Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Minli goes on an adventure to change her poor family's fortune.  Along the way she meets a friend, Dragon.  She meets the Old Man of the Mountain.  She changes her family's fortune not by asking the Old Man but the things she learns along the way.

Christina (5th grade)

Monday, September 26, 2011

PAWS to Read

I'm going to blame nice fall weather on the small number of people who participated in my favorite library program:  PAWS to Read.  Seriously, reading to fluffy, lazy dogs?  As I told one girl who worried it was silly, "Reading is awesome.  And dogs are awesome.  So together?  Definitely awesome."

Still, it worked out kind of fabulously for the four kids who came, because they got to spend the entire hour cuddling and petting and reading to the trained dogs who showed up.


We had a small turnout for the 4th-6th grade LEGO club, but the two boys who came more than made up for quantity with some serious quality. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Book Jacket

"Scott Pilgrim is the best book ever.  It is the chronicle of our time.  With Kung Fu, so, yeah: perfect."
--Joss Whedon


As much as it causes me pain to disagree with Joss Whedon, I just....didn't like the end of Scott Pilgrim.  A big part of that is that I still don't quite understand the subspace/glow thing.  And although I think Scott and Ramona are a believable and often cute couple, I was secretly rooting for Scott and Kim to reunite.  And they even teased that!  Grr. 

I did like the return of Envy, and the fact that she is far more human and sympathetic than before.  Gideon was an okay final villain.  I liked the payoff of Scott's extra life. 

I really really loved that it was together that Ramona and Scott defeated Gideon.  Ramona earning the Power of Love and Scott earning the Power of Understanding was pretty brilliant.  There were some really excellent things in this final volume, but since I gave up on Scott a few books ago, I couldn't get as invested as I should have.

Three out of five jumps into subspace.

Release Date: July 2010
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flora's Dare by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Book Jacket

Flora Fyrdraaca wants nothing more than to become a ranger, but first she must master the magickal--and dangerous--language of Gramatica.  Such mastery will depend on expert instruction, unflinching confidence, and luck.  Even if Flora can muster up the first two, luck is not a hallmark of the Fyrdraaca family.

And when the world Flora knows begin to crumble around her, her aspirations are sorely tested.  Would a true ranger be intimidated by a vast tentacle crawling from the depths of a toilet?  Be daunted by the mysterious powers of a pair of sparkly red boots?  Be dismayed by the news that only she can stop the earthquakes threatening the city of Califa's survival?


Or, at least, probably not.

Saving her city is what any good ranger would do.  Flora expects her mission to be difficult and perilous.  Yet what this Girl of Spirit does not expect are the life-altering revelations that force her to ask the question:

Who is Flora Fyrdraaca?


Another excellent story of adventure, family, danger, secrets, and a little bit of romance.  I love the Flora books to a ridiculous degree.  The Spanish-fantasy world blows my mind.  Flora, with her too-tight stays and penchant for eating when stressed, is a fantastic heroine in our world of stick-skinny role models.  The characters are wonderfully flawed, some horrible things happen, and some wonderful moments make up for them.

Lord Axacaya is a wonderful hero/villain.  Valefor returns, and is his selfish fantastic self.  Poppy is sober and a little bit scary, and I still love him a lot a lot.  Udo is a silly boy, but Flora and I have a total crush on him.  However, male-shaped distractions are not going to stop Flora from saving her family and her city!

Which is a big part of why this book is awesome.

Please, oh please, let's have another Flora adventure, Wilce?

Five out of five egregores of the ninth order.

Release Date: September 2008
Reading Level: Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL WIL

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Book Jacket

The world is not enough.  Why did he have to turn twenty-four?  Why do robots keep trying to kill him?  Why is the band falling apart?  Why is Ramona acting so weird?  Why won't those brillant and deadly Japanese twins leave him alone?  See Scott Pilgrim learn the answers inside...or die trying!


Reading about Scott complain about themed parties made me want to go to a themed party.

Things I liked:  Knives and Ramona finally realizing Scott cheated on them and confronting him with how not-okay that is.  The random battles with robots always taking place in the background.  Everything with Wallace because he is funny.  The abundance of Kim!  I like Kim a lot.

Things I didn't like:  The Japanese twins, and how the evil exes are having less and less personality.  Scott's inability to be mature about anything ever.

Even though there are more things I liked than disliked quantitatively....I'm still going to have to say I was overall disappointed.  And you know what?  It's pretty much all Scott's fault.  I just don't care about him anymore, so even when his story is funny or whatever, it lacks meaning for me. 

Three out of five Day of the Dead parties.

