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Posts from April 2007

Sunday Afternoon Visits: April 15

I had a bit of trouble keeping up with the blogs this week because I was in Baltimore seeing friends (including the beautiful one-month-old Baby G), and then in Dallas on business. I did have Thursday afternoon free in Dallas, but it was a beautiful day, and I chose to spend it visiting bookstores and going for a walk.

It turned out to be good that I relaxed on Thursday afternoon, because Friday was a very long day. I taught a class (on cycle time improvement for semiconductor factories) all day, and then I faced flying out of DFW while there was a tornado, hail, and lightning storm passing by. After a four hour delay that including boarding the plane, then rushing off to get out of the path of the tornado, boarding again and sitting until the plane could be inspected for hail damage, and then being told that the flight (and all other flights to San Jose) was cancelled, and then learning that it was reinstated, I finally made it home at midnight. Yesterday I pretty much spend recovering, and lying on the couch with some sort of delayed stress headache. But there is no place like home!

And now, I do have a few tidbits for you from around the Kidlitosphere.

  • Julius Lester has a whole series going at A Commonplace Book in which people have written him to tell him about the books that changed their lives. He's published seven so far, and I believe that they'll continue. I learned about this from Monica Edinger, whose "book that changed your life" was Charlotte's Web.
  • Also generating some responses is a request by Gina from AmoxCalli for guest reviewers of classic children's books. I read about this first at Tea Cozy, and also at Farm School. I'll be watching the classic reviews with interest. Gina is starting with Little Women.
  • I enjoyed this post at book, book, book about books that have "the thump factor", defined as "a perfect or near-perfect balance of emotional plot and action plot". There's a discussion of some books that bookbk thinks do and do not have thump, with other suggestions in the comments.
  • I'm tardy in mentioning this, but there is a new interview at the Cybils site. Kris Bordessa of Paradise Found interviews Sylvia Long, author of non-fiction picture book winner An Egg is Quiet.
  • I don't usually highlight individual reviews (because there are so many out there), but I did want to bring to your attention David Elzey's review of Life As We Knew It (at the excelsior file). As I did previously, David speculates on "why some of us (especially those of us in Gen X) like reading about Earth shattering events that provoke those corners of our brains to ask "What would I do in that situation?""
  • The Lectitans question of the week is "What Makes Good Historical Fiction?" Liz B. shares her thoughts on this at Tea Cozy. Becky also responds at Becky's Book Reviews.
  • Via Mary Lee at A Year of Reading, the cutest baby picture ever (at least it will seem so to fans of children's books). Congratulations to Stephanie at Children's Literature Book Club.
  • Having just reviewed Cecil Castellucci's Boy Proof, I was entertained by Alkelda's Saints and Spinners post about Wilgefortis, "the patron saint of women who wish to avoid arranged marriages ... Wilgefortis prayed to God to remove her conventional good looks in order to repel her prospective husband." She ended up with a beard, and used that to repel suitors. Seems a bit of a desperate solution, but whatever works, I guess...
  • Members of the Kidlitosphere are getting some mainstream press exposure. Betsy Bird (Fuse #8) has a picture book review column at Newsday (via Big A little a's weekend review roundup), and Anne Boles Levy (Book Buds) has a book review in the L. A. Times. Yay, Anne and Betsy!
  • The endlessly creative Lisa Yee has a new contest going. She challenges readers to write an entire story in 25 letters (or numbers) or fewer. I think that people used to text messaging shortcuts will have an advantage. 
  • Via Robin Brande (who is rapidly becoming one of my most kindred-spirit bloggers), I read an interesting post by best-selling thriller author Tess Gerritsen about whether storytellers are born or made. To me, the most telling part of the discussion was Tess's statement: "I do know that early childhood experiences are important. If your parents read to you, or tell you stories, or if you read a lot of books, you will integrate the rules of good story structure without even realizing it." She also strongly suggests that people who want to be writers have to be readers also (despite the disagreement by at least one of her commenters on this point). I also liked this comment on the subject by Robin (at her own site), "I just don’t get why a writer wouldn’t want to (read) anyway. I understand feeling like you don’t have time to read everything you want to (I’m sure a lot of us are raising our hands on that one) or even feeling guilty about reading someone else’s work when you should be writing your own, but to not want to read? Are you kidding me? That’s like a surfer saying he doesn’t really care for the water." Good stuff!
  • And last, but not least, don't forget to make your submission to the next carnival of children's literature. Submissions are due this Thursday! You can email me, or use the form at the carnival site.

