Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Riddance

Happy New Years! It's time once again for Dragon's Library year in review.

Picture Books 15
Novels 11
Nonfiction 11
YA/juvenile fiction 49
Memoir/biography 7
Short fiction collection 5
Reference 9
Mythology 7
Graphic novels 3
Poetry 2

Total 119

My lowest count yet :( I could make excuses, but there it is. On the plus side, unless I spend part of 2010 in a coma, I doubt the numbers could get any lower.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lincoln: A Photobiography

Author: Russell Freedman

First line: Abraham Lincoln wasn't the sort of man who could lose himself in a crowd.

Why you should read this book: Still the definitive work for young people on the subject of our sixteenth president two decades after its original publication, this Newbery-winning biography collects all the meaningful facts of Lincoln's life along with copious illustrations, photographic and otherwise, from the great president's time. The writing is never condescending, preachy, or effusive, but rather, allows readers to draw their own conclusions based on demonstrable facts, painting an accurate portrait of the intelligence, wit, and drive that propelled a humble farm boy to become the most celebrated of all American statesmen. A truly engaging biography, which skillfully allows for the reconciliation in the reader's mind of Lincoln, the man, and Lincoln, the hero for the ages.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're still flying the Confederate flag and teaching your kids that all men aren't created equal.

The Stress-Proof Child: A Loving Parent's Guide

Authors: Antoinette Saunders, Ph.D. and Bonnie Remsberg

First line: You know what kind of child you want to raise.

Why you should read this book: Basing their method on years of research, the authors teach parents to recognize the stressors in their children's lives, identify how the children respond to problems, and how they, as adults, respond to their children. Once the reader has determined the scope and basis of the trouble, the book goes on to provide techniques, games, and insights for turning vulnerable kids into capable ones. With quotes from young people who have learned from the author, checklists for adults to help categorize psychological and behavioral issues, and suggestions for how to take action in many difficult situations, it's a wonderful companion for parents who are about to throw up their hands in frustration and their kids' perplexing, negative, or withdrawn behavior.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You like whiny kids.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil

Author: Wiley Miller

First line: It was snowing again.

Why you should read this book: Twelve-year-old Basil Pepperell lives in a lighthouse on the coast of Maine and can't imagine a more boring life than his own, until the day a man in an airship hears his idle whistle and takes him to visit Helios, a remarkable city in the sky. Helios is an ancient civilization where arts and technology thrive, little girls ride pteranodons, and warfare is unknown, but when Basil takes a joyride on a flying dinosaur with his new friend, Louise, the children learn that an evil genius has set his sights on conquering Helios, as the first step in his master plan to take over the world. Award-winning cartoonist, Wiley, writes and illustrates this book with his usual whimsy and just a hint of irony, in the grand old tradition of children's classics such as The Phantom Tollbooth and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If you knew the exact location of the lost city of Atlantis, you'd grab a shovel and start looting.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Farm Town

Editor: Grant Heilman

First line: On the farm, spring's a time of coming alive.

Why you should read this book: Comprising dozens of black and white photographs shot by J. W. McManigal in the small town of Horton, Kansas in the late 30s, along with commentary from locals who recalled those images forty years later, this book provides a window onto a vanishing world: one in which everyone knows everyone, and crops and livestock are central to ones day-to-day existence. As the family farm vanishes across America, pictures like these remind us of the days of simpler machines and hard work, of family and friends who gather face to face across kitchen tables or at county fairs, and of the innovations that slowly changed our reality. Nostalgic but saccharine, this book reminds us of both the rewards and the sacrifices our nation has left behind in its quest for modern efficiency.

Why you shouldn't read this book: When it comes to technology, you're only interested in the future. When it comes to land, you're only interested in development. When it comes to family and friends, you prefer email.

Jacob Have I Loved

Author: Katherine Paterson

First line: As soon as the snow melts, I will go to Rass and fetch my mother.

Why you should read this book: Having lived her entire life in the shadow of her beautiful, delicate, talented twin sister Caroline, the long suffering Sara Louise is not surprised to discover, according to her grandmother's reading of the Bible, that God has hated her all along. She longs only to work like a man on a crab boat alongside her father and escape the world of women in her isolated island home, until the day a mysterious stranger moves into an abandoned house nearby. Once again, Wheeze wants something she can never have, and every day, the things she does have slip further and further from her grasp.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You hate your siblings.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

Authors: William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

First line: Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic ruled the world.

Why you should read this book: The proud descendant of innovators, storytellers, and hard workers, young Willian Kamkwamba is well-positioned to share his journey: disheartened by crippling famine in his country, Malawi, forced to drop out of school, and inspired by an illustration of a windmill in a science text, Kamkwamba sets about to build his own electric wind machine, so that he can read at night and pump well water, allowing his family to grow a second crop and never starve again. Called crazy by his village and even accused of witchcraft, he perseveres, making do with scraps from a junkyard and inventing his own tools, circuit breaker, and light switches from whatever he can find, until finally he theories are proved correct, his home is lighted at night, and, eventually, his work is noticed by those with power and money. A powerful, moving, and inspiring story that opens windows not only into the world of science and invention, but also into the reality of Kamkwamba's Africa.

