"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

31 January 2013


Lo, Malinda. Huntress. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011.

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn't shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people's survival hangs in the balance. To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen.

I really enjoyed this story, to the point where I had to force myself to put it down so I could get work done. I loved reading about Kaede and Taisin's blossoming romance, and I really enjoyed the adventure/quest plot line as well.

My only complaint is that after the epic "kill the evil daughter of the fairy queen" scene, Kaede is sent on ANOTHER quest before she can go home. It reminded me of the end of the Lord of the Rings movies, when the screen kept going dark and bringing up yet another scene. But other than that, this was a great book.

30 January 2013


Vaughan, Brian. Runaways: Vol 1: Pride and Joy. Marvel, 2006.

The runaways are a group of kids who find out that their parents are supervillains. After narrowly escaping death (at the hands of their parents), the group hides out together and determines that they will help make this world a better place in order to offset what their parents have done.

I liked this book, but as with all comics/graphic novels, I was frustrated that the story wasn't really done by the end. I'd have to read many, many more volumes to finish the story.

29 January 2013

If Boys Could Hold Hands

Lavallee, David. If Boys Could Hold Hands. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.

Garrett is a high school senior - on the basketball team, has a steady girlfriend and a solid group of friends.  And then Luis moves into town.  Garrett begins to wrestle with his feelings for Luis and the implications of coming out in a small town and finds that the greatest obstacle to being his true self is himself.

It took me a little while to get into this particular story. The first chapter occurs 27 years before the rest of the book, and that threw me for a loop until I realized what was going on.  Also, the author does an excellent job of description and narration, giving background details and describing the environment, so the story proceeds more slowly than I usually expect.  If you are the type of reader who appreciates lots of description (like in Annabel, The White Darkness, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy), you will really enjoy the journey through this book.  I enjoyed these descriptions, but occasionally became impatient for the action to begin again.

I enjoyed the story for itself, and would recommend it for high school students, especially those who seem to read everything they can get their hands on.  This book is also appropriate for adults, and those who grew up in the northeastern United States will appreciate the geographic references and the descriptions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program for the purposes of review.

28 January 2013


Moore, Perry. Hero. Hyperion, 2007.

Thom's dad used to be a superhero's sidekick until a tragic accident destroyed his hand and the lives of many people. Now he works in a factory, a nameless employee on an assembly line.

Meanwhile, Thom has realized two things about himself that he absolutely must not tell his father: first, he has superpowers. Second, he's gay.

When the League of Superheroes offers Thom a chance to join them, Thom has to hide his activities from his father while trying to save the world. And he has a bit of a crush on a superhero named Uberman as well.

This was a fun story. I listened to it on audiobook, and often wanted to just sit in the car so I could hear what happened next. Thom is a very believable and likable character, and the superhero adventures were exciting to read. This book's a keeper.

27 January 2013

Comics for Young Children

I really enjoy reading comics that are designed for young children. The illustrations are fun, the stories are easy to follow, and it's easier for me to read things in the right order.  I can very easily see children who can read just a little, or who don't enjoy reading print materials, enjoying graphic works where there are relatively few words.

More graphic works are being published for young children now; I don't think I had nearly this many options when I was just learning to read.  The only graphic works I had access to were Chick Tracts. Chick tracts, created by Jack Chick, are small comic books which attempt to convince people to become born-again Christians.  They cover a wide range of evangelical and fundamentalist hot topics such as evolution, Islam, and homosexuality. My family had a copy or two of each tract, and I read every one of them, even the ones conveniently marked by my parents as "not suitable for children."

And while some of these were definitely aimed at children,

some others weren't, or at least shouldn't have been.  Some of these images are downright scary, and I frequently had nightmares after reading these things.

When I was a child, I didn't know I was reading propaganda.  I was simply drawn to the comic-book-style of the small pamphlets, as well as the fact that I could easily read through several in one afternoon.  Had I been exposed to other graphic works at the time, I could easily have evolved into a comic book fan.  But I never saw comic books in my classroom or in the school library, never checked any out at the public library or was in place to purchase them myself.  At that time, comics still had the reputation for being, at best, "less than" print works, and at worst, dangerous propaganda.

It is true that young children focus a major portion of their schooling on learning to read. It's also true that learning to read traditional print, and being proficient at it, leads to greater school success and, one hopes, greater success in life. But this does not diminish the artistry or value of graphic works.  Just as I often encouraged my students to read books outside of their preferred genre, it is also beneficial to read things outside of one's preferred medium.

