Friday, August 27, 2010

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This is not a Newbery award book, but it's another one that is too good not to mention. First, the synopsis from the inside cover:
"Clay Jensen's first love records her last words.
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Hannah's voice tells him that there are 13 reasons she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah's pain, and learns the truth about himself - a truth he never wanted to face."
This is a young adult novel - I would say for ages 15 and up. I know I won't be letting my 12 year old read it for a few years. There are some deeply disturbing themes (obviously). But, it is of a subject that young adults need to be educated about - teen suicide.
The format of the book is very, very interesting - the majority of the book is the content of the cassette tapes, the voice of Hannah in the days leading up to her death. Clay's reactions to what he hears is included. It was so gripping, and very hard to put down.
Although it is a sad story, it was entirely worth reading!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#31 - The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

2007 Medal Winner
This was a cute little book, but honestly I don't have a lot to say about it. A nice story with a happy ending, but just nothing spectacular, in my opinion. One thing that did bother me in the book was that Charles Darwin was mentioned several times as being a favorite scientist of the main character.
Inside cover:
"Lucky, age 10, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, CA (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has.
It's all Brigitte's fault - for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she'll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won't be allowed. She'll have to lose her friends Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. President (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. Just as bad, she'll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own - and quick.
But she hadn't planned on a dust storm. Or needing to lug the world's heaviest survival kit backpack into the desert."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

#30 - Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

This book was a 2008 Newbery Honor Book.
This was a very quick 118 read. Here is what the inside cover has to say:
"Frannie doesn't know what to make of the poem she's reading in school. She hasn't thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more "holy." There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he's not white. Who is he?
During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light - her brother Sean's deafness, her mother's fear, the class bully's anger, her best friend's faith and her own desire for "the thing with feathers."
Newbery Honor Award - winning author Jacqueline Woodson once again takes readers on a journey into a young girl's heart and reveals the pain and the joy of learning to look beneath the surface."
Basically, the theme of this book is hope and looking inside of people to who they really are. I liked the spiritual references. When Samanthat admitted she thought the new boy WAS Jesus returning, the others started looking for Jesus everywhere.
Overall, a very good read! I will pass it on to my girls!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

For fans of Anne of Green Gables

This is not a Newbery book, but it was definitely worth commenting on. I came across this book at my local library, and was intrigued. I have been a huge fan of the Anne series since about 3rd grade, when I read the entire series. I was a tad obsessed with the movies too, watching them over and over and over again (and I confess that Gilbert was my first ever crush.) But I was also a bit hesitant - I mean, this book is not written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, so how good could it be? I just finished reading this tonight, and I thouroughly enjoyed it. You can tell the writing style is different, and there were some things that I don't think Montgomery would've put in her books...but for diehard Anne fans, it's a great prequel.

From the inside cover:

"When readers first met Anne, she is eleven, and has just been sent from an orphanage to meet her new family. Readers never learned the events of Anne's life before she arrived at Green Gables. Until now.

After baby Anne's parents die in an epidemic, she is sent from one foster family to another, always searching for the love and comfort of a real home. A clever child, she learns to talk early, and even in her darkest times she finds joy in the power of her imagination and, eventually, by escaping into the world of books. Through her adventures at school and in foster homes and orphanages, Anne's vibrant personality - her imagination, her hot temper, her impetuousness, her dramatic flair - shines through.

For the millions of readers who devoured the Green Gables series, Before Green Gables is an irresistable treat: the story of how on of literature's most beloved heroines became the girl who captivated the world."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

#29 - Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

This is a 2005 Honor book.

This was a really great book! Here is the "commercial" on the back:

"Murderers, mob bosses, and convicts...these guys are not your average neighbors. Not unless you live on Alcatraz. It's 1935 and twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan and his family have just moved to the infamous island that's home to criminals like notorious escapee Roy Gardner, Machine Gun Kelly, and, of course, Al Capone. But that's just the beginning of Moose's troubles because on Alcatraz the kids are all cowed by the clever, danger-loving daughter of the warden, Piper Williams. Now Moose has to try to fit in at his new school, avoid getting caught up in one of Piper's countless schemes, and keep an eye on his sister, Natalie, who's not like other kids. All Moose wants to do is protect Natalie, live up to his parents' expectations, and stay out of trouble. But on Alcatraz, trouble is never very far away."

