Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Children & YA Book Reviews and Recommendations

So I am in a relatively good mood as I just paid one of our overdue bills and am glad to not worry about that for a few more weeks. Now if my body would just cooperate and stop being so stiff and uncomfortable. I slept funny last night and woke up with a painful upper back, probably I slept on my back when I'm not really supposed to now that I'm pregnant. So the plan for today is to go to work and work 3 hours, which I know doesn't sound like a lot, but when you feel exhausted all the time, it's more than it seems. Despite this, I've been on a reading kick lately and have been gobbling up any Children/YA books I can get my hands on. Luckily there was a book sale this weekend and I got some good books for cheap. I also got to finally listen to the latest Bloody Jack book on audiobook and I must say that Katherine Kellgren has done amazingly well on this book. She does all the voices for the book, but this was by far my favorite. I also got the chance to read a few banned books. I am also excited for being able to go to the library and pick up at least 2 new Children/YA books.

**Spoilers below**

Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You A Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis
by: Robbin Gourley  
I loved this picture book about chef Edna Lewis, who I had heard of but never read anything about, so I figured this book would give me a headstart on knowing about her. I thought it was very well done, mixing the different harvests from spring to fall with "rhymes and sayings taken from American folk tradition (Gourley, 40)." I especially liked how everytime she and her family would pick the produce, she would say something cooking-related like "Honey on hot biscuits sweetens the morning," or when they are collecting strawberries she says "There'll be strawberry shortcake for dessert tonight!". She is a girl after my own heart. Sure you eat the berries as you pick them, but you also save some for pie. The Author's note in the back was particularly useful and included a bibliography of Edna's cookbooks. It also included 5 recipes from the kind of things mentioned in the picture book. Highly recommended and I gave it 5 stars. 

And Tango Makes Three
by: Justin Richardson
Very cute and true story about two male penguins, named Roy and Silo, at the Central Park Zoo who hatched and raised a female penguin named Tango and became a family. It's hard to believe this book is banned as it is so well-done and sweet, and not up in your face about the homosexuality of the two male characters as some would suggest that it does. 4 stars. 

Bridge to Terabithia
by: Katherine Paterson 
I had never read this book and after having picked it up at a book sale this past weekend, I thought I would give it a try. I really enjoyed the story of a young boy growing up in Virginia and trying to find his place in the world. I liked that he befriended another lonely child, a tomboy, and that they became best friends. I like that she made him a better person and able to face anything, even sadly enough, her death. My favorite quote from the book, page 126:
"It was Leslie who had taken him from the cow pasture into Terabithia and turned him into a king...Now it occurred to him that perhaps Terabithia was like a castle where you came to be knighted. After you stayed for a while and grew strong you had to move on. For hadn't Leslie, even in Terabithia, tried to push back the walls of his mind and make him see beyond to the shining world - huge and terrible and beautiful and very fragile?...Now it was time for him to move out. She wasn't there, so he must go for both of them. It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength."

I knew it was one of the most banned books, apparently #8 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books from 1990-1999. That being said, it did win the Newberry Award for 1978, I'm guessing for dealing with the sensitive subject of death, especially in and dealing with children. On the Scholastic website, I found this quote from the author on why she disagrees with death being an inappropriate topic for children: "Bridge is not considered appropriate for children,because death is not an appropriate topic for children—which I find very sad, because two of my children lost friends by the time they were eight years old. . . . Death was not appropriate for my children, but somehow, as their parents, we had to help them face death.” Yes the book does have swear words in it, but they are way tamer than more recent banned books that I have read. As the author again says, "Jess and his father talk like the people I knew who lived in that area,” she has said. “I believe it is my responsibility to create characters who are real, not models of good behavior. If Jess and his dad are to be real, they must speak and act like real people." 5 stars.

The Search for Wondla
by: Tony DiTerlizzi
I knew next to nothing about this book when it came out, other than it was the new DiTerlizzi book, and since I've liked his other books, I figured I would eventually give this one a shot. The story is basically this: a 12 year old girl named Eva Nine lives underground but is never allowed to go to the surface until her robot, named Muthr, allows her to. Someone attacks the compound and Eva is forced to the surface, but nothing could have prepared her for what she discovers on top. She can identify none of the plant or animal species in her Omnipod (handheld computer) and then she is captured by a mysterious animal who seems to be looking for her. She escapes with another creature called Rovender, who she nicknames Rovee, and they eventually rescue Muthr. They decide to journey to the capital city to see if they can find more humans and figure out why this creature is pursuing them. Wondla is something Eva found as a child but can't figure out what it is. You must read to discover its secret and what happens next.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book once I got into it, which pretty much coincided with Eva reaching the surface. Once she begins her travels, her time in the compound begins to make more sense than it does when you are initially reading it. The illustrations were amazing and really helped to place the story as the author creates an entirely new world and culture, even going so far as to include an alphabet and commonly used phrases in the back of the book. My favorite character was Otto and I hope we are seeing more of him. The ending was a little frustrating, but I loved it when the reader found out what Wondla is. I give it 4 1/2 stars.  
The Wake of the Lorelei Lee: Being an Account of the Adventures of Jacky Faber, on her Way to Botany Bay
by: L.A. Meyer, read by: Katherine Kellgren 
This one is my favorite of Jacky's adventures so far, though I really thought this was to be Meyer's last book (as frankly the story has been going on long enough). Just let her be with Jamie for Pete's sake!! Sadly, he has dragged it out for at least one more book.

In this adventurous tale, Jacky sails to England to be with Jamie only to be captured by the British Government. You really think she is going to be hanged this time, only to be saved at the last moment and being put aboard a prison ship on her way to New South Wales (Australia). Higgins ends up joining her on the ship and so starts her new adventures. The story was particularly exciting and I liked that she went to so many interesting Eastern ports and met so many fascinating people, I especially liked the Chinese pirate queen. When she finally meets up with Jamie, I am so happy for her, though as usual that excitement is so short-lived for a variety of reasons. I will note that a good number of her former beaus end up in this book, which was entertaining to say the least. The ending was super frustrating as I'm sure I will have to wait another year for the book to come out so I can find out what happens to the Lorelai Lee and her crew.  Highly recommended for 15+ due to graphic use of language/violence, 5 stars. 

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