Release Date: February 2009
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Book Jacket

It's summertime, but who can relax?  Welcome back to Scott Pilgrim's nightmarish little existence.  His relationship with Ramona Flowers is sweeter than ever, but he's still got girl troubles, seven evil ex-boyfriends still want to kill him, and worst of all, now she wants him to get a JOB?!  Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 4:  Now with more kicks, punches, rock & roll, subspace, half-ninjas, experience points, samurai swords, girly action, and laughable attempts to seek gainful employment!


Scott's band starts recording, Knive's dad wants to kill him, but then doesn't, Scott gets a job as a dishwasher, an old friend from high school joins the gang, and yet another evil ex has to be battled.

I....didn't love this issue?  I think I'm getting fed up with Scott.  How hard is it to get a job?  Okay, so pretty difficult nowadays.  But his level of not caring, and his inability to put forth any effort towards responsibility is making me not like him.  So he's a manchild.  Sometimes that is adorable.  But not so much this time.

My favorite part of this volume was undoubtedly Scott's decision to man up and tell Ramona that he loved her.  This is where the video game aspect becomes really awesome--resulting from this admission, he earns 9999 experience points, levels up, and earns the Power of Love (complete with a sword).  Awesome.

Three out of five nights at Sneaky Dee's

Release Date: November 2007
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

LEGO Construction Club

I had the 2nd and 3rd graders make a "house."  They could make a house for an animal, an astronaut, a fish, a human--whatever.  Of course, they mostly went with a space theme, because then they could create space ships to go with the house.  :)

The four boys decided to combine and connect their four houses into one epic station that they named the X Illinois Space Control Unit.  And yes, it was awesome enough to live up to that name.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Book Jacket

Things keep happening.  Scott Pilgrim's new girlfriends, Ramona Flowers, has made his life slightly complicated.  She's got 7 evil ex-boyfriends, and they've been showing up one by one to challenge Scott for the right to date her.  Boyfriend #3, Todd Ingram, comes with extra baggage: he's currently dating the former love of Scott Pilgrim's life!  Envy Adams broke Scott's heart a hear and a half ago.  Now she's back for more, along with her evil art-rock band, The Clash At Demonhead.  She's getting Scott's band to open a show in two days--just enough time for Scott to fight Todd, get over Envy, keep Ramona happy, fend off the advenaces of demented ex-girlfriends, and practice that new setlist.  Right?? Don't miss the latest chapter in the praphic novel saga The Globe and Mail calls "Canada's answer to Tank Girl!"


As if in answer to my complains about keeping people straight, volume 3 opens with a fantastic flowchart of all the characters and their relationships to each other!  No more confusion.

I liked this volume a lot.  Scott's past with Envy felt realistic, and the flashbacks were nicely intercut with the action in the present.  We also got a little glimpse into the fledgling friendship of Scott and Wallace, which was a little hilarious.  Todd was a great evil ex-boyfriend, and the idea of vegan superpowers literally made me lol.  He was almost too powerful, though, and I'm left wondering how Scott will defeat future baddies if he had to rely on a self-aware deus ex machina to save the day on only the third evil ex-boyfriend.  We'll see!

Still funny, but a little more poignant.  I find that I really care about Scott, Ramona, Wallace, and Knives (who is less crazy and more sad this time around).  But the person I really want more info on is Kim Pine. 

Four out of five Honest Ed's

Release Date: May 2006
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: GRAPHIC OMA

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Book Jacket

On her 12th birthday, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch.  Three bumpy years later, after a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, she's exiled to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus.  Then when a mysterious predator begins attacking students, and Sophie's only friend is the number-one suspect, a horrifying plot begins to surface.  Soon, Sophie is preparing for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.


I was completely unimpressed by Hex Hall.  Although there was some snappy dialogue (which I love), the plot and the twists and the characters all felt like retreads of stories I've read dozens of times.  As such, the reveals and secret identities failed to shock me, and I never got invested in the characters to the point of caring what happened to them.

Sophie is a likeable enough character, but she never caught my empathy.  Jenna the ostracized pink-loving vampire could have been aweome, but again, I never fully cared.  And don't get me started on Archer, the boy who was determined to embody every male book-character stereotype ever.

2 out of 5 horrifying holograms.

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

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Book Jacket

How does he do it?  Scott Pilgrim has two tirls on the go.  When he's with Knives Chau, he feels like he can erase his past and start over.  When he's with Ramona Flowers, he's ready to accept all that, grow up and move on.  But like all adult relationships, Ramona comes with baggage--in her case, seven evil ex-boyfriends, showing up one by one to challenge Scott for the right to date her.  What happens when Knives and Ramona meet?  What happens when Scott's own ex-flames get thrown in?  How will Scott deal?  Which girl will he choose?  And why, oh why, can't the past stay the past?