When I taught 7th grade, one of the things my students need extra assistance with was basic reading comprehension, especially when it came to approaching their textbooks.  I discovered that many of them did not know to look at bold words, captions under pictures, charts, graphs, maps, headings, or the other helpful information a publisher places in a textbook. 

My students might possibly have been better attuned to the other information on pages like this one if they had first read graphic works where the text and the picture are essential to understanding the page.   It takes a different kind of reading to work through a page with a mixture of graphics and print, and although many of my students could read a print work and parrot back correct answers, some of them struggled with pages like this one.  If my students had been exposed to increasingly complex graphic novels the way they were exposed to increasingly complex print works, would they have been more successful in interpreting this page?  Perhaps, in our rush to make students ready to read, we have forgotten that there are different types of reading and that they are all needed and useful.

26 January 2013

Stuck in the Middle with You

Boylan, Jennifer. Stuck in the Middle with You: A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders. Crown, 2013.

A father for ten years, a mother for eight, and for a time in between, neither, or both ("the parental version of the schnoodle, or the cockapoo"), Jennifer Finney Boylan has seen parenthood from both sides of the gender divide. When her two children were young, Boylan came out as transgender, and as Jenny transitioned from a man to a woman and from a father to a mother, her family faced unique challenges and questions. In this thoughtful, tear-jerking, hilarious memoir, Jenny asks what it means to be a father, or a mother, and to what extent gender shades our experiences as parents. "It is my hope," she writes, "that having a father who became a woman in turn helped my sons become better men." Through both her own story and incredibly insightful interviews with others, including Richard Russo, Edward Albee, Ann Beattie, Augusten Burroughs, Susan Minot, Trey Ellis, Timothy Kreider, and more, Jenny examines relationships with fathers and mothers, people's memories of the children they were and the parents they became, and the many different ways a family can be.

I am not a parent, nor am I transgender, but I did find this book to be a very interesting read. For anyone who has read Happy Families, this is a nonfiction version of a similar story, interspersed with interviews. It's a very interesting read, and one I would recommend for anyone who has a transgender friend or who simply wants to understand an often misunderstood segment of humanity.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program for the purposes of review.

25 January 2013

52 Reasons to Hate My Father

Brody, Jessica. 52 Reasons to Hate My Father. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2012.

Lexington Larrabee is a spoiled brat. Her family is beyond rich, and Lexi stands to inherit $25 million dollars the day she turns 18. However, her father has been less than impressed with her behavior, so he gives her a task to complete before she receives her trust fund: for one year she will work 52 low-paying jobs, and she must complete every one of them in order to get her money.

I didn't expect to like this book. I usually hate stories about spoiled brats, and the main character in this story could fit right in with the Gossip Girls. But she changes, and that's what makes this story worth reading. Her super-rich, super-busy, always absent father changes, too. This book is a quick, enjoyable read and was definitely worth the time I spent on it.

24 January 2013

The End of Sex

Freitas, Donna. The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy. Basic Books, 2013.

Freitas's book deals with the hookup culture prominent on American college campuses. High school graduates enter college knowing they are supposed to have sex - lots of it - with no strings attached. They go to parties where the alcohol is flowing, lose their inhibitions, engage in some flavor of hooking up, then lie about it the next day (the girls generally downplay what happened; the boys exaggerate). Freitas posits that most college students don't like this arrangement and would rather have real relationships with other people, but they don't know how anymore, to the point where Boston College has a class where one of the homework assignments is to go on an actual date.

Having attended a strict fundamentalist university for six years, I missed out on the hookup culture. I never went to a theme party, drank until I couldn't remember who I was, or "hooked up" with anyone. Ever. And I'm glad I didn't. This is a pseudo rite of passage that I am glad I missed. I met my sweetheart by asking her out, and for several months we dated and had real conversations, getting to know each other long before any physical contact occurred. Apparently this makes us old-fashioned, but I'm not complaining, and neither is my fiancee.

I think it's incredibly sad that college students are missing out on real relationships, but I am glad that Freitas and others have identified this problem and are working to resolve this issue. This book was well-written, sprinkled with enough statistics to be credible but not so many that the book becomes dry. This one is a must-read for anyone dealing with teens or college students.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley for the purposes of review.

23 January 2013

Eve and Adam

Grant, Michael and Karen Applegate. Eve and Adam. Feiwel and Friends, 2012.

Eve is in a horrible car crash that severs her leg. Fortunately, her mom is in charge of a huge medical facility that can help her heal fast.  As she is healing, Eve's mom assigns her a project: create the perfect boy.

