.  Despite a terminal illness, he adventures and plots with the best of them. 

Sapphique is the fantastic conclusion to Incarceron (reviewed here).  Both are books that refuse to be put down, and both are highly recommended by me!

Five out of five talking prisons.

Release Date:  December 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL FIS

Okay, now let's talk about Sapphique below the cut!  Answer and discuss in the comments.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Schooled by Gordon Korman

Book Jacket

Capricorn (Cap) Anderson has never watched television.  He's never tasted a pizza.  Never even heard of a wedgie.  Since he was little, his only experience has been living on farm commune and being homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain.

But when Rain falls out of a tree while picking plums and has to stay in the hospital, Cap is forced to move in with a guidance counselor and her cranky teen daughter and attend the local middle school.  While Cap knows a lot about tie-dyeing and Zen Buddhism, no education could prepare him for the politics of public school.

Right from the beginning, Cap's weirdness makes him a moving target at Claverage Middle School (dubbed C Average by the students).  He has long, ungroomed hair; wears hemp clothes; and practices tai chi out on the lawn.  Once Zach Powers, big man on campus, spots Cap, he can't wait to introduce him to the age-old tradition at C Average: the biggest nerd is nominated for class president...and wins.

Will Cap turn out to be the greatest president in the history of C Average?  Or the biggest punch line?


Korman's story about a hippie boy who knows almost nothing about the "real world" was surprisingly touching.  One student's honest kindness subtly infiltrates a typically cruel middle school, even though most of that school is actively antagonizing him.  Cap is truly a one of a kind kid, and I would totally want to hang out with him in real life.  The fact that he doesn't even understand teasing or pranks is just such a nice breath of fresh air.  Obviously the rest of the characters in the book agree with me.  Eventually.

My favorite thing about Schooled is the fact that there are multiple narrators, each one named at the beginning of the chapter.  It was incredibly helpful to see Cap's experience from both his point of view and from the other students'.  The switches made it clear that yes, Cap would be an incredibly strange addition to any school, while at the same time showing why Cap does the things he does.

I also loved the fact that the school's requisite nerd is just as awful as the school's requisite jock.  Nice equality.  Of course, even they can't resist the lure of Capricorn Anderson forever.

Four out of five bangled bracelets.

Release Date:  July 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  CAUDILL

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Love Story About... by Madison

Madison participated in Dunlap Public Library's February Young Author Club for 3-5 graders.  In honor of Valentine's Day, she wrote this love story for the blog.

"I love him, but did you see his nose?  It's huge!  I couldn't stop staring at it.  He's so dreamy, with emerald green eyes and spiky black hair.  But again, his nose!"  Melissa said tiredly.  "I can't stop thinking about him.  It's got to be a genetic disorder."

"Calm down, Melissa!" Jesse exclaimed.  "You're getting worked up about nothing.  I mean he's only..."

"DON'T say it!" Melissa hissed.

"What I was just..."





"Out!"  Melissa screeched.  "Get out of my shop!"

"F...F...Fine!" she said through tears.  "I'll leave.  But he's just a cat!"  And with that she stalked off.

A Love Story About Cookies by Will

Will participated in Dunlap Public Library's February Young Author Club for 3-5 graders.  In honor of Valentine's Day, he wrote this love story for the blog.

I love cookies, but I hate nuts.

A Love Story About a DS by Lenny

Lenny participated in Dunlap Public Library's February Young Author Club for 3-5 graders.  In honor of Valentine's Day, he wrote this love story for the blog.

I love DS's, but they are expensive.  They sometimes get frozen.  They usually get broken.  Sometimes, they run out of batteries, and they break.

A Love Story About Harry Potter by Devyn

Devyn participated in Dunlap Public Library's February Young Author Club for 3-5 graders.  In honor of Valentine's Day, she wrote this love story for the blog.

I love Harry Potter, but I don't love Twilight.  I mean, Harry Potter's got wands, spells, villians, and Emma Watson.  Who can make a movie better than Harry Potter?  Anyway, that's not the reason of anything.  I, secretly, am a wizard.  My true name is not Devyn.  It's Luna Lovegood Jr.  I also went to Twilight.  It was terrible.  So confusing.  My name there is Vivian Malers.  (Secretly, I always want to be called Luna Lovegood Jr., but I must always be called Devyn, or else I'll get expelled, or at least suspended, from Hogwarts.  But I don't care about Twilight, because Harry Potter is awesome!

A Love Story about a Cat by Olivia

Olivia participated in Dunlap Public Library's February Young Author Club for 3-5 graders.  In honor of Valentine's Day, she wrote this love story for the blog.

