During market day, two girls steal apples from Talmadge, a gentle orchardist in eastern Washington. He does not chase them down when he notices they are both pregnant. Soon the girls show up on the edge of his property. He leaves food out for them; they take it but shrink back into the shadows. On a visit to town he sees a poster advertising a reward for the whereabouts of the girls. He tracks down the man who is offering the reward and discovers that the girls were raised in a brothel. When they return, he says nothing about their past and takes them in.
Why I picked it up: I love historical fiction that takes place in Washington state, especially eastern Washington. I also like apples so I was pleased to see a book about a family's life raising a baby and tending apple orchards.
Why I finished it: The orchards were described so beautifully that I could smell apples and apricots. This was really an epic novel that followed Talmadge and his family, which consisted of a friend, Carolyn Middey (the local midwife), the two girls, and a baby, Angeline.
And when a man from the brothel shows up on Talmadge's property, I was terrified about what would happen to the girls.
I'd give it to: Michelle. She's from Chelan and would love the author's vivid description of Lake Chelan. I think she will be interested in Carolyn Middey, who delivers babies and nurses the characters out of their illnesses. Michelle is strong in the same ways; she’s someone I can always count on.
Combining the raw-edge realism of Richard Price with the imaginative flair of Jonathan Lethem, a riveting literary mystery in which the disappearance of a teenaged girl sends shock waves through her waterfront community
“Visitation Street is urban opera writ large. Gritty and magical, filled with mystery, poetry, and pain, Ivy Pochoda’s voice recalls Richard Price, Junot Diaz, and even Alice Sebold, yet it’s indelibly her own.”—Dennis Lehane
During The Calamity, something fell from the sky and gave superpowers to a few people, called Epics. There are no superheroes. Those with major powers divided the country and now rule their fiefdoms.
David and his father were in the bank where a super-powered Epic named Steelheart announced his rule of Chicago. Steelheart then turned the bank and everything in it to steel, including the people. Everyone died except David. He swore vengeance, despite Steelheart’s seeming invulnerability.
After years of learning everything he can about Epics and The Calamity, David joins a band of rebels, The Reckoners. They want to show regular humans that they can fight back.
Why I picked it up: Brandon Sanderson wrote The Way of Kings, the first tome of what has the potential to be the best fantasy series ever.
Why I finished it: The detailed planning necessary to attack Steelheart. David and the Reckoners use some sweet guns, as well as motorcycles with anti-grav boosters that corner like they are on rails. The Reckoners need to find the weakness of each of the minor Epics, deduce the patterns of Steelheart's movements, and eliminate human security forces.
I'd give it to: Ethan, who will love that this combines the magic of superpowers with absolutely realistic, logical, and concise action.
The truth will test you...
For fans of Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games: high fantasy and dystopia meet in this high-stakes tale of a civilization built on lies and the girl who single-handedly brings it down.
When Eva’s twin brother, Eamon, falls to his death just a few months before he is due to participate in The Testing, no one expects Eva to take his place. She’s a Maiden, slated for embroidery classes, curtseys, and soon a prestigious marriage befitting the daughter of an Aerie ruler. But Eva insists on honoring her brother by becoming a Testor. After all, she wouldn’t be the first Maiden to Test, just the first in 150 years
Eva knows the Testing is no dance class. Gallant Testors train for their entire lives to search icy wastelands for Relics: artifacts of the corrupt civilization that existed before The Healing drowned the world. Out in the Boundary Lands, Eva must rely on every moment of the lightning-quick training she received from Lukas—her servant, a Boundary native, and her closest friend now that Eamon is gone.
But there are threats in The Testing beyond what Lukas could have prepared her for. And no one could have imagined the danger Eva unleashes when she discovers a Relic that shakes the Aerie to its core.
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Skiing squirrels invade a small town. They’re just having fun, but they cause a great deal of chaos. And they’re getting thin because they’re forgetting to eat.
Why I picked it up: I felt like that cute squirrel on the cover was daring me to read it.
Why I finished it: The squirrels look totally goofy skiing all over town, so the pages have a lot of life. But this is problematic for the people who live there and the skinny squirrels. The mayor gives Sally Sue Breeze, a local reporter, twenty-four hours to save the squirrels and the town. She tracks down the ski supplier, an unapologetic rabbit who has made a fortune trading tiny skis and poles for nuts.
I'd give it to: Liz, who loves all animals, and would be happy that Sally finds an elegant, kind solution before Stanley Powers, the local pest control guy, can act on his cruel plan for dealing with the disturbing rodents.
This is the third collected volume in the continuing saga of the Eisner Award-winning and critically acclaimed fantasy comic series, Mouse Guard, serving as a prequel to the two previous volumes. Set in 1115, this is the story of how the Guardmouse Celanawe's paw first touched the legendary weapon, the Black Axe. The arrival of distant kin takes Celanawe on an adventure that will carry him across the sea to uncharted waters and lands, all while unraveling the legend of Farrer, the blacksmith who forged the mythic axe. This hardcover collection will include an epilogue, pinups, a 22-page section of maps, guide pages, and cutaways, as well as reprinting the 2010 Free Comic Book Day story as a prologue to the tale.
After getting laid off, Dad buys an old camper van and fixes it up with his son, Jem. In search of new spark plugs, they visit a salvage yard where they find, in a tree, an old twelve-cylinder airplane engine. They add it to the van and, in doing so, give the van much more than extra horsepower. It also gets a personality.
After the family embarks on their round-the-world trip, they discover the car has unexpected abilities. And it also has a secret agenda of its own.
