Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Imaginary Girls

Written by: Nova Ren Suma First line: Ruby said I'd never drown--not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone's bottomless backyard pool. Why you should read this book: Ruby is the girl everyone looks up to, admires, emulates, and wants to be around and Chloe is Ruby's little sister, who worships and trusts her implicitly. In the emotional absence of their alcoholic mother, they've always faced the world together, with Ruby protecting her beloved sister with maternal ferocity, until the night a dead body floating in a reservoir propels Chloe from her sister's orbit. Creepy and surprising, if not wholly explained results will change the way Chloe sees her perfect, praiseworthy sister and her entire life. Why you shouldn't read this book: You're very good at manipulating people.

Learning to Swim in Swaziland: A Child's-Eye View of a Southern African Country

Written by: Nila K Leigh First line: When I was eight my mom and dad took me to live in Swaziland. Why you should read this book: A delightful work of nonfiction written and illustrated by an eight-year-old girl, based on a series of letter she sent home during her year abroad, discussing her experiences in a foreign country. Dress, customs, food, living arrangements, animals, language, and mythology are touched upon, and the bright crayon drawings are supplemented with photographs to provide a very real picture of the author's experience. Adorable and precocious, this is an excellent book for children who may be nervous about traveling to new places, as long as a nice introduction to a culture very different from their own. Why you shouldn't read this book: Not interested in other cultures or in what kids think about anything.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lob Lie-by-the-Fire, The Brownies, and Other Tales

Written by: Julia Horatia Ewing

First line: Lob Lie-by-the-Fire—the "Lubber-fiend, as Milton calls him—is a rough kind of Brownie or House Elf, supposed to haunt some north-country homesteads, where he does the work of the farm laborers, for no grander wages than "—to earn his cream bowl duly set."

Why you should read this book: This old volume of moral tales for naughty boys (and one tale for naughty girls) manages to inject a measure of whimsy and fantasy into the narrative even as it instructs good English children in obedience and appropriate class-based behavior. Fairies, real, imagined, dreamed, or related in stories, correct willful children and turn them into helpful and useful members of society. Additional magic is found in a number of Christmas tales.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Includes the standard racism, classism, and sexism one would expect of a nineteenth century manuscript.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lucy and the Green Man

Written by: Linda Newbery

First line: First light, first misted light.

Why you should read this book: Lucy loves working in the garden with her grandpa, and listening to his stories about Lob, who does useful odd jobs to special people. Most people can't see Lob, but Lucy and Grandpa can, so, when Grandpa dies and Lucy must return to London, she becomes distraught, worrying what will become of the mystical green man. Lob's journey to find a suitable place for a garden spirit highlights the ways in which the modern world is often unwelcoming to magic and wonder.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's important to you that your child not exhibit any signs of creativity, and that their imagination be squelched if they do.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 15: The War of the Ember

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: The light of the low-hanging, full-shine moon slipped into the cave, making it glow like a lantern of ice, above that tiny gut of sea linking the Southern Kingdoms to the Northern Kingdoms.

Why you should read this book: Everyone knew it would come to this: on one side, Nyra and her Pure Ones, aided by the Striga and an army of runaway Dragon Owls, with hundreds of hagsfiend eggs just about to hatch; on the other side, Coryn and the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, supported by wolves, bears, snakes, and a host of other surprising factions and creatures. The prize is the right to rule the world, choosing either a path of darkness or one of light. Sacrifices will be made, lives will be lost, but in the end, only one creature can decide the ultimate fate of the powerful, magical Ember of Hoole and, therefore, the fate of the world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If you haven't read the previous 14 books, it will be pretty difficult to decipher. Aside from a cast of dozens of characters, many of whom have strange names, and the invented words of the Hoolian language and the various words used by other species, there are several other languages being spoken. Decoding the end of this story is a challenge even for those who have been following the whole way through.

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 14: Exile

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: "All right, Otulissa, how does this sound for the lead article?"

Why you should read this book: While Soren and the Band are sent off to do some research for Otulissa, the mysterious Striga develops a close relationship with the King and begins to institute an unusual campaign against frivolity and vanity. Otulissa soon discovers that books are disappearing from the library, while the Band learns that book burnings and owl-burning are growing common on the mainland, the work of Puritanical Blue Feather Brigades. When the Band and knowledge itself are under attack, brave owls must stand up to combat censorship (with a great homage to Ray Bradbury) and save the Great Tree once again.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe that some ideas, and the people who espouse them, should be set on fire.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 13: The River of Wind

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: Threading through the roar of the waterfall, the scratch of pen on parchment could be heard.

Why you should read this book: When the elusive hermit-scholar Bess discovers evidence of and a map to reach the mysterious Sixth Kingdom of Owls across the Unnamed Sea, it's up to Coryn and the Chaw of Chaws to investigate. Meanwhile, Nyra is up to her old tricks, and this time, her target is Soren's own daughter, Bell. A strange blue owl who tries to rescue her helps tie these two story arcs together.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think you can trick karma.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert

Written by: Ofelia Zepeda

First line: In the dark shadows of an early summer morning, the muffled movements in the outdoor kitchen filter around the corner where we sleep.

Why you should read this book: This delicious and refreshing poetry collection, written in English and Tohono O'odham, takes the reader on an intimate journey through the many moods of the Sonoran Desert, though the eyes of a women who grew up immersed in its seasons. Clouds, rain, wind, dust, and heat form the tactile landmarks through a world comprised in equal parts unyielding reality and fluid spirituality. As a child in the cotton fields, as an adult contemplating the ocean, Zepeda's words imbue her experience with radiant energy, illuminating tumbleweeds, long hair, and dish towels so that they possess as much power as the massive forces of nature that surround her.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't take the heat.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book 12: The Golden Tree

Written by: Kathryn Lasky

First line: "Look at me, look at me!" the Great Gray hooted.

Why you should read this book: The action returns to the present as the presence of Coryn and the magical Ember breathe new life into the Ga'Hoole tree and the Guardians' society, but Coryn can't be certain that the Ember doesn't bode evil, and is increasingly sure that his own mother is the most dangerous threat imaginable. Attempting to help snap him out of these dark thoughts, Soren and the Band take Coryn on what is meant to be a pleasure trip, but quickly turns into another deadly adventure when he discovers the existence of an ancient artifact that could reintroduce dark magic into the world. In his absence, the Guardians fall under a strange obsession with the Ember and forsake all their principles, really frinking off Otulissa and Madame Plonk in the process.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're all for the worship of idols.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Hunger Games

Written by: Suzanne Collins

First line: When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

Why you should read this book: In a horrifying speculative future, most of what was once North America lives in terror of the tribute owed to their Capitol; every year, two dozen children are sent to battle to the death for the amusement of the empire and to remind those at the lowest echelon of society the deadly price of defiance. Katniss Everdeen, whose black market hunting and gathering business has kept her family alive for years, is no stranger to extreme survival, but when she takes her sister's place in the Hunger Games, she has no doubt that her own death is imminent. An exciting, bloody, and fast-paced page turner of a novel, complete with deep questions about liberty and responsibility.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Extreme, graphic, kid-on-kid violence.