And I'm sure there are things that I missed, but I simply must get outside for a walk. I hope that everyone has a Happy Patriot's Day tomorrow (I won't have the day off myself, but having grown up in Lexington, MA, I have a special fondness for the holiday).

Disco Mermaids Contest

The Disco Mermaids are sponsoring a new 3-2-1 contest, in which three Disco Mermaids, two literary agents, and one editor are giving away prizes, including the first-ever signed ARC of Jay's upcoming book (Thirteen Reasons Why). All you have to do is make your suggestions for celebrity children's books - the funnier the better. There are already a ton of hilarious suggestions in the comments. I don't know how they'll ever be able to choose a winner. But if you're interested, you'd better hurry, because submissions are due by Tuesday, April 17th. 

The Pink Refrigerator: Tim Egan

Tim Egan's The Pink Refrigerator is a profound statement wrapped in a quirky and kid-friendly picture book. I've read it three times already, and I'm not even close to being tired of it. Dodsworth the mouse is in a bit of a rut. Every morning he visits the junkyard, where he scrounges for items to sell in his thrift shop. He makes a living from his thrift shop, but it doesn't keep him very busy, and he spends most of his time sitting around watching TV.

One day Dodsworth notices an old pink refrigerator in the junkyard. The refrigerator has a note on it that says "Make pictures". Opening up the fridge, he finds "a beautiful assortment of paints and brushes and a little red sketchbook." Initially, he takes the items so that he can sell them, but something in the note compels him to try them out instead. Dodsworth paints his first picture. "It was of the ocean, and even though he'd never actually seen an ocean in real life, it turned out pretty good." (I like that this isn't qualified - he doesn't just think that it's pretty good. It is pretty good.)

Visiting the junkyard over the next several days, Dodsworth finds each day a different note on the refrigerator and a different set of items inside. He learns that there are other interesting ways to spend time besides watching television (like reading, cooking, gardening, etc.). By the end of the book, Dodsworth is a changed mouse, with a much broader perspective.

The message of The Pink Refrigerator is clear. Life is more interesting if you get out of your own rut and try new things. What saves the message from being heavy-handed is Dodsworth's demeanor, ranging from suspicious to enthusiastic to disappointed (when the refrigerator stops suggesting new projects). In the end, he slowly figures out the refrigerator's message for himself, and decides to take action on his own terms. The decision doesn't feel forced upon him, and won't feel forced upon the reader, either.

The illustrations are ink and watercolor, and feature many cozy background details to please the reader. I was a bit disturbed to see books on the ground at the junkyard, but I loved Dodsworth's cluttered, multi-room thrift shop and the portrayal of a junkyard as a place filled with treasure waiting to be found. I also liked the LoType font, finding it easy to read, but just a little bit ornate. I thought that it matched the thrift shop atmosphere. The muted colors also seemed fitting for a book set in a thrift shop and a junkyard.

The Pink Refrigerator made me want to step outside of my own ruts, and try something new. I usually give away picture books to friends after I've reviewed them. But this one I can't bear to part with. It's a keeper. I think that the key for me, what makes me want to keep it, is Dodsworth's evolution from one who watches casually to one who marvels to one who takes action. And I like the illustrations, especially the pink refrigerator itself. Recommended for children and adults.

Book: The Pink Refrigerator
Author: Tim Egan
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Original Publication Date: April 2007
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Reading and More Reading

I'm traveling this week, and have only the tiniest bit of time tonight. But I did have to take a minute to tell you about a couple of things:

Ollie the Stomper: Olivier Dunrea

Ollie the Stomper is a follow-up to Olivier Dunrea's Gossie and Gertie series for baby/preschool readers. Ollie is the younger brother to the older goslings. And like younger brothers everywhere, he follows the bigger kids around. You see, "Gossie wears bright red boots" and "Gertie wears bright blue boots."

Ollie stomps around after them, wanting boots, too, as the bigger kids have adventures (very gentle adventures, like jumping over a puddle, or hiding in a pumpkin patch). Finally Ollie takes a stand, standing up on an overturned bucket and demanding: "I want boots!" Gossie and Gertie each give him a boot, though he learns that boots may not be as desirable as he had previously expected.

