"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 March 2013

For Darkness Shows the Stars

Peterfreund, Diana. For Darkness Shows the Stars. Balzer & Bray, 2012.

This is the Goodreads blurb on this book: "It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever. Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it."

The premise of this book sounded interesting, Austin connection notwithstanding. However, the pace of the book is so slow that I simply could not get interested in the story, no matter the premise. At just over 400 pages, I should have been able to finish it in a few hours, but it took me DAYS of slogging to get through this book. I could see this book as a great cross-genre recommendation for Austin fans, but it was not my favorite.

30 March 2013

Freak Show

St. James, James. Freak Show. Dutton Juvenile, 2007.

Billy Bloom has been sent to live with his father in Florida after his mother decides she's had enough of him.  Billy is gay and presents as a Kurt-esque character, although Billy might even give Kurt a run for his money.  But Florida might not be ready for Billy, and we follow him into his new school as he attempts to find his place.

I was interested in the premise of this story, and I really wanted to like it, but I could NOT get past the irritating narrative voice. Anyone who spends that much time on internal narrative and that little time on the actual events that are occurring ... argh. Too many all-caps situations, not enough of what was happening outside the protagonist's head. And I'm sure part of this was due to the fact that the protagonist didn't want to be in Florida, and so he retreated inside to survive, but nonetheless, this book just didn't do it for me.  I would likely recommend this book to Gleeks and to those who enjoy books with alternative narrative styles, like books told through texts or in script form.

29 March 2013

Life as We Knew It

Pfeffer, Susan. Life as We Knew It. Harcourt Children, 2006. 

An asteroid hits the moon and pushes it closer to Earth. Disaster follows: tidal waves are HUGE and drown out much of the earth's coastline; earthquakes are happening everywhere; dormant volcanoes have become active. Miranda is 16, and her journal entries sound very much like a typical 16-year old's. Her only observation about the eminent asteroid crash is that she has too much moon-related homework; after the moon incident, she frets that her school has cancelled this year's prom.Things get worse for Miranda's family, and for everyone else. Electricity is spotty. Food is hard to come by. And the temperature is dropping. Will they be able to survive?

At first I wondered if I'd make it through this book; if Miranda spent the entire book obsessing over prom, I knew I'd regret my decision to read it. Then, when it seemed like maybe she would realize that their situation was more dire than the lack of an internet connection, I worried that the end of the book would read, "And then my family died, and I ate them. And the cat." [Actually, I'm surprised that they didn't eat the cat; he survived to the end of the book.]

But the book ended on a hopeful note, so it was worth the read. I enjoyed Ashfall more than this book, since the main characters there are more concerned with their survival, and the catastrophic climate changes associated with a supervolcano seemed more realistic, but this was still a good book.

I just noticed on Amazon that this is book one in a four-book series. Probably I won't be reading the rest of them, although if I were at a library with patrons who read all things dystopia, I'd be sure to keep this series on the shelf.

28 March 2013

Tess Masterson will Go to Prom

Halpin, Brendan. Tessa Masterson will Go to Prom. Walker Childrens, 2013. 

Tessa's best friend invites her to prom, using a giant marquee to display his question to the small-town world where they live. Tessa turns him down and reveals the thing she's hidden from everyone but herself: Tessa is gay. This private admission turns into a public spectacle when the townspeople protest Tessa's plans to come to prom in a tux and with a female date.

I don't want to spoil the rest of the story, so I'll stop my summary there. This book was fun and funny and adorable and had a great Jordan Sonnenblick-esque ending and I was hesitant to start another book afterward, thinking that nothing could top the amazingness I'd just read. And maybe it can't.

If you haven't read this book yet, you need to. Even if it bothers you that one of the main characters wants to go to Purdue. After all, he's just a character. :)

27 March 2013

Beyond Courage

Rappaport, Doreen. Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust. Candlewick, 2012.

This book is an excellent collection of stories of various groups of people who resisted the Nazi regime during the second world war.  There are quite a few photographs in this book, but not the typical Holocaust pictures that some of us may have become immune to. Also, the information in this book is tragic, but not graphic, so it is suitable for teens and tweens both. I would want this book in my classroom, were I still teaching.

26 March 2013


Condie, Ally. Reached. Penguin, 2012.

