Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: Tilt

By Ellen Hopkins
Published 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

A companion to last year's adult novel Triangles, Hopkins tells the stories of three teenagers whose lives are connected by their parents and how those lives begin to change based on their parents' decisions.

I will read pretty much anything that Hopkins writes but I've found myself not necessarily loving the last couple of things I've read. While I found her first foray into adult literature (Triangles, review here) interesting, I didn't find it as compelling as her young adult books Somehow, this book slipped under my radar and I didn't know of it until I spotted it sitting on our shelves. I immediately checked it out, curious to see how the events of Triangles would read from a different set of perspectives. I found this to be a more successful book than its companion - I guess I just think that Hopkins writes teenagers more convincingly than adults. However, though I liked this better than her adult titles, I still found this book weaker when compared to her earlier novels. Part of the appeal of Hopkins is her willingness to tackle truly tough issues unflinchingly - and I feel like that's missing here. I don't know that she is covering any new territory with the issues at play in Tilt - and it makes the book less compelling. While her style still makes for a quick read, I didn't feel the sense of urgency that helps propel her other novels along. Perhaps part of this is due to my already knowing how the storylines for the characters play out, as they are peripherally seen in Triangles. I will still seek out and read each new publication from Hopkins, but I hope they start reading like her earlier novels again soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Icefall

By Matthew J. Kirby, read by Jenna Lamia
Published 2011 by Scholastic Audio

Trapped in a fortress while their father is at war, Solveig and her siblings discover treachery in their midst. They must use their cunning and skills to survive the harsh Nordic winter and the malevolence that has found them in their icy prison.

That is an incredibly dramatic summary I posted there. Well, this book caught my eye because it won the Edgar Award for Juvenile Fiction. I saw the audio version available for download from my library, so I went ahead and downloaded. I think this book worked exceptionally well in the audio format, as a large plot point of the story revolves around storytelling and Solveig finding her voice. Kirby has created an incredibly believable and fascinating world for his story - the book actually takes place a very long time ago in Scandinavia. It's clear that Kirby has done research - I could feel the chill of the frozen fortress and the terror as the winter set in and immobilized the characters. The book is plotted exceptionally well - the right amount of tension and slow reveal kept me eager to know what would happen next. And, while I did figure out bits and pieces of the mystery before they were revealed, I think there is enough suspicion cast on many characters to keep kids guessing. Solveig is a wonderful narrator, struggling to find her voice in the midst of this chaotic moment in which she finds herself. I have taken more and more notice of sibling relationships in the books I read and I think this book handles them quite nicely. There is a good mixture of annoyance and love when Solveig talks about her siblings and it feels very real. I loved the relationship that develops between Solveig and her raven, as well as the slow and hesitant trust between the royal children and the Berserkers. This book was a surprise for me - truly well-crafted and engaging adventure with Norse mythology brilliantly mixed in. I will definitely be recommending this to my tween fantasy lovers.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Secrets at Sea

Secrets at Sea
By Richard Peck, read by Jayne Entwistle
Published 2012 by Listening Library

Helena is the oldest sibling in the Downstairs Cranston family, which just happens to be a family of mice. When the Upstairs Cranstons (the humans in whose house the mice family lives) announce a transatlantic trip to find a husband for one of the daughters, the Downstairs Cranstons decide to keep all the Cranstons together and accompany them, even though mice are not good with water. What follows is an adventurous journey overseas, filled with surprises for all.

Shame on me but I've never actually read Richard Peck before. None of his books ever really jumped out at me before, though he has won awards and has received great reviews. I picked up this audiobook on a whim, figuring it would be a light and quick listen. I'm not really a huge fan of talking animal stories, but I keep reading them. Perhaps it's an attempt to discover why I dislike them, or just a personal challenge to find more than I actually enjoy. Either way, this one was sort of middle of the road for me. Not amazing, but not terrible. There are enough hijinks and craziness to keep kids entertained but there isn't a ton of substance to the story. I thought Helena's voice was interesting - I like that she kept repeating herself; it seemed like something a mouse would do. Overall, though, I wasn't as impressed as I hoped to be. But this is still a fun and adventurous read for young readers. The audiobook reader had a pleasant voice but I was sad to miss out on the illustrations that accompany the printed text.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Event: Texas Book Festival, Day One

Okay, I think by now we all know the truth: I am a huge book nerd. I mean, huge. If it's remotely book-related, I'm probably going to be interested. Last year, I saw the schedule for the Texas Book Festival and really wanted to go, but my work schedule just wasn't going to let that happen. This year, things worked out for me and, on a late October weekend, I made the drive down to Austin to check out the 2012 Texas Book Festival.

The Texas Book Festival is completely free and runs for two days, basically taking over the State Capitol and surrounding area. There are talks and interviews, readings and signings, and basically books and authors for everyone from young to old. Because I am more specifically a youth literature book nerd, most of the sessions and other events I attended focused on this area. But you already guessed that, didn't you? However, I want to note that the festival did have some big name attendees in the realm of adult literature, including Cheryl Strayed, Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess, as she is better known), Naomi Wolf, and Dan Rather. I'm not kidding when I say there was something for everyone. Unfortunately, with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, some authors and speakers couldn't make it to the event (while others who did make it found themselves temporarily stranded in Austin). But, that didn't stop the Festival from being well worth attending.

Even within the more limited scope of youth literature, I had a difficult time deciding which sessions to attend. I planned out my schedule in advance, sometimes leaving a couple options for the same time, but of course, things ran a little differently once I got there. Since this was my first time attending the festival, I didn't know exactly what to expect. But I think I had a great experience and I'd like to share some of what I saw. (As a side note, after two conference/festival type events in a row, I discovered I definitely need a smartphone to keep up.)