This story is a natural as a board book edition. Each page has a short, five or six word sentence and a self-contained picture. For much of the book, Ollie is on the left-hand page, while Gossie and Gertie are on the right-hand page, with parallel actions and word choices (Ollie stomps, Gossie and Gertie romp, for example). The pictures of Ollie are priceless. Even though his face is mostly beak, Dunrea is able to convey a range of emotions through Ollie's body language, eyes, and spiky feathers.

This book is sure to please preschoolers who like to stomp, tromp, and romp, and jump over puddles. And who doesn't love goslings? The board book edition will stand up to the many retellings that are likely to be requested.

Book: Ollie the Stomper
Author: Olivier Dunrea
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Original Publication Date: April 2007 (for board book edition, originally published in 2003)
Pages: 16
Age Range: Baby/pre-school
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Boy Proof: Cecil Castellucci

I'd been hearing good things about Cecil Castellucci's Boy Proof for quite some time, and noticed it recently on Boy Proof is another book that kept me out walking longer than I would have otherwise, because I wanted to know what would happen next (though in a different sort of way than with Life As We Knew It).

Boy Proof is the story of high school senior Victoria Jurgen, who prefers to be called "Egg." Victoria/Egg is an unabashed geek, and self-selected social outcast. She dresses in a long white cloak and shaves her head, in homage to her favorite movie character, Egg from the science fiction adventure Terminal Earth. She sits by herself at lunchtime and reads. Her only school participation is in the Science Fiction club and as the photographer for the school paper. She's very bright, and accustomed to doing well in school, with a particular interest in World History, but she's not very good with people.

Egg considers herself "Boy Proof". She deliberately makes herself unattractive, wearing baggy clothing and no make-up, and genuinely believes herself to be invisible. Imagine her surprise when a new student, the handsome and popular Max Carter, starts to pay attention to her. She resists his friendship, but is eventually drawn in by the things that they have in common. The two soon share a bond, but things are complicated by Max's decision to date another, more conventional, girl.

I love Egg. She's smart, talented, and funny, but she's also insecure, and sometimes downright mean to other people. I cringed for her at times, and wanted to scold her at others (she's particularly harsh to a perfectly nice girl from the Science Fiction club who just wants to be her friend, and to her mother). But through it all, I identified with her, and wanted her to succeed.

The audio version of Boy Proof is excellent. The narrator, Carine Montbertrand, perfectly captures Egg's combination of prickliness and vulnerability. She also does a nice job with the other voices, rendering them remarkably distinct.

Egg is refreshingly unique, and impossible to forget. I especially like the fact that she's not conventional, and not afraid to go her own way, despite the pressures of high school. I think that anyone who has ever felt that sense of otherness while in school will be able to relate to Egg on one level or another. I was sorry to see the book end, because I would have liked to spend more time with Egg (though Castellucci certainly wraps things up in a satisfying manner). Highly recommended for kids 13 and up, especially girls and/or sci-fi buffs.

Book: Boy Proof
Author: Cecil Castellucci (see also Egg's page)
Narrator: Carine Montbertrand
Publisher: Candlewick
Original Publication Date: February 2005
Pages: 208 (though I listened to the audio version)
Age Range: 13 and up
Source of Book: Downloaded from
Other Blog Reviews: bookshelves of doom, Chicken Spaghetti, Book Girl, Swarm of Beasts, Kiddie Lit, What's the Rumpus?

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat: Gail Gauthier

It's often difficult to find interesting books for early readers. Fortunately, Gail Gauthier is up to the task with her upcoming title: A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat. Brandon, who seems to be about 8 or 9, is forced to spend every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon at Hannah's house. And Hannah, who reads many books, is always dragging Brandon into make-believe adventures.

Because Hannah is pretty bossy, Brandon is usually relegated to roles like the assistant pirate who always mops the deck, or the ambulance driver, or the hospital patient. Particularly galling is the fact that Hannah's cat often gets better parts. "Buttercup is big and fat and orange with runny red eyes. He's missing a part of one ear and the tip of his tail. Sometimes he smells just awful." And yet, Buttercup gets to be the mountain lion, the bandit, the plant-eating monster cat. It's enough to make any boy frustrated. Then Hannah, Brandon, and Buttercup start facing real adventures when a crazed Chihuahua with a doting mistress moves in next door.

