Saturday, June 29, 2013

Read it! Kiki Strike: inside the shadow city by Kirsten Miller

from Kirkus Reviews

An arch story of deposed princesses, Girl Scouts gone wild and the world beneath New York City. Smart, neglected Ananka pays attention, leading her to a world where preteen girls can do anything-as long as they have plenty of Village cafes for coffee and planning. Recruited by the mysterious Kiki Strike, Ananka and the Irregulars (experts in disguise, forgery, invention and chemistry culled from the Scouts) find themselves mapping the Shadow City, a remnant of old New York. Along the way, they take on Chinese gangsters and murderous royalty. Narrated eight years after the adventure begins, this is a rallying cry for the "curious" and an effective anthem of geek-girl power. Ananka peppers her narration with useful tips (from effective tailing techniques to spotting liars) reminiscent of the Worst Case Survival series. Two flaws: An imaginary branch of the New York Public Library, and Kiki turns out to be less bent on heroics and more on personal revenge. All in all, an absurdly satisfying romp for disaffected smart girl, with hints of more to come. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Read it! Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton

from Kirkus reviews

Burton, the voice behind, explains in five chapters the psychology behind "mean girl" behavior, how to deal with it and what can be done to stop it. First, readers learn why girls bully the way they do, with an acknowledgement that such feminine traits as strong written and verbal communication make girls' bullying intrinsically different from that of boys. Then comes advice on verbal self-defense and stopping the cycle. Confident women, usually artists and writers, give advice and confessions in eye-catching bubbles between paragraphs. The advice generally takes a sage, pacifist tone. Girls are encouraged not to seek revenge or start ostracizing the one who wronged them but to take the high road, confront with words and try to understand where their enemies are coming from.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Read it! Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

from the VOYA review

She has grown up on a dairy farm, but fifteen-year-old D.J. is no ordinary milkmaid. She has played pick-up games and caught balls for her college-football-hero brothers all her life, and now with an injury sidelining her father, she is doing almost all the farm work. The dairy is the family's top priority, but it is taking a toll on D.J. She has little social life, less study time (she is flunking English), and no expectations of a brighter future. She is uncomplaining and unaware of her frustrations until Brian, the talented but out-of-condition quarterback for her high school's archrival, compares her to a cow. "You do all the work . . . It's like you're a cow . . . one day . . . they're going to . . . take you away to die and you're not even going to mind." Furious with unflinching honesty, D.J. takes the point and in contentious-but increasingly respectful-dialogue, both teens embark on a journey of self discovery during which D.J. becomes Brian's football trainer and realizes that she wants to play herself. D.J.'s voice is funny, frank, and intelligent, and her story is not easily pigeonholed. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Read it! The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman


The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).
Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Read it! Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

from Kirkus Reviews

On her 15th birthday, Scarlett Martin receives the key to one of the shabby-but-elegant suites in her eccentric family's aging Manhattan hotel. This rite of passage carries the responsibility of taking care of both the room and guest who occupies it-a dubious honor already bestowed on her older sister Lola and on her brother Spencer, an aspiring actor. What initially seems like a symbolic gesture quickly becomes a full-time project when wealthy, flamboyant Mrs. Amberson moves into the hotel for the summer and firmly clamps Scarlett under her wing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Read it! YELL-oh Girls! edited by Vickie Nam

from School Library Journal

Asian-American young women speak out in this anthology of stories and poetry about what it is like growing up in two cultures. The brief contributions are from high school and college students from all over the United States and Canada. They speak passionately of the lack of Asians and women in the history textbooks; of feeling foreign in America and in the country of their ancestors; of being laughed at and ridiculed simply for not looking "American"; of interracial dating; and of finding their own niche. Arranged by topics such as "Finding the Way Home," "Dolly Rage," and "Family Ties," each entry begins with some background about the writer and the work. The selections are interspersed with pieces by notable Asian-American women such as congresswoman Patsy Mink and writer Lois-Ann Yamanaka. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Read it! The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks


Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world. Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revaled that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destory the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara—Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him....
Long ago, the wars of the ancient Evil had ruined the world and forced mankind to compete with many other races--gnomes, trolls, dwarfs, and elves. But in peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knew little of such troubles. Then came the giant, forbidding Allanon, possessed of strange Druidic powers, to reveal that the Warlock Lord was plotting to destroy the world.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Read it! Letters to a Bullied Girl by Olivia Gardner

"When sisters Emily and Sarah Buder heard Olivia Gardner's story-how for more than two years she suffered bullying that ranged from taunts to cyberbullying-they knew they needed to reach out and did so by starting a letter-writing campaign in their school to send messages of support to Olivia. This book is not the story of Olivia's bullying but of the overwhelming support that flooded in, from their school and other schools in the area, and finally as the media covered the harassment, from the more than 4,000 letters that poured in from around the country. Students and parents, from targets to bullies, wanted to add their voices to help Olivia feel less alone. Many relived moments from their own lives when they were targets or witnesses or bullies. Some wrote about how ashamed they still are for their part in supporting bullying by doing nothing. The letters covered having been bullied for looks, being different, having health conditions, as well as being harassed by girls and even being bullied into attempting bullycide. Some letters came from parents whose children succeeded in ending their lives. For years, research and newspaper headlines have held that bullying is escalating, and still people refuse to believe a problem exists. This book should be read in every school across the country-by the entire staff from bus drivers to principals, coaches, hall and playground monitors, counselors, secretaries, teachers, librarians, and superintendents." 

from VOYA

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Read it! Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire

"Maguire has a lock on clever, elaborate retellings of fairy tales, turning them inside out and couching them in tongue-in-cheek baroque prose. After his revisionist takes on Oz's Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked) and Cinderella's ugly stepsisters (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), he now tackles Snow White. The notorious Borgia habit of poisoning rivals inspired him to transplant the classic tale to 16th-century Tuscany, where Vicente de Nevada is an expatriate Spanish widower who lives with his daughter, the fair Bianca. Beholden to sinister Cesare Borgia and Cesare's sister (and perhaps lover) Lucrezia, Vicente is sent on what appears to be a fool's errand, to discover and steal from a Middle East monastery a branch of the Tree of Knowledge complete with three apples. When Bianca is 11, Cesare's attraction to her causes the envious Lucrezia to order a young hunter to murder her and deliver her heart in a casket. Bianca, of course, is spared and taken in by seven dwarfs. But this is not Disney; the dwarfs are boulders, stirred to life by Bianca's arrival ("a clothed, bearded obstinacy became slowly apparent"). Several years pass in surreal, dreamlike fashion, with Bianca tending to the dwarfs, who cavort stiffly and philosophize collectively. When Vicente returns successful, Lucrezia poisons an apple for her rival. Innocent Bianca's fate is gentle, but that of the corrupt Lucrezia, in brilliant Venice, is appropriately grotesque. Fairy tales in their original form are often brutal and disturbing; with his rich, idiosyncratic storytelling, Maguire restores the edge to an oft-told tale and imbues it with a strange, unsettling beauty." 

from Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Read it! A Girl's Life Online by Katherine Tarbox

"Katherine Tarbox was thirteen when she met twenty-three-year-old "Mark" in an online chat room. A top student and nationally ranked swimmer attending an elite school in an affluent Connecticut town, Katie was also a lonely and self-conscious eighth-grader who craved the attention her workaholic parents couldn't give her. "Mark" seemed to understand her; he told her she was smart and wonderful. When they set a date to finally meet while Katie was in Texas for a swim competition, she walked into a hotel room and discovered who-and what-her cyber soul mate really was.
In A Girl's Life Online, Tarbox, now eighteen, tells her story-an eye-opening tale of one teenager's descent into the seductive world of the Internet. Tarbox's harrowing experience with her online boyfriend would affect her life for years to come and result in her becoming the first "unnamed minor" to test a federal law enacted to protect kids from online sexual predators."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Read it! What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang


"I should not exist. But I do.
Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren't they settling? Why isn't one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn't. . . .
For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she's still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable—hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Read it! The Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill

excerpted from

"On December 18, 1999, Julia Butterfly Hill's feet touched the ground for the first time in over two years, as she descended from "Luna," a thousandyear-old redwood in Humboldt County, California.
Hill had climbed 180 feet up into the tree high on a mountain on December 10, 1997, for what she thought would be a two- to three-week-long "tree-sit." The action was intended to stop Pacific Lumber, a division of the Maxxam Corporation, from the environmentally destructive process of clear-cutting the ancient redwood and the trees around it. 
Over the course of what turned into an historic civil action, Hill endured El Nino storms, helicopter harassment, a ten-day siege by company security guards, and the tremendous sorrow brought about by an old-growth forest's destruction. This story—written while she lived on a tiny platform eighteen stories off the ground—is one that only she can tell.
Twenty-five-year-old Julia Butterfly Hill never planned to become what some have called her—the Rosa Parks of the environmental movement. Indeed, when she first climbed into Luna, she had no way of knowing the harrowing weather conditions and the attacks on her and her cause. She had no idea of the loneliness she would face or that her feet wouldn't touch ground for more than two years. She couldn't predict the pain of being an eyewitness to the attempted destruction of one of the last ancient redwood forests in the world, nor could she anticipate the immeasurable strength she would gain or the life lessons she would learn from Luna. Although her brave vigil and indomitable spirit have made her a heroine in the eyes of many, Julia's story is a simple, heartening tale of love, conviction, and the profound courage she has summoned to fight for our earth's legacy."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Read it! Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

from the Children's Literature review

"Twelve-year-old Deeba never imagined where she would end up the night she accompanied her best friend, Zanna, into the basement of the housing complex. But things had been getting stranger and stranger for her friend, with wild animals bowing to her, total strangers greeting her with reverence, and her name showing up in bridge graffiti. With the turn of a wheel Zanna and Deeba are transported to a fantastical world made up of all the things that are broken or discarded by the inhabitants of their former hometown, London; it is the shadow city, unLondon, where none of the rules of their previous lives apply. Animate milk cartons become pets, specially trained rubbish bins are soldiers, double-decker buses fly, words become creatures, and people dress in clothes made from the pages of books. Your best friends may not be fully human, like half-ghost-half-boy Hemi. Although Zanna is the Chosen One described in the prophecy book, the Smog has stolen her memory and it is left to Deeba to save unLondon from being taken over by evil forces. In his first young adult novel, Mieville creates a wildly imaginative setting and story on a par with Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series. This hefty work has a serious message about pollution and the mindset of disposability, but it's also a good adventure—with intrepid young male and female protagonists—that will appeal to fantasy fans of both genders."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Read it! Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

from the ALAN Review

"Anya is a typical teen girl who is embarrassed by her family, struggling with her body image, and attempting to fit in at school. When she falls down a well, she thinks that this actually isn't the worst thing that has happened to her. At the bottom of the well, Anya finds a dead body and a new best friend—a ghost named Emily. At first Anya and Emily are close, but Anya realizes that some parts of the story Emily told about her death don't add up. As Anya struggles to sort out fact from fiction, she must also figure out life in high school. Emily begins to play dangerous pranks and Anya must clean up the mess. Brosgol's debut graphic novel provides a quirky, sardonic, and whimsical view into adolescence and the struggle to both fit in and be different from everyone else. Anya is sarcastic, caring, and thoughtful."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Read it! Breathless by Jessica Warman

From one of my very favorite YA authors, Jessica Warman...

"Katie Kitrell, ambivalent toward her ever-absent psychiatrist father and alcoholic, artist mother, has a fierce bond with her older brother, Will, even after a drug-induced schizophrenia takes over his personality. When his escalating violence threatens the family, their parents whisk competitive swimmer Katie from their small, blue-collar Pennsylvania town (which she blames for Will's downfall) to a boarding school. Although she finds instant popularity and intellectual stimulation, the setting only leads to new problems: how to pretend her brother is dead; a hypocritical, fundamentalist boyfriend; backstabbing cliques; a roommate with family secrets of her own; questioning her own sexuality and worth. The only place Katie can breathe easily in this debut, semi-autobiographical novel is the swimming pool. As she defines her friendships and her love-hate relationships with Will and herself, she begins to feel more at ease on land, too. Warman draws out Katie's emotions and her complex life and family with immediacy. Readers who dive in will surface with more awareness of the devastating effects of mental illness."

from Kirkus Reviews