The first session I went to was called "Class Acts" and featured Tim Green, Jon Sciezska, and Adam Rex. This was a must-attend for me. Adam Rex is one of my favorite authors and illustrators - his picture books are beautiful and stylish, as well as hilarious, and The True Meaning of Smekday is one of my all-time favorite books. I've never had an opportunity to see him speak before, so I definitely didn't want to miss this. Plus, Jon Sciezska is a legend in children's humor and has done some amazing things in closing the reading gap between boys and girls. I'm never read Tim Green's books as I don't usually gravitate to sports stories, but they've always looked like quality reads for kids who enjoy sports-focused novels. This session was a wonderful start to my first Texas Book Festival experience - I was laughing nearly the whole time. The three men had a great rapport and were also all engaging and well-spoken. They talked about their experiences growing up and how difficult it is to be a kid (which many adults forget), as well as times when they were bullied. I really appreciated that they also all talked about when they were the bully - something else a lot of people forget is that most people have been both at one time or another. Tim Green definitely got me interested in reading some of his books, so I've put them on my (neverending) to-read list. Like I said, this was a great way to start the weekend for me.

After the session, all three were signing books in a different location (which was true for all the authors present that weekend), so I headed over that way to pick out my books and get in line. As I mentioned, I'm a big fan of Adam Rex and have actually interacted with him on Twitter. Before the festival, I wondered if there was a way to identify myself when I met him in person. He suggested (via Twitter) a pink carnation in my lapel. Well, I didn't find one, but it prompted my opening line, which was great because I'm usually a nervous wreck meeting people. He was incredibly friendly and easy to talk to - we chatted about his books and assorted other topics. I got a book signed for myself, as well as for a friend (which was easily one of the best presents I've ever given someone). My biggest regret is that I didn't get my picture taken with him - I was so busy basking in the excitement of having finally met him that I didn't even think of it. Hopefully, I'll have another opportunity in the future. Anyway, after that, I got a signed book for one of my nephews from Jon Sciezska, who was also very friendly, and then I headed over to my next session.

Next on the agenda was "A Conversation with Maggie Stiefvater and Maureen Johnson." After my recent conversion to the church of Stiefvater, I definitely wanted to check out this little chat. I've enjoyed the few books by Johnson that I've read, and I follow both ladies on Twitter and find them entertaining with interesting things to say. The conversation was moderated by Sarah of Forever Young Adult. As one can imagine, though questions were prepared, the conversation was much more meandering and tangential. I think Stiefvater always has really interesting things to say and it was cool to see the interaction between the two women. That being said, Johnson seemed a bit more awkward and uncomfortable than I might have imagined her to be. The women talked about doing research for their books, their writing processes, advice for young writers, and, briefly, NaNoWriMo. There was a short audience Q&A at the end, but I ducked out early to get in line for a signing.

I got books signed by Tad Hills and Rob Scotton for my nephews and then a Peter Brown book for myself. Let me tell you, it was torturous trying to decide which Peter Brown - I love them all. I didn't have long conversations with any of them but Hills and Scotton seemed pleasant. Brown was incredibly personable and said he loved children's librarians - we love him, too! I'd love to get some picture book authors to come to our library for programming; unfortunately, I just don't think we have the budget for it. After getting my books signed (and apparently missing Bob Shea's signing for the second time that day), I grabbed some lunch and headed for the next session. The session I wanted to see ended up being full and I didn't really find anything else I felt inclined to go check out. So I read my book and killed time until the last session of the day.

The final session I attended on day one was called "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" and featured a panel of YA fantasy, sci-fi authors: Bree Despain, Marie Lu, Andrea Cremer, Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate. I think this was my favorite panel of the festival. The authors talked about their writing processes, how modern events impact their writing of fantastical or futuristic worlds, whether they write themselves into their stories, and more advice for aspiring authors. I found all the authors on this panel to be incredibly well-spoken and fascinating to listen to. I loved seeing Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate together - they talked briefly about what it was like to write together and still has a successful relationship. I've only just read the first in the Gone series (review to come) but I think Grant was my favorite part of the panel. He was funny and brash and didn't pull any punches. I enjoyed this panel immensely - it covered a wide range of topics and was entertaining and thought-provoking. I'm so glad I chose this one!

I took a dinner and rest break after this panel and ended my night with one of the Texas Book Festival's Lit Crawl events. Sadly, Chris Elliott had to cancel because of Hurricane Sandy, but I still wanted to catch the bit he had been scheduled for - "The Encyclopedia Show." I'm not going to lie; I'd never heard of it (I think it's a podcast?) and I only wanted to go because it was going to feature Elliott. But it also featured another actor/writer: Stephen Tobolowsky. I admit that when I saw the name, I didn't immediately recognize it, but I spotted him at the signing tent earlier in the day and made the connection. Tobolowsky is a character actor, most recently appearing on shows like Californication and Glee. We had some trouble finding the venue - no one we asked knew what we were talking about and the Google Maps app led us astray. But we managed to arrive on time (I had wanted to try to catch some of the panel that was immediately before, "Dear Teen Me," but it just didn't work out), even a few minutes early. I spent those few minutes getting some books signed by the authors who had been part of the previous panel - I snagged a copy of The Raven Boys and Every Day and got them signed by Maggie Stiefvater and David Levithan. I attemped to make a joke with Levithan that just didn't go over very well, but he laughed politely. I asked Maggie when she was going to write the kraken romance and she suggested that The Scorpio Races was probably as close as she would get. Then it was time for "The Encyclopedia Show." There was an opening about character actors and their rights, put on by a couple of local actors (I assume). Tobolowsky did a reading from his new book and then they asked him to provide anecdotes on some of his roles over the years. It was a fun panel and an enjoyable way to end the night.

Stay tuned next week for day two!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: Two and Twenty Dark Tales

Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes
Edited by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink
Published 2012 by Month9Books

Many people nowadays know the Grimm fairy tales and their darker original versions; however, most would be surprised to discover the more macabre side of Mother Goose. In this imaginative anthology, 20 authors explore the less savory side of our favorite Mother Goose rhymes - Jack and Jill, Hickory Dickory Dock, and more.