This book is quite entertaining. Gail Gauthier has a knack for writing laugh out loud funny - a gift that's hard to come by. Hannah reminds me a little bit of a young Anne Shirley (albeit a slightly more bossy one). Hannah is almost entirely ruled by her imagination, seeing villains around every corner, and converting tree limbs into helicopters. And yet she can be practical when necessary, too. Here's an example, after Hannah tells Brandon to make a torch (to scare off a "wolf").

"We're not supposed to use matches, Hannah. How are we supposed to make a torch?" I asked.

"Out of yellow and red colored paper, of course," she said. "What's wrong with you? We can't have real torches in the house. We'd burn the place down." (Chapter 6)

As for Brandon, his wry voice reminds me a bit of Kyle's voice from Happy Kid, except younger (and this I consider a compliment, because I loved Kyle). Brandon is exasperated by Hannah's games, but he's also pulled in by them, unable to resist the excitement. Here's Brandon, early in the book:

The perfect plan would have been for me to go to Sam Clark's house. His family has a big-screen TV that they keep on all the time. Plus Sam is a boy and I am a boy. Anyone can see that I should be at Sam's house three times a week. But Mom wouldn't even ask Sam's mother if I could stay there. Even though I told her about the big-screen TV.

Instead, I'm stuck with Hannah. (Chapter 1)

And here he is later in the book, interacting with Hannah:

"And we'll need a shovel so we can bury our treasure," she added. "You'll find one in the garage."

"I guess I have to dig the hole, too, huh?" I said when I got back from my errand.

"I'm the captain," Hannah reminded me. "Captains never bury treasure themselves. They tell someone else to do it. Besides, you love digging holes."

That's true. (Chapter 8)

A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat will be a fun treat for boys and girls new to chapter books. There are illustrations every six or seven pages, some realistic, others depicting whatever imaginary game is afoot. There is plenty of dialog to break up the text. Some of the chapters feature cliffhangers to keep kids reading, while others allow some closure for the reader before a break.

The dynamic between the two kids is fun and believable (though some may be bothered by Brandon giving in to Hannah most of the time). The pictures help, making it clear that Hannah is bigger than Brandon. There's almost a big sister/younger brother dynamic, minus the hero worship. A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat will be a welcome addition to the libraries of new readers.

Book: A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat
Author: Gail Gauthier
Illustrator: Joe Cepeda
Publisher: G. P. Putnam and Sons
Original Publication Date: June 2007
Pages: 96
Age Range: 5-8
Source of Book: Advanced proof from the author
Other Blog Reviews: Tea Cozy

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Speak: Laurie Halse Anderson

I know that I'm the last person in the world to read this book, which was published in 1999. But I finally got around to reading Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. And wow! What an amazing book. Speak is narrated in the first person by Melinda, during her first year of high school. Formerly reasonably popular, Melinda has experiences a trauma over the summer. The exact nature of the trauma is revealed later in the book, but it's nature is fairly clear from the beginning. She also called the police on the last party of the summer, leading to her social ostracism as school starts.

Speak is the story of a girl who goes through her first year of high school depressed and barely speaking to anyone. It's necessary for the story to be told in first person, because it would be difficult to get a feel for Melinda from the face that she shows the world. She gets into trouble in school, doesn't study, and skips class to hide out in an abandoned janitor's closet. The only place she finds any solace is in art class, where an empathetic teacher shows her how to share her feeling through art. Gradually, she does get start to recover, and even to reach out to help someone else.

Although this book is about the aftermath of sexual assault, it will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered from long-term depression. The portrayal of Melinda's depression is deep and accurate. For that matter, anyone who ever suffered from issues of popularity or insecurity while in high school (and isn't that pretty much everyone?) will be able to identify with Melinda. Here are two examples:

"I have this halfway place, a rest stop on the road to sleep, where I can stay for hours. I don't even need to close my eyes, just stay safe under the covers and breathe." (page 16)

"Maybe I'll be an artist if I grow up." (page 78)

Speak is an important book because it gives voice to girls who have been raped, letting them know that they aren't alone, and that their feelings are valid. It's also an important book for teen boys. According to the author (in a special section at the end of the book, and also when I heard her talk recently at Kepler's Books), many teen boys have come up to her after reading the book and asked, genuinely, "why Melinda was so upset about being raped." Her theory is that "many young men are not being taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman." If Speak can help them to understand, even a little bit, I think that high schools and college campuses will be safer places.