The Society is still in charge, but the Rising is working to overturn it.  Cassia, Ky, and Xander are all in the rising, but they don't know it yet. The Rising introduces a plague, but begins to provide cures to those who are infected.  Soon, however, the plague mutates, and the Rising has no cure for the mutation.  People are dying, the world is devolving into chaos; how will Cassia, Ky, and Xander survive?

I listened to this as an audio book, and I really enjoyed the narrators. Having a different narrator for each of the main characters made it much easier to follow the story, and I was curious to find out what had happened to Cassia, Ky, and Xander.  There was still far too much of Cassia mooning over Kai in her chapters, and I still like the first book the best, but I did enjoy this book overall.

25 March 2013


Goldblatt, Mark. Twerp. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Julian is the fastest runner at his school, but when he returns from a week-long suspension, his teacher assigns him to write, not run. Julian has to describe in writing what happened to cause his suspension; the resulting homework assignment is what makes up the bulk of this book. Julian describes his neighborhood, his friends, and eventually gets around to the incident in question.

I enjoyed this book. It was very similar to The Wednesday Wars, which I read to my students each year when I taught. This story takes place in the 1960s, and the stories that Julian tells are entertaining and amusing. I thoroughly enjoyed following Julian's stories, knowing that eventually I was going to find out what caused his week-long suspension. And the ending was similarly satisfying.

I would recommend this book for tweens, fans of Gary Schmidt, and readers who want squeaky-clean stories without religious overtones.

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

24 March 2013


Tarulli brings up a topic I have discussed in previous posts: how to catalog graphic novels.  She brings up a good point in that the person who catalogs the graphic novels is usually in the technical services department and does not see how the cataloging plays out on the shelves: "Technical services staff ... are faced with a number of choices that are often made without the benefit of collaborating with the selector or resident expert. When this occurs, catalogers turn to existing cataloging practices and rules, and their own expertise, to create a uniform level of cataloging that will provide access."

Because the graphic novel collection, rather than being a passing fancy or trend in the library world, has exploded into a cataloging nightmare, many libraries are forced to consider alternatives to housing all the graphic novels in the 741s.  In addition, many patrons now come to the library, not to find one specific book title, but to browse titles in the same way they might at a bookstore.  Some libraries have gone so far as to remove Dewey from their systems altogether and to reclassify the books by general topic, making it easier for readers to browse among their interests.

The question that naturally surfaces, then is this: do we continue to shelve graphic novels in their own section, regardless of genre or topic, or do we integrate the graphic novels, shelving travel narratives with other travel narratives, and graphic Romeo and Juliet near the original Shakespeare play?

How you answer this question depends on your approach to readers advisory.  If you would want people who are interested in World War II, for example, to have access to The Diary of Anne Frank, Code Name Verity, and Maus all at the same time, it would make sense to integrate the graphic novels into the rest of the collection.  As we have mentioned many times in class, graphic novels are a medium, not a genre.

But what about those readers who want only graphic novels?  Would integrating the graphic novels into  the rest of the collection make things more difficult for graphic novel aficionados?  Would the circulation statistics suffer and the library lose some of its patrons because they cannot find what they like?

Somehow I doubt it. I have observed that people who enjoy graphic novels do often enjoy a variety of genres within that medium, but many people who read graphic novels read one particular genre, just as many people who read print works prefer one particular genre.  In this case, separating the graphic novels into their respective genres would make things easier for the enthusiasts, as they would not have to sort through the graphic novels whose topics or genres do not interest them.  In this case, though I would definitely recommend that the library consider switching from a "nonfiction by Dewey, fiction by author" method of delivery to BISAC or METIS, either of which would be easier and more navigable for all patrons and would likely increase circulation of all materials, not just graphic works.

23 March 2013

What If?

Marcus, Eric. What If? Answers to Questions about What it Means to be Gay and Lesbian. Simon Pulse, 2013.

This is a teen version of a book that could have been titled "Everything you ever wanted to know about GLBTQIA and were afraid to ask." It contains lots of very helpful information that is neither dumbed-down to sound ridiculous nor spoken of in such technical terms that no once can understand, and it includes many real questions from real teenagers. I would definitely want this book in my library's collection. My only complaint is that the "T" in LGBT is more or less ignored; but the book's subtitle makes it pretty clear that it does not cover issues of gender identity.

