Monday, January 28, 2013

The Magicians

Written by: Lev Grossman

First line: Quentin did a magic trick.

Why you should read this book: Despite being among the smartest teenagers in New York, with a bright future ahead of him, Quentin has always been secretly and desperately unhappy, until the day that he finds himself testing into Brakebills, a highly competitive school of magic. Now, maybe the world will open to him, as it does to the kids in his favorite fantasy series about the magic land of Fillory, but, as he soon learns, magic is plodding, and difficult, and potentially dangerous, and soon his old disappointment jeopardizes what should be a remarkable future. Drowning in hedonism and self-hatred, Quentin throws caution to the wind and accompanies a group of young magicians on a journey to world that may or may not be the magical Fillory of his dreams.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're still waiting for your Hogwarts letter.

Some Cat

Written by: Mary Casanova

First line: Day after day, Violet sat in a cage.

Why you should read this book: Violet's a shelter cat with a bad perception of others and a grand vision of herself as queen. When, against all odds, she is adopted by an optimistic middle-age couple, she finds herself at odds with the loud, active dogs who already inhabit the kingdom that is rightfully hers. Despite her anti-social behavior, the dogs protect her from a pack of strays, after which Violet truly becomes part of the family.

Why you shouldn't read this book: "Sharing is for the weak," is your motto.

Once I Ate a Pie

Written by: Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest

First line: The world is big.

Why you should read this book: You love dogs: big dogs, little dogs, friendly dogs, snooty dogs, dogs who steal the butter and dogs who tear open the mail. Here you'll find thirteen short, tender, and humorous poems told from the point of view of various dogs, written by the Newbery-winning author and her daughter, illustrated with love and whimsy by Katy Schneider. A nice treat for a dog-loving child.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Totally a cat person.

Saint George and the Dragon

Retold by: Margaret Hodges

First line: In the days when monsters and giants and fairy folk liked in England, a noble knight was riding across the plain.

Why you should read this book: Employing language accessible to children, it retells the story of George, the Red Cross Knight, as his tale is originally told in Spenser's The Faerie Queen. George has sworn to serve the Queen of the Faeries, and must battle a ferocious dragon to save the kingdom of the lovely Princess Una. Trina Schart Hyman's delightful illustrations, with their meaningful borders and great sense of emotion, enliven the book.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't like to see mangled dragon corpses.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Written by: Sylvia Waugh

First line: The Gwynns had lived just outside the city of York for the past fourteen years.

Why you should read this book: A great little unexpected novel, it follows twelve-year-old Nesta Gwynn, who, completely unbeknownst to her, is not an Earthling, but actually the surprise daughter of a pair of disguised alien anthropologists on a twenty-year contract to observe Earth culture. Unfortunately, an accident involving another alien of her species means that Nesta's parents have been recalled, and they choose to reveal her origins to her some years ahead of schedule, explaining that they will be returning to their home world that very week. Nesta knows nothing of her home world, and feeling very much like a creature of her adopted planet, refuses to leave, doing everything in her power to stay on Earth, testing her parents' love for her in the process.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're moving.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Y: The Last Man—Unmanned

Written by: Brian K. Vaughan

First line: Something's Wrong!

Why you should read this book: The first trade paperback collection in this popular and provocative series introduces an alternate future for the human race: one in which, for reasons yet to be discovered, every creature on planet Earth possessing a Y chromosome dies suddenly and horribly. The only exceptions are a young escape artist named Yorick and the incredibly unhelpful helper monkey he is failing to train, a capuchin named Ampersand. While the women of the world work to clean up the mess made by half the world's population dying suddenly and the resulting mess created by the remaining half, Yorick is busy dodging people who'd like to see him dead, or locked up as some sort of captive breeding stud.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Probably not a great choice for someone who hates women. Or men, for that matter.


Written by: Vladimir Nabakov

First line: Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

Why you should read this book: Chief among its assets are its most luscious prose, a symphony of the English language hand-crafted by an artisan whose adoration of the tongue puts native speakers to shame. With marked intensity, this oft-maligned novel charts the progress of a seemingly genteel man's obsession with a child, until his maniacal vulgarity, expressed in the most charming and proper form,  eclipses all sense of morality and carries him through his own tragedy like a mountain cascade in a monsoon deluge. You can't look away as the disaster unfolds, you can't save any of the afflicted characters, and you can't help but, here and there, uncover seeds of your own shame in the story's atrocities.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's seriously a narrative about a pedophile repeatedly and lovingly molesting a prepubescent girl.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i

Written by: Fay Stanley

First line: The life of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i began like the happiest of fairy tales.

Why you should read this book: Informative but heartbreaking, this is the true story of the last princess of Hawai'i, and her desperate attempts to save her homeland from the effects of American capitalist colonialism. From her idyllic infancy, to her British education, her fruitless pleas before the American government, and her tragically early death of either inflammatory rheumatism or a broken heart, this honest biography for young readers outlines the political and commercial reality and travesty of her life. An important, and often overlooked, moment in American history.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Still carrying the white man's burden, toiling to civilize the noble savage, can't understand why they resist your help so persistently.

The Magic Gold Fish: A Russian Folktake by Aleksandr Pushkin

Adapted and Illustrated by: Demi

First line: There once lived an old man and his wife By the shore of the deep blue ocean.

Why you should read this book: Although the translation and delightful, detailed illustration are based on the Russian version, most American readers will be familiar with this story in its Brothers Grimm incarnation, "The Fisherman and His Wife." Indeed, it is the greediness of the fisherman's wife upon which the tale turns; the fish is merely the conduit through which the moral is delivered. When the fisherman is granted wishes for sparing the magical fish, his shrewish wife insists on squandering the gifts, never satisfied with her good fortune until, finally, she is forced to recognize how much she has been given.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Henpecked.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb

Written by: John Bellairs

First line: "Hey, Miss Eells!"

Why you should read this book: Enter into a quaint universe where a socially awkward teenage boy can be best friends with an elderly female librarian, stumble blithely into occult mysteries, and narrowly avert the return to earth of an ancient and omnipotent evil employing nothing more than a stainless steel hand catapult and two ball bearings. Anthony Monday may occasionally find himself tongue-tied or otherwise shaking in his boots, but he can't bear to miss out on an adventure, and his klutzy companion, Miss Eells, had a wonderful knack for blundering into them. A creepy spirit attached to a creepy antique oil lamp figure prominently in this supernatural mystery for young readers.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Probably no point in speaking ill of a perennial favorite, but do people really talk or act this way? A lot of this story makes no sense to me.