Thursday, March 31, 2011


Written by: Octavia E. Butler

First line: I slipped into my first metamorphosis so quietly that nobody noticed.

Why you should read this book: Although the Oankali have decided not to create any third-gender ooloi children until they can be certain about their stability, Johdas, one of Lilith's many children, is turning into a pleasure-bestowing, offspring-creating, DNA-storing ooloi anyway, and there's no way to stop its transformation. The Oankali want Johdas to go back to the ship, where they can watch over it, but Johdas feels that Earth is its home, and that it can never be complete without a pair of human mates. Like all its family, Johdas will take a journey that is sometimes lonely and painful, but sometimes joyful and crowded, showing humans, Oankali, and constructs, the future of the new species.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Not interested in ultimate pleasure.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Adulthood Rites

Written by: Octavia E. Butler

First line: He remembered much of his stay in the womb.

Why you should read this book: Several years after the end of the previous book, Lilith and her three Oankali partners are living on the transformed Earth, where they and other like-minded individuals have grown their own living villages and begun giving birth to half-human, half Oankali "constructs." They are also sharing the planet with resisters--humans who refuse to accept the Oanlaki's help, or believe that they are truly sterile without alien assistance--who have no qualms about kidnapping construct children to make up for their inability to start families. Akin is the first human-born male construct, and he appears almost completely human, although he is very much a construct, but he is the only one who can convince the Oankali of the truth about the resisters.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If civilization collapsed and was in the process of being rebuilt, your major contribution would be to reinvent guns, liquor, and discrimination.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Written by : Octavia E. Butler

First line: Alive! Still alive. Alive...again.

Why you should read this book: Deep, provocative, sensual, and powerful, this is the first book of the Lilith's Brood or Xenogenesis Trilogy, in which Lilith Iyapo, a strong young woman who has survived the chaos that ensued after nuclear winter destroyed much of Earth's resources, finds herself captive of an alien race that wishes to preserve their own species by interbreeding with the remaining humans. Lilith, and others like her, has been held in suspended animation for centuries while the Oankali have waited for Earth to become habitable again, and worked to learn all they can about our strange, aggressive, hierarchical species. Fiercely protective of her body and her freedoms, Lilith must learn to embrace her captors, their customs, and ultimately, their desires if she is to ever see her home world again.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're always on the lookout for smut, and the thought of humans interbreeding with aliens sets off your internal Geiger counter.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 2: The Journey

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: Soren felt the blind snake shift in the deep feathers between his shoulders as he and the three other owls flew through the buffeting winds.

Why you should read this book: With great difficulty, Soren and his new friends Gylphie, Digger, and Twilight, along with his old blind snake nanny, Mrs. P., arrive at last at the Great and supposedly mythical Ga'hoole Tree, which is very real, and full of very important owls who are a lot nicer than the owls at St. Aggie's, but still keep secrets and expect the young owls to obey the rules. Their little band is housed together but must train for different specialties, and Soren begins to learn what it means to be an owl, along with the other lessons he must master on his way to becoming a doer of noble deeds. However, he still pines for his little sister, Eglantine, and wonders about all the evil, known and unknown, that exists in his world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are a wet pooper with no sense of humor.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Megan's Island

Written by: Willo Davis Roberts

First line: There was one week of school left on the day the peculiar things began to happen.

Why you should read this book: Things don't add up in Megan's mind: why should her mother tear up the rent check, pull her and her brother out of school, and leave for vacation a week early, in the middle of the night, without taking Megan's best friend, Annie, like she promised? Despite the interesting islands in the juxtaposed lake, summer at Grandpa's cabin feels wrong under these circumstances, especially after Megan hears her mother confessing to her Grandpa that she's been lying to the kids for a long time. What are they running from, who are the strange men asking question about redheaded kids, and what will happen when the truth finally catches up with them?

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your parents lied to you your whole life and you turned out OK.

Bella and the Bunny

Written by: Andrew Larsen

First line: Bella loves Nonna's sweaters.

Why you should read this book: Of great interest to the youngest readers, this story begins with Bella, a little girl whose Nonna knits her unique handmade sweater, her favorite of which bears an uncanny resemblance to the bunny that lives at her playschool. One day, Bella's favorite sweater goes missing, and, not uncoincidentally, so does the soft, furry, white bunny. Bella encourages her classmates to search for the bunny and her sweater, with satisfying results for everyone.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your boa constrictor has gone missing and you're searching under couch cushions and behind furniture before your kitten goes missing, too.

Yoko Writes Her Name

Written by: Rosemary Wells

First line: Yoko could write her name perfectly.

Why you should read this book: Yoko, the adorable Japanese-American kitten, faces discrimination from classmates who don't understand the power of her mastery of Japanese writing and insist she'll never graduate kindergarten if she keeps scribbling. Ostracized by some uncaring classmates, she is returned to the fold when Angelo the rat becomes interested in her "secret language" and the rest of the class embraces the Japanese alphabet while mastering the English one. Finally, even the troublemakers recognize the importance of being bilingual and Yoko lovingly teaches them to write their names in Japanese, which has become a requirement for graduating kindergarten in Mrs. Jenkins's class.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're a hate-monger advocating English-only education.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

Edited by: Kate Bernheimer

First line: Baba Iaga had a daughter, a pelican child.