22 March 2013


Mullin, Mike. Ashfall. Tanglewood Press, 2011.

There's a supervolcano underneath Yellowstone, and in this story, that volcano explodes and covers much of the United States in a layer of ash, plunging the world into darkness and chaos. Much of the world's food supply is ruined, and anarchy follows as people attempt to survive in a world that has changed dramatically.

Wow. There has been an explosion of dystopian and post-apocalyptic literature in the wake of The Hunger Games. As is true with many things, 90% of what has been published is crap. This book is in the other 10%. I started it at 9 PM after working on homework all evening. Before I knew it, it was nearly midnight and my eyes could barely stay open, but I was 325 pages into this book and couldn't imagine putting it down.

The characters in this story were believable, the situation they were in was realistic, and there were just enough calm pauses between the catastrophes to keep hope alive and to allow the adrenaline rush to settle down a bit.

I'm almost afraid to pick up the sequel, because I'm not sure it can top this book. This one was amazing. If you haven't read it yet, you need to.

21 March 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom would have been 57 today. When I was a little girl, I'd bring her a drawing I colored or a bunch of dandelions I picked just for her.  Later, my sister and I banded together to get her more costly gifts.  I'm pretty sure she loved the colored pictures just as much, though, as it looks as though she saved every. single. one we made. 

I miss you, Mom.  I'd give anything to celebrate your birthday with you this year.

20 March 2013

Code Name Verity

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Egmont Press, 2012.

From Goodreads: "I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two."

I love, love, loved the first 286 pages of this book. On page 286 I was surprised for the first time in my reading career - I stared at the page the same way I did at the end of NCIS Season 2. I reread it to make sure I had read it correctly.

I only gave this book four stars, because after that shock the rest of the book was a bit of a let-down. It was still good, but not as epic-ly good as it had been. But still - WOW - this was a good read.

19 March 2013

Colin Fischer

Miller, Ashley. Colin Fischer. Razorbill, 2012.

Colin Fischer is starting high school, and for the first time in his educational career, he is walking the halls without an aide. Colin is being mainstreamed into regular classes, and he's armed with his trusty Notebook and his emotions flashcards.  Colin has Asperger's Syndrome.

Near the beginning of the school year there's an incident in the cafeteria - a student brings a gun to school and the gun goes off in the cafeteria, although no one is injured.  The police blame the one student thought most likely to bring a gun, but Colin is convinced that this person is innocent, and he goes about proving it to everyone else.

It seems that books about people with Asperger's are fairly popular recently.  This book is a good one, and I enjoyed reading it and getting into Colin's head as well as watching the reactions of those around him. I would recommend this book to people who enjoyed other books about people on the autism spectrum, such as Rules, Perfect Escape, and Scary Scene in a Scary Movie.

18 March 2013

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Andrews, Jesse. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Amulet Books, 2012.

This book follows Greg, who has made a career out of not being friends with or really noticed by anyone in his school.  He has tried to have zero social impact in his life.  He calls Earl his coworker, as they share a love of movies and have created several films themselves.  Enter Rachel.  Greg "dated" Rachel several years ago in an attempt to make another girl jealous.  Now Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia, and Greg's mom decides that Greg needs to spend time with Rachel because it's the right thing to do.  Greg introduces Earl to Rachel, and the two of them continue to visit her and try to cheer her up as her illness progresses.  [This summary makes the book sound kind of lame, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers.]

I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would.  Greg is kind of obnoxious, but Earl is funny, and I appreciated their film-making obsession even if I didn't really understand it. And the sections of the book that are written in script form are not nearly as obnoxious as those in Between You & Me, first because they are written correctly, and second because the bulk of the story is written in standard prose, so the scripted interruptions are not overwhelming.

My only problem with this book is that Earl is a stereotyped African-American character who has a horrible home life and lives in a bad neighborhood and speaks with stereotypical "ghetto" phrases and mannerisms.  Why did the black character have to be the one from the ghetto? I think Earl's home situation definitely added to the plot, but the story could have been set up differently than a friendship between a middle class white boy and a poor black boy.

Red Flags: Lots and lots of profanity, also lots of references to sex and to bodily functions. The boys are pretty gross at times, and from my experience teaching, I can say that many teenage boys talk like this on occasion.  However, these boys are a bit over-the-top, so if profanity in books bothers you, or you don't like gross "potty talk," then skip this book.

