September 29, 2010

Love story

by Maggie Stiefvater

There's a lot of supernatural romance novels for teens, mainly involving vampires. Angels and werewolves are supposed to be the next big craze. It's all governed by marketing: publishers are competing for the next big blockbuster, midnight launch party, etc. It doesn't always create good literature. So I didn't expect to like Shiver. I was initially thrown off by the book's font colour (blue). Mostly light blue, alternating with a darker blue, it made me think that my eyes were going bad. But the story drew me in and held me. I liked the idea of werewolves who became human only when the temperature was warm enough. I also found it interesting that they had an expiry date. Eventually they would cease to change, and remain wolves until death. This obviously makes the love between Sam and Grace all the more tragic. They spend six long years yearning for each other, only to meet during Sam's final time as a human. Not wanting to be separated, they try a risky cure that could part them forever. Hypnotic and beautifully written, I couldn't put the book down. I will definitely seek out Linger, the continuing story of Grace and Sam. It sounds like it will be just as magical as its predecessor.

September 23, 2010

Family honor

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind
by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Shabanu is an 11-year-old girl who lives on the Cholistan Desert of Pakistan. Strong-willed and independent, she struggles in a patriarchal society where women are expected to obey their husbands and fathers. When an encounter with a powerful landowner almost ruins her sister Phulan's marriage, Shabanu is expected to marry the landowner's brother to uphold her family's honor and to prevent further retribution.

A very good novel that sheds light on a nomadic Muslim family and its daily activities, from caring for camels to running a household. It also details their struggles with drought and dust storms. But it also raises questions about the rights of women and the relationship between fathers and daughters. Shabanu's father cares for her and protects her, but at the same time, he tries to suppress her spirit, even though he also admires it. When Shabanu runs away, he punishes her, stopping when she does not resist. Shabanu knows that she has no choice about her forced marriage, but will only give up a part of herself.

The book does not offer any easy answers, and only hints at what will happen to Shabanu in the end. Fortunately, there's a sequel: Haveli.

September 21, 2010


City Dog, Country Frog
by Mo Willems
pictures by Jon J. Muth

In spring, City Dog meets Country Frog, who is waiting for a friend. "You'll do," says Country Frog, and he teaches City Dog to play froggy games. In summer, City Dog teaches Country Frog to play doggy games. In the fall, Country Frog is a little tired, so the two friends sit and remember good times. But in the winter, City Dog can't find Country Frog. When it's spring again, another friendship begins, a little differently this time.

The poignant text and expressive watercolours create a lovely meditation on life, friendship, and remembrance that will affect readers of all ages.

September 15, 2010

Clever book provides lesson in perspective

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

In this funny picture book, two unseen observers argue about an animal's identity. One thinks it's a duck, while the other thinks it's a rabbit. It all depends on one's point-of-view.