Despite all of this, Speak is not what I call a "message book", one that exists to make some lofty point. Melinda is a strong character in her own right, with a wry, often amusing voice. Laurie Halse Anderson's portrayal of high school is perfectly, sometimes painfully, accurate. And there are funny parts to lighten the mood, too. And Anderson's writing is top-notch. She's a master of craft. Here are a few examples of the lighter side of Melinda's musings:

"If she'd cut back on the doughnuts, she'd look like a tiny grandmother doll. Instead, she has a gelatinous figure, usually encased in orange polyester. She avoids basketball players. From their perspective, she must look like a basketball." (page 37)

"There is something about Christmas that requires a rug rat. Little kids make Christmas fun. I wonder if we could rent one for the holidays." (page 70)

"Nothing good ever happens at lunch. The cafeteria is a giant sound stage where they film daily segments of Teenage Humiliation Rituals. And it smells gross. (page 104)

In short, I'm glad that I finally read this book, and I give it my highest recommendation for both teens and adults, male and female.

Book: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (though I read a Penguin Platinum reprint edition)
Original Publication Date: October 1999
Pages: 198
Age Range: 14 and up
Source of Book: Bought it.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Sunday Afternoon Visits: April 8

Happy Easter and Happy Passover! I would say Happy Spring, but I know that a lot of people had snow this weekend, so I'll refrain. It's been a quiet weekend in the Kidlitsophere, between the holidays and various spring breaks. I've been catching up on some book reviews (which I'll be spreading out over the next week or so). But I managed to find a few things for you.

  • Max Elliot Anderson wrote to me this week about his "action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 - 13, especially boys... deal(ing) with character issues and ... written from a Christian perspective." I haven't read these books, and they don't sound like quite my thing, but I know that there are people looking for adventure stories for boys and/or for Christian fiction. Therefore, I thought I would bring this series to your attention. You can learn more at Max's website or blog.
  • New kid lit blogger Lectitans is starting a weekly feature. Every week she'll post a question of the week, inviting other bloggers to respond. This week's question is: "What does it mean to have a thorough knowledge of children's literature?" Elaine M. has already entered a comprehensive response, but I'm sure that Lectitans would love additional feedback.
  • Jess summarizes some recent salvos in "the lit blog wars", including quotes like this one (from in Chronicle of Higher Education) "the n+1 editors dismiss blogs about books and literature as little more than a publicity tool of the big publishing houses. This broadside has set off a sometimes cranky discussion about the purpose of blogs and the amateurization of literary criticism." This discussion is not specific to kid lit blogs, but may be of interest to those of us who write blog book reviews.
  • On a much lighter note, check out this post by Bookseller Chick about how she was hit upon by a book-loving three-year-old boy. It's priceless!
  • I wasn't able to participate in Tracie Zimmer's blog tour for her latest book Reaching for Sun. But I have been enjoying the interviews, by Jo Knowles, MotherReader, Little Willow, Cynthia Lord and Fuse #8.
  • Tricia linked from The Miss Rumphius Effect to a fascinating speech by Julius Lester. I agree with Tricia that the best part is this: "Only those of us passionately involved with children’s literature seem to understand one simple but profound fact: If we are going to have a nation of literate and articulate people, they have to become avid readers long before they become adults. The child who does not like to read becomes an adult who will not read." The entire speech is well worth reading.
  • Franki from A Year of Reading asks visitors to share their reading goals.
  • And, for a diferent sort of sharing, Robin Brande asks visitors to join her in throwing away some mental clutter. What I said was that I'd like to get rid of the mental clutter that I incur by worring ahead of time about things that can't be changed anyway (like upcoming trips).

I am traveling again this week, but I'll get back to you all just as soon as I can. The literacy round-up for the week will probably be late. But, as I mentioned above, I do have some book reviews stored up to post. Wishing you all Spring, soon.