I would recommend this book as an alternative to the sappy, typical, Lurlene McDaniels-esque cancer stories, perhaps as a high-school not-G-rated version of Jordan Sonnenblick's After Ever After.

17 March 2013

Meta-comics and Webcomics

Thorne posits that librarians have an obligation to collect web comics with the same frequency that they  collect works in other media: "A large body of work on the Web ... holds interest for library patrons. Librarians have long accepted a responsibility for seeking out and evaluating resources on the Internet for the benefit of their patrons, and for making their discoveries available in digital subject bibliographies, or pathfinders." I couldn't agree more.  I believe that librarians should collect information sources from a variety of media and be sure to include web comics or other internet sources in their pathfinders or read-alike lists, in addition to keeping lists of web comics themselves (lists that should probably be checked frequently to make sure the links are still functional and accurate).

Many new comic artists are taking advantage of the ability to self-publish via the internet, in the same way many authors choose to self-publish their novels. This allows the comic artists to gain a following and possibly seek professional publication if it is desired. Thorne mentions that this also allows the artists to avoid the "editorial control" of syndication, providing more freedom of expression for the artist.  As the web has exploded and its use has expanded from only the technologically elite to even preschoolers at the public library, so have the genres of web comics  to the point that Thorne posits that some web comics defy a specific genre classification.

I am constantly amazed by the variety of styles employed in web comics.  One of the comics I follow regularly, Savage Chickens, consists of pen and ink chicken caricatures drawn on Post-It notes.  Some of the cartoons on this site deal with sci-fi themes such as Star Wars or Star Trek, but many of the cartoons are simply funny scenes involving the chickens or their friend Timmy Tofu.  Another comic I follow is Surviving the World, which features a man in a lab coat standing next to a blackboard. Each day there is a different message on the blackboard.  The Brick Side, a comic created by a friend of mine, contains a photo of a scene created with LEGO bricks, often embellished with thought or speech bubbles. One blog I found recently features stories about being a parent of small children and is illustrated with pictures that appear to have been drawn in the Microsoft Paint program, and the pictures are intentionally "crappy" (the author's word, not mine).

I appreciated Thorne's list of resources and clearinghouses for web comics. At this point in our class, I think it goes without saying that web comics are created for a variety of audiences and that we should recommend them as appropriate to anyone who could be interested in the subject matter. Thorne posits that "a library with any kind of a graphic novel collection should not be neglecting webcomics." Thorne is half-right.  All libraries should avoid neglecting webcomics, regardless of their graphic novel collection.

16 March 2013


Adams, S.J. Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie. Flux, 2011.

Debbie has been best friends with Lisa since elementary school, and she's always done whatever Lisa wanted, including watching reruns of Full House ad nauseum. But now Lisa's dating Norman, and Debbie is forced to face the fact that 1) she likes Lisa as more than just a friend and 2) she doesn't know who she is apart from Lisa.

Enter Emma and Tim, the only two members of the Church of Blue, an invented religion that Emma is using to keep her around Tim and to keep them both on the somewhat straight and narrow. Debbie embarks on a holy quest with the Bluddhists, hoping to run into Lisa and tell her the truth before she hears it from someone else. Hijinks ensue.

I really enjoyed this book, in spite of my skepticism after reading the title. It is a really quick read and filled with plenty of funny moments to counteract all the emotional drama that comes when teenagers interact. This book is on the Stonewall list for this year, and I can see why it won the award.

15 March 2013

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Saenz, Benjamin. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon and Schuster, 2012.

From Goodreads: "Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be."

This book was a faster read than I expected, considering its size. I enjoyed hearing the story from Aristotle's perspective, although I think this book could also have worked with dual narration.

I'm hesitant to talk about the story, because I'm not sure how to describe it without giving away too much. Suffice it to say that this was a good book, in spite of the 1987 setting. Or perhaps because of it. I can definitely see why it's on the Printz and Stonewall lists this year.

14 March 2013

Storm Front

Butcher, Jim. Storm Front. ROC, 2000.