Why you should read this book: Lovers of fairy tales, timeless tropes, and embodied metaphor have reason to rejoice with this collection of forty modern fairy tales inspired by dozens of classic standards, and reimagined by some of the most magical writers of our day. There are many flavors to sample: some stories evoke the lyrical spirit of the old tales, while other bounce with updated language and expectations; there are stories where we instantly recognize the archetypal protagonist and stories the shine a spotlight on a minor character whose perspective we may never have considered; there are happily-ever-afters and gritty here-and-nows; there is realism, and surrealism. Imagination runs wild in a thick collection containing many wonderful and provocative pieces that remind the reader about the infinite possibilities in the world of once upon a time.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You never cared whether or not your prince would ever come.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rapunzel's Revenge

Written by: Shannon and Dean Hale

First line: Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl.

Why you should read this book: The age old tale of the kidnapped baby girl, locked helplessly in a tower until the day her prince will come is given a beautifully empowering twist, with a fairy tale kingdom set in a magically altered wild American west and a heroine who saves herself with the whippy versatility of her extra-long braids. The witch is a power-hungry robber baron who demands fealty from the region's denizens and uses her plant-based magic to suck the life from the land of those who oppose her. Along the way to saving her mother, freeing the parched people of the land, and destroying the witch who imprisoned her, Rapunzel encounters, fights, and liberates classic fairy tale characters along with the legends of the southwest (including an appearance of the ferocious jackalope).

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are deeply immersed in a trade paperback of Fables.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Black Snowman

Written by: Phil Mendez

First line: Somewhere in a lonely grass hut in western Africa, an aged storyteller prepares for the arrival of the village children.

Why you should read this book: It seeks to restore a measure of the lost pride that rightfully belongs to African-American children living in the inner city, by tying their culture to that held in a magical kente cloth that has survived the long journey from Africa to America. Young Jacob hates being poor, and feels that poverty and misfortune are all that he, as a black child, can expect, which causes him to also hate being black, and to hate the color black, and everything dark in his world. When his brother, Peewee, wants to build a snowman from the dirty, black snow in their neighborhood, they discover the magical kente cloth, which, like other magical scarves, brings their snowman to life, and teaches Jacob to see the beauty and strength he holds within himself, and to reconnect with the love of his family.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You hate snow in any form.

Way Out in the Desert

Written by: Jennifer Ward

First line: Way out in the desert having fun in the sun lived a mother horned toad and her little toady one.

Why you should read this book: In rollicking rhyme and familiar meter, this book introduces small children to the ordinal numbers one through ten using the medium of creatures of the Sonoran Desert to illustrate concepts. Young readers enjoy the repetitive scheme, the drawings of happy mommy and baby animals, and the secret numbers hidden within the illustrations on each page, and will soon be chanting the words along with you. A wonderful, happy, crowd-pleasing children’s book with pretty pictures, bright colors, accessible language, and lots of details to examine on every page.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You miss the safety and comfort of your mommy’s protection.

Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies

Written by: Harriet Peck Taylor

First line: In ancient times, when all the animals could talk, there lived a coyote.

Why you should read this book: The trickster is tricked, repeatedly, despite his honest attempts to please his wife by bringing her a sack full of salt from a faraway lake, when his inherent desire to sleep leaves him open to the pranking ways of the wily butterflies. With striking illustrations that show the beauty and grandeur of the southwestern landscape and the creature that dwell therein, this eye-catching book is a lovely introduction to coyote mythology, and worth reading for the drawing of the butterflies carrying a sleeping coyote through the air alone. This version features a happy ending, with the butterflies at last taking pity on the perplexed coyote, and all the animals attending a feast together.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You can demonstrate, using fact and figures, that no amount of butterflies would be capable of lifting a full-grown coyote, let alone flying him over mountains and meadows.

Life of the Navajo

Written by: Amanda Bishop and Bobbie Kalman

First line: The people of the Navajo nation call themselves DinĂ©, or “People.”

Why you should read this book: A nice overview for children presents the history of the Navajo nation, beginning with their presumed emigration from Canada about two thousand years ago, and focusing on the period following first contact with the Spaniards from 1700 to 1850, during which time they became skilled ranchers. Cultural traditions, such as the importance of harmony, the sacred aspects of the land, agriculture, and family life, are covered, along with weaving and other artistic accomplishments. The sorrow of forced relocation along with a brief overview of the modern Navajo nation completes the book.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: It lacks any discussion of Navajo legend and mythology.


Written by: Paul O. Zelinsky

First line: Long ago, there lived a man and a woman who had no children.

Why you should read this book: Zelinsky won the Caldecott Medal for this amazing reimagining of the classic fairy tale, which he sets in the Italian Renaissance and fills with astonishing architecture, billowing fabric, and sweeping landscapes. The tale of the girl with extremely long hair and the sorceress who bought her for a few bowls of salad is drawn from multiple sources, but maintains the euphemism of sexual misconduct as revealed by a dress that no longer fits (and what a beautiful dress it is). The sorceress is the arbiter of morality in this version, punishing Rapunzel and her handsome prince for their secret elopement; and while the sorceress loses the company of her darling daughter, the lovers are reunited and, along with their children, return to the prince’s own country to live happily ever after.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t like pretty things.


Retold by: Paul O. Zelinsky

First line: Once there was a poor miller who had a beautiful daughter.

Why you should read this book: Zelinksky’s sumptuous illustrations steal the show in this Caldecott Honor book, which combines several old versions of the traditional Grimm’s fairy tale to retell the story of the unfortunate girl whose father’s braggadocio results in her imprisonment in a room full of straw, charged with an impossible task: to spin plant material into a precious metal. Of course, the curious-looking Rumplestiltskin arrives to trade his services, and soon the pages are filled with exquisitely detailed spools of gold thread, successively larger rooms of perfectly rendered straw, and at last, the draping finery of royal clothes. There is a price to pay for the impish creature’s services, but with the help of a faithful servant and a blabbermouth creature, the transaction is canceled and the humans live happily ever after.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You're teaching your kids not to renege on an agreement.