Moose's sister Natalie, who they tell everyone is only 10, but she is actually 15, is autistic. Autism is a disorder that has always fascinated me, so it was very interesting to read about how this was dealt with in the 1930's. They didn't even have the diagnosis of autism back then, and they were often put in "insane asylums." But, the family in this book were determined to do all they could to help Natalie lead a normal life, and that was the primary topic of this book. Moose's close relationship to his sister was heart warming. I highly recommend this book!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to get cheap books

Well, obviously, the library is free...but my local library doesn't have the biggest selection. Plus, sometimes, I like to read a book without worrying about finishing it before it being due. So, how do I buy books on a budget? Well, in the last year I discovered - a division of ebay where people go to sell books, video games, dvds, cds, etc. But, there is no bidding war. You put in the title you want and it brings up all the sellers who have it and their prices. So, you can select the price and condition you want. You do pay a flat shipping rate of 3.99 per item, so keep that in mind. But I recently found 6 books on my Newbery list - all excellent condition HARD BACK copies for .75 each! So, even with the shipping, they were less than $5 each for books that were originally about $15 each.

Another place I love to book hunt is thrift stores - particularly the Salvation Army store. Paper backs are .99, kids paperbacks are .49 and hardbacks are 1.99! Today I found 6 Newbery books for .49 each! And 6 other books I had been wanting (including a Jodi Picoult book I haven't read yet!)! My kids find books for themselves too, and I don't have to say no because they are only .49 each!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

If I Stay

This is not a Newbery book. Although it has lots of excellent reviews, as far as I can see, it hasn't even won any awards. Yet. Although the movie rights have been purchased by Summit with Catherine Hardwicke slated as director. This is the same company and director that did the Twilight movies. But, I HAD to blog about it. It is one of those books that left me feeling like somehow, my life has been changed in some small way. Here is what the back of the book says (the "commercial" as my daughter Natalie used to call it when she was little...)

"Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left - the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving."

The entire book takes place in one 24 hour period, but it includes many of Mia's memories. A lot of times when this is done in books, it seems so jarring going from past to present. But the author, I think, does an excellent job of meshing it together. Just very well written. And such a romantic story, but not a cheesy romance. Sad, but hopeful.

2 thumbs up! Run to the store and buy it- only $8 at Wal-Mart, lol! Definitely worth it!

Friday, August 6, 2010

#28 - Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

2006 Medal Winner

I finished this book last night. It is a coming of age novel about a group of 14 year olds and how lives "criss cross."

From the back of the book:
"She wished something would happen. Something good. To her. Checking her wish for loopholes, she found one. Hoping it wasn't too late, she thought the word soon.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, he felt as if the world was opening. Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots. He felt himself changing, too, but into what?

So much can happen in a summer."

This was a nice, warm and fuzzy book about kids discovering who they are, and the meaning of love - topics relevant to any teen or pre-teen. At the end, one of the main characters, Debbie, discusses a particularly insightful thought about the topic of love. I won't give it away.

I liked this book, and the illustrations in the book were very interesting - a mix of photos, drawings, and even music. I'll be honest though, I didn't really find this to be "award winning" material. Maybe someone younger would disagree, but I just found it so-so.

Starting this project with 27 titles under my belt

Like I mentioned in my first post, I have already read several titles on this list. Most of them I read as a child, but some were a little more recent. My plan is to blog as I read - my thoughts on each book. As of today, there are 28 on this list that I know for certain I have read. There may actually be more that I don't remember - I may not remember until I see the book again - it HAS been a long time...anyway, I will start off with a list of what I've already read, and some brief information. I'll only go into detail on the more recently read titles, because, well, they're fresh in my mind.

1. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1938 Honor book
2. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater - 1939 Honor book
One of my childhood favorites!!!
3. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1940 Honor book
4. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1941 Honor book
5. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1942 Honor book
6. The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes - 1943 Honor book
7. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder - 1944 Honor book
8. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes - 1945 Honor book
Another chidhood favorite - it inspired me to draw 100 dresses of my own, just like in the
9. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - 1953 Honor book. Who hasn't read this?
10. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden - 1961 Honor book
11. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigbsburg - 1968 Medal
Yet another favorite - read it several times!
12. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg - 1968
Honor book
13. Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars - 1971 Medal winner
14. Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel - 1973 Honor book
15. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - 1978 Medal winner
An all-time favorite. Just a truly awesome book, and somewhat recently made into a movie.
16. Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary - 1978 Honor book
Hands down, the Ramona books were my ALL TIME favorites!!
17. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson - 1981 Medal winner
LOVED this one!
18. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary - 1982 Honor book
The book that started my love for Ramona!
19. Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary - 1984 Medal winner
20. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan - 1986 Medal winner
My 9 year old recently read this too, she loved it!
21. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi - 1991 Honor book

And the titles I have read recently....