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend: Melanie Watt

I absolutely loved the Cybils-winning picture book Scaredy Squirrel, by Melanie Watt. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to report that Scaredy Squirrel is back with a sequel. And it's even better than the first book. In Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend, our neurotic young friend gradually comes to realize that spending all of his time alone up in a tree is perhaps not the most fun that life has to offer. He sets out on a mission to make a friend, though the friend who he ends up with is not quite the one that he expected.

This book has all of the attributes that worked in the first book, strong line drawings, expressive icons, and a mix of full-page and smaller inset panels. The icons include a variety of individuals who might be biters, and hence are not promising friend material (including Godzilla and bunnies). The activities that Scaredy Squirrel undertakes by himself to pass the time include knitting and chatting with a sock puppet. The "perfect friend" that he identifies has various safe attributes (including being germ-free, with the same germ icons from the previous book). And Scaredy Squirrel's plan for making a perfect first impression is hilarious. "Make sure name tag is visible." "Wear mittens to hide sweaty paws." And so on.   

Don't you love a book that makes you laugh? Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend made me laugh out loud on nearly every page. I think that the funniest was Scaredy's Risk Test for potential friends, including incisive questions like "What's your hobby? Biting or other."

Oh, I'm simply in love with this book. Parents will like it because it's well-constructed, with engaging pictures and entertaining text. Kids will like it because they'll be able to relate to Scaredy's fears, while feeling superior due to not being quite so fearful themselves. If you know any kids about to start Kindergarten, or about to enter any environment where they'll be meeting new people, you simply must buy them this book.

Book: Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend
Author: Melanie Watt
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Original Publication Date: March 2007
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Big A little a

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Cam's Quest: Dian Curtis Regan

Cam's Quest is the sequel to Dian Curtis Regan's Princess Nevermore (a middle grade fantasy title that I reviewed last week). Cam's Quest follows Princess Quinn, aka Princess Nevermore, and Cam, the former Wizard's Apprentice, as they each seek their destiny. Quinn and Cam have both been raised in the underground kingdom of Mandria, one in which both magical and Medieval customs dominate.

Quinn, in particular, is bound by custom and expectation. As the story begins, she is under considerable pressure to select a suitor, because she must wed on her 16th birthday. She struggles mightily with the decision, and eventually flees the kingdom. Meanwhile Cam, who has been in love with Quinn since childhood, ventures into the aboveground world to learn more about his own mysterious background. Alternating chapters follow the two teens on their respective adventures. The alternating narrative format, replete with cliffhangers, is sure to keep fans turning the pages.

As with the previous book, my favorite parts were those in which a person from a different world (Cam), is baffled by aspects of our own, modern-day society. Here's an example, in which Cam watches a young woman named Sarah with her baby, Hannah:

Sarah placed Hannah in a strange contraption that held her captive on all four sides, so she could not crawl more than a few knee-lengths in any direction. Hannah immediately wailed, wanting out. Cam did not blame her. (Chapter 14)

I think what I like about this is the fresh perspective on ordinary objects and behaviors. Shaking hands seems odd to Cam, and he initially shakes left to right, instead of up and down. Why do we shake hands up and down? Why do we shake hands at all? I would have liked to see more of this Mandra/real world juxtaposition in this installment, but alas, Cam's visit to the upper world is relatively brief.

I also like Quinn. She's a strong female character, one who pushes against the limitations of her existence. She's occasionally autocratic, but this feels realistic, given that she's been raised as a Princess. She also craves human contact (Princesses are not supposed to be touched in Mandria). Here's an example of Quinn's thoughts, as she prepares for her friend's wedding:

After tonight, there would be a respite from her royal obligation to smile, say polite things, and most of all, try to develop a fondness for one lad or another. They all seemed to blur into a hazy line of eager bumbleness. Eager dull bumbleness, she thought, recalling the sameness of the questions asked by the noble lads (Chapter 6)

I love the phrase "eager bumbleness". It's both descriptive and poetic.

Fans of the previous book are sure to find this sequel (and apparent conclusion) satisfying. There are no major surprises, but the story is well-written and engaging. Cam and Quinn both show themselves to be brave and loyal, surmounting the obstacles in their path and achieving triumph.