Harry Dresden is a wizard for hire.  He's called in to consult on a case of a double murder, where both victims had their hearts ripped from their chests.  He soon realizes that this is the work of a dark wizard, and what's worse, the dark wizard is after Dresden himself.  Dresden has to race to find this wizard before it's too late.

I liked this story. I read some less-than-stellar reviews on Amazon where people said this book was too cliched.  I don't agree.  I enjoyed this story, including the small details like the fact that Dresden's presence causes electrical items to malfunction.  I also liked Bob, Dresden's talking skull.  I am excited about reading the next book in this series.

13 March 2013

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

Delisle, Guy. Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City. Drawn and Quarterly, 2012.

Delisle chronicles the year his family spent in Jerusalem, including descriptions of daily life as well as the struggles of different ethnic groups who want the same space. The illustrations are well done, the dialog and text flows easily, and the color scheme is appropriate and well-chosen. I'm not a big fan of travel stories, but I did enjoy this one.

12 March 2013

Gone, Gone, Gone

Moskowitz, Hannah. Gone, Gone, Gone. Simon Pulse, 2012.

In the aftermath of 9/11, a sniper has begun to target people in the DC area. Everyone is on edge - parents and teachers fear for the safety of their children, and no one can find a pattern in the selection of the victims.

Meanwhile, Craig is trying to recover from his ex-boyfriend, Cody, who has been sent to a mental hospital.  Craig begins to collect stray animals and pours his heartache into them, but when a burglar breaks into his family's house and all his animals escape, Cody feels more lost than ever.

Enter Lio.  Lio is one of a set of identical twins, both of whom were diagnosed with cancer when they were very young. Lio survived.  His twin did not. Lio and Craig develop crushes on each other. Craig's not sure if he's ready to be over Cody yet.  Lio's not sure if his heart can handle this yet.

This book is told in alternating chapters between the two boys.  Other than my usual complaint about books with multiple narrators - that the narrative voices don't sound that different and that switching between the two can be complicated - I enjoyed this book.  I can see why it was on the Stonewall list for this year.

11 March 2013

Does My Head Look Big in This?

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Does My Head Look Big in This? Orchard Books, 2007.

Amal is a teenage girl. Amal is a private school student. Amal is an Australian citizen. And Amal is Muslim. She decides that she is ready to wear the hijab, headscarf, full-time, even to her private school and out in public, etc.  Her parents are concerned that she's not ready to deal with all of the reactions of those around her.   This book allows the reader to see a glimpse into the life of a Muslim family and also to watch Amal's reactions to those who react to her appearance.

I really enjoyed this book.  Yes, it is chick lit, in that the girls are focused on shopping and makeup and boys, but it gets a bit deeper than that when we watch Amal deal with her peers, the people on her bus, and her crotchety old neighbor.  Amal actually does change for the better throughout the book, and I was glad for a book with a Muslim teen as the protagonist.

10 March 2013

The Eleventh Plague

Hirsch, Jeff. The Eleventh Plague. Scholastic Press, 2011.

Most of the world's population has died from P11, a stain of influenza that swept across the world like a plague. Stephen and his family are traders; they scavenge old buildings for useful items and bring them to big trading events. Stephen has been raised to mistrust outsiders and to avoid populated areas.

But when his father is critically injured and some people offer to help him, Stephen has nowhere else to turn. While his father lies in a coma, Stephen gets a taste of life in a town. But he's still not sure if he should settle down or head out on his own.

I listened to the audio version of this book. The narrator isn't bad, and the storyline is interesting enough. Also, the narrative is fairly fast-paced, so the book held my interest while I was driving. I didn't love it, but I liked it. Then I got to the epilogue.

An epilogue is only supposed to be a couple of pages, just to update the reader on what happened to the characters one year, five years, or ten years after the end of the story. My fiancee and I listened to the epilogue while we were waiting for a table at a restaurant, and we eventually had to turn it off and go inside because we'd been listening for thirty minutes. The first part of the epilogue was good, but then it seemed like the author decided he wasn't really done with the story and it just kept going and going and going. Overall, though, it's a good book. Probably even better if you skip the epilogue.

09 March 2013

Transitions of the Heart

Pepper, Rachel. Transitions of the Heart: Stories of Love, Struggle, and Assistance by Mothers of Transgender and Gender Variant Children. Cleis Press, 2012.

