Childrens book reviews by StorySnoops, judge a book by more than its cover, serving fresh scoops of new books for you every day
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Archive for June, 2010

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I don’t know about you, but when I was in middle school, I thought I was getting away with murder when I read Forever, by Judy Blume.  Did my mother even know what this book was about?  There, in black and white, was a description of the forbidden act that everyone was talking about.  The teens in this book were doing it and I got read about it in minute detail.  It was romantic.  It was steamy.  It was forbidden.  Or so I thought.

Now that I have re-read the book as a parent, I see the story from a whole new perspective.  First of all, Judy Blume is an absolute genius.  We all thought this was the sex book.  Nope.  It’s really the wait-for-the-right-boy-and-use-birth-control book.  This is the genius part.  The story is crafted in such a way that girls want to read positive messages that they may not want to hear from their parents.  So for the price of exposing your daughter to some pretty explicit love scenes (and wouldn’t you rather she know what she’s getting herself into anyway?), you get wonderful messages about waiting for the right person, and the importance of talking to your family and acting responsibly.

Yes, it’s still pretty steamy.  Yes, the boy names his male equipment “Ralph.”  But the themes in this classic are still relevant today, even thirty-six years after it was written.

-Jen, StorySnoop

YA for summer reading? Come on, take the plunge!

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Okay moms, I am issuing a challenge – pick up a book. But not just any book–pick up a young adult book and give it a read! Summer is here, and I bet you have a vacation or two, or some time at the pool or beach in your future. Kids need summer reading material, why not moms too??

Trust me when I tell you that there is something for everyone in the world of young adult literature, even you : ) We were all teenagers once and sometimes it is fun to reminisce, to go back there to remind yourself what it was like, to see what is ahead for your own kids, or to just be glad you aren’t a teenager anymore! You may have a déjà vu moment or your eyes may be opened to some of the issues kids face today.

Looking for something light? (The Truth About Forever, Along for the Ride) Perhaps something weighty, or something of substance, or possibly award-winning? (The Book Thief, Absolute Brightness, Speak, Story of a Girl) Maybe a little mystery, suspense and romance? (Beautiful Creatures) Want one to make you weep (If I Stay, Before I Fall, The Sky is Everywhere) or one to make you laugh? (The Boyfriend List, Swim the Fly, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder) How about a little girl power? (Fat Cat, The Lonely Hearts Club) And let’s not forget the boys! (Whale Talk, My Most Excellent Year) Possibly some mother-daughter bonding? (Honey, Baby, Sweetheart) More vampires, anyone? (Marked)

These are my suggestions above, or take a few minutes to prowl around the bookstore, or on to see what looks appealing to you – just remember not to read The Scoop as it may spoil the story for you!! Choose something different than what you would normally read and break out of your comfort zone – you just may discover your new favorite book. So, moms, get out there and choose a young adult book just for you for fun summer reading – I dare you!!

-Tiffany, StorySnoop

Tell us about the best YA book you’ve read–we’d love to hear all about it!

How do I love the library? Let me count the ways!

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

I know – a seemingly simple and boring blog topic, but come on. The library rocks these days.

Yesterday, my kids and I left the library with three bags filled with CD’s, DVD’s, magazines and books. I couldn’t believe the librarians were actually letting me leave with all of this stuff. For free? Really? Didn’t they know about my tendency to lose things? As I was walking out the automatic doors, I found myself looking over my shoulder, feeling as though at any moment The Library Police would sound their whistles, call me over to the desk and say,  ”Ma’am, you have a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff in those bags – you can’t just take it. Hand it over.”

It got me thinking about how cool the library is. I know it sounds nerdy, but in this economy, who doesn’t love to save a buck or two? Everyone knows you can borrow books from the library, but my love affair with the library goes much deeper than that. How do I love the library? Let me count the ways:

1. The Summer Reading program makes my kids compete against each other to see how many books they can read in a summer.

2. Kids get their very own library cards.

3. The library has all the latest issues of “American Girl” and “National Geographic Kids” so I didn’t have to renew our subscriptions.

4. You can do homework with your kids argument-free.  Everyone knows you have to be quiet in the library.

5. They have 15 different books on hammerhead sharks. If you happen to have a fan of hammerhead sharks, that comes in quite handy.

6. You can check out audiobooks, which are fun to listen to in the car with your kids. I find that since they are such a captive audience in the car, I can sneak a classic or two in and they don’t notice.

7. My active seven-year-old will sit for an hour with a stack of comic books he cannot really read yet.

8. That new check out machine! You can stack a ton of books on top of each other and “BING”!–the machine checks out all the books for us and prints a receipt. It’s so easy even my kids can do it.