I like reading short story collections because it's easier to feel like I'm accomplishing something when I read in short bursts. I can often finish one story in the time it takes me to relax and eat before heading to work in the morning, so I feel like I'm getting somewhere in the book as a whole. This is one of the first titles I actively requested when I signed up for NetGalley - if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll know I'm a huge fan of retellings. I loved the premise of this anthology - retellings of Mother Goose rhymes instead of fairy tales. Since these rhymes are significantly shorter but just as well known as the fairy tales that are more often subject to reinterpretation, I was really interested in seeing what the authors would do with their stories. As with any anthology, there were highlights and there were those I had to trudge through. My favorites included:

- "Sing a Song of Six-Pence": I thought this was an incredibly clever and unique way to tell this story. Absolutely loved the inventiveness at work here.

- "Clockwork": this story really made me appreciate the incredible imagination and thought the author put into it. I mean, who could have imagined this story coming from "Hickory Dickory Dock"? Leah Cypress, apparently, and I'm grateful that she did.

- "Boys and Girls Come Out to Play": this was one that I think could have easily been fleshed out to a longer work and, though it's easy to see where the inspiration comes from, could stand on its own nicely.

- "One for Sorrow": I thought this had some really nice imagery and I really enjoyed the way it was told.

- "Tick Tock": this had a very old-school horror movie vibe and I loved it. Stories of deliciously creepy children are always welcome in my book.

- "The Well": this had a post-apocalyptic bent to it and I thought it worked really well for Jack and Jill's tale. A very interesting version of the rhyme.

Another story, "The Lion and the Unicorn," could have been a favorite; however, it is split into two parts in the book and only the first was included in my ARC. I liked what I read in part one and really would have loved to read part two. This anthology has me wondering if the authors picked their own rhymes or were assigned them for reimagining. I also like that this anthology features authors that are not as well-known - it will give teens a great introduction to writers they may be less familiar with and give them a push to check out the longer works of those they enjoy.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: After

After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Published 2012 by Hyperion

From award-winning editors Datlow and Windling comes a new collection of short stories to capture our attention - today's best young adult authors take turns pondering what the world looks like "after." After what? Well, any variety of global disaster or apocalypse.

I read two short stories anthologies back to back; this was the second. It reminded me of how much I enjoy reading short stories - you get just a little snippet of a tale and are almost always left wanting, which I think is excellent. I always forget about reading short stories and anthologies, so I'm glad this one was brought to my attention. Amazingly, I've only read one other anthology edited by the award-winning duo, though many of them have caught my eye. I'm glad I didn't let this one slip past - it definitely makes me want to go out and get their other books.

As with any anthology, I had my favorites and my not-so-favorites. My favorites included:
- "The Segment": excellent way to open the anthology. This story makes you feel like you should know what's going on, but also like you're still catching up to the new rules. I thought it was a really interesting premise and I loved the blending of our society's television culture with the dystopia.

- "After the Cure": I've enjoyed Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth series and have been wondering what she'll do next. This story shows that she has many more tricks and ideas up her sleeve and I can't wait to discover them. I thought this was absolutely brilliant - perfectly taut and suspenseful while also striking the right emotional pitch.

- "Valedictorian": a perfect example of how wonderful it is to be left wanting more. I think this tale could definitely be fleshed out into a larger work, but I also love just getting a sneak peek at it.

- "The Other Elder": I had very little interest in the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, you know, because of my aversion to things set in space. This is a short story set in that world (it seems a lot of young adult authors are doing this sort of thing nowadays) and it was intriguing enough that I might check out the series proper. I thought it was well-done and provided just a snapshot of a series that must be rich with its own mythology.

- "Reunion": another one where you feel like you know what's going on but also like you have no idea. This one surprised me and that is definitely a good thing. I'm a big fan of Pfeffer's Moon trilogy but I didn't like her latest novel. This story reminded me why I enjoyed her earlier titles - she has skill.

- "Faint Heart": damn you, Sarah Rees Brennan! Why do you continue to be so frustratingly amazing? This was a story where the fact that you only get a snippet is more frustrating than exciting. Brennan has got a fantastic premise here and a definite cliffhanger ending that made me wanting to know more. Brennan clearly has a wonderful imagination and excellent skills as a writer. More, please!

- "The Easthound": vague enough on the details of the world to make me curious but willing to believe it all without question. This one packed an emotional punch and I absolutely loved the voice created here.

- "You Won't Feel a Thing": I absolutely adored Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy and have been meaning to read more of his work ever since. Reading this story may have given me the kick in the pants I need. This is a story set in the same world as his novel, Shade's Children. It's stunningly written (no surprise there) and definitely made me want to know more.

- "The Marker": I've only just been introduced to Cecil Castellucci but she is consistently surprising me. She seems to be able to write anything and write it well. This was a really haunting but hopeful piece and a wonderful way to end the collection.

Overall, more hits than misses in this anthology and I have a number of authors to check out now - one of the best things about reading an anthology is discovering a new writer to love. Teens will love this one!

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races
By Maggie Stiefvater
Published 2011 by Scholastic

Every November, the people of Thisby run a race. This race is a matter of life and death, as riders and spectators contend with the wild capaill uisce - deadly, man-eating horses from the sea - in their attempts to win. For Puck Connolly, this race is about family and the island she loves more than anything. For Sean Kendrick, the race is about his freedom and the price he will pay for it. For them both, the race is about discovering their strength and changing their lives.

I know, I know - I'm late to the party here. It's really frustrating because I actually got an ARC of this back at ALA Annual in 2011 and just couldn't find the time to fit it in. Then it went and won all those fancy awards and I felt like even more of a bonehead for not having read it. Well, I intended to rectify that as soon as possible - turns out that still meant a long time later, but now I've finally finished it.

I know Stiefvater has a lot of fans - she's become a very popular author because of her pure writing talent, emotionally gripping stories, and active online presence. From following her on Twitter, reading her blog, watching some of the videos she's created, and seeing her speak in a webinar, I find that I think Stiefvater would be a really kick-ass person to know. She's insanely creative and talented, and she has tons of fascinating interests - I think she'd be awesome to just sit down and have a conversation with. What is the point of my telling you all this? Well, despite how truly awesome I think Stiefvater is as a person, I was still not 100% on board the Stiefvater train for her books. I actually read and finished The Raven Boys while I was in the middle of reading that one and, if you read my review, you'll see that one got me on the train. It actually made me more excited to keep reading this book.