This is a collection of essays and letters written by mothers of transgender or gender-nonconforming children.  Some of their children transitioned as adults; others were able to verbalize their differences as very young children.

This is an excellent book.  The short essays are very real and eye-opening.  This is a book that should be in everyone's library as a very necessary resource and source of hope for those who are coming to terms with their own or their loved one's gender identity.

08 March 2013

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

Newman, Leslea. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Candlewick, 2012.

From Goodreads: "On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life."

Wow. I almost wish I was still teaching so I could use this book during Poetry Month. Not only has Newman written some beautiful poems, but she also used a wide variety of poetic forms and styles. Wow. This book was so amazingly excellent. I'm undecided about whether I should donate this book so others can share in it, or if I should just keep it under my pillow.

07 March 2013


Satrapi, Marjane. Persopolis. Pantheon, 2004.

I had to read the first two volumes of this work for my graphic novels class, but I ended up enjoying the story.  Marjane Satrapi tells the story of her life in Iran during the cultural revolution of the 80s, including the years she spent in Austria and her eventual return to her home. The culture was different enough to interest me, and the story was not riddled with literary references like Fun Home was (references that made even this English teacher feel like a dunce).

There are few enough books about the Middle East or Islamic culture; I think this one is worth keeping in the library's collection.

06 March 2013

Hollow Earth

Barrowman, Carole. Hollow Earth. Aladdin, 2012.

Matt and Em are twins, and they have a special ability - anything they draw comes to life. They can change things - like drawing a canoe and adding a motor - or create completely new things out of nothing. But there are people who have a lot of interest in the twins' ability, and not all of them have their best interest at heart.

This was a fun, action-packed story with enough funny or calm moments to keep the reader interested without overwhelming him/her. I really enjoyed this story and finished it in one day. I'm hoping that a sequel appears in the near future.

05 March 2013

Russell Middlebrook Series

Hartinger, Brent. Geography Club, The Order of the Poison Oak, Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies, and The Elephant of Surprise. Buddha Kitty Books.

I first read Hartinger's Geography Club a few years ago, when I was catching up on my LGBT books for teens. The story focuses on Russell, Min, and Gunner, who attend the same high school and end up starting a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) at their school. 

The next books in the series follow the same characters - Poison Oak deals with summer camp, Brain Zombies has to do with a movie being filmed in their town, and Elephant tackles the topic of freeganism.  The books are harmless fun, predictable, and have a few small plot twists that may surprise younger readers. I enjoyed each one as a quick fix of "brain candy" for an hour or so.

However, I have realized (having read the second and third books in one day and the fourth book the following day) that these books are following the standard of the Babysitters Club books from decades ago: tell the same basic story, with the same characters, changing just enough so that people continue to read.  If you like series fiction like that, these books are perfect for you.  However, if you want to read things that are completely different from each other, pick one of these books and skip the other three. If I had to pick just one, I'd probably read Poison Oak. It's my favorite.

And no, I don't know what a brain zombie is.  

04 March 2013


Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. Feiwell and Friends, 2012.

From Goodreads: "Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future."

What can I say? It's like the Cinderella story, except she's a cyborg. And people live on the moon. And there's a horrible disease with no cure that's killing lots of people. This book was a good read and an intense one. When you check it out, make sure you have time cleared in your schedule, because you will not want to put this one down.

03 March 2013

Graphic Novels: Nomenclature and Aesthetics

I was glad to see that Stegall-Armour took issue with the name “graphic novel,” implying that the name does not properly encompass all that a graphic novel is. Also, the term “graphic,” to the unenlightened, implies that there is something extreme and negative about the work, when indeed the graphic novel might be written for children and contain nothing inappropriate whatsoever (like the Owly books). I agree with Stegall-Armour that if graphic novels are to be shelved in their own separate section, they should then be sub-categorized by genre. The term “graphic novel” really refers to a format/medium and not a genre, and Stegall-Armour is right that Maus should not be shelved next to Spiderman. Yes, they are both graphic works, but the genres of each are quite different. Perhaps this is why I have been frustrated when trying to find graphic novels I’d be interested in – they are all shelved in one location, and I have to sift through things that I’m not interested in just to find books I might like. If the nonfiction graphic novels were shelved in nonfiction, the science fiction graphic novels in the sci-fi section, etc., perhaps with a colored sticker or label on the spine to indicate their format, then I’d be able to find things I’d like.

