Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review - mockingbird (mok'ing-bûrd)

Katherine Erskine's book mockingbird (mok'ing-bûrd) is another Georgia Book Award Nominee for 2011-2012. mockingbird (mok'ing-bûrd) is also the 2010 National Book Award Winner in the Young People's Literature category.

Like Melody in Out of My Mind Caitlin is not like all the other kids. Caitlin is a motherless girl with Asperger's syndrome. Her brother (who was a significant bridge to the world for Caitlin) has just been killed in a horrific tragedy. Caitlin and her Dad are left to deal with unfathomable grief and sadness with very little way to communicate effectively with each other.

Because the story is told from Caitlin's perspective, we get a glimpse of what it must be like to view the world in a very literal way. She tries hard to "get it," but most often fails. She has no capacity to read facial expressions or understand nuanced conversation. She puzzles over common expressions like "keep your pants on." And while some of the misunderstandings provide comic relief, the end result is that Caitlin can't make friends. And while her isolation is comfortable to her, she longs for the connection she had with Devon.

This book is about how Caitlin persistently pursues "closure" -- the word everyone uses to describe what she and the town needs. I don't think I'm giving away too much to say that Caitlin's success in finding closure is both reassuring and moving. Don't be surprised if you need to finish this book with some tissues!

mockingbird (mok'ing-bûrd) by Kathryn Erskine is appropriate for kids 10 and up.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Georgia Book Award Nominees Are A Great Bet!

Each year books are nominated for the Georgia Book Awards by teachers and media specialists from the state of Georgia. The award is given in two categories – picture books and middle grade novels. The final list of 20 nominees are selected by a committee of teachers and media specialists (chaired by a member of the University of Georgia faculty from the Department of Language and Literacy Education). 
(information from the Georgia Book Awards Website)

Mimi Mayberry-White, media specialist at Glynn Middle School says,
 "We want our students to enjoy reading and to be lifelong readers – many of these books will be the ones that turn them on to reading. At GMS, we can’t keep the Georgia Book Award Nominees on the shelf!
These book nominees are one of my first stops when looking for books that will  engage my girl's book club. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is one of this year's nominees and an easy favorite for taking the prize. In March, kids get to vote and this beginning novel of the trilogy is a big favorite, plus the movie will be coming out at the same time (March 23).

But since most teens and preteens may have already read The Hunger Games, the list has lots of great choices. The first book from the list that my daughter and I both read this fall was Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. Melody is eleven years old and has never spoken a word. Chapter 2 opens with this exposition.
"I can't talk, I can't walk. I can't feed myself or take myself to the bathroom. Big bummer."
The reader gets pulled into Melody's life, just as she finally has the opportunity to communicate with the outside world through a device that can talk for her. This is no sappy idealized story about a girl with cerebral palsy. It is a realistic look at how "different" children are treated and how it feels to be one. Melody is a character that will stick with you and I'm pretty sure you will be glad you took the time to step into her mind!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spencer Spider Spins Spinach Over Spaghetti

Written by Mattie Brown
Illustrated by Ed Hose

Brunswick is abuzz (or perhaps just a bit tangled in a web) over Spencer Spider Spins Spinach Over Spaghetti. Our very own Ed Hose has teamed up with storyteller Mattie Brown to create a wonderfully engaging (definitely meant to be read aloud) picture book for children. The alliterative fun starts with the title (try saying it several times quickly) and continues throughout the book spinning a tale (sorry folks!) about an unlikely friendship between a young spider and fly. As always, Ed's illustrations are lush and imaginative.

Marcia has 40 copies in stock and I'm predicting they'll all be gone (or at the very least, spoken for) before the signing at November's First Friday Event (November 4th in case you don't have your calendar handy!) Of course, there are plenty more books, so Marcia won't be running out, but we are hoping to get to place 2nd and 3rd orders!

