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 January, 2011

It’s SuperScoop Friday–read any dystopian lit lately?

Friday, January 28th, 2011

I have noticed a startling pattern in my reading habits lately.  Many of my favorite books fit into the Dystopian Fiction genre.  Who knew?  For those who are unfamiliar with this genre (as I was), the action typically takes place in some future society that is responding to cultural or political conditions that have gone wrong in a major way–climate changes, earthquakes, totalitarian government take-overs, tyrannical leaders… you get the idea, times are tough.  I find this genre particularly compelling because the characters’ responses to these kinds of conditions are complex and fascinating.

Take my lastet obsession, for example.  In The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, the world has been devastated by sun flares, extreme climate changes, and the outbreak of the Flare, a hideous disease that turns people into insane killers as it slowly destroys their brains.  But none of the characters know this because their memories have been erased by a world government organization called WICKED as part of an experiment designed to save humankind.

When the protagonist, Thomas, wakes up in a lightless, rising elevator, the only thing he knows is his name. All of his other memories have been completely wiped out, leaving him disoriented and confused. As the lift grinds to a halt, Thomas is met by a group of teen boys who welcome him to the Glade, an enormous courtyard surrounded by towering stone walls.  None of the Gladers know why they are there or who they were before they arrived, but they do know that order is the key to their survival, and that if they can solve the maze that is beyond the walls, they can finally find their way home.

Soon after Thomas’ arrival, strange things start to happen. First, he survives a night locked in the deadly maze, and then the lift brings the unexpected arrival of the Glade’s first girl. Thomas can’t escape the feeling that these events are somehow linked and that he already has all of the answers he needs to solve the maze, if he can only find a way to unlock his memories.

The story’s intriguing premise and many unanswered questions kept me guessing and the pages turning.  The Glade’s community of teen boys cooperate to form their own highly functioning society, without falling into a Lord of the Flies scenario.  Despite dire circumstances imposed by the Glade’s creators, these boys generally remain united.  You can’t help but root for Thomas and the other boys while being horrified by the creators of this outrageous experiment.

The second installment in the trilogy, The Scorch Trials, is just as compelling as its predecessor.  Without giving away any of the details, suffice it to say that the Maze is just the beginning.

I am breathless with anticipation for the final installment in the trilogy, but I had better brace myself for a long wait as The Scorch Trials was just released last October.  In the meantime, I’m sure I can keep myself busy with some other Dystopian gems.

Calling all Dystopian Fiction fans.  What draws you to this genre?  Which books are must-reads?

-Jen, StorySnoop

Tiff is FIRED UP for 2011!

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

In the world of YA fiction, there are some hot new releases on the horizon! Some new-on-the-scene authors released bestselling first novels in 2010 and have follow-ups coming out, some popular series have new installments and some tried and true, beloved authors have new books locked and loaded and ready for us. This is only a smattering of what is to come, but here are a few of the books I am really looking forward to getting my hands on!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver: To be released February 1st, this is a highly anticipated book! Before I Fall was such a big hit and many fans are dying to see what she follows it up with. I would probably read anything she wrote based on the merit of Before I Fall, and I am waiting with baited breath for this one!

Shimmer by Alyson Noel: Due out in March, this offshoot of the Immortals series is another story featuring Riley, who exists as a ghost in the Here and Now. Riley is a fun and enchanting character, and this story has to do with a girl who was murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. I surmise that Riley will have to help this character deal with past issues in order to find peace in the afterlife. Should be interesting!

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray: Following up her Printz award-winning Going Bovine, Libba introduces a group of beauty queens, whose plane crashes, leaving them stranded on a desert island. I can only imagine how bizarre, sarcastic and funny this will be!

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen:  Ah, Sarah Dessen. LOVE her! I have read every one of her books, and while I have my personal favorites, I have thoroughly enjoyed everything she has written. A favorite among teen girls, I know two 16 year olds who are eagerly anticipating the release of this book! They also want her to write faster : )

There were books that I read last year that are so dear to my heart and I love that somewhere in the new releases this year I will find a few others that I can cherish just as much and recommend just as highly. Here’s to books, here’s to talented writers, and here’s to 2011!

What are you going to read this year?

-Tiffany, StorySnoop

And more and more and more to be read!

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

I hope there is still room on your reading list!  We announced many of the ALA’s 2011 book award winners in our last blog post . Here is Part 2!

Last week we announced the winners of the Newbery and the Printz award. This week we thought we would share the Honor Books with you, as well. These books are definitely worth mentioning – and reading! Click the links for titles we’ve reviewed here on StorySnoops.com. Here they are:

2011 Newbery Award Honor books:

  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

2011 Printz Award Honor books:

———————————————————————————————–

Now onto the rest of the awards!

