Archive for the ‘Sara’s Picks’ Category

visitor-bearaspxA Visitor for Bear is like a mix of the best of Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss’ Grinch. Yes, this conjures up an odd mental picture, but trust me: you’ll love it.

Bear does not like visitors. There is a large sign on his door to prove this, “NO visitors allowed.” He is quite happy going about his daily business of making tea, toast and eggs. But one day, there is a tap, tap, tap at the door. When he opens it, there is a mouse, “small, and gray, and bright-eyed.” Thanks to the wonderfully animated watercolor illustrations Mouse looks exactly as described. How could Bear be so cold as to turn him away? After all, Mouse only wants to have a cup of tea. But Bear does, and goes back to his business of making breakfast. This is when Mouse mysteriously pops up for the first time in the kitchen. Bear holds fast to his “NO visitors allowed” policy and throws him out. However, Mouse will not be deterred and shows up in creative places all over the kitchen. After blocking the door and windows, plugging the drain in the bathtub, and stopping up the chimney and still finding Mouse in the teakettle, Bear woefully gives in. He shares a lovely afternoon of cheese, tea, and jokes with Mouse. To wise and knowing adults the moral of this story will be obvious from the beginning: friends are good. Younger readers may take a bit longer to catch on, and will delight in the repetitive nature of the story along the way.

The illustrations perfectly capture the emotions of Bear and Mouse. Bear’s pointed, extended arm showing Mouse to the door proves he is not happy, even without reading the text. The careful sizing of the text serves to make its point as well. When Bear finally gives in by exclaiming, “I am undone,” it is easily three times the size of the regular text. Even beginning readers will know to read this with emphasis. For reading at home or out loud at story time, this book is a gem worth reading over and over.

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jenna-foxaspxAfter waking from a year-long coma, Jenna Fox is lucky to be alive. She is seventeen, although the only reason she knows this is because her family has told her so. She can’t remember her friends, yet she has no problem reciting Thoreau’s Walden word for word. She has been told she hates history, but can rattle off details concerning the California earthquake that happened years before she was born. Her mother is strangely overprotective, as though Jenna might shatter before her very eyes. As Jenna starts to venture farther from home, gaining more and more independence, she starts to question everything. Why can’t she remember her past?

As Mary Pearson expertly unfolds the story, readers are teased with hints as to why Jenna may be in this particular situation. She remembers bits and pieces as she becomes more independent and reaches farther from her parents’ protective wraps. We find out why exactly they are so sheltering and wonder at the lengths they went to for those protective measures.

Carefully crafting a coming-of-age tale, a little futuristic technology, and questions of moral ethics, Pearson will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page. And even then, you’ll still want to know more about Jenna Fox. This novel also is also a great selection as an audio book. In fact, that is how I started it, but I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen. I knew I could read faster than the narrator could talk and switched to the print version. Either way, The Adoration of Jenna Fox will make you stop and think about family dynamics, the future of science, and the independence we all develop.

Check the WRL catalog for The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Or try Jenna Fox read on audio CD

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book-colorsaspxIllustrations are, hands-down, my favorite part of a book. When it comes to children’s books, they can be simply breathtaking, ingenious in their creativity or hilarious in their portrayal of the story. I could go on and on. But what if you are blind? Yes, there are books in Braille. But those don’t usually provide pictures. Sure, someone could describe them to you. Taking into account this missing element, The Black Book of Colors aims to please.

With all black pages, the text is written twice, once in white printing and once in Braille. On the opposite page, the pictures are embossed and black. They are just as black as the background of the page, with not a bit of red, yellow, or blue to be found. In the text, colors are described as tastes or by the way they feel. In scents and in sounds. Brown is the smell of chocolate, and red hurts on a scraped knee. You could close your eyes as someone reads aloud from The Black Book of Colors and experience the wonder of a rainbow. This is a wonderful book filled with possibility. After I read it, the memory of it stayed with me for a long time.

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gracelingaspxYou can almost hear a voice-over describe the plot of this book, “In a world with seven kingdoms, the girl with one blue eye and one green has the Grace of killing. Loved by some, feared by many. She finds solace in another who is Graced, and finds the courage to face the wrath of her uncle, the King, and become free.”

But this just starts to tell the story of Katsa and Po, two who are Graced in the Seven Kingdoms. Katsa has been able to kill with her bare hands since the age of eight and is used by her uncle, King Randa, to do his dirty work. Anyone he wants manipulated or threatened is brought before Katsa, and they will soon see things as Randa does. When Katsa meets another who is Graced with fighting, a visitor from the kingdom of Lienid named Po, she finally feels like she has an equal to practice with.

As time passes, Katsa and Po set out in a rescue mission that brings them closer together in both their fighting methods and in friendship. This is a book that has a lot of things going for it: action and adventure, fighting (obviously), romance, and it moves along so quickly you will find find yourself at the last page before you know it. There is room left at the end of the story for a sequel, but there are enough ends tied up that you feel satisfied. There is just enough tension and turmoil between the characters that you may feel the need to tell them what to do. Even though you know they won’t listen.

Fans of Tamora Pierce will love Graceling, but don’t stereotype this book because of that. Yes, it’s a young adult fantasy with a female protagonist. But with Po egging Katsa on in spite of their obvious equality in fighting and intelligence, this becomes more than the usual girl-with-something-to-prove novel.

In October a prequel/companion book will be released, to be titled Fire. Also in progress is a companion novel set six years after Graceling, tentatively titled Bitterblue. Once you read Graceling you’ll know the significance of this title. I, for one, can’t wait for Kristin Cashore to finish these books. I think there are probably others who feel the same, based on the number of “Best of” lists Graceling appeared on last year.

Check the WRL catalog for Graceling

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