I realize that the above paragraph makes it sound like I wasn't enjoying The Scorpio Races until I read The Raven Boys - that's not true. While this book was not really made for me (I've never really been a horse girl except ironically and I actually find regular horses kind of terrifying so I didn't need to read about killer ones), there is no denying that Stiefvater wrote a beautiful and powerful novel here. The mythology and legend that she has created for the island of Thisby and the capaill uisce is captivating and deep. I loved the dual narrative of Puck and Sean - I loved discovering the reasons why each was running the race and the conflicting emotions that this brought on in them. I loved them slowly discovering each other and stumbling through the first bloom of attraction. Stiefvater seems to have no problem creating memorable and strong characters - and not just the principal ones. This book, like her others, is populated with well-developed secondary characters, adding to the depth and breadth of Thisby's history and lore. I loved the pacing of this novel - I felt like I was living through the days leading up to the race right alongside Puck and Sean. The way the story is presented gave it an immediacy that was difficult to ignore.

Between this and The Raven Boys, I am fully on board the Stiefvater train. Take me where you will, Maggie.

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Program: Day of the Dead

Since I've been running my tween programs on Wednesday afternoons and Halloween just happened to fall on a Wednesday this year, I knew I definitely wanted to do some sort of program. I didn't want to do a Halloween-themed program since it would be a little late for that, so I had done that program a few weeks before. I thought it would be cool to do a program that focused on another culture's fall celebration - Day of the Dead (or Dia de los Muertos).

All in all, this was a really simple program to run since I did all the prep work ahead of time. I had a small turnout - I'm thinking I might need to change which day of the week I have my programs on because I'm not getting as many kids on Wednesday afternoons as I had been. I don't really have much to say about the program. We decorated sugar skulls - traditional decorations to celebrate the holiday. I made the sugar skulls ahead of time, using a mold I had purchased from a website. The skulls needed to harden for at least 8 hours before the program, so I just made them a couple days ahead and left them out to harden. I provided 4 different colors of royal icing, feathers, ribbon, gemstones and glitter for the kids to use as decoration (the skulls are edible, as is the icing, but not very tasty, and of course inedible once you put anything inedible on it). The icing was the biggest pain for me. The directions I had noted that the colors (gel colors that I had ordered from the same site as the mold) would stain, so I should use disposable equipment for mixing them up. Royal icing is much thicker and more difficult to stir than regular icing, and all I had for disposable containers were plastic drinking cups. They were not nearly large enough to properly mix the icing with the coloring for even distribution. I didn't want to buy disposable pastry bags either, so I put the icing into plastic storage bags and cut off the corners for piping. This worked okay, but the kids couldn't do any fine detail work this way, which was kind of a bummer. I also printed out some sugar skull coloring sheets for them to color if they finished with their skulls, as well as an information sheet about Day of the Dead that I created.

The kids who came had a lot of fun decorating their skulls - trying to make them look like people they knew, giving them mustaches, etc. They were disappointed that the icing came out in such thick streams, but they found ways to make it work. All of them had to leave early, so the coloring sheets didn't really get used, but they took those and the information sheets home for later. I'd like to do this program again next year because it was so easy, but I'd definitely need to figure out a better process for the icing. A coworker borrowed my mold and decorated some with her granddaughters, painting them with acrylic paint instead and had success, so maybe I'd just do that.

What would you do? Have you done a Day of the Dead program?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (42)

As the Crow Flies
By Sheila Keenan, illustrated by Kevin Duggan
Published 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
I am not a bird person, in case you didn't know. So I'm not entirely sure what compelled me to pick up this book - maybe morbid fascination with things that terrify me? Regardless, this is a picture book I think intended to make crows a bit less scary and unfriendly for kids. I like that idea, but I'm not sure if it works, simply because I think crows are among the most obnoxious creatures that exist. However, the illustrations make them far less intimidating, so perhaps there is something to this little book. It doesn't have much of a story and almost seems to be a very simple, non-fiction intro to these birds. I'd be curious to hear what others thought of this one.

F is for Fenway: America's Oldest Major League Ballpark
By Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by John Dykes
Published 2012 by Sleeping Bear Press
I'm pretty much a die-hard Red Sox fan, so I couldn't resist picking up this book, filled with tidbits and history on America's most storied ballpark. This book was released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Fenway and follows the same format as the other regional and thematic alphabet books put out by Sleeping Bear Press. If you're a huge Red Sox fan, a lot of this information won't be new to you, but there is something heartwarming seeing it in a picture book. It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Fenway may not be the cheapest or most comfortable or prettiest ballpark there is, but it still feels like home to me.

Waking Dragons
By Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson
Published 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Okay, this cover art is absolutely irresistible - look at that adorable dragon and the miniature little knight! Why would you not pick this up to see what's inside? This is a very simple rhyming story about getting up and getting ready for school. Some of the rhymes are a bit cumbersome, but over all, I think young children will enjoy following the process of getting the dragons ready in the morning. I love the illustrations - soft and sweet, sure to appeal to young kids. This would definitely work well for a toddler storytime.

Duck Sock Hop
By Jane Kohuth, illustrated by Jane Porter
Published 2012 by Dial
This is a silly and entertaining little book about the ducks getting ready for their weekly sock hop. Rhyming, tongue-twisting text will remind readers of Sandra Boynton's books. The accompanying illustrations are bright and vibrant - parents can point out different colors and shapes and patterns on each spread. This would work well in a storytime and I can see a number of great pairings with other books are dancing animals, ducks, or clothing. A cute new book.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: The Secret of the Stone Frog

The Secret of the Stone Frog
By David Nytra
Published 2012 by Toon Books

Siblings Leah and Alan awaken to find themselves in an enchanted world of talking animals and mysterious stone frogs. They must use their wits to find their way home.

This is the first older graphic novel from Toon Books, a publisher that has been bringing graphic novels to the early reader set with smashing success. I was really looking forward to this title because it looked mysterious and richly drawn and I wanted to see how they would do with a story for an older crowd. While I think the book works very well, it didn't personally appeal to me as much as I had hoped. The story is told with minimal text, focusing heavily on the striking and richly detailed images. The journey that the characters undertake reminded me of a lot of classic children's novels, such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Though some elements of the novel might be a bit creepy or scary for younger children, I think overall there is nothing to prevent younger readers from enjoying the story. However, I think kids toward the upper range of beginning chapter books (2nd and 3rd grade) will get the most out of the story, as they will be more willing and likely to pore over the details of the illustrations and will have a bigger context for understanding the threats that Leah and Alan face. I don't know if this will appeal to the larger juvenile graphic novel audience, but young fantasy fans will enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: Summer series

The Summer I Turned Pretty
By Jenny Han
Published 2009 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

It's Not Summer Without You
Published 2010 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

We'll Always Have Summer
Published 2011 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

For all of her life, Belly has spent her summers at Cousins Beach in the huge beach house she shares with her mother and brother, and her mother's best friend's family. But everything will change for Belly and her family in one summer.

These are not really the type of books I normally read and, honestly, this series was not on my radar at all. However, at my first ALA Annual conference, I received free finished copies of both the second and third book in the series. So, when I went on vacation this summer, it seemed like a good time to give the books a shot (I borrowed the first from my library).

I feel very conflicted about this series. There are a lot of things to dislike - first and foremost, a character named Belly (whose real name you don't find out until far too late in the story). This is not cute or endearing; it's annoying. Plus, there is the problem of Belly as a character - she is not a terribly easy young girl to identify with (or maybe my 10 years out of teenage-dom grant me the hope that I would have never identified with her). She is incredibly selfish and naive and, at times, far too simpering and whiny to be taken seriously. The boys of Cousins Beach are problematic as well - dark and brooding Conrad just adds to the list of entirely inappropriate romantic leads in young adult novels. And, aside from providing a foil to his brother, Jeremiah doesn't have much of a personality at all. My boyfriend read a short passage over my shoulder while I was reading and said, "So the whole thing is just about her deciding which brother she likes?" I stumbled and mumbled and tried to explain that there was other stuff going on (I won't spoil it for you) but really, he's right. Ultimately, these books are nothing more than summer romances with moody, troubled (and troublesome) boys and a girl who has zero confidence and is so naive that I can't help but feel embarrassed for her.

But, I have to admit that these books were pretty much exactly what I expected them to be. Summer reads - light, thoughtless, quick, easy. The writing is practical (which I'm not sure is a compliment) and, though Han tries to deal with some tough stuff, ultimately as my boyfriend said, it's a romance. I would not be surprised to find these books very popular with teen women.

I do want to make particular mention of book three - I feel like it is the least well-done of the three. I don't think the characters are making choices and behaving in ways that are in line with their characterization from the first two books. Also, I found the overall arc of this book a bit bothersome - this one is focused almost exclusively on the romance, and I don't find the romantic relationships that have developed to be in any way healthy. I also think the ending is a bit too neat and tidy for the series.

Thanks to the publisher for finished copies of It's Not Summer Without You and We'll Always Have Summer.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: UnWholly

UnWholly (Unwind, book 2)
By Neal Shusterman

Published 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

WARNING: There will be spoilers for book 1. If you'd like to read my review of Unwind, go here.

Because of the incident at Happy Jack Harvest Camp, it's become much more difficult for people to ignore what unwinding really means. But there are powerful people willing to take whatever means necessary to ensure that unwinding remains the law. Will Connor, Risa, and Lev be able to continue their rebellion in the face of these powers?

It took me forever to get around to reading Unwind, but, in a way, it was good I waited so long - that meant I didn't have to wait long for the sequel. While I think Unwind can definitely work as a standalone novel, I was really excited to see what Shusterman would do with a sequel. Because of the sheer volume of books I read in a year, it can be nearly impossible for me to remember anything about a book I read by the time I get around to picking up the next title in the series. Shusterman has cleverly and successfully provided a little primer at the beginning of this book that will catch people up (if they haven't read the first) and refresh those of us with terrible memories. That being said, I don't know if I would recommend picking up UnWholly without having read Unwind - the experience with the book is much greater if you've read the first. As I said, I don't think that a sequel was absolutely necessary, but Shusterman has crafted one that is just as exciting, involving, complex, and emotionally compelling as the first. Introducing some new characters and catching up with the original, Shusterman weaves a more interesting narrative. I loved seeing the variety of characters included throughout the novel. With short, action-packed chapters, this book will keep you turning the pages furiously, eager to know what will happen next. Shusterman has filled the pages with twists and turns that are unexpected and yet not. The terrifying world created in the first just seems to get more bleak and horrible in this novel and I can only imagine how dark it will be in book three. I loved everything about this and am definitely looking forward to book three. These books will be highly recommended for readers looking for compelling and complex teen novels.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Program: Something Spooky

Even though Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year (my normal tween programming day) and I planned on having a program that day, I wanted my Halloween-themed program to fall a little earlier in the month so that the kids could take whatever we made that day and use it during the holiday. This program was a case of too many choices incapacitating my ability to decide what to do. I left the title and description purposely vague because I wasn't 100% sure what activities I wanted to include before we had to start publicizing the program. This may have contributed to my slightly smaller attendance number as kids didn't really know what to expect from the program. However, the kids who did come seemed to have a lot of fun. Here's what I ended up doing.

I really wanted to decorate pumpkins. I've seen (on Pinterest and generally around the interwebs) the amazing book character/book report pumpkins that kids have decorated and I thought it was a brilliant idea and something the kids would really enjoy doing. However, I had a hard time fully committing to the idea because of the costs. We generally don't run a lot of programs where we ask attendees to bring something and because I hadn't completely decided to go with this idea, I had no way of asking the kids to bring their own pumpkins. This left me with the job of providing pumpkins. They are expensive and, though I knew I wouldn't have huge attendance numbers, I also don't have a very big budget. I contacted a local nursery about getting a donation, but I submitted the paperwork too late (it had to be in 3-4 weeks prior to the program), so I missed the boat there. Finally, I just decided to go ahead and buy the pumpkins. I found the most goregously shaped little pumpkins for less than a dollar apiece. I only bought 20, knowing I'd probably have less than that number of tweens attending. Thankfully, I was right (I really didn't want to run out of pumpkins for participants). I bought my pumpkins the day before the program so that they would last longer.