I love my cat, but he loves my feet.  My cat's name is Sanddune 'cause he has yellow fur with stripes that looks like patterns in sand.  One alert-fiesty-cat evening, I was walking up the stairs when Sanddune burst out of nowhere and grabbed my leg.  I shook him off, but he just grabbed me again.  His teeth don't hurt and we got him declawed.  I finally got in bed and spent the night sleeping with a cat on my feet, biting my toes at everyone movement.

P.S.  He was cute, though.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

Book Jacket

Jessica Darling is up in arms again in this much-anticipated, hilarious sequel to Sloppy Firsts.  This time, the hyperobservant, angst-ridden teenager is going through the social and emotional ordeal of her senior year at Pineville High.  Not only does the mysterious and oh-so-compelling Marcus Flutie continue to distract Jessica, but her best friend, Hope, still lives in another state, and she can't seem to escape the clutches of the Clueless Crew, her annoying so-called friends.  To top it off, Jessica's parents won't get off her butt about choosing a college, and her sister Bethany's pregnancy is causing a big stir in the Darling household.

With keen intelligence, sardonic wit, and ingenious comedic timing, Megan McCafferty again re-creates the tumultous world of today's fast-moving and sophisticated teens.  Fans of Sloppy Firsts will be reunited with their favorite characters and also introduced to the fresh new faces that have entered Jess's life, including the hot creative writing teacher at her summer college prep programs and her feisty, tell-it-like-it-is grandmother Gladdie.  But most of all, readers will finally have the answers to all of their burgeoning questions, and then some:  Will Jessica crack under the pressure of senioritis?  Will her unresolved feelings for Marcus wreak havoc on her love life?  Will Hope ever come back to Pineville?  Fall in love with saucy, irreverent Jessica all over again in this wonderful sequel to a book that critics and readers alike hailed as the best high school novel in years.


I reviewed Megan McCafferty's first book here, and I am so happy to say that its follow-up, Second Helpings, is even better!  Jessica is consistently likeable in her senior year, mainly because she's gotten out of her depression slump and is starting to enjoy life and allow friendships beyond her BFF Hope.

I was amazed at how spot on McCafferty's story about senior year of high school was.  The overwhelming pervasiveness of looming college applications, trying to figure out whether to continue extra-curricular activities even though you no longer have interest in them, enjoying yet mocking the strange tendency for enemies to suddenly become nostalgic best friends once May rolls around.  And of course, the boys.  Every romantic relationship in Jessica's life felt completely plausible.  First crushes die hard, even when you find out the boy is gay.  Sadly, the good guy who is perfect on paper just doesn't always equal love, no matter how hard you try.  And the boy who breaks your heart is impossible to forget, even when you desperately want to.

I loved Jessica in this book.  Her wit and sarcasm are nicer this time around, and I was thrilled that she was starting to see and accept the friendships around her.  That's probably the highest praise I can give a book, that I cared so deeply for the main character that I rejoiced at her successes and mourned her losses.

Five out of five day-of-the-week tshirts.

Release Date:  April 2003
Reading Level:  Grade 10+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL MCC

Friday, February 4, 2011

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Book Jacket

Incarceron is a prison unlike any others.  Its inmates live not only incells, but also in metal forests, dilapidated cities, and unbounded wilderness.  The prison has been sealed for centuries, and only one man, legend says, has ever escaped.

Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, can't remember his childhood and believes he came from Outside Incarceron.  He's going to escape, even though most inmates don't believe that Outside even exists.  And then Finn finds a crystal key and through it, a girl named Claudia.

Claudia claims to live Outside--her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she's doomed to an arraged marriage.  If she helps Finn escape, she will need his help in return.

But they don't realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye.  Escape will take their greatest courage and cost far more than they know.


Incarceron is so good.  I would go so far as to say it's the next Hunger Games, because I think this is a book that will appeal to both girls and guys, teens and adults.  At the very least, I loved it.

The world of Incarceron is brilliantly imagined.  At some undefined point in the future, things got so bad that half the population was put into Incarceron, a social experiment that was supposed to cure humanity's ills and turn everyone into scholars and philosophers.  Instead, the controlled world became a prison, and bands formed, creating gangs and violence.  Generations later, what was built to be heaven has become a hell.

The other half of the population were forced to live in a historical Era (think doublets, swords, tapestried hallways) because progress and change resulted in too much pain and strife.  I cannot emphasize how cool this world is, because even though the veneer of Protocol is very old-world, technology still exists to those who know how to hide it.  Brilliant.

And that's just the setting.  The characters are awesome, each with their own hopes and their own secrets.  Finn and Claudia are the main characters, and I liked them very much.  But it was the side characters--the Warden, Jared, Keiro, and Attia--that I was most fascinated by.  I need more of them in the sequel, please!

I could go on about so much more:  The intros to each chapter were awesome glimpses into their mythology and political plots.  Incarceron was nicely creepy.  The plot twists were...well, I thought I saw most of them coming, but the story never actually confirms if the twists were twisty or misleads.  Which is awesome.