Why I picked it up: I confused Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with The Absent-Minded Professor, probably because of the flying cars. I thought this was going to be a sequel to the Fred MacMurray movie. Instead it’s a sequel to a book Ian Fleming wrote for his son back in the sixties, which inspired the movie of the same name.
Why I finished it: It was silly enough, right off the bat, to hold my attention, which made for a great read-aloud. At the beginning of the book, Dad has big and excellent news. He never has to work again because he’s been sacked! (Mum isn’t sure that’s great news, but Dad is excited.) Just as they’re deciding to drive to Paris, Cairo, El Dorado, the North Pole, and somewhere to visit dinosaurs (that’s what Little Harry wants), Dad’s former employer comes and takes away his company car. But that doesn’t stop Dad, or end his infectiously positive outlook.
I'd give it to: Miss Kathleen, for the JSIS school library. Lucy, a teenager and the oldest child in the book, has painted her room entirely black. Pastels make her ill. But as the family goes on their weird and wonderful journey all over the world, Lucy’s talent for languages becomes clear -- she’s studied several. (JSIS is a bilingual school with tracks in both Spanish and Japanese, and I think Lucy would be a hero to parents, teachers, and students alike.)
A history of cartography, exploration, and discovery from the ancient Greeks to Google Maps, with side trips to Mars, video games, and brain mapping. There are numerous "pocket maps" about individuals, including a number of frauds whose fake maps were treated as gospel for the decades before explorers encountered real coastlines and realized there were no mountain ranges where maps said they’d be.
Why I picked it up: I’ve always loved maps, and I enjoyed Garfield’s book Just My Type, about the history of fonts.
Why I finished it: Maps are nothing without their creators, whether it was the anonymous mapmaker who drew the Vinland map (possibly a fake), or Robert Louis Stevenson’s hand-drawn map of Treasure Island, I loved reading about all the different people who explored our world and then drew where they had been.
I'd give it to: Scott, who as a child drew maps of his own imaginary city, and who would love reading about how the grid map of Manhattan preceded the building of the city.
Raczka presents over twenty poems, each written using only words that can be formed from the letters in the title word. The kid-friendly poems are short and on popular topics like vacations, playgrounds, spaghetti, and earthworms.
Why I picked it up: I am intrigued by different forms of poetry.
Why I finished it: Raczka is, too. At the beginning of the book he says he was inspired by the work of Andrew Russ, who sometimes writes under the name Endwar.
The poems were beautiful in their simplicity and reminded me of haiku. All had a sense of deeper meaning, but none were so obscure as to make them unappealing to kids. And Doniger's ink drawings beautifully wrapped around each poem, but never overwhelmed them.
My favorite was probably "Constellation:”
I can easily see a budding writer being inspired by the combination of word puzzle and writing and going on to make his or her own poems.
I'd give it to: Jay, who is fascinated by codes. He'll love that each poem is presented first with the letters of the poem lined up under the title, to show that Raczka only used the letters in that word to make the poem. The result is oddly spaced, and Jay will have to sound out the words to get the meaning. (You can see examples here.)
Hundreds of years ago on the island of Blessed, King Eirikr had to appease the gods by sacrificing himself. He swore to Merle, his love, that he would live seven more times and that nothing would keep them apart -- he would find Merle in each of those lives.
Over the course of seven lifetimes, Eric and Merle are reunited in very different circumstances. Through the centuries Eric is a famous painter, a vampire, a World War II pilot, an archeologist, a Viking, and more. He travels the world during these lives but is always drawn to the idyllic island where his love continues to live because of the island’s secret, horrible tradition.
Why I picked it up: Marcus Sedgwick said to me once at a library convention, “I'm a twisted bastard, aren’t I?” His books (in particular My Swordhand is Singing and White Crow) are creepy, atmospheric, and entirely different from run-of-the-mill YA books.
Why I finished it: His last book, Revolver, was a Printz honor book, and this one is similarly readable and and complex. The way the seven versions of Eric return to the Island of Blessed is the strength of this book. My curiosity increased about the strange, creepy place and its inhabitants every time Eric returned. The novel is composed of seven short stories that each give details that build on and add to the others. And I’m in awe of Sedgwick’s mastery of time and setting in this book -- he was able to tie everything together without losing track of the narrative thread, all while revealing just enough information about the mystery at the book’s conclusion to keep me reading.
I'd give it to: Rhonda, who consumed the Tiger's Curse series by Colleen Houck and The House of Night series by P.C. Cast. Merle's poignant sadness will be catnip to Rhonda! And she will especially like that Sedgwick works in a ghost story where two siblings are told stories about Merle and Eric's love by a nanny who was not hired by the parents and does not exist.
Richard is spending his last days in a hospice care center. His mother is watchful and exhausted, but temporarily not allowed to come visit because she has the flu. While she is out his uncle shows up and convinces Richard that he still has a bit of time left to really live.
Why I picked it up: I saw this title at the American Libraries Association conference in Seattle and was intrigued by a book about a teenager with cancer with such a negative title.
Why I finished it: Richard is not always the most sympathetic character. On Halloween he lets his uncle wheel him out and take him to a bar. Once there, Richard is swept up in the moment, gets drunk, and gets a blow job from a strange girl despite his growing feelings for Sylvie, another teen in hospice. But this made him seem much more real than so many teens in similar books. I loved how he casually slipped in hints as to how dire his situation actually was, in a way a teen boy would; he wasn’t obsessing over his fate, but bummed he couldn’t share gum with a girl because his teeth had been getting loose.
I'd give it to: My brother Jonathan, who would probably be bummed out by the inevitable ending of this book but would appreciate the crude perspective and the affirming message about savoring life, whatever shape it takes.