So, for the program itself - it was pretty straightforward. I wanted the kids to hear a scary story while they were there, but I didn't want them to have to just sit there listening to a story (they've tended to get antsy during presentations before). I'm a big fan of audiobooks, so I decided that was my best option. When the kids arrived, I had them sit at the two tables I'd set up for decorating. I gave them a brief rundown of what we'd be doing and told them a little about the book we'd be listening to - Coraline by Neil Gaiman. They all seemed excited about the spooky possibilities of the title from my booktalk so, once I turned it on, they listened as they decorated. I had put pictures of some of my favorite book character pumpkins on the tables if they needed inspiration, but they basically just set right to work. We had Mary Ann from the Babysitter's Club, Piper from The Lost Hero, Iron Man, a clown, and two characters from a cartoon (whose name has slipped my mind). The program flew by as the kids worked diligently on their pumpkins and munched on the cookies and pretzels I'd provided as snacks. I had also decided I wanted to make the adorable monster page-corner bookmarks I'd found on Pinterest, just in case anyone didn't want to decorate a pumpkin or finished early. I needn't have worried. The kids devoted the entire hour to pumpkin decorating but all of them thought the bookmarks were too cool to not make one, so in the last five minutes, we scrambled to make our monsters. I provided scary bookmarks and pencils, as well as a horror booklist, for the kids to take home at the end of the program. I noticed that the copy of Coraline I had set on the display table also was gone after the program, so I assume one kid had liked the audio enough to finish the story. Overall, I think the kids had fun and the time flew by for me. (I made a Cheshire Cat pumpkin - of course.)

Next year, I'd like to do the program again, but I'd definitely want to get the pumpkins donated. I'd also advertise the program specifically as pumpkin decorating and I'd like to do it in two parts - first, have a program to decorate the pumpkins and then display them and have a contest for the patron favorite. I think we'd get a larger attendance this way, plus everyone would get a chance to see the creations the kids came up with. Have you done something like this at your library? How did it go?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (41)

It's All About Me-Ow
By Hudson Talbott
Published 2012 by Nancy Paulsen Books
My colleague insisted I read this the day it showed up at our library. I like cats, but I haven't owned one since college. However, I've had many friends who owned cats, and they are quite unique creatures. Talbott has captured the feline spirit perfectly in this book. Presented as a set of lessons on cat-hood from one older cat to the next generation, this book is sure to make any person who has known a cat laugh out loud. Because it's funny, kids will appreciate it as well, but it's a little long for storytime use.

Bear Says Thanks
By Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
Published 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Beloved Bear wants to say thank you to his friends with a nice big feast - but Bear has run out of food! What will he and his friends do? This is another delightful entry in the Bear series, just in time for Thanksgiving. These books are just so stinking cute - I love everything about them. They have excellent rhythm and incredibly appealing illustrations. They are perfect for storytimes and they always have a sweet message. Love it!

The Monsters' Monster
By Patrick McDonnell
Published 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
There were once three monsters who were the absolute biggest and baddest monsters around. Until one day, when they decide to work together and create an even bigger and badder monster. It works - or does it? For some reason, their monster just doesn't seem as bad. This is a really adorable story with charming illustrations that flows nicely and has a lovely message. Perfect for a gentle Halloween storytime.

By Lemniscates
Published 2012 by Magination Press
What do you hear when you are silent? Kids are invited to discover through this imaginative and meditative picture book. It's a very peaceful read with well-suited illustrations and will introduce the idea of silence quite well. I think this might work in a storytime setting, but only with the right group. A rowdy group would miss the point. This book might be better enjoyed one-on-one.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, book 1)
By John Stephens, read by Jim Dale
Published 2011 by Listening Library

Kate, Michael, and Emma have lived a sad life for the last ten years - shuttled from one orphanage to another, never quite fitting in or feeling wanted. Kate, being the eldest, is the only one who can even vaguely remember their parents but she knows her mother said they'd be together again someday. But the siblings are more special than they know - and in more danger than they could imagine.

This book had gotten tons of buzz when it was first released but, of course, I didn't have the time to pick it up. I grabbed it recently because it's one of the Lone Star Reading List books and I saw the audio version was available for download. I wasn't paying much attention when I downloaded so I was pleasantly surprised (actually, thrilled) when I started listening and realized this was narrated by Jim Dale. YAY! I mean, you know who Jim Dale is, right? He brings the same charm and personality to this book as he did to his narration of the Harry Potter series and helped me fall just a bit more in love with this book than I might have otherwise.

But, brilliant though he is, Jim Dale is not the only reason to love this book. This is a perfect read for fantasy fans - it is exciting and adventurous, action-packed and full of heart. The characters - they are the best thing about this book. I just wanted to reach out and give them all hugs - even occasionally obnoxious Emma. I thought each sibling was uniquely crafted and had a distinct personality. I loved them all equally. Stephens has also done a fantastic job of creating a believable sibling relationship among the three and exploring all the emotions and hardships that such a relationship is fraught with. There is a lot going on in the world Stephens has created in this novel and I sometimes get lost when I listen instead of read. It is a credit to his skill as a writer that I was continually able to know what was going on the entire time I listened to the book. The pacing of the novel is incredibly well-done, too, as I constantly wanted to know what would happen next. Stephens kept me in suspense throughout the entire book and I think this will be a big hit with kids. I am not surprised to see it as one of the Lone Star Reading List titles for this year. I will definitely be picking up the next book and seeing where Stephens goes from here.

