Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dani Noir

Author: Nova Ren Suma

First line: A slow fade-in on my life: There's this little mountain town, smack between two long highways that go nowhere in either direction.

Why you should read this book: Were she a femme fatale in an old black-and-white movie, Danielle Callanzano knows exactly how the light would hit her face and how her stiletto heels would echo in the darkness, but the unfortunate truth is that Dani's a lonely teenager in platform sneakers who can't get any bars on her cell phone, and doesn't get calls or even texts when she does manage to find a signal. Her father lied and cheated and left her mother for another woman, so she's never going to forgive him, and when she suspects her old babysitter's new boyfriend of subterfuge, she's determined to investigate. In her bright, modern debut novel, the author makes deep cuts into the meat of her heroine's motivations, demanding, finally, honesty and compassion in a world filled with selfish deception.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've learned it's best to mind your own business.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Inside Out: The Best of National Geographic Diagrams and Cutaways

Published by: The National Geographic Society

First line: The diagram artwork of the National Geographic Society serves as a lens and a mirror.

Why you should read this book: Celebrating the genius of the unsung artists who create detailed diagrams illustrating complicated concepts in the Society's monthly periodical, this book offers an in-depth look at plants, animals, buildings, microorganisms, heavenly bodies, and more. Divorced from the articles that inspired them, the illustrations take on new meaning, celebrated for their own ingenuity as well as the concepts they elucidate. While this book may not work as a reference, it's a stunning overview of how the designs are created, as well as a whirlwind tour of cultural, biological, geographical, and astral systems.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're not a visual learner.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Author: Stephanie Meyer

First line: All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.

Why you should read this book: It's vampire versus werewolf versus vampire in a battle royale for the body, heart, soul, and life of klutzy, self-deprecating, would-be martyr Bella Swan. Bella's love for the cold, marble constant known as Edward Cullen is undiminished, but hotter- and taller-than-average werewolf Jacob Black runs a close second in the race, and meanwhile, an unknown entity is creating an army of out-of-control baby vampires, so it's only a matter of time before someone tries to eat Bella. Again. Can the Cullens and the Quileutes reach a truce long enough to defeat a common enemy, can Edward convince Bella to marry him before Bella convinces Edward to compromise his virtue with premarital sex, will Bella's sheriff father ever figure out that the town he is sworn to protect is crawling with supernatural killing machines, and would you keep reading if these kids had got it on in book one?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You figured out the entire plot of this one somewhere in the middle of the second book.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What the World Eats

Author: Peter Menzel

First line: Imagine for a moment that it is early Saturday morning in the United States.

Why you should read this book: Seeking to answer the question of what the world eats, this book centers around its food portraits--photographs of twenty-six families from twenty-one countries, posed in their kitchens with a week's worth of food, with the grocery list and budget on the facing page--along with several pages of accompanying text for each family, describing their lives, their relationship to food, and some cultural details, as well as a few recipes. Interspersed among the food portraits are graphs with data about obesity, fast food, literacy, meat consumption, access to drinking water, and more, plus photo collages creating a snapshot of how we eat. Although intended for a younger audience, this well-written and provocative book is appropriate for anyone with an interest in food, nutrition, global economy, and world culture.

Why you should read this book: You're on the supersize-me diet.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Hundred Dresses

Author: Eleanor Estes

First line: Today, Monday, Wanda Petronski was not in her seat.

Why you should read this book: Wanda is a little girl who wears the same shabby dress to school every day, so Maddie and Peggy cannot understand why she would claim to own a hundred dresses, silk and velvet, every color of the rainbow, all lined up in her closet. While Maddie likes to have fun at Wanda’s expense, Peggy feels badly about the teasing, but keeps quiet and feels ashamed of her behavior. Only when it is too late are the girls able to recognize Wanda’s genius, put themselves in her shoes, and find love in their hearts for someone whose circumstances are different, but who is still a little girl just like them.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You believe everyone should pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and ridiculing people, particularly poor immigrant, for their differences is the best way to encourage them to do so.

Ruby Gloom's Guide to Friendship

Author: Matt Riser

First line: Hello friend, it’s always a pleasure to see you.

Why you should read this book: This picture book is not merely an advertisement for children’s programming and baby goth apparel, but a legitimate attempt to discuss acceptance and the importance of having a variety of friends in ones life. In fact, the basic theme of the main character (a sort of modern day Pollyanna in black) and the entire series is that it is best not to judge on appearances, but rather on the heart inside those you meet. Fun, gloomy illustrations for kids who like creepy stuff, along with ironic messages promoting tolerance, love, and friendship.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You believe that an admiration of goth style leads to Satanism, and you don't want your children associating with anyone who is different.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eighty Acres: Elegy for a Family Farm

Author: Ronald Jager

First line: When we walked barefoot through the puddles in the driveway, it was nice to feel the mud between our toes.