9.With the computers, periodicals, and encyclopedias, is there a better place to work on a high school report?

10. Reading Hour. Sadly, my kids are too old for this now, but when they were younger, they really enjoyed it.

11. Free Wi-Fi.

12. When a book I want is checked out, I put my name on a list. When it comes in, I get an email letting me know they are holding it for me. Lovely.

13. I get email reminders when my books are about to be due (which has saved me big bucks in late fees).

I could go on and on but what about you? What do you love about your library?

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Whatever happened to just an author, a pen and an idea?

Friday, June 11th, 2010

A relative recently sent me a New Yorker article about a company called Alloy Entertainment (who happens to be the company behind some of the biggest teen books we’ve seen in recent years).  It was about how Alloy creates storylines by committee in the boardroom, and then shops for a willing author to fill in the blanks and finish it up.  They then package it up, sell it to a publisher and market it to teens.  Their main goal is apparently to create a franchise or series to establish a built-in teen market to boost the TV or movie deal that may have been decided upon before the book was even written.

Are you kidding me? Am I that naïve? I mean, I know publishing is big business, but I guess I’m a traditionalist who would really like to think that the book on my daughter’s shelf is written by an author who goes by his or her real name.  One who had an idea they just had to write about (maybe even on a typewriter!).  One that doesn’t have the next 12 books in the series already planned out.  Now, all too frequently the books aimed at my child are written by a bunch of marketing execs who get their ideas from what sells in the tabloids—spoon-feeding teens and tweens what somebody in New York has figured out that they will buy, and what they will then pay to see at the movies.

The Alloy article also mentioned that many of the authors work under pseudonyms (so their sell out to big business won’t be traced back to them when they do finally write the next great American novel?) who have carefully-crafted identities created specifically for the purpose of communicating with young fans via blogs and other social media.  Hmmm.  I’ve read a few books by one of these authors whose back-of-the-book bios sound just a little too cute to be true, and I suspect she may be the creation of a company like Alloy.  But in spite of the fact that her books already read like the TV series they are likely to become someday, I still desperately want to believe that she’s a real person and that she had her own ideas that she just couldn’t keep inside.   Every so often, I look for a picture of her on the internet, just to prove to myself that she exists.  But alas, nothing yet…

-Eden, StorySnoop

The Clique, Vampire Diaries, Summer Boys…Alloy escapism? Yes!  Special?  You decide.

Escapist lit as bonding opportunity!

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

So my 15-year old daughter and I are making our way through a very popular teen series together, and I have to admit we are having a blast! The Pretty Little Liars books are not literary masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination, but complete escapist fun, and these books are giving us something to bond over. She texts me when she is shocked by some crazy plot twist. She tells me to hurry up and finish the one I am reading so that she can read it. She reads over my shoulder. We discuss possible suspects and those we consider suspicious, and we can’t wait to solve the big mystery it has taken us seven books to get to!

Now these are definitely not books I would have picked up on my own to read, but not only am I enjoying them for the somewhat trashy guilty pleasure that they are, but they are also giving my daughter and me something to discuss at length, and something to really have fun with together.

We are eagerly awaiting the release of the eighth installment in the series, Wanted, which comes out this week! And much to the delight of teenage girls everywhere, the television series based on the books also begins this week. I know that Tuesday night in my house, my daughter and I will be parked in front of the TV, popcorn in hand, waiting to see the storyline we have been so caught up in come to life!

-Tiffany, StorySnoop

What’s your favorite escapist read?

Sci Fi hater no more!

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

When you’re a Story Snoop, you don’t always get to read the books you want to read.  In a previous life, I wouldn’t touch Science Fiction with a ten-foot pole.  So when The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness made it into my pile, I was ready to hate it.  Space ships, settlers on another planet–forget it.  Nothing like starting out with an open mind.

After about twenty-five pages, I was completely hooked by the story’s unique premise. The characters can hear each other’s thoughts, so absolutely nothing is private.  This goes for animals as well, including the main character’s loyal dog.  As a dog lover, it’s no surprise that I’d get attached to a dog that’s given a voice.  Maybe a little too attached, because things don’t end well for this dog.  There I am, supervising rehearsal for the school play, and sobbing.  Out loud.  And I couldn’t put the book down.

Any book that solicits that kind of emotion from a reader has done it’s job well, regardless of genre.  From now on, I’ll think twice before rejecting a book just because it’s out of my comfort zone.

–Jen, StorySnoop

Check out The Knife of Never Letting Go for yourself. You might be surprised.