This book (especially once it's been signed) will make a wonderful Christmas present for children and grandchildren alike. Have you seen Spencer Spider Spins Spinach Over Spaghetti? How many copies do you want?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review - Ghost on Black Mountain

Each month we write a review of the third Tuesday's book club selection and we post it on the Monday following the third Tuesday. Sounds a little complicated? Well, I'm really throwing a wrench in the works today, because our third Tuesday book club met on first Friday this month to accommodate a special visitor -- the author!

Ann Hite was in town researching one her next books and promoting Ghost on Black Mountain, a novel set in the North Carolina Smokies and Darien, Georgia. The depression-era ghost story is told in the voices of five interconnected women. Nellie Pritchard begins the tale, and four other women fill in the details and bring the story to its conclusion in the 1960's. 

Hite opened the discussion with reading a moving portion of Josie's (Nellie Pritchard's mother) story. Not just touching, the passage is emblematic of Hite's writing process. The beautiful passage details the story of Josie preparing her mother's body for burial. Josie begins saying, "I'd watched Mama prepare my granny's body. I knew what to do. The women in the family cared for the dead." 

As a "blank page" writer, Hite literally begins with a blank page, not an outline, often writing in long hand. Her characters speak to her and she writes it down. She is as unsure where the story will end as the reader while she is writing. The passage of Josie tenderly washing her mother's body for burial was an example of something she still can't believe that she actually wrote! Ann says that one of the reason she writes is to find out the ending of the stories that her characters are telling her.

The five narrators tell their story with convincing voices. And while this book is a ghost story, at it's heart, it is the story of five women, their choices and the consequences of those choices. For me, that is what made it interesting.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Now in Paperback - October 2011

At Home
A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson
(Anchor, 9780767919395, $15.95)
“This literary horn-of-plenty is brimming with an astonishing amount of information, all relayed with Bryson’s trademark clarity and humor. To read this is to embark on a wonderfully meandering journey through history, sociology, science, and more. The thread that connects it all is Bryson’s own house. He guides us through his home, a charming former church rectory in a small English village. Enjoy the tour!”
—Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, MA Bird Cloud

The Cailiffs of Baghdad, GeorgiaA Novel, by Mary Helen Stefaniak
(W.W. Norton, 9780393341133, $15.95)
”Eleven-year-old Gladys Cailiff tells the story of the teacher that turned her small town upside down. In 1938, Grace Spivey came to town as a WPA hired teacher. She believed in field trips, costumes, and reading aloud from The Thousand Nights and a Night. But the real trouble started when she decided to revive the annual town festival. Great storytelling is alive! The reader will delight in the characters (and the camels) in this tale of the depression era South.”
—Barbara Theroux, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT

by Philip Roth
(Vintage, 9780307475008, $15)
“This is a fiercely passionate, devastating book on the themes of hubris and retributive justice set in an elegiac summer camp during an unchecked polio epidemic in the mid 1940s. Roth has done nothing less than create an authentic American counterpart to Greek tragedy. It’s a disturbing, unnerving book that keeps you in an increasingly fearful nervous tension. This is Roth in top form.”
—Russ Barker, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices,
by Noah Feldman
(Twelve, 9780446699280, $16.99)
”Franklin Roosevelt appointed the most Supreme Court justices of any president, but four—Hugo Black, William Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert Jackson—towered above the rest. The history of the judges and the development of their constitutional philosophies is also the story of social change in the United States during the middle of the 20th century, which culminated in the monumental Brown vs. Board of Education decision.”
—Bill Cusumano, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI

A Secret Kept
by Tatiana de Rosnay
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 9780312553494, $14.99) ”In this evocative novel by the author of the bestselling Sarah’s Key, Parisian siblings Melanie and Antoine have grown up damaged by their mother’s premature death. Melanie is driving Antoine from a visit to the seaside where they had shared their mother’s final summer, when, just as she’s about to reveal to her brother a recovered memory from her childhood, she loses  control of the car. A story of shocking family secrets and how childhood memories can continue to have effect far into adulthood, this is a haunting, yet hopeful read.”
—Karen Vail, Titcomb’s Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA