Friday, November 26, 2010


EggsEggs by Jerry Spinelli

AR Reading Level: 3.6
On the library stacks: YA Fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the story of two unlikely friends. Nine-year old David recently lost his mother in a freak accident, and 13-year old Primrose has a mother who is a crackpot. Together, David and Primrose form a bond that fills a void in their lives and they learn to move forward.

There were certain aspects of this book that I found charming and sweet. Primrose's sense of herself was refreshing and the brother/sister relationship was cute. But, I had a really hard time with the disrespectful attitude David had towards his grandmother who was trying her best in a difficult situation. I also didn't like that the children were roaming the streets alone at all hours of the night, meeting with a man who never thought to let another adult know where the kids were.

After awhile, I had to suspend my belief in the reality of the story, which made it better for me because I could enjoy the symbolism that was woven into the story. Because of that, I could see this being a book that teachers would use for book clubs in a middle grade classroom. But there are many other books by this author that I have enjoyed much more.

P.S. Isn't it interesting that the front cover is missing the title?

Also reviewed by: So Many Books, So Little TimeBook Nut ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here? 

Book 48 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 47 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
Source: Purchased

Monday, November 22, 2010

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza RisingEsperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

AR Reading Level: 5.3
On the library stacks: YA Fiction

Awards: Pura Belpre Award; NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts; Jefferson Cup Award/Honor; YALSA Top Ten; Judy Lopez Memorial Award; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Smithsonian's Notable Book; Americas Award for Children's Literature; Jane Addams Book Award/Honor Books

Recommended for: Grades 5+

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of 13-year old Esperanza, a girl born to wealth and privilege in Mexico. In the fallout of the Mexican Revolution, bandits roam the land. Esperanza's father is murdered, and in order to escape a life with her corrupt uncles, Esperanza and her mother make their way to California to become migrant crop workers.

The Depression has hit America hard, and people from across the country arrive daily in the Central Valley looking for work. While living conditions for the Mexicans are less than ideal, they work for pittance in order to keep their jobs. Esperanza experiences many challenges in California, but ultimately she learns that true happiness has nothing to do with material things, but in being with the people that you love.

This is an inspiring story based on the lives of the author's ancestors. I learned quite a bit about the treatment of Mexicans during this period in US history that I found quite shocking, especially since I grew up in Southern California. I'm glad this story has been told and I feel both enlightened and better educated for having read this well-written book.

Also reviewed by: Book Haven ~ Your link here?

Book 47 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 46 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
Source: BookMooch

Saturday, November 20, 2010


SpeakSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson

AR Reading Level: 4.5
On the library stacks: YA Fiction

Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; SLJ Best Book; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors; Golden Kite Award; State Award; YALSA Top Ten; Booklist Editors' Choice; Edgar Award/Honor Book; ALA Notable/Best Books; Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Literature; Michael Printz Honor Book; National Book Award/ Honors; Society of School Libr. International Best/Honor; ABC (Assoc. of Booksellers for Children) Choice; Horn Book Fanfare

Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

There's really not much I can add about this book that the awards have not already acknowledged (see above) or that the blogosphere has not already covered (see below). I will say that this book took me so long to read because I was intimidated by the subject and how it would be handled. But I should not have worried.

This is the story of a girl named Melinda who is raped right before the start of her freshman year and chooses to remain quiet. Because of her choices, she becomes a social outcast at school. At home her parents are too busy ignoring each other to notice that their only child is silently screaming for help.

It may sound heavy, and to some degree it is. But this book is also written with a warmth and humor that endeared me to Melinda and kept me fully invested in her journey of self-discovery. I read this book in a day and was impressed by how well it was written and how sensitively the topic was approached.

Also reviewed by: The Boston BibliophileBart's Bookshelf ~ The Book Nest ~ Sam's Book Blog ~ Book Thoughts ~ Reviews by Lola ~ Trish's Reading Nook ~ Boarding in my Forties ~ off the shelf ~ things mean a lot ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ my cozy book nook ~ At Home With Books ~ Bending Bookshelf ~ The Bluestocking Society ~ Book Nut ~ Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? ~ Book Addiction ~ Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ It's All About Books ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ cucullus non facit monachum

Book 46 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 45 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
Source: BookMooch

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bink and Gollie

Bink and GollieBink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo

AR Reading Level: 2.5
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Awards: Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010); A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book for 2010

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Bink and Gollie are unlikely best friends who live in a tree house. They love to roller skate, fueled by pancakes and peanut butter sandwiches. I'm know I'm reading too much into a kid story, but I was somewhat disturbed by these young kids who live on their own, yet have a hard time putting on socks.

The stories are cute enough, but it is really the illustrations that make this book special. I loved the simple lines and the way color is used to enhance the story. Two of my kids would give this book 5 stars, but my feelings are mixed.

Also reviewed by: Novels NowConfessions of a Book Habitue ~ A Bookshelf Monstrosity ~ Your link here?

Source: Library

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Dragonfly Pool

The Dragonfly PoolThe Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

AR Reading Level: 6.5
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Awards: SLJ Best Book; IBBY Honor List
Recommended for: Grades 5+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tally is a 12-year old girl who lives in London with her aunts and her father. On the eve of World War II, Tally's father decides to send her to a progressive boarding school in the countryside where Tally will be safe. Even though Tally initially does not want to go, she finds that she thrives in the free environment.

The school, named Delderton, is invited to participate in a multi-cultural folk dancing event in the fictitious European country of Bergania. Tally rallies a dancing troupe together, determined to visit at all costs. But with the Gestapo's ominous presence in country, things take a sad turn. Tally and her friends work together to fight for the the safety and happiness of the Berganian prince, Karil.

This book was not what I was expecting, based on the cover. But I found it to be thoroughly charming. It's a story of friendship, trust, and duty. My favorite quote in the book is,
"Duty exists and it's real. It means sharing any gift or talent that you have with people who need it. It means not being afraid or selfish or tight--but open."
This is an uplifting story that I can easily recommend. Incidentally, I found out that the author just died a few weeks ago at the age of 85. While a literary light has gone out, I do look forward to reading many more books from Ibbotson's legacy.

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Books & other thoughts

Book 45 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 44 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 6 of 6 for the What's in a Name Challenge
Source: Purchased

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Persian Pickle Club

The Persian Pickle ClubThe Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

On the library stacks: Adult fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought a book about a group of women in dusty Kansas who sit around and quilt would be dead boring. Added to that, I read another book by this author that I was sorely disappointed in. So my expectations going into this one weren't high, but I really ended up enjoying it.

Queenie Bean is a young married woman in a rural Kansas community. She is part of "The Pickles"--a group of mostly-older women who get together once a week to quilt. The Depression is on full force, and there is no rain to be had, which makes the situation in Harveyville pretty bleak. But quilting gives these women a much-needed outlet.

This is a story about loyalty and friendship, but there is also a nice mystery element. Through the eyes of Queenie we see both love and loss, both hard times and good times. And Queenie is as likeable a character as they come. I did have a hard time keeping the characters all straight at first, but eventually they really became distinct personalities.

I definitely recommend this book for book clubs and look forward to discussing it with mine.

Also reviewed by: The Reading Season ~ Lesa's Book Critiques ~ Good Clean Reads ~ 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Book 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 44 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge
Source: BookMooch

Monday, November 1, 2010


ChocolatChocolat by Joanne Harris

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Series: Book 1 of 2

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I saw this movie years ago, but I can tell you that I definitely liked the movie much more than the book. The movie was warm and feel-good, but the book was dark and cold. Plus, it took me over 10 days to read, and that is never a good thing.

Vianne is a single mother who is constantly on the move. She is carried by the wind from one town to the next, where she sets up her chocolate shop and makes friends with the locals until it is time to move on. When she and her daughter Anouk arrive in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, Vianne confronts the demon of her tarot cards, the "Black Man." He is the town's Catholic priest, Reynaud, and he is determined to drive Vianne out of town. 

This book is told in the alternating voices of Vianne and Reynaud. I found Vianne to be selfish, self-centered and disrespectful. Reynaud is just disgusting and despicable. I really hated to see all the religious characters in the novel to be portrayed as ridiculously pathetic and out-of-touch individuals.

I will say that Harris has a lovely way with words and imagery, and certainly the magical realism elements added to the aura I think she was trying to create. But the romance element was a total let-down, I didn't like the anti-religious sentiment, and I thought the whole book was kind of depressing. Opinions on this book are many and varied, so check out some other reviews:

Becky's Book ReviewsBook Nut ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ A Life in Books ~ Your link here?

Book 99 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 43 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge
Source: BookMooch