This book lost me when Eve decided to leave her mom's workplace, where she was recovering from a car crash in which SHE LOST A LEG, and goes to rescue her best friend's boyfriend from a drug deal gone wrong. The story was intriguing, but the best friend subplot was obnoxious. I don't care how close we are, if I had a leg severed from my body, I would not be willing/able to come to your rescue or your no-good boyfriend's rescue when I'm supposed to still be in the hospital.

21 January 2013

Sing You Home

Picoult, Jodi. Sing You Home. Atria Books, 2011.

People attempting to conceive and miscarrying. Suicidal teens. Religious fundamentalists. Gay people. Big court cases over frozen embryos - what's not to like in this novel? I listened to the audio version of this novel and really enjoyed not only the narration but also the songs that preceded each chapter. And I will admit that I cried when Zoe and Vanessa married - even if their marriage took place in a bowling alley.

This is a great novel for adults who want to wrestle lightly with some tough issues without delving into a teen book.  And it's got a wedding - in a bowling alley.  Like I said, what's not to like?

Graphic Literacy

I'm glad that I am taking this graphic novels class, as it is definitely forcing me to read things that I am not used to reading.  According to Abbott (1986), I don't even approach a comic panel in the proper order.  Abbott's article contains a description of the way the eyes move on a comic panel: we look first at the picture, then at the narration, then back at the picture and to the dialog, then to the picture again before continuing to the next panel.

My eyes don't do that. I look at all the words first - the narration, then the dialog, then any sound effects, and then I look at the picture to make sense of it all.   In a simple comic, this is not a problem:

My eyes went to the title, then the dialog, and then I took in the picture.  Since this is a stand-alone panel from a webcomic, I don't suffer any ill effects from reading "wrong." However, most graphic novel panels are part of a series, and when things get more complicated, much can be lost in translation:

In this particular picture, my brain wants to read all of the yellow-boxed text first, then the blue-boxed text.  I have learned that this type of panel is showing a dialog between two characters and that I should alternate panels, but sometimes one character says two things before the second character replies, and then I get confused again.  The end result is that, while I am a very fast reader of print novels, I am a very slow reader of graphic novels.  Sometimes I have to read a page two or three times to figure out exactly what is going on, especially if the panels alternate between the traditional left-right, top-down reading style and throw in a panel that spans two pages.

My other difficulty comes with panels that contain no words - no narration, no dialog, nothing.  My brain has to "write" its own narration so that I can be sure I understand what's going on.  And I don't always read a character's emotions correctly, especially in manga.

For example, the "grumpy cat" memes don't make sense to me. This cat does not look grumpy; to me, s/he looks like s/he's about to cry.  So when I see a cat that everyone thinks is grumpy and my brain says "sad" instead of grumpy, imagine how complicated a manga can be, when a character's emotions could be demonstrated with a "thought cloud" above their head containing a punctuation mark. [I looked for a decent example of this online and could not find one.]

Perhaps this is why comic books and graphic novels have gotten such a bad rap from teachers, parents, and the like.  A person who does not regularly read graphic works may not understand that it takes a different kind of literacy to understand and read those works; learning to read a comic book is quite different from learning to read a print book.  

As I write this, I am watching episode two of the second season of Warehouse 13; the episode deals with comic book superheroes come to life.  The main character who is generally considered more intelligent is not able to help much because she hasn't read comic books; at the beginning of the episode, she teases her partner for having read comic books as though they are "less than;" by the end of the episode it is clear that reading graphic works, while different from reading print works, is still valuable.

It's clear that, as a future public librarian, I need to continue to develop my graphic literacy.

19 January 2013

Killmaiden's Compendium of Uncommon Occurrences

Shapiro, James. Killmaiden's Compendium of Uncommon Occurrences. Inkwater Press, 2013.

Alex Drake is a scout, hoping to become an explorer someday and follow the great tradition of explorers who are published in Killmaiden's Compendium of Uncommon Occurrences. He's already famous as the youngest scout to have an entry published in the famous book. But when Alex's father leaves on a top-secret mission and is gone for over two months, Alex knows something is wrong. He must follow his father on his mission, not knowing where he is going or what he is searching for, trusting his fate to his wits and the help of those he finds along the way.

I loved this book. It's a great adventure story, set in a world that's similar enough to Earth so that it is easy to follow along, but different enough to seem fantastical. If I hadn't had to stop to sleep in the middle, I'd have finished this book in one day. The story is great, the characters are believable, and the ending, even if it isn't surprising, is quite satisfying. I sincerely hope that a second book follows.

I would recommend this book to tweens and teens, especially those who have enjoyed adventure books like the Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, or Fablehaven series. The Compendium would make a great read-aloud book for a classroom or a "next read" for the student who has read everything else. This one is definitely worth adding to a library's or classroom's collection.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program for the purposes of review.