22. The Giver by Lois Lowry - 1994 Medal winner
My friend, Tristen, recommended this along with the companion books (Gathering Blue and
Messenger) and words cannot express how good these books were! I would not have chosen
these titles myself, but I am SO glad I read them. The series has a common theme of self
sacrifice. And I don't know if it was intended, but the final book seemed to be an allegory
to how Jesus sacrificed His life for us, so that we may have a better life.
23. The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman - 1996 Medal winner
A really interesting book about the practice of midwifery in mideival times. Also a story
about how a young, orphaned girl discovers herself and the person she was meant to be.
24. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo - 2001 Honor book
I read this book with Natalie a few years ago. Very cute story and movie.
25. Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff - 2003 Honor book
Natalie had checked this book out last summer, and it looked interesting, so I read it too.
26. Rules by Cynthia Lord - 2007 Honor book
About a girl with an autistic little brother. She develops a list of "rules" to help him fit in
better socially. She also learns what is more important - inward or outward appearances.
27. Savvy by Ingrid Law - 2009 Honor book
An extraordinary family with extraordinary "gifts" called savvies, received at the age of 13.
One brother can control the weather, one has an "electric" touch. Their little sister learns her
savvy and how to handle it on her birthday. new project!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am - and always have been - a bookworm. From the time I started reading, I DEVOURED books. I was the one at the library who could be seen teetering to the checkout desk barely able to peek over the stack of books in my arms. Some things never change, lol. Although now the majority of the books in those stacks belong to my bookworm offspring. I don't get to read as MUCH as I used to - now I have to do laundry, cook, and do other such boring activities in between books. But, I read whenever I can.

I love books so much, that I want to be a librarian. I have always wanted to, actually, but I kind of gave up on the notion when I got married, because, well, librarians are not known to rake in the dough. But, having kids and encouraging them to eventually pursue whatever makes them happy (as long as it is morally in line, of course) has made me realize that it doesn't matter if it will make us rich. I want to LOVE my career. And with my husband, Billy's encouragement, I have decided to pursue my lifelong dream of being a librarian, however "nerdy" that sounds.

I would really love to be a children's librarian, specifically. I have always enjoyed working with children, and there is just nothing like seeing children develop a passion for reading - watching their faces light up in awe and excitement when they walk into a library and see all those rows and rows of stories just waiting to be discovered. I have been blessed to see this already in my own 3 children.

I still love to read children's and young adult literature. Don't get me wrong, I do read grown up books too. But, some of the best literary works out there are written for young people. Plus, you don't get as much of the foul language and "smut" that runs rampant in modern adult fiction.

Let me also share a story of something that happened recently that put the spark of an idea for this project into my head. We were visiting our local library - it is a small town library. One of my son's summer homework assignments was to go to the library and ask a librarian for a Caldecott award winning book to check out. So, he did - and was met with a blank stare. "What does that mean?" she asked me. I said "CALDECOTT. You know - the children's literature award - the Caldecott award?" More blank stares. "I've never heard of that," she says and turns to another librarian. "Do you know what that is?" The other librarian shrugs and says "nope." So, the first librarian tells the second, "well, just google it." I then had to proceed to spelling it so she could google it. Now, I don't expect everyone to be familiar with the names of literary awards. I don't mean to sound condescending or anything. But, come on, the Caldecott is THE award for picture books. I would expect a LIBRARIAN to know this. It was just sad to me. So, I started to think about how I would know this stuff when I was a librarian....and then I thought, 'you know, I want to be REALLY knowledgeable about the books around me when I'm a children's librarian.' So, then I thought 'what better way to become familiar with them, than to READ them all?' So, the idea was born. There are many different awards out there. But the best known is the Newbery award - an honor given to books written for young people - generally for the 8-18 or so age group.

So, the Newbery Project was born. I looked up the list of books awarded this honor. It was started in 1922. I read through the list, and realized that there were several that I have read before, mostly when I was a child, of course. So, I thought, 'I can totally do this.' But, then I counted them out. There is usually just ONE book given the top honor every year, but there are 3-4 "honors" named every year as well. I decided to include ALL of them. Yikes. There are 370 titles on the list....wowzers. A little daunting. But, it's a challenge...and I've decided to try and tackle it. I don't know how long it will take. I would like to say that I can do it in 2 years. But, since I like to read OTHER books too...I don't know...and also considering that each year they will add about 3-4 more I'm not going to put a time limit on it. I don't want to make something enjoyable into just another deadline - I've got enough of those.

So, anyway, that is the story of my newest project. I plan to update as I cross titles off my list, and talk about my thoughts on each book. Enjoy!