As a final note, I will listen to anything Jim Dale wants to read.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: Wicked Girls

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials
By Stephanie Hemphill
Published 2010 by Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen

Ann Putnam, Jr. may be the youngest, but she's clearly in charge. Her father's reputation ensures that none of the girls dare stand up to her, lest she make their lives miserable. But what starts as a game and Ann's desire to have her own voice turns into a witch hunt with deadly consequences. Will the girls stand together or fall apart?

I'd read two of Hemphill's novels previously and was blown away by the first, though a bit underwhelmed by the second. I'd seen this one around and was definitely interested - a verse novel about the Salem Witch Trials, told through the voices of the accusers. That's definitely an idea that will pique my interest. I was looking for a quick read recently and picked this one up, since verse novels tend to be quicker reads than regular novels. This was a really interesting read. I loved all the different voices and how the story was told from the perspective of the girls who made the accusations rather than the victims. I find the witch trials endlessly fascinating and I think they'll always be relevant because of what they say about human nature. It was very provocative to see what Hemphill did with the story - from the reasons behind the accusations to what would happen if you disagreed with Ann Putnam to the struggle to stop something that has grown immensely bigger than one's self. I liked that we got to see the story from so many different characters - though they initially were all on the same page, they soon find themselves with differing opinions and struggles. I also really liked that Hemphill included some historical notes, as well as information about what happened to many of the characters after the trials. As for the poems themselves, I felt they were more on par with the first of Hemphill's novels that I read. Many of them were beautiful poetry and could have stood alone, but they also worked cohesively to tell this story. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction.

Just as a note, I don't think this cover does the book justice. This makes it look like some typical high school drama book instead of the more complex novel it actually is.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review: Black City

Black City (Black City, book 1)
By Elizabeth Richards
Expected publication November 13, 2012 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

In a world where Darklings and humans live on opposite sides of the wall, two young adults are about to cross paths and be changed forever. Ash, half-blood Darkling, and Natalie, a humana and the Emissary's daughter, stumble into each other's lives one night. But when a touch sparks an unexpected reaction in them both, things get much more complicated.

I don't even have the energy to apologize for that poor synopsis right there because this book was bad, y'all. Just bad. BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD. I literally complained the entire time I was reading it but I kept on going, hoping that something awesome would happen to change my mind. I WAS WRONG. Don't be like me - just don't do it.

So, what was bad here? Well, it's probably easier to focus on what was good. Richards is clearly trying to say some interesting things about race and power and religion here, and most of that she does rather successfully, albeit a bit unoriginally. Additionally, the storyline with Evangeline was a surprising development in the story, and one I would like explored more (I'm sure it will feature in subsequent books). And here is where I run out of good things to say.

What was bad about this was how completely unoriginal it was. This felt like a terrible amalgamation of many fantasy/vampire novels - and yes, a lot of fantasy is done with tropes but this can be a good thing. It just wasn't in this case. As a matter of fact, there was one scene that I feel was almost verbatim from Harry Potter - when Natalie first starts at the school and Gregory introduces himself, telling her he'll show her around and introduce her to the right sort of people. She declares - I bet you can guess at this point - that she can figure out the right sort for herself, thank you very much. I mean, didn't that exact thing happen in Harry Potter? Or am I drinking crazy juice? This is just one of many instances where I felt the book too closely mirrored other, more successful fantasy novels. Additionally, the characters are bad. They are poorly developed and overly melodramatic. I didn't care one fig about them and it was painful to read the tragedy that they felt they were constantly facing. And, the romance - UGH. Probably one of the worst cases of insta-love I've ever seen. It just all felt convoluted and boring and I wanted it to be over.

I had not realized this was the first book of a series and so was surprised with the cliffhanger ending. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be heading back to Black City for a repeat.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: I Hunt Killers

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent, book 1)
By Barry Lyga
Published 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

What if the world's most notorious serial killer was your dad? That's the reality that Jazz lives with and it makes every day a struggle for him. When a new body appears in Lobo's Nod that bears eerie similarities to his father's crimes, Jazz throws himself into a personal investigation, one that is sure to lead him to danger...

The premise of this book - how can you not want to read it? That tagline, it just speaks to me. I don't think I'm alone in my fascination with serial killers (and seeing as there were numerous books published this year along these lines, I think teens share my fascination). Plus, it's Barry Lyga. Boy Toy remains one of my favorite YA novels because of its frankness and willingness to push the boundaries. I expected nothing less of this book and Lyga certainly delivered. Jazz (though I can't stand that name) is a fantastic narrator. Talk about a struggle with one's identity. Jazz spends the majority of the book (and, I imagine, the series) figuring out if he can truly be a good person or if he really is his father's son. He is dealing with the loss of his mother, who is officially just missing, and the struggle to keep the ragged remains of his family (that would be his dementia-ridden grandmother and himself) intact. Ultimately, Jazz's questions about his own identity are the questions all teens are asking of themselves: how does a good person act? If I do this one bad thing, does that mean I have the capacity for evil? How much of my personality is a product of my genetics? Can I really change the things I don't like about myself? Though it's unlikely that many of your readers have serial killers for parents, it is possible that some of them have incarcerated parents or relatives. And, even if they don't, it won't be difficult for teenagers to relate to Jazz's struggle to figure out what kind of person he will be.

As a bonus, the other characters of this novel are equally exciting to read about. I love Howie - I mean, who wouldn't? He provides most of the levity throughout the novel, as he thinks he's much funnier than he actually is. And Connie is certainly a more complex character than one might initially believe. Even G. William is a fantastic addition to the story and I desperately wanted more page time for the man himself, Billy Dent. This book is fast-paced and exciting, suspenseful and clever, and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this - Lyga is a wonderful author. I can't wait for the sequel!

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Program: American Girl Club

Back in September, I introduced you to our newest series of programs, Adventure Club. I mentioned there that we would be alternating Adventure Club with American Girl Club, beginning in September. That means that October brought on our first installment of American Girl Club and I'm happy to report that it was a success! In fact, I think it's the most fun I've had at a program thus far. Here's what we did!

