October 27, 2011

Witches and a talking cat

by Erin Bow

Plain Kate is the orphaned daughter of a master wood carver. Quite plain-looking, hence her nickname, Kate tries to create a future for herself with her carving. But the townspeople are suspicious of her skill.  When Kate is accused of being a witch and forced to leave her hometown, she makes a bargain with the magician Linay. She will sell him her shadow in return for supplies and her heart's true wish. 

Thus begins a perilous journey filled with sickness, blood and rusalkas (ghosts). For Linay is using Kate's shadow to avenge a wrong, not caring who he hurts along the way. Kate must try to stop him, with help from a band of Roamers and a talking cat.

Erin Bow has crafted a magical fairy tale of incredible sorrow, anger and mystery. The atmosphere matches these emotions in the rain, fog and fear that pursues Kate and Taggle, her endearing talking cat protector. Be sure to have tissues handy when Taggle makes a heart-breaking sacrifice; a scene not suited for children under nine. 

A wonderful read.

Graphic ghost story

by Vera Brosgol

Anya has a lot on her mind. She's embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her weight, and has a crush on a boy at school. Angry at her situation, she doesn't see the well until it's too late. Trapped and scared, she's a little freaked out when she discovers she isn't alone. But she soon finds that having a ghost for a friend is a pretty good thing. The ghost helps her cheat during tests and helps her land a date with the boy she likes. When the boy turns out to be a jerk, Anya drops him, but the ghost is angry. She's got an agenda of her own, and she'll do anything to keep Anya with her ... forever.

Told in graphic book format, this is a funny, scary read, with snappy dialogue and well-drawn, expressive characters. Brosgol captures the ghost's dangerous metamorphosis particularly well.

October 25, 2011

Young Frankenstein

A thrilling opening chapter is the first of many adventures in Ken Oppel's exciting take on the Frankenstein myth. In his version, Victor Frankenstein is sixteen-years-old, with a twin brother, Konrad, and a spirited cousin, Elizabeth. A chance discovery of a secret Dark Library - with an ingenious lock and dusty shelves - leads to Victor's dangerous endeavor. When Konrad falls ill with an unknown malady, Victor searches the library for the alchemical books needed to brew the Elixir of Life. Unable to translate the recipe, he, Elizabeth, and their friend Henry, depend upon the mysterious chemist, Julius Polidori, to prepare it for them. Polidori sends them on several dangerous journeys to gather the necessary ingredients. But there is always the risk that the Elixir may heal Konrad - or kill him.

Secrets, deception, supernatural creatures, and a love triangle fuel this gothic horror story. Victor may struggle with his moral shortcomings, but his arrogance, impatience and impulsiveness - not to mention a thirst for glory - drives the story to its shattering conclusion.

A gripping, tension-filled novel that is hard to put down.

October 20, 2011

Beauty - what does it mean?

edited by Ann Angel

A prom queen with a chin-hair problem, a boy in love with a nurse he's never seen, a girl forced by her mother to become a model; these are teens who struggle against society's notions of beauty and attractiveness. Funny and sad, but always thought-provoking, each story shows characters who long for acceptance while striving to maintain their individuality. At the same time, they challenge our notions about physical and inner beauty.

A  good book for parent-daughter/son discussion.

October 18, 2011

Passion for Fashion!

Celebrate Fashion Week! These books will give you the scoop about style, clothes, and careers in fashion.

October 13, 2011

Hip hop poetry for rhythmic kids

- includes audio CD

Poetry is filled with rhythm and rhyme, but sometimes it isn't obvious. However, if you can listen to a poet reading his or her work, a poem suddenly becomes alive in exciting and amazing ways. In this award-winning collection, edited by Nikki Giovanni, you can hear all the emotions and meanings behind each word, making poetry more relevant and vital than ever. Stand-out performances include those by Eloise Greenfield, Langston Hughes, Sugarhill Gang, James Berry, Oscar Brown Jr, Young MC, Maya Angelou and Sterling A. Brown.

It's a book that will turn everyone into a lover of poetry!

Thanks to Liberty at A Different Booklist for recommending this title!

October 11, 2011

Especially for dog lovers

by Michelle Superle (Tradewind Books)

Sam is an over-scheduled 11-year-old who longs for something exciting to happen. So when the large black dog appears in her backyard, she decides to keep him. But caring for Horatio while keeping him a secret from her mother isn’t easy. Meanwhile, a woman named Stella wakes up in a senior’s residence. Unable to talk due to a stroke, she worries about her dog.

As Sam slowly learns more about Horatio, she realizes she has to help him get home. 

A lovely, heart-warming story for anyone who has ever owned a dog or yearns for one. The reunion between Stella and her dog is as tearfully emotional as that between Peter and Bodger in The Incredible Journey.

Not so evil after all

by Alex Epstein (Tradewind Books)

For readers of the many Arthurian legends, Morgan Le Fay is the evil witch who seduces her half-brother in a plot to usurp his throne. But surely there was more to her than this? 

In Alex Epstein's engrossing novel, Morgan used to be Anna, whose father was a governor and associate of Uter Pendragon. After Uter kills her father and beds her mother, Anna is forced to flee to Ireland. Renamed Morgan, she finds a new home with distant kin, but is captured during battle and sold into slavery. Having always felt an otherworldly connection to earth, water, wind and fire, Morgan is able to grow as a sorceress while holding fast to her thirst for revenge. But when she meets a handsome chieftain's son, she is torn between love and vengeance. Which will she choose?

Most readers know of Morgan's fate, but it is still intriguing to discover another side to what has sometimes been a one-dimensional character.

October 6, 2011

Circus Life

by Glen Huser (Tradewind Books)

Leroy Barnstable is having a topsy-turvy year, as his father would have said. One moment he was living a pretty ordinary life - doing chores on the farm, going to school -  the next, slaving in his uncles’ harness shop where a hickory stick ensures his obedience. After his mother’s death, Leroy decides to run away. Riding the rails, he stumbles upon a traveling Chautauqua show, where his drawing talents come in handy. Using his nickname “Doodlebug”, he helps out in the kids’ tent with Maggie Tremain. Life with Chautauqua is much like a circus, with musicians, actors, parades and magic shows. In it, Leroy finds family again - and love. 

An entertaining page-turner, with colorful characters, funny situations, and exciting, suspenseful events.

October 4, 2011

Ghost story not so scary

by Paul Yee (Tradewind Books)

Fifteen-year-old Jackson Leong has yin-yang eyes – he can see ghosts.  Seven months after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Jack is haunted by his brother's ghost and that of another spirit, a young woman. Jack is frightened though not as much as his superstitious family, especially Ma and her sister, Cat Aunty. They use charms to frighten the ghosts away, even though they can’t see them. Jack must get over his fear in order to help the ghosts find peace.

For a short novel (133 pages), the story seems very long. While trying to fend off the ghosts, Jack has to deal with bullies and prevent his family from being evicted. He also helps his cousin Kern, who is being sent back to China. To earn money, Jack even tries working in his uncle’s opium parlor, but nearly gets caught during a police raid. However, these events really aren't that interesting, the characters not terribly intriguing, nor the ghosts very frightening. They appear and disappear, sometimes gesturing, but never speaking. Readers must wait until the end of the book to find out why the ghosts are restless. That's when a long-hidden family secret is finally revealed. 

Author Paul Yee has written numerous stories about the Chinese in North America. Many of them, especially Ghost Train, are very haunting and emotional. But The Secret Keepers is not quite up to his usual standard. There's not much character development and the emotion is very muted. Of more interest is the ghost bride angle, which Yee doesn't fully explore.