I enjoyed and appreciated Stegall-Armour’s discussion of librarians’ views of graphic novels. I was hoping that Stegall-Armour’s study would conclude that librarians are in favor of graphic novels and think of them as more than “glorified comic books.” Stegall-Armour surveyed librarians at a public library, in a variety of library positions, regarding their views of graphic novels. Most of the librarians defined graphic novels with a variety of words and also readily admitted that graphic novels are appropriate for all ages, even though they seem to be most popular with adolescent males. I thought it was interesting that Stegall-Armour observed the librarians speaking against graphic novels, but that these same people gave very different answers when they were surveyed. It is possible that they librarians gave the answers they thought Stegall-Armour would want, rather than a response that reflects their beliefs, but Stegall-Armour also had a good point: “As a general rule, librarians respect information in all formats, functions, and types. The librarian’s job is to protect and provide information, not to oppress and suppress it.”

I thought it was interesting that Stegall-Armour brought up the idea of using graphic works as a bridge, not a stepping stone, to allow students who are not interested in reading print works to participate in classroom learning and discussion. I agree that graphic works can enhance the learning of students, in the same way that using any other teaching method, like acting out a story, creating art about the story, or building a LEGO construction about the story, can help students to become more interested in the print material being discussed. I would have no issues with a teacher choosing to teach a graphic novel in a classroom any more than I would with a teacher who chose to use Shakespeare’s works or a current popular novel. In fact, using a variety of methods and media will help the teacher (or librarian) reach a wider audience.

02 March 2013


Brubaker, Ed. Deadenders. Vertigo, 2012. 

From Goodreads: "In this stylized book of mystery and science fiction, a drug-dealing car thief must discover the secret behind his visions in order to save the world. Twenty years after the devastating Cataclysm, society has been separated into sectors in which the rich are able to enjoy machine-generated weather and sunlight while the poor are forced to live an eternally dank and dark existence. Banished to the dismal Sector 5, the angst-ridden Beezer discovers that the corrupt city police are hunting him because of his experiential visions of a pre-apocalyptic world. Now Earth's reluctant savior must learn his true origin and the meaning of his visions before he is captured and killed."

Blech. I really didn't like this one.  There's a binary world like in the Hunger Games (really poor people and really rich people), and it's been forced to be like this because people have been placed into this Matrix-esque machine that keeps things separated. A poor kid (who's also a drug dealer) and a rich girl are some of the people who have visions and are chosen to go in the weird machine thing.  But they find out the secrets and then they stop the machine and restore the balance (hopefully; the ending is a bit ambiguous). 

This story was just depressing and not interesting to me at all. Maybe it was the angsty teen that was a problem; it took me a long time to enjoy the fifth Harry Potter book for that reason, too.  I didn't even particularly like the art in this book, although I had classmates who really enjoyed both the art and the story.  This novel is actually a collection of serial comics, so it might have been more enjoyable if I read it in several sittings, instead of sitting down and reading it straight through.  I would recommend this book for older teens or adults who are interested in dystopias or post-apocalyptic works.

UPDATE: My graphic novels professor informed our class that this book mirrors a lot of the Mod culture from postwar Britain.  So some people may be interested in this book because of that.  I think that information may have helped me understand the scooter obsession a bit, but I still don't particularly  care for this book.

01 March 2013


Hines, Jim. Libriomancer. DAW, 2012.

From the Goodreads page on this book: "Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

With the help of a motorcycle-riding dryad who packs a pair of oak cudgels, Isaac finds himself hunting the unknown dark power that has been manipulating humans and vampires alike. And his search will uncover dangerous secrets about Libriomancy, Gutenberg, and the history of magic."

This book warmed my geeky little heart. A libriomancer is able to reach into a book and bring out an object from the story - they do this to protect people and kill vampires or other bad guys. The libriomancer we follow in this story is a sci-fi/fantasy fan, so he's obsessed with Dr. Who and Star Wars and all the other important things. :) And he has a fire spider as a pet. And it eats Jelly Bellies. There's just so much to like about this book - all the literary and media references, the fantasty elements, the fast-paced action, the fire spider (I think I want one, but it might give my cat heartburn). If you are a bibliophile, a sci-fi fan, a librarian - you simply must read this book.