We decided to focus on one doll each time we met and started out with Molly. We initially chose Molly because the program was in October and she was the only girl we could remember who touched on Halloween. Eventually, our plans involved to not include the holiday at all, but I think Molly was a good starting point. For those who don't know, Molly is an American Girl growing up in 1944. Her father is off fighting the war and she is learning about what needs to be done on the home front to help our troops be victorious.

We started our program with a short historical slideshow. We wanted the kids (okay, we only had girls) to understand the context of the story. We went back and forth on exactly what we would tell them about the war but, as our program was aimed at ages 7 and up, we realized that many of these kids already have personal connections to war. We didn't go into all the details (it was just a short presentation after all) but we explained a bit about the war, talking about rationing and women in the workplace, and showed them some examples of popular culture at the time. We even had a staff member who had her aunt's ration book - she loaned it to us and we showed it to the girls. The presentation lasted about 10 minutes and we moved on to our next activity.

Since we introduced the concept of rationing, we decided to plant miniature victory gardens in mason jars. Each girl was given a jar and the supplies and we explained how to put them together (rocks on the bottom, moss next for drainage, and then the soil). Then our volunteers came around with seeds. Each girl got one or two (or possibly more, the seeds were tiny!) of each herb - we chose garlic chives, oregano, and rosemary. Then the girls could choose decorative elements for inside their jars (we had small animal and bird figurines as well as seashells) and decorate the outside with stickers if they wanted.

After everyone planted their victory garden, we moved on to our next activity - learning the jitterbug! I love to dance, especially ballroom and I thought it would be an easy and fun way to teach the girls about entertainment during the time period. We showed them a video of modern kids dancing the jitterbug (complete with crazy lifts and aerial tricks) and then paired them off to show them how to get started. Oh friends, they were TERRIBLE dancers! BUT - they were having so much fun! It was wonderful. We showed them the basic step, taught them a simple spin, and then taught them how to do the cuddle. They practiced with their partners and laughed and spun and some fell over - it was a very delightful sight!

When everyone got tired of dancing, they all got to choose a paper doll to take home. Amy (my colleague) had found these amazing Ziegfeld girl paper dolls, something that Molly might actually have played with. The girls loved them! As they sat around admiring and cutting out their new paper dolls, I passed out homemade applesauce cupcakes (made by me, from a traditional 1940s recipe), which the girls devoured. Then we did a drawing for some prizes and, once they all finished their snack, everyone headed home. The girls were enthusiastic about every aspect of the program and were already asking who our next girl would be in December (we kept it a secret!). They all promised to return and many were happily showing off their wares to their moms.

We had over twenty girls show up and, like I said, they seemed engrossed in every aspect of the program. Amy and I had a blast planning and executing the program and I can't wait for our next meeting in December!

Also, a note: though we didn't ask them to, many of the girls brought their own dolls from home to the program. We let them keep them during the presentation, but once we got started on the activities, I asked the girls to put their dolls in a special seating area so they could have their hands free for the crafts and dancing. It was delightful to see the dolls all lined up, waiting for their girls.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Picture Book Saturday (40)

Oh No!
By Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Published 2012 by Schwartz & Wade
This book has gotten tons of buzz since its publication and it's easy to see why. A simple story told in an interesting way, this has tons of kid appeal and beautiful illustrations. It would work perfectly in storytimes (it practically begs to be read aloud) and also has great vocabulary to introduce to kids. A lovely new book that is sure to delight its audiences.

Bear Has a Story to Tell
By Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Published 2012 by Roaring Brook Press
Another book with a lot of publication buzz (its creators won the Caldecott in 2011), this was a lovely story about Bear, who searches for a friend who will listen to his story. Bear has unfortunate timing, however, as all his friends are preparing to migrate or hibernate. Soon, Bear feels the pull of nature himself. Will he remember his story when he awakes? This would be a wonderful story to read at a pajama storytime or a winter celebration. The illustrations are soft and lovely and speak beautifully to the story.

By Jan Brett
Published 2012 by Putnam Juvenile
It pains me to say but sometimes Jan Brett is a hit or miss for me. This, her newest, is definitely a hit. Here we have the story of Mossy, an unusual turtle. You see, Mossy has a garden growing on her back. Soon, Mossy is discovered by a scientist and is taken from her pond to be exhibited as the wonder she is. Will Mossy be content in this new life or will she miss being surrounded by the nature that gave birth to her beautiful garden? This is a lovely story that resonates emotionally and is, of course, gorgeously illustrated. Brett's fans will not be disappointed.

A World of Food
By Carl Warner
Published 2012 by Abrams
I must admit, the cover is what drew me to this title. Warner, a photographer, has crafted this strange but compelling little book that imagines what the world would look like if it were all one color. And, to make it more interesting, it's also made of food. I liked discovering what foods were used on each spread and, while some of them are more successful than others, kids will delight in the details of this book. While the text sometimes struggles, the photos are intriguing and imaginative.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller
By Joseph Lambert
Published 2012 by Hyperion

Here is another version of the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, two women who accomplished extraordinary things and forged a unique and enduring friendship, despite the hardships they faced.

I've been sort of on a graphic novel kick. There is just something that is so appealing about them lately, most likely because I am feeling seriously overwhelmed by the MUST READ ALL THE BOOKS phenomenon that strikes towards the end of every year. Graphic novels are usually quick reads but with stories just as wonderful and fulfilling as traditional novels, so I sort of find them a balm when I get truly overwhelmed. This one came in on our new cart and it immediately caught my eye. Of course everyone knows the story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller - but I liked that this was framed through Annie's eyes and dealt with an episode that I wasn't familiar with - that of Helen's trial. Helen was tried for submitting a story to various literary publications which she insisted was original but was, in fact, found to be plagiarized, at least in part, from a previously published tale. It was fascinating to read about this incident, though it's just one small part of this story. The artwork is stunning in that it is so perfectly suited to the story. The style changes when we are seeing things from Helen's perspective and it works beautifully. This is a wonderfully told story that may introduce readers to things they hadn't known previously. Lambert's art is perfect here and he really brings the story to life.