17 January 2013

The Big Unofficial LEGO Builder's Book: Build Your Own City

Klang, Joachim. The Big Unofficial LEGO Builder's Book: Build Your Own City. Heel Verlag Gmbh: 2013.

This book should be called, "Build your own fleet of LEGO vehicles." The directions for each vehicle are very detailed, including a list of necessary parts. But the book only shows how to build two types of trees and two buildings - there's no mention of constructing streets, parks, other buildings, or that really cool Gothic church on the front of the book. So if you're looking to build vehicles, this is perfect.  If you actually want to build a city, you'll need to look elsewhere.

16 January 2013

Another 365 Days

Payne, K.E. Another 365 Days. Bold Strokes Books, 2013.

Life’s sweet when you’re seventeen and in love, right? Clemmie Atkins certainly thinks so! She’s still madly in love with her girlfriend, the hot and super-confident emo, Hannah Harrison, and her irritating sister, HRBH, will soon be leaving home to go to university.

But just when it seems that life is finally pretty darn cool, a new distraction at school threatens to upset everything, and the return of the enigmatic and sexy J with a startling confession confuses things further. Clemmie has another 365 days to try to get her life back on track...but will it be enough?

The main character in this story is a teen girl, and she keeps a diary of sorts - her diary is the book we read. This would be fine, except that the story has no plot aside from the normal comings and goings of a teen girl. At first she had some conflict with her girlfriend - they were together, then they broke up, then they were together again - but the book continued long after that, when the conflict was over. I didn't mind reading this girl's diary entries, but diary-style books have to work really hard to be interesting, and this one, sadly, was unsuccessful. Added to the British-isms, which in and of themselves wouldn't have been problematic, as well as the odd comments about the girlfriend being "emo," and this book fell flat for me. I wanted to like it, but the endgame needed help.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley for the purposes of review.

15 January 2013

The Different Girl

Dahlquist, Gordon. The Different Girl. Dutton Juvenile, 2013.

In the beginning of this book, the reader is introduced to four girls, identical except for hair color, who live on an island with a man and woman who adopted them. They only know that the plane they were on with their parents crashed on the island, and the man and woman have been raising them. Later on, another girl washes ashore. But she's different from the first four. The original four try to figure out why she's so different from them.

This book had a lot of potential - I would have enjoyed the story if things had been altered a bit. If we had overheard the humans talking or read some of their data entries or had been given some confirmation of what we were sure we knew - that the girls were robots or androids. But we don't get that. We don't know why they were created, why someone shot down their plane, who these people are who are raising them, why they stayed on the island, why the girl who crashes there has crashed or where she's from or why she thinks the android girls are scary.

It's interesting to have a book narrated from the point of view of an android, but there's too much information that's left out, and I had more questions than answers by the end of the book. A great idea, but quite unsatisfying.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

14 January 2013

Hot Dogs and Hamburgers

Shindler, Rob. Hot Dogs & Hamburgers: Unlocking Life's Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age. River Grove Books, 2012.

Rob Shindler recounts his adventures in becoming a tutor for adults learning to read - a process he started when he wanted to help his son learn to read. His story turns literacy statistics into real people and shows the importance of literacy education. A fun, easy, entertaining read. I truly enjoyed this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

Why Study Graphic Novels?

It’s been interesting to see people’s reactions when I mention that I am taking a graphic novels course this semester. Some people wonder why such a course is offered; others wonder why, even if it is offered, I would choose to take such a course anyway. People who think grad school should be difficult and focused on academics think the course sounds too easy; some people wonder how one can study something like a graphic novel for an entire semester.

Comics and comic books have a long history of being despised by parents, teachers, and sometimes even librarians. Literary critics contend that graphic novels are not literature; teachers beg students to put down comics and read “real” books. The archetypal child who hides his comic book inside his history or math textbook still exists. It seems like the people who love comic books really, truly love them; likewise, those who find comics and graphic novels to be somehow “less than” are not persuaded even when confronted with award-winning graphic novels.

However, it is undeniable that comics have been and still remain popular, not just with children, but also adults. And with the recent surge in the popularity of young adult literature has come a surge in the publication and popularity of graphic novels and comics. Graphic novels have gained new respect as educators have begun to understand the potential benefits of graphic novels in the classroom, not only as a bridge into traditional print novels, but also as a medium in and of themselves. Many publishers are now producing graphic novel versions of traditional classics, from The Boxcar Children to Shakespeare, in addition to works that appear exclusively in graphic novel form.