Book: Cam's Quest (sequel to Princess Nevermore)
Author: Dian Curtis Regan
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Original Publication Date: December 2006
Pages: 352
Age Range: 10-14
Source of Book: A review copy from Raab Associates
Other Blog Reviews and Mentions: See the Princess Nevermore fansite.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.

Quick Hits on Wednesday

First things first, Happy Birthday to Cory! And belated Passover greetings to my Passover-celebrating friends. Here are a few things that caught my attention, that I didn't think should wait for the weekend:

  • First of all, don't forget to make your submission for the lucky 13th carnival of children's literature. Submissions are trickling in, but there are many blog friends who I haven't heard from yet.
  • LitLove has an interesting post at Tales from the Reading Room about the future of the book, written in response to an Economist article. She particularly takes exception (and rightly so, I think) with the idea that "Certainly, some types of fiction – novels as well as novellas – are also likely to migrate online and to cease being books. Many fantasy fans, for example, have already put aside books and logged on to “virtual worlds” such as “World of Warcraft”, in which muscular heroes and heroines get together to slay dragons and such like. Science fiction may go the same way, and is arguably already being created by “residents” of online worlds such as Second Life."  She's evoked some vehement responses in the comments.
  • Vivian has issued a challenge over at HipWriterMama. She asks us: "What Would You Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail? Create your own Mission Statement and be as specific as you can. Identify the who, what, where, when and how, if possible." She's offering prized for people who share their mission statements and hold themselves accountable. Strong stuff! I wish her well in her own stated goal, too. I was especially taken by Robin Brande's words of encouragement to Vivian and others in the comments. Well worth checking out.
  • If you are interested in the present and future of young adult publishing, Liz has a can't miss post over at Tea Cozy. She discusses two articles on the subject, and posts her own opinions, and has many other shared opinions in the comments. See also TadMack's response to these articles, and her passionate and informed response to yet another article about YA books at Finding Wonderland.
  • I also recommend Colleen Mondor's Stories for Boys column at Booksl*t. How did I miss that Robert Parker just published a YA mystery? Oh, maybe because it won't be released until later this month. But Colleen reviews several other titles, too. If you're looking for books to recommend to older boys, it's well worth reading. 
  • Tricia continues her insightful posts over at The Miss Rumphius Effect. First, she writes about the amount of time that teachers spend focused on reading in the classroom, and whether or not science and social studies are getting short shrift. Her mantra is now "Where's the science?" See also A Year of Reading's response. Tricia also has a non-book-related post that I identified with about the fact that children don't play outside as much now as they did when we were children. I find it sad, too. Some of my best childhood memories are of climbing trees, and exploring woods.
  • Fans of Beverly Cleary (and really, who isn't?) should definitely check out this post by Jennifer at The Kiddosphere. She says "In celebration of Beverly Cleary’s 91st birthday, I am challenging myself to read all of her books by her birthday, April 12. It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least." She proceeds to discuss several of the books, complete with nostalgic cover pictures.
  • At Fuse #8, Betsy revisits the frequently-addressed question of whether or not book reviewers should write negative reviews, with a new twist inspired by comments from Gail Gauthier. Gail said that while she would prefer not to have bad reviews, at least they tell a writer that their book is worth discussing. Betsy asks whether or not it might help the author for us to publish negative reviews, as compared to the current widespread policy of not writing at all about the books that we don't care for. It's the old "all publicity is good publicity" thing. I have done this a couple of times (written about a book that I wasn't personally wild about because I thought that even my luke-warm words would at least get some exposure for the book), but I think that it's tough on author and reviewer.
  • Check out Blog from the Windowsill for a hilarious Kidlitosphere-based spoof of the Little House books. I rarely actually laugh out loud while reading blog posts, but this one did it for me. Here's a tiny example, but you really should go check out the whole post: "Miss Robinson told them she was a tutor for a young girl in the nearby town, but when she wasn't busy Educating Alice, she loved to share books with her neighbors. "Prairie life is so busy" she said with a smile, "But There's Always Time for a Book."" You do have to be a Kidlitosphere aficionado to appreciate it.
  • Cynthia Leitich Smith reviews a book that I simply must read. It's called Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers on the Films of John Hughes. Since I know many of these movies by heart, more or less, this is a book that I'll simply have to read.

OK, so this wasn't so very quick. But there's some interesting stuff. Happy reading!