I found volume 2 a little less fantastic than the series beginner.  Mostly because I couldn't keep characters straight, and there are a lot of new faces!  I think by the end I had it sorted, but there were times I had to double back and figure out relationship connections.

I'm glad that Scott is not getting off the hook for having two girlfriends at once.  Knives is kind of awesome, if not a little crazy.  Or a lot.  But I totally understand why Scott fell head over heels for Ramona.  They are adorable together.

But the really great part of this volume is when Scott takes on Ramona's second evil ex-boyfriend, the movie star Lucas Lee.  Scott is celebrity-struck for most of the fight, and his winning, well, it's not exactly epic.  In the best sense possible!  It was hilarious, and a nice change of pace from the over-the-top fight in volume 1.

I wasn't overwhelmed with Scott's awesomeness this time around, but I have a definite sweet spot for him, so I'm off to read volume 3.

Three out of five hair dyes.

Release Date: June 2005
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: GRAPHIC OMA


LEGO Clubs are back in session!  We had our K-2 group yesterday.  Sadly, only two kids showed up.  Happily, they were two awesome kids!

Describing his creation:  "They are cheerers.  They want a guy who won the last million times to win again.  But this guy, he's new, and he decided to look cooler."

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Book Jacket

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis way.  So when Alex Patrick is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: Stay silent and hope someone helps, or enlist the aid of the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body.

In this account of a teenage girl's search for her voice and the courage to use it, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that standing up for someone, especially yourself, is worth the fight.


I'm really getting into contemporary YA lately.  Huh.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, because there is some excellent stuff out there, Mockingbirds included.  As a sociology student, I became aware of the scary prevelence of date rape, and perhaps even more scary, the small amount of victims who actually report the crime.

The Mockingbirds is an inspiring story of a girl who learns to stand up for herself, both for her own peace of mind, but also for those coming after her who need her example.  Alex is wholly real and sympathetic, wondering if it was her fault, hoping she's remembering things incorrectly, and more than anything, just wanting it all to go away.

And the Mockingbirds themselves?  They are this super cool, very well thought out student organization that takes care of student complaints because the teachers and administrators are too busy fawning over them to realize they are teenagers (and can we stop and mention how sad that is?).  I'm not sure I believe such an organization is likely to exist, what with their unwavering commitment to justice and super planned checks and balances, but...I hope it exists.  Every high school and college should have a group like this.

Five out of five games of Trivial Pursuit.

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

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of The Mockingbirds:

Frenetic Reader
Feeling Fictional

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Book Jacket

In the months since Gregor first encountered the strange Underland beneath New York City, he's sworn he won't ever go back.  But when another prophecy, this time about an ominous white rat known as teh Bane, calls for Gregor's help, the Underlanders know the only way they can get his attention is through his little sister, Boots.  Now Gregor's quest reunites him with his bat, Ares, the rebellious princess Luxa, and new allies and sends them through the dangerous and deadly Waterway in serach of the Bane.  Then Gregor must face the possibility of his greatest loss yet, and make life and death choices that will determine the future of the Underland.


I like to call this book "Gregor and His Bromance with Ares," because really, that is the relationship at the heart of the book.  They slowly learn to trust and respect each other, and by the end, they are truly bonds.  And totally awesome.

This is not my favorite Gregor book, but I still love it.  Collins an awesome writer, and I think it would be impossible to dislike one of her books.  She creates absurd worlds with such detail that they make perfect sense.  Fireflies as obnoxious whiners?  Of course!  She also has a fantastic ability to mislead her readers while laying out the truth very plainly.  I just never catch it until after the twist, when I think back and go, "Ooooh, right!  Duh, how'd I miss that?"

Gregor remains a cool, sweet kid.  And actually gains some respect points, too.  Boots is cute, but not as overwhelmingly cutesy as before.  Luxa starts to be a real friend, and I kind of love Henry.  Ares rocks, and I never thought I would say this, but I really want a huge pet bat. 

Three out of four dangerous islands.

Release Date: September 2004
Reading Level: Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL COL

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane:

Tiny Little Reading Room

Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Book Jacket

Everything is totally sweet.  Scott Pilgrim's life is so awesome.  He's 23 years old, in a rock band, "between jobs," and dating a cute high school girl.  Everything's fantastic until a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties.  But the path to Ms. Flowers isn't covered in rose petals.  Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends stand in the way between Scott and true happiness.  Can Scott beat the bad guys and get the girl without turning his precious little life upside-down?