Why you should read this book: With quiet humor and warm nostalgia, the author recounts his early years as the middle child in a vibrant Dutch-American farming family. His youthful exuberance and love of farming run through a story redolent with newly harvested potatoes, barns full of hay, and his mother's canned fruits, boiled and fried meat, and joyful pies. This is a story of a bygone era, an elegy and a eulogy, as the child unfolds the details of his early love of farming, the gentle sparring between his own desire to become a modern farmer and his father's insistence on clinging to the old ways, and the simple pleasures of an era that ended, suddenly, and finally, as he came of age.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You were a real estate speculator in the 70s and 80s, and you were delighted to buy up huge tracts of farmland, dirt cheap, and transform them into vast tracts of suburbia.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Indie Kidd 3: Being Grown Up Is Cool (Not!)

Author: Karen McCombie

First line: I was a bit bored.

Why you should read this book: Since her mother is overinvolved in animal rescue and their 19-year-old boarder is so laid-back, Indie decides that being an adult is much better than being a child, and starts to work on her list of reasons why Being Grown Up Is Cool. But Indie's fascination with adulthood doesn't always translate into grown-up behavior, and her family and peers are starting to worry about her. Will Indie have to give up doughnuts forever just to get a little respect?

Why you shouldn't read this book: You'd like to be able to watch TV and eat crisps without having to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from.

How Is a Crayon Made

Author: Oz Charles

First line: It's hard to imagine a world without crayons.

Why you should read this book: Venture inside the Crayola factory for a firsthand glimpse of the crayon creation process, from pigmentation to wrapping. Children will enjoy the colorful photographs of various machines, including the "crayon eater" that tests a crayon's strength. A nice overview for young children with curiosity about the world around them.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're strictly into black ink.

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read

Author: Irma Simonton Black

First line: Once there was a little old man who could not read.

Why you should read this book: This little old man is only interested in making toys and doesn't want to learn to read, even though he get a lot of fan mail from children who loves his toys. One day his wife goes out of town and he must do his own shopping, with hilarious and pathetic results. Finally, the little old man has a reason to learn to read.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You already know how to read.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Zen Shorts

Author: John J Muth

First line: "Michael! There's a bear outside!" said Karl.

Why you should read this book: A delightful frame story introduces three average American kids to a panda names Stillwater, who has moved in up the hill and whose umbrella has blown into the kids' yard. Each child then visits Stillwater in his home, where the bear imparts a thought-provoking Zen parable in the form of a fairy tale, according the child's inclination and temperament. East meets West in a wonderful Buddhist format that teaches acceptance, generosity, and inner peace.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're instilling greed, selfishness, and agitation in your progeny.

A Russian Moment

Editor: Bill Harris

First line: The United Nations does its work in six different languages, and in the nearly fifty years since it began helping to make the world smaller hundreds of words have become interchangeable in all of them.

Why you should read this book: The moment referred to in the title turns out to be the very last moment of the Soviet Union, a historical snapshot the creators of this book probably did not anticipate as it was conceived. Following a short synopsis of Russian history, beginning with Peter the Great and ending with the new concept of perestroika, the book presents a series of lovely photographs, including vast, sweeping panoramas and small, posed portraits, with the intention of creating an accessible picture of the large and multifarious nation. With a coffee-table sensibility, this book seeks to project only the most beautiful depiction of the country, although Communist restrictions probably prevented the photographers from revealing anything less than picturesque.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're looking for hard facts, not pretty pictures.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Moon

Author: Stephenie Meyer

First line: I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the one where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can't make your body move fast enough.

Why you should read this book: Overwrought teenager Bella Swan is back, but as her eighteenth birthday rolls around, she realizes she won't be a teenager much longer, while her darling Edward, who refuses to turn her into a vampire for fear of harming her immortal soul, will never age. Instead, Edward abandons her for her own protection, leaving Bella to the mercy of the bad vampires who want to eat her in revenge for the myriad offenses of the previous novel. Bella does what any hapless, accident-prone, lovestruck girl would do: sink into a zombie-like depression, seek out dangerous situations so she can imagine Edward worrying about her, and become best friends with a werewolf who counts himself among the vampires' ancestral enemies.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You were hoping someone would eat her in the first book.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Boy's Life

Author: Robert R. McCammon

First line: I want to tell you some important things before we start our journey.

Why you should read this book: It's 1964, and Cory Mackenson's small southern hometown is full of magic: the dark, frightening magic of a monster that comes up out of the river; the bright sparkling magic of used typewriters and brand new bicycles; the in-between magic of well-intentioned ghosts who haunt the places they haunted in life. Cory and his father witness the corpse of a murdered man disappear into a dark lake, and Cory's journey begins, a whirlwind sojourn through the wrath of nature, the deadly plots of racists and moonshiners, the brutality of the schoolyard, the thrills of childhood, the specter of death, and always, humming at the edge of everything, Cory's quest to learn the identity of the corpse and the identity of the murderer. A colorful cast of characters and a non-stop sense of wonder and excitement propel this gem of storytelling, which inhabits the scary and amazing territory that lies between Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't hold with any of that pagan claptrap and you'd let a river monster eat your firstborn before you fed it steak.