My personal experience with graphic novels has been rather limited. I have enjoyed the graphic novel adaptations of other novels I have read; I have also read comic strip collections such as those featuring Garfield or the Dykes to Watch Out For. I have read several graphic novels for other classes, but my go-to medium of choice is still a traditional print book or, more recently, an e-book. Part of this is probably due to the fact that I like to imagine what things look like instead of seeing what the illustrator thinks they should look like. A larger part, though, is due to a lack of practice in reading graphic novels. It takes more time to look at the pictures or even process the order of the frames; especially when reading a traditional manga where the book is printed “backwards.” It makes sense to me that a person who prefers comics or graphic novels would continue to read in that medium; the transition to a traditional print book has to be at least as difficult as my transition to graphic works.

So why study graphic novels? Because graphic novels and comics are a medium that my future patrons enjoy reading, and I need to be able to make intelligent choices regarding collection development and hold my own when advising readers on what to read next. And because this is not a genre that I would choose to read on my own, I need to force myself to experience this genre and learn more about it.

Do you enjoy graphic novels or comic books? Is there a particular book or series that you especially enjoy and recommend that I read?

13 January 2013

Ender's World

Card, Orson Scott. Ender's World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender's Game. Smart Pop, 2013.

Ender's World is a compilation of essays written by people (authors, military officers, teachers) who have been influenced by the book Ender's Game. The essays cover a wide range of topics and are interspersed with questions to Card as well as his answers.

I enjoyed this book - not as much as Ender's Game, to be sure - but it was fun to read other Ender's Game geeks' opinions and thoughts concerning the book and the themes it presents. I'm glad I was able to read this essay collection, and I look forward to the next installment in the Enderverse.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley for the purposes of review.

PS - Each essay author mentioned his/her first reading of Ender's Game. I first read it on recommendation from my little sister. I was on Christmas break during my freshman year of college. I remember devouring Ender's Game, then returning to savor it many times since. I am glad to say that I have passed this love of all things Ender on to my former students, friends, and fiancee, too.

11 January 2013

Run, Clarissa, Run

Eliason, Rachel. Run, Clarissa, Run. Rachel Eliason, 2012.

Clarissa is a transgender teen who has been raised as a boy named Clark. [For the sake of consistency and simplicity, I am choosing to refer to Clarissa by her chosen name and preferred gender, regardless of her gender presentation.]  Clarissa is constantly teased at school, often violently so, and is misunderstood by her mother, her brother, even her therapist. After some unfortunate incidents involving the father of a family for whom Clarissa babysits, Clarissa decides to run away to Bangkok where she hires a doctor and receives the SRS (sex reassignment surgery) that she has been dreaming of.

This story has a lot of interesting aspects - the computer hacking Clarissa does, for example.  It also seems to me that Clarissa has to deal with a larger portion of problems than a typical teen - even a typical transgender teen - does.  The man for whom she is babysitting seduces her and nearly rapes her (making her the fourth in a line of teens who were assaulted by this man).  Once she runs away, the FBI and the State Department come after her.  There's a subplot where Tony, her almost-rapist, is accused of insider trading.

This was a difficult story to read. I didn't want Clarissa to have to face SRS alone, much less in a country halfway around the world.  I wanted the school bullies to learn not to tease.  I wanted everything to end happily ever after.  Even though it didn't, the story itself was very satisfying to read.

I have only one caveat: The author of this story self-published her work, so the book did not go through the normal round of edits that comes from a major publisher.  English gurus and grammar nazis will be bothered by misuses of set/sat, then/than, apostrophes, commas, etc.  The errors are not so extreme that they caused me to put the book down, but they were a distracting annoyance in what was otherwise a very interesting story.


Greetings, faithful readers.

My apologies for the very long delay.  Life has been complicated.  Since the last time I posted, the following things have happened:

1.  I had my carpal tunnel surgery and came through just fine.
2.  I finished my first year as a SLIS graduate student.
3.  My sweetheart's dad died suddenly.
4.  I interned at a beautiful public library in a town quite similar to my hometown and got to work with some awesome librarians and kiddos.
5.  I started my second year of grad school.
6.  My mom died suddenly.
7.  I got engaged.
8.  I got a part-time job as a circulation clerk and was able to say good-bye to my retail position.

So it's been a busy few months.  2012 was not the best year in the world, but I am hoping that 2013 will be better.  One of the things that I am doing differently is reviving my blog, including reviews of books I've been reading while I've been in graduate school.

If you are still here reading my blog after this long absence, thank you for sticking around! If you're new to my blog, here's hoping that I can keep up with it better this year.