Why you shouldn't read this book: In fact, this book should be required reading for anyone accustomed to walking into their home, touching the wall, and experiencing instant illumination.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Secret of the Sabbath Fish

Author: Ben Aronin

First line: Tante Mashe lived in the little village of Barisev almost two hundred years ago.

Why you should read this book: Simple text and illustrations tell the story of a poor, childless widow who, despite her own poverty, devotes herself to helping the less fortunate. When a mysterious fish seller offers her a beautiful fish and advises her to consider the plight of the Jewish people as she prepares Sabbath food for the needy, she falls into a strange trance, her symbolic journey translating into a meal that no one has ever seen or smelled before, a feast to uplift the spirits of the entire village. A fairy tale in the mystic Jewish tradition, this book presents hope and despair in terms understandable to children, while celebrating the glorious tradition of gefilte fish.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Eliahu HaNavi, dressed as a simple peddler, has just visited your humble home, and you're busy reaping the rewards.

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It

Author: Sundee T. Frazier

First line: It was the first Sunday of summer break, and I was in a hurry to finish my dusting chores fast so I could call Khalfani to ride bikes.

Why you should read this book: Ever since his paternal grandfather died, aspiring scientist and Tae Kwon Do blue belt, ten-year-old Brendan Buckley, has missed their weekly outings, and all his life, Brendan has wondered what happened to his maternal grandfather who is, in his mother’s words, "gone." But a chance meeting at the mall leads Brendan to discover that his grandfather is not gone; he lives only eight miles away but hasn’t spoken to his parents since the wedding because Ed DeBose does not believe white people and black people should get married or have children. Now Brendan’s book of questions about the universe is filling up quickly, and it’s up to him to learn the truth about race, family, and integrity, and maybe, just maybe, bring Grandpa Ed back into his family.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You believe that, when black people and white people procreate, the children always suffer.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Author: Gail Carson Levine

First line: I was born singing.

Why you should read this book: A completely fresh and gripping reimagining of the Snow White myth, this engrossing novel describes a land where singing is both a high form of expression and a way of life, and a heroine who, while surprisingly ugly by her cultural standards, possesses the most remarkably and beautiful voice. Aza has spent her life behind the scenes at her adoptive parents' inn, but when she is chosen to attend the King's wedding as the companion to a Duchess, she and her amazing voice are thrust center stage into a world of handsome princes, narcissistic queens, intriguing gnomes, and terrible ogres. Throw out all your preconceived notions about beauty, love, and evil, and join Aza on her brilliant journey to self-actuation.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Wherever you go, you need to be the fairest of them all.

Hey, Little Ant

Authors: Phillip and Hannah Hoose

First line: Hey, little ant down in the crack, Can you hear me?

Why you should read this book: A rhyming dialog in heroic couplets between a child and the ant he intends to squish, this picture book seeks to teach empathy to the very young while giving a voice to the mute. Addressing the hatred of insects, the fear of peer pressure, and the native self-centeredness of childhood, it makes a case for the karma-free high ground while leaving the ultimate decision up to the reader. Includes simple musical notation to sing the book as a melody.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Extermination is the family business.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Author: David Pesci

First line: A cold touch woke him from a dreamless sleep.

Why you should read this book: Singbe was just going to the next village to see about some livestock he might want to buy when he was set upon by thugs, sold into slavery, and shipped across the ocean by men who would steal his humanity, beat his independence out of him, and offer him up as an animal to the highest bidder. But Singbe turns the tables on his oppressors, overtaking the Amistad and its crew, using every resource in his arsenal to point the ship in the direction of his wife and children, and eventually bringing his case to the highest court in the United States, forcing those who interpret the laws to confront the racism and hypocrisy inherent in a system that purports to value equality but only offers true rights to those who already control all the power. A pulse-pounding account of the struggle for liberty and human rights, the back-room machinations of the nineteenth century's political-economic machine, and the true meaning of freedom in a world of limited choices.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're always in secret meetings with judges to ensure rulings favorable to your industry.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an UNPLEASANT AGE

Editor: Ariel Schrag

First line: Rebecca Ziff and I were best friends.

Why you should read this book: Ah, junior high, middle school, the early teens: whatever you call it, it's the time period when you're most likely to feel self-conscious, most likely to lose your friends, most likely to wander about in a state of perpetual loneliness with the feeling that everybody hates you and you're growing either too fast or too slow. Seventeen self-contained comics by various artists fill this volume with all the pain, suffering, and humiliation of seventh grade, ripe with humor, young love, shocking reality, social isolation, zits, and a young girl's first period. Somewhere in this book, you'll recognize the person you used to be (and still are, deep down inside, most likely).

Why you shouldn't read this book: It still hurts too much.