I would really like to just rave about all my favorite parts, but I try to keep these reviews mostly spoilerfree.  Suffice it to say: Incarceron is super awesome great, and I am about to walk across the library to get its sequel, Sapphique,

Five out of five glowing keys.

Release Date:  January 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL FIS

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker

Book Jacket

Congratulations!  Your school has invited you to participate in a revolutionary misguided course called Trying the Knot!

When a mandatory course forces Fiona to "try the knot" with super-jock Todd Harding, she's convinced life couldn't get any worse.  Until her crush is paired with her arch-enemy (otherwise known as Todd's obscenely hot, slightly sadistic girlfriend).  But that's nothing compared to her best friend's fate--a year with the very goofy, very big Johnny Mercer.

A series of hilarious pranks leaves Fiona wondering: Is there something her "best friend" hasn't told her?  Could there by more to Johnny Mercer than an awesome music collection?  And most intriguing, could Todd Harding have a heart beneath his pretty-boy exterior?


Huh.  This book just refused to play by conventional high school genre.  Which is great!  It's nice to see authors being true(r) to life, although I don't know how I can say that when the entire premise of the book is about an entire class of high school seniors "married" for the year, complete with jobs and budgets and shared activities.

The plot device is very fun, but it's the relationships that make this such an authentic book.  Jerks turn out to be nice, and nice people turn out to be jerks.  Friendships go through rough patches and have to be worked on.  Crushes are misunderstood.  People have to learn to understand themselves.

And really, this book made me actually like and appreciate cheerleaders.  I admit, I am one of those people who scoff at the sport (though I fully believe it's a sport!), but A Match Made in High School did a lot to break my stereotyping.

Fun, quick read!

Four out of five Eagle Prides.

Release Date:  February 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL WAL

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Frindle by Andrew Clements

Book Jacket

Is Nick Allen a troublemaker?

He really just likes to liven things up at school--and he's always had plenty of great ideas.  When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he's got the inspiration for his best plan ever...the frindle.  Who says a pen has to be called a pen?  Why not call it a frindle?  Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word.  Then other people in town start saying frindle.  Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero.  His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny things is frindle doesn't belong to Nick anymore.  The new word is spreading across the country, and there's nothing Nick can do to stop it.


Andrew Clements is a really great author who captures the intelligence and creativity of grade school children absolutely perfectly.  When I was in grade school, my friends and I started a business in which kids could bring old toys and junk to school, where they could barter or buy from others.  It went on for a week before the teachers shut it down.  The awesome thing about Clements' book is that his character's idea survives and thrives despite, or perhaps because, of the teachers' resistance.

Along with kid revolutions, Frindle deals with the idea of words and their fluidity.  To which I say:  awesome.  One reason I absolutely love the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer is because of Joss Whedon's creativity with the English language.  I love changing nouns into verbs and creating whole new words to prove a point.  So naturally, the idea of "frindle" replacing "pen" is absolutely fascinating to me.

On that note, let's start using "jump back" in everyday conversation!  I've been working on that for...six years now.  It hasn't taken off.  But someday!

If you are a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader, join me Monday, February 14th at 3:00 for a book club discussion and activities about Frindle!

Four out of five dictionaries.

Release Date:  February 1998
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  J CLE

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Book Jacket

For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction.  The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic.  Enchanting?  Absolutely.  Exciting?  You bet.  Safe?  Well, actually, quite the opposite...

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven.  Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies.  However, when the rules get broken--Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good--powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her borther face the greatest challenge of their lives.  To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.


Wow.  This book hits so many of my buttons:  a hidden magical world, siblings who actually act like siblings with equal amounts of annoyance and love, supernatural beings who are creepy instead of cuddly, and an adventure with real suspence and last ditch efforts and a finale that brings a sigh of relief and contentment.

No wonder it was nominated for the Caudill award.

I loved Kendra, probably because I could completely empathize with her.  If I was told not to look out a window because there were horrible gobliny creatures partying outside, no way would I look.  Seth is the exact opposite, rushing into danger and relishing adventure.  Like his older sister, I found him unbearable sometimes, but wonderfully courageous at others.  By which I mean to say, both characters felt like real people in a real relationship.  It was great.

As for the supernatural bits, they were fantastic!  I've tried to get into fairy stories, but most of the time I just can't.  Fablehaven is different.  The fairies here are vain, the naiads want to drown you, and the trolls will bargain with you for your life.  I like my fantasy with a bit of menace, and Fablehaven delivers.  Which is not to say it's scary or anything.  Mull does an excellent of job of balancing fear with joy and menace with humor.

Basically, this book is awesome.  Go read it!

Five out of five golems made of earth.

Release Date:  June 2006
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL MUL