Alex Award (honors the ten best adult books that appeal to teen audiences)

Winners:

  • The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson
  • Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray
  • Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
  • The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
  • The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender
  • The Radleys by Matt Haig
  • The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel by Alden Bell
  • Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
  • The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel by Helen Grant

2011 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (Fiction)

Winners:

  • This is Why You’re Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks by Jessica Amason and Richard Blakeley
  • Warriors Versus Warriors: Ten Fighters, Five Battles, ONE WINNER by Brereton, Catherine, Philip Steele, and Hannah Wilson
  • Rules of Attraction: A Perfect Chemistry Novel by Simone Elkeles
  • Sex: A Book for Teens: An Uncensored Guide to Your Body, Sex and Safety by Nikol Hasler
  • The D.U.F.F. (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger
  • Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and Randy DuBurke.
  • Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
  • Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
  • Rikers High by Paul Volponi
  • The Tattoo Chronicles by Kat Von D with Sandra Bark

2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults

Winners:

2011 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Winners:

  • The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane
  • Green Monk by Brandon Dayton
  • Saturn Apartments V. 1 by Hisae Iwaoka
  • Brain Camp by Susan Kim, et. al.
  • Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and Randy Duburke.
  • Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities by Jason Shiga
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel
  • Set to Sea by Drew Weing

Congrats to all of these winners!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Quality reads? Oh yeah!

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Attention everyone–the 2011 American Library Association (ALA) book awards have just been announced!

There were tons of books named this year, so this will be a two-part blog. For brevity’s sake, we are reporting the winners of books that apply to the StorySnoops site: fiction for kids aged 9-18.

Here’s the breakdown of the week’s winners:

Margaret A. Edwards Award (honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature)

Winner: Terry Pratchett.

Coretta Scott King Award (honors African American authors for outstanding inspirational and educationalcontributions)

Winner:  One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Newbery Award (honors the author of the most distinguished book for children)

Winner: Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool.

Michael L. Printz Award (for literary excellence in young adult literature)

Winner:  Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Scott O’Dell Award (for literary excellence in historical fiction)

Winner: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Pura Belpré Award (honor given to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for

children and youth)

Winner: The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan

Schneider Family Book Award (for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience)

Middle Grade Winner: After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

Teen Winner: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

William C. Morris Award (honors a book written by a first-time author for young adults)

Winner: The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award (honors GLBT literature)

Winner:  Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

We are excited to hear that some of our favorites have been recognized, and to move the others to the top of our “tobe read pile”.

Congratulations to the winners!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Nightstand Round Up, v.2

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I just said goodnight to my kids and had a warm fuzzy moment as I left their rooms and saw them each tucked in, with a bedside light on, absorbed in a book.  And then I got to my room and saw my husband all tucked in, with his bedside light on, also absorbed in a book.   It seems that, for tonight at least, the proverbial apple has fallen, and indeed landed, not far from the tree!

It also seemed like a good time for another nightstand roundup to check in on what everyone is reading.

My thirteen year old voracious reader has discovered The Hunger Games.  I haven’t read the trilogy, but I’ve heard all about the books from Jen, and wish I had. My daughter received them as a Christmas gift from her grandmother, and is deep into Mockingjay already.  She is really sad that the return to school and homework has cramped her style somewhat, and she hasn’t had as much free reading time as she’d like.  I think it took her a day and a half to finish The Hunger Games, about two and a half to finish Catching Fire, and now with school in session, Mockingjay might actually be with us for the rest of the week, depending on how much math homework she has!

My ten year old multi-tasking reluctant reader (in spite of the fact that getting him to read is like pulling teeth at times, he always seems to have at least two books in progress at any given moment) has fallen under the spell of James Patterson (like so many of his family members before him!) and is loving Maximum Ride.  I thought he might have trouble absorbing the plot because as far as I can tell, he reads in only ten minute spurts once a day or so, but when I asked what was happening in his book, I got more detail than I knew what to do with.  Halleluja!  He apparently also has Alex Rider in progress at the moment, but the fact that I happened to stumble across our book in the Lost and Found at school today makes me think he needs to reacquaint himself a little bit!  I’m glad it was Alex he had in hand tonight at bedtime.

