Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Winnie's War - Jenny Moss

Winnie's War by Jenny Moss
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on February 3, 2009
Published by Walker Childrens
Pages: 192
Read From: 1.17.12 - 1.18.12

Winnie can't imagine a life any different from the one she lives in her small town of Coward Creek, Texas. The world may be at war, but she's perfectly happy going to school, playing chess with Mr. Levy, and stealing a private moment with her sweetheart, Nolan, to avoid her testy grandmother. Plus, she has her hands full taking care of her younger sisters - because even though their mama loves them, her troubled past makes her unlike most other mothers. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Middle Grade, animal fiction
Published on August 25, 2003
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 272

This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in darkness but covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other's lives. And what happens then? Reader, it is your destiny to find out.


This was a strange little story that was rather horrifying in many ways - I always find stories about little animals murdering each other horrifying. But I liked it, for all of its strangeness and creepiness. Despereaux is an adorable little mouse hero, Roscuro a very sad and pitiable rat, and Miggery Sow equally sad and pitiable. Writing about things we Readers are familiar with through the eyes of a mouse and a rat gives us an interesting perspective on what is so common to us - how would a mouse perceive a chandelier? How would a rat, locked up in a dungeon all its life, perceive light shining through a stained-glass window? I also loved how the Author did not bother trying to explain why it is the people in the castle did not react to a talking mouse - or how it is that Despereaux could read. Those are natural enough questions to wonder, but the Author skims past such explanations in a way which makes the Reader forget to wonder. It's not important, she almost seems to say. Let's just say for argument's sake that it is so.

I can see how this became a "must-read" for kids. I am not usually a fan of animal stories, but I really did like this one. It was dark in the right places, and lighthearted when it ought to be. And there is simply no denying that Despereaux is an absolutely adorable little hero.

True Love's Foundation: A Sonnet

I had to write a sonnet for my Shakespeare class this week, and unsurprisingly the topic had to be love (oh joy, went my brain). I'll have you know, dear Readers, that poetry of any sort is not my strong point, and never has been. And of course, sonnets have to follow certain rules: 14 lines long, each line has to have 10 syllables, every other line ending has to rhyme with each other, and the last two lines have to be a rhyming couplet. Of course, as soon as I heard these rules, Genius instantly rebelled and started composing poetry that contradicted these rules at every turn. The only plus that I could initially see was that while the topic of was love, we were free to write about love in any manner we wished. It could be satirical, serious, or nonsense. And we didn't have to write about a person - we could write about an object, an idea, an animal - anything, so long as it somehow pertained to love.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: The Winter Pony - Iain Lawrence

The Winter Pony by Iain Lawrence
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction, animal fiction
Published on November 8, 2011
Published by Delacorte
Pages: 256
Read From: 1.7.12 - 1.8.12

In the forests of Siberia, in the first years of the twentieth century, a white pony runs free with his herd. But his life changes forever when he's captured by men. Years of hard work and cruelty wear him out. When he is chosen to be one of twenty ponies to accompany the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott on his quest to become the first to reach the South Pole, he doesn't know what to expect. But the men of Scott's expedition show him kindness, something he's never known before. They also give him a name - James Pigg. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: Belle's Song - K. M. Grant

Belle's Song by K. M. Grant
Genre: YA, historical fiction, romance
Published on November 22, 2011
Published by Walker Childrens
Pages: 304
Read From: 1.1.12 - 1.5.12

Fifteen-year-old Belle is a dreamer with a sharp tongue and an aching burden: her father was crippled because of her fleeting moment of carelessness. After a chance meeting with bespectacled Luke, scribe to the poet Chaucer, impulsive Belle decides to join the pilgrimage to Canterbury, made famous by Chaucer's beloved tales. She hopes for a miracle - that her father will walk again. Befriending Chaucer and Walter, a handsome squire with a secret of his own, Belle is grateful for the company of her new friends. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review: Tuesdays at the Castle - Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Series: Castle Glower #1
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy
Published on October 25, 2011
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 225
Read From: 1.6.12 - 1.7.12

Tuesdays at Castle Glower is Princess Celie's favorite day. That's when the Castle magically grows a new room, a turret, or sometimes an entire wing. No one knows how or why the Castle does it, and no one except Princess Celie has ever bothered to map out the Castle's many twists and turns. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction
Published on February 16, 2005
Published by Thorndike Press
Pages: 311
Read From: 1.17.12 - 1.18.12

The Seahawk looms against a darkening sky, black and sinister. Manned by an angry, motley crew at the mercy of a ruthless captain, the rat-infested ship reeks of squalor, despair. . . .and mutiny! It is no place for the lone

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Mutiny's Daughter - Ann Rinaldi

Mutiny's Daughter by Ann Rinaldi
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on February 1, 2004
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 218
Read From: 1.19.12 - 1.19.12

By leading the most famous mutiny in the world, aboard the HMS Bounty in 1789, Fletcher Christian risked being hanged. But what happened to him after the mutiny? There were stories that he survived a vicious massacre in the South Pacific and boarded a ship back to England. We know that he had several children by his Polynesian wife, including a daughter named Mary. Could he and Mary have reunited in England? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Genre: YA, dystopian
Published on September 14, 2008
Published by Scholastic
Pages: 374
Read From: 1.16.12 - 1.17.12

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: The Escape from Home - Avi

The Escape from Home by Avi
Series: Beyond the Western Sea #1
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on March 1, 1996
Published by Scholastic
Pages: 304
Read From: 12.31.11 - 1.1.12

It is 1851. Thousands are fleeing the Old World for the New, desperate to reach America. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review: Princess Ben - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Genre: YA, fairy tale retelling
Published on March 18, 2008
Published by HMH Books
Pages: 344
Read From: 12.27.11 - 12.29.11

With her parents lost to assassins, Princess Ben ends up under the thumb of the conniving Queen Sophia. Starved and miserable, locked in the castle's highest tower, Ben stumbles upon a mysterious enchanted room. So begins

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Review: The Wide-Awake Princess - E. D. Baker

The Wide-Awake Princess by E. D. Baker
Series: Wide-Awake Princess #1
Genre: Middle Grade, fairy tale retelling, comedy
Published on May 11, 2010
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 261
Read From: 12.20.11 - 12.21.11

When Princess Gwen (otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty) pricks her finger and sends herself and the whole castle to sleep for one hundred years, only her younger sister, Annie, is left awake. And only Annie - blessed (and cursed) with being resistant to magic - can venture beyond the rose-covered hedge to get help. She must find Gwen's true love to kiss her awake. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: Grape Thief - Kristine L. Franklin

Grape Thief by Kristine L. Franklin
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction
Published on April 1, 2003
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 304
Read From: 12.13.11 - 12.14.11

Most of the men in Roslyn, Washington have come from Europe to work in the coal mines. Twelve-year-old Slava Petrovich - called Cuss because he can swear in fourteen languages - is destined, like his older brothers, to

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Raining Books - How 'Bout You?

Yesterday I went book shopping at my all-time favorite new-and-used bookstore. It was a good time to do that, too; I was feeling upset and all-around low because school started today and Christmas/New Year's is officially over. Time to go about the depressing business of pulling the decorations down . . .

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

Wishing you all the best of beginnings for a new year! According to some - including the Mayans, apparently - the world is supposed to end this year, right before Christmas Eve (23rd), so this would be the year of doing all those things you've been wanting to do, but never did because you realized that you would have to live with the consequences - or embarrassment, depending on what it is you did. But of course, if the all-knowing Mayans are wrong, perhaps you'd best not pull the trick on your bestest best friend that you have been planning since you were twelve. ;)