I loved this!  There is something wonderful about reading the story of someone your own age, and as a drifting 23-year-old myself, I sympathized and laughed with Scott Pilgrim.  New Adult Lit is becoming a genre of its own, and this manga series would fit the bill perfectly. 

One of my favorite kinds of fantasy is when the fantastic and the mundane collide, and everyone is like, "so what? this is totally normal."  Such is the case here.  I was mislead into thinking that a girl rollerblading through Scott's dreams was freaking him out, and this would be a story of him discovering the craziness of fantasy.  And then one of Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends shows up, and he promptly jumps into video game fighting style, pummeling his opponent in the air and using special moves to destroy him.  So....the mix of reality and fantasy was already firmly established, and is just a sidenote to the story.  Best.

Scott's sence of humor and awesomeness was right up my alley.  O'Malley has excellent dry humor, and I laughed out loud several times.  The drawings are fantastic.  Basically, I loved everything.

However, this is definitely a young adult (or really, new adult!) manga.  Not for kids who have finished Naruto and are looking for something new. 

Five out of five crappy rock bands.

Release Date: August 2004
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: GRAPHIC OMA

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life:

Blog Critics
The Geek Generation

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

Book Jacket

Rosalinda Fitzroy has been asleep for sixty-two years when she is woken by a kiss.

Locked away in the chemically induced slumber of a stasis tube in a forgotten subbasement, sixteen-year-old Rose slept straight through the Dark Times that killed millions and utterly changed the world she knew.  Now her parents and her first love are long dead, and Rose--hailed upon her awakening as the long-lost heir to an interplanetary empire--is thrust alone into a future in which she is viewed as either a freak or a threat.

Desperate to put the past behind her and adapt to her new world, Rose finds herself drawn to the boy who kissed her awake, hoping that he can help her to start fresh.  But when a deadly danger jeopardizes her fragile new existence, Rose must face the ghosts of her past with open eyes--or be left without any future at all.


This book might have been my tipping point.  I am officially a fan of science fiction.  Or at least, of sci fi that explains the new world in terms I understand, with stories centered on the best and the worst of human nature, regardless of whether the characters are actually human or not. 

This is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty.  No, not really a retelling.  The idea is there, and then Sheehan takes this story to awesome new levels.  Rose is a tragic character at first, trapped in her situation, and it is a complete joy to watch her wade through a lot of pain in order to discover her inner strength.  I love her. 

I also really enjoyed the love stories in A Long Long Sleep, mostly because they are unlike any love story I've read before.  Rose's memories of Xavier are incredibly sweet and a real testament to love encompassing romance, friendship, and companionship.  Then there is Rose's crush on Bren, who is the classic hero, cute and in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time.  But that doesn't quite go the way I expected.  Finally we have Otto, an alien-human species that Rose technically owns, but who understands her in a way no one else does.  I love all the tangled relationships she has, and how none of them actually overwhelm her life.  They are big, but they are not the whole story.

Five out of five stasis dreams.

Release Date: August 2011
Reading Level: Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL RIO

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of A Long Long Sleep:

Presenting Lenore
YA Librarian Tales

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

Book Jacket

When Percy Jackson receives an urgent distress call from his friend Grover, he immediately prepares for battle. He knows he'll need his powerful demigod allies, Annabeth and Thalia, at his side; his trusty bronze sword, Riptide; and...a ride from his mom.

The demigods race to the rescue, to find that Grover has made an important discovery: two new powerful half-bloods whose parentage is unknown. But that's not all that awaits them. The Titan lord, Kronos, has set up his most devious trap yet, and the young heroes have just fallen prey.

Hilarious and action-packed, this third adventure in the series finds Percy faced with his most dangerous challenge so far: the chilling prophecy of the Titan's curse.


I kind of love the middle of series, because (in good stories, at least) this is the part where things get intense. The happy "ooo, what an adventure this is!" feeling is fading, and now the stakes are raised so that the final battle actually means something.

In Titan's Curse, we get character deaths, and they are sad ones! On top of that, we get characters kidnapped, willfully leaving, and possibly having ulterior motives. All excellent!

Not that it's all dark. Percy is still very funny, and his growing attachment to Annabeth is adorable. Once again prejudices are overcome and unlikely friendships are formed. We get a closer look at several gods and goddesses--Artemis is pretty fantastic, and if I were a part of Camp Half Blood, I've no doubt I would have a crush on Apollo, lousy haikus and all.

Also, I really want a pegasus named Blackjack.

Four out of five lion coats.

Release Date: May 2007
Reading Level: Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL RIO