The Burning Sky

by Sherry Thomas
First sentence: “Just before the start of Summer Half, in April 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some violence and some mild swearing. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Iolanthe was enjoying a quiet life with her guardian, Master Heywood, in a small town, when her life gets turned upside down. It was simple enough: she was trying to salvage a ruined light elixer, and brought down lightning from the sky. That simple (well, maybe not) thing brought not only the crown prince, Titus, to her doorstep, but the dreaded Inquisitor, and sent Iolanthe into hiding with Titus as she learned her True Purpose: to overthrow Atlantis and kill the Bane, Atlantis’s unkillable leader.

It’s pretty by-the-numbers — of course Titus and Iolanthe are taking on the Big Bad Guys, of course they fall in love. But, I still found myself enjoying this. Perhaps because it’s kind of a reverse Harry Potter — Iolanthe and Titus come from the magical world to go to school at Eaton where they not only have to pass as non-magical but Iolanthe also has to pass as a boy. It’s an interesting world Thomas has built, with the elemental vs. subtle (learned) magic, with dragons and wyverns and wands and potions. I liked it quite a bit. Maybe not enough to continue on with the series, but still. It’s an intriguing start to a series.

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State of the TBR Pile: January 2018

I know, I know: I’m a week late with this. But my personal life went sideways last weekend, and so things didn’t quite happen here. And then school started…

Anyway. Here’s the current TBR Pile, sitting on my bedside table. I’m not sure how many of these will get read over the next few months, but I’d like to get to some of them, at least.

The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes (This one’s for school)
Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller
Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook
The Scholar of Moab by Stephen L. Peck
Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope
Winter of Ice and Iron by Rachel Neumeier
The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan (I know, I know: I NEED to get to this one!)

What are you looking forward to reading?

Module 1: Open This Little Book

Klausmeier, J. (2013). Open This Little Book. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Genre: This book was listed as a picture book about books, and one one level, I agree with that. But it’s also a picture book about stories (which is different from books) and storytelling. One could also use this book to talk about colors as well. It is a good  representation of books about books, and one that could engender discussion about stories and books with children.

Book Summary: The story about someone who opens a succession of increasingly smaller, and differently colored \ books, until they get to the smallest book which a giant tries to read, but can’t because her hands are too large. Animal friends help, and the books close until the reader is invited to read another book. 

Impressions: I thought this book was absolutely charming. I loved the diminishing sizes of the books, plus how the illustrations for each book matched the color of the book. For example, the green book has a green frog inside, on green lily pads, near a green pond. I also loved the smaller details: the ladybug from the red book shows up in the green book, and the frog and the ladybug show up in the orange book, and so on, giving the book, which may seem disjointed at first, some continuity. I was a little disappointed that the books weren’t in ROYGBIV order (that would have been a fun detail!) but when all the books were open, it’s a colorful and inviting image that will definitely make any reader smile. 

Review: Publishers Weekly reviewed Open This Little Book in the January 2013 issue calling it a “conceptual novel” (Staff, 2013) more than a story. The staff reviewer appreciated the design and the layout of the book, calling it “charming” (Staff, 2013), and suggesting that the book, overall, makes a point about how readers can have a relationship like friendship with books.

Staff. (2013, Jan 7). Children’s Reviews. Publishers Weekly. 260(1), n.a. Retrieved
from: https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8118-6783-2.

Library Uses: I think this book would be a bit challenging to use in a story time (because the middle books are so tiny), but it would be great in either a display on books about books or books about colors. 

Readalikes:

  • It’s a Book by Lane Smith, which, while snarkier, has the same sense of instruction and introduction to the world of books as Open This Little Book.
  • Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne is also humorous and interactive in a similar way to Open This Little Book, inviting the reader to participate in the story rather than being a passive observer.  
  • Eating a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert is a fantastic book about colors, and would be a good compliment to the color aspect of Open This Little Book.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Just as a head’s up: I’m taking a children’s literature class this semester (yay!) and as part of that class, we are required to do a blog post a week about the books we’re reading for the class (yay!). The only real change is that the format will be slightly different than my usual  posts, and more detailed. (I’ve gotten really lazy with my “reviews” over the past few years. They’re not even reviews anymore.) At any rate, I’m going to publish them on Saturdays (hopefully), and you’re more than welcome to leave comments and feedback.

Fun times!

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

by Becky Albertalli
First sentence: “It’s a weirdly subtle conversation.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s quite a bit of swearing, including a lot of f-bombs, and some teenage drinking. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

This one is a difficult one to sum up plot-wise. Simon is gay, but he’s not out. He’s being blackkmailed by another student who found out (accidentally) about Simon’s gayness, because Simon is emailing and flirting with a boy, Blue, online. Their relationship is entirely online, even though Simon knows that Blue is a student at his high school… Blue is just more comfortable with the anonymity.

As the book goes on, Simon juggles being blackmailed, and making and keeping friends, and high school drama, as he falls in love with Blue, and tries to figure everything out.

It’s not a deep or complex plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved Simon and his loveable awkwardness as he tries to figure everything out. (Being a high school junior is hard.) I loved his relationship with Blue, and once he figured it out, their in-person relationship. I liked Simon’s  family — it’s always nice to see a good, functional family in a YA novel — and his friends, and liked that there was conflict between them, but not of the sort that went against their fundamental relationship. It was sweet and wonderful and just happy-making. Which is what I would call this book. Maybe not perfect, but definitely very very wonderful.

Audio book: The Wolf Hour

by Sarah Lewis Holmes
Read by David de Vries; Thérèse Plummer
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is violence, though none of it is graphic. There are some biggish words, as well. It’s in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Magia lives on the edge of the Puszcza — a huge, dark, magical forest — with her woodcutter father, mother, and siblings. Her mother has big dreams for everyone: Magia’s sister is going to be a healer, her brother a solder. And her mother wants Magia to be a singer. Except Magia wants to be a woodcutter like her father. But, she’s a good daughter, so she goes to music lessons with Miss Grand… and gets stuck in a story. And not a happy one at that.

I really liked this play and mashing of the Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs fairy tales. Actually, what I think I liked was the narration by deVries and Plummer. I loved listening to this one; it had the feel of an oral tale, and I loved how deVries and Plummer interpreted the text. Their narration kept me engaged with a text that I probably would have dismissed otherwise. But, because of that, I stuck through it. And while I wondered if there would be a happy  (or even hopeful) ending because Holmes kept the tension in the story going for a lot longer than I expected, it all does resolve well. Which was a nice touch.

In the end: surprisingly good.

The Cruel Prince

by Holly Black
First sentence: “On a drowsy Sunday afternoon, a man in a long coat hesitated in front of a house on a tree-lined street.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: It’s violent. And dark. It’s in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore, but I’d give it to a willing 7th grader.

Jude has lived in Faerie ever since she was 10, when her mother’s first husband, a faerie general named Madoc, came to the human world and slaughtered her parents, and spirited away her, her twin sister, Taryn, and her mother’s first child, Vivian. It’s not been a comfortable life, being a human in Faerie, but Jude had made do. In fact, she’s done better than that: in spite of her terror at everything (because her life is constantly in danger), she has learned to fight, to strategize, and to, well, thrive.

And so when, as Faerie prepares to crown a new High King, she gets involved in the Court drama, she feels capable of handling what’s thrown at her. Except, things don’t quite go the way she thinks.

I loved this one. I like faerie stories generally, and Holly Black’s are particularly gorgeously told. I loved the dark undertones, and I loved the way Jude worked with her limitations and made the best of her situations, the way she played the situation. And, since this is the first in a series, I can’t wait to see how it all will play out in the next one.