And I’m very excited to report that I have a new author on my nightstand tonight. Stephanie Barden, who also happens to be a friend from way back in the day, is taking her first plunge into the world of children’s literature and has written a book called Cinderella Smith, aimed at the elementary set.  I started it last night and am excited to dive back in tonight.  Cinderella is so named not for her evil stepsisters or her bossy stepmother (she has none), but rather for her propensity to lose shoes (amen sister—I can relate already).  So far, I’ve met some bossy-boots girls at Cinderella’s school, and I’m looking forward to finding out who’s going to be chosen as the Pumpkin Blossom Fairy at the dance recital.  Stephanie has teamed up with illustrator Diane Goode and publisher HarperCollins—that is some exciting stuff for a first-timer, and I wish her mad success!  I am a fan already.  Stay tuned!

What’s on your nightstand these days?

-Eden, StorySnoop

Reluctant Reader Redux

Friday, January 7th, 2011

It’s me again.  The one with the reluctant reader who thought she had it all figured out.  On the road to a lifetime of reading bliss?  Not so much.  In my house, that road is a bumpy one because having a reluctant reader is an on-going challenge.  It’s not like they fall in love with a book and then, presto, they love all books.  It’s just not that easy.  At least not when it comes to my eleven-year-old son.  Maybe it’s because vacation just ended.  Or maybe it’s because it’s him.  But my reluctant reader needs a kick start again.

Step One — The Incentive Plan (or, How to be a Bad Mommy)

My son LOVES video games.  He loves them even more than he loves money, which says a lot.  Typically, he is not allowed to play video games during the week.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  The plan is to “earn” gaming time with reading time.  One minute with a book equals one minute of gaming.  And so it goes.  This is NOT one of my finest parenting moments, but it does seem to be working.

Step Two — The Right Books

It seems fairly simple.  To keep my son engaged, I have to keep feeding him winners so that he wants to keep reading.  But this doesn’t always work in the traditional way.  When your mom says, “Here’s a book I think you’d like,” it can be the kiss of death.  So I just had to get sneaky.

A few weeks ago we went on a bit of a road trip to visit an old friend.  If you’re a Snoop, that’s an easy way to kill two birds with one stone — yeah for books on CD!  I popped in Scorpia and enjoyed the ride while my two kids were wired to their ipods in the back seat.  But by the second hour, they had both abandoned their electronics and were listening to the story.

A week later, my son came home from the library carrying a copy of the very same book.  It seems that the few bits he heard had hooked him enough to overlook the book’s length — 388 pages.  This is a guy who has been known to make selections based on the number of pages and size of the font!  For now, he’s absorbed in the story and reading happily.  What more could I ask for?

Step Three — Repeat

I should know by now that this particular bit of history repeats itself.  When it does, I’ll be ready.  I may need to revisit the incentive plan, but I do know where to find just the right book. :–)

-Jen, StorySnoop

To E-Read or Not To E-Read–this is the question!

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I’d call myself an early adopter on most things fun and techie. I love my iPhone, I love my Flip. We have an iPad and I’m a huge fan of social networking. But there is one technical wonder I’ve been stubbornly resisting, and that is the E-Reader.

Why? I mean, I read – it’s what I do. Seems like the perfect gadget for me. But oh, how I LOVE books. Actual tangible books. I love to hold them in my hand, feel the weight of them, dog-ear the corners – I  even love the smell of them. I love to browse through a book store and flip through books with great covers. Honestly, and this makes me the biggest geek, the book store is probably my favorite place to hang out. If I were to get an e-reader, I’d be cheating on my book store and my beloved library!

It seems like everyday there is a new article about another book store closing down, and about how the growing popularity of e-readers is to blame. I’ve been reading more and more about children using e-readers at school. And the number one gift to give this season is the iPad. Reading on electronics seems to be the wave of the future.

I’ll admit, those Kindle commercials are tempting.  They were made to make book lovers swoon. They are just trying to woo me, I remind myself. And they are so expensive!

It would feel – unnatural – to hold a Kindle in my lap on the beach. But admittedly,  I could do without packing the five heavy books in my suitcase.

But now, they’ve dropped the price to $139.

That’s got me thinking. It sure would be cool to have a slick gadget thingy that I can keep in my purse and pull out anytime, anywhere, to read. That’s very appealing, especially given the amount I read. I would still do the bulk of my reading with the library, so that is not really cheating right?

As for the bookstore, well, I am just too attached to give up that obsession. But, what would I buy there? Gifts? In truth, if I read a book that I really love on a Kindle, I might just buy a hardcopy of it at a book store – just to have it. I know that’s wacky, but obsessions aren’t supposed to make sense.

So I guess I will say that I am undecided on this topic. Never say never, right?  As a matter of fact…Santa actually brought me one this Christmas, so I’ll keep you posted.

-Shannon, StorySnoop