Thursday, June 28, 2012

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez

I always loved reading the children's books nominated for awards in the states where I lived. This book won the Kansas award this year.

Winner:    William Allen White Book Award, grades 6-8, 2012
(Kansas children’s book award)

Lina is a middle school student who loves socks, her best friend Vanessa, science, and a boy named Luis. Her mom passed away not long ago, and though Lina loves her dad (most of the time—she is in middle school!), she misses all the mom-type comforts. Lina struggles with the loss of her mom as well as Vanessa’s interest in a boy, which dramatically changes the girls’ relationship. Throw in Vanessa’s man-hating, cascaron making mom and excitement is just waiting.

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as some of the other children’s book award winners. Problems and events were a little too predictable for my taste. Confetti Girl did offer some nice lessons about living with what you have, accepting others, and learning about yourself—always good things to read about and ponder. I did enjoy the Spanish dichos (sayings) and other references to Texas/Mexican culture—a nice reminder of my time living there. Interesting, though, that it was the winner in Kansas, not Texas. I wouldn’t rush to get this book, but middle schoolers in Kansas thought it was great…what do you think?

I described Lina above; how would others describe you?  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass

I always loved reading the children's books nominated for awards in the states where I lived. This book won the Kansas award this year.

Winner:    William Allen White Book Award, grades 3-5, 2012
(Kansas children’s book award)

Amanda and Leo are brought together by chance when they are born on the same day in a small town hospital. A local woman sees the parents admiring their new children in the nursery and tells them to be sure the children always celebrate their birthday together. By chance (maybe?) their first birthdays are at the same place, then by design they have joint parties after that. Until birthday number 11. Amanda and Leo had some problems and plan separate parties. The day keeps repeating itself until something is done just right. Will Amanda and Leo figure out what to change or will they celebrate their 11th birthday forever?

I loved this book from the beginning! It was another time travel-ish book—I seem to be drawn to them right now—and it was nicely done. The story was engaging with true friends learning about themselves, but it wasn’t overly sappy. I highly recommend it!

Which birthdays have been memorable for you?  On what day would you want to be stuck? Would you change anything?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Jessica at Quirky Bookworm created a summer reading program--one of my favorite things ever! Click over to her website for other reviews of The Eyre Affair.

Read while home alone? sure
Tissues needed? nope
Overall rating:  3.5 stars

Special Operations Agent Thursday Next is part of a literary police force. Typically this position includes tasks such as authenticating manuscripts and guarding original works. Agent Next isn’t ordinary, though. In a world where the real world and the fictional world sometimes overlap, she travels through time and worlds to capture a dangerous criminal while improving a literary masterpiece.

This was an interesting book and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a quick read. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I were more familiar with Jane Eyre. I had some trouble engaging with the book—although the book is set in 1985 or so, it involves some futuristic ideas like time travel and unique inventions. Once I got around that, The Eyre Affair was fun to contemplate. I’ve read some other time travel books that have made me think about how even the tiniest change in the past can dramatically change the future. The Eyre Affair addressed that…sort of…but not quite as well as I would have liked. I did enjoy the various literary discussions characters had throughout the book and they made me want to find out more about some of the controversies they addressed. Overall, The Eyre Affair is worth reading, but no rush.

What literary character would you like to meet?  If you traveled in time, where would you go? Who/what would you see?  If you could be part of a novel, which one would it be?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Travel Reading

Toddler Train Man and I flew halfway across the country a few weeks ago to visit my family. I knew I’d be focused on keeping him occupied, but I threw a book into my bag with some hopeful thoughts. He was fantastic, but I decided resting when he did was more important…you just can’t predict those airlines. Nor toddlers, for that matter. I did have the energy to snoop around my fellow travelers, though. There were lots of magazine and newspaper readers; these were the books being read:

  • Ricochet by Sandra Brown
  • The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
  • Strangers in Death by JD Robb
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • The Icarus Agenda by Robert Ludlum
  • Due or Die by Jenn McKinlay
  • The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James
  • The Bible
Quite a diverse list, and some I want to read myself. You just never know where reading lists might come from!

What would I have caught you reading in the airport/on the plane? Which of these books is appealing to you?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

I always loved reading the children's books nominated for awards in the states where I lived. This book won awards in 2 of those states this year.

Winner:   Texas Bluebonnet Award, 2011-2012
                  Rhode Island Children’s Book Award, 2012   

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a case file written by Tommy, a middle school boy, with help from a few of his friends. Dwight, a social outcast, has a talent for origami and creates a surprisingly interesting Yoda who is able to answer a variety of questions with some degree of accuracy. Since Dwight is seemingly clueless about most things Yoda advises on, Yoda has to be the real “force,” right? Various students recount their interactions with Yoda to discover the truth. And if Yoda is real, can Tommy trust his advice on a really important question?

I wasn’t sure about this book based on the title, but once I started reading I was hooked! The text flows smoothly and the little illustrations sprinkled throughout add some extra fun. I could easily picture the different characters and felt for them as they tried to interpret Yoda’s wisdom. There were some common middle school relationship themes that rang true, though they weren’t elaborated too much. I also liked that there were directions for making your own origami Yoda at the back of the book. I haven’t tried it yet, but I just might! There was also a teaser for a sequel that I’m going to have to request from the library.

I didn’t get to read all of the other nominated books for the Texas and Rhode Island awards, but I’m not at all surprised The Strange Case of Origami Yoda won in both states! Definitely a 5 star book!

Update: I recently read book 2: Darth Paper Strikes Back and it was equally awesome. In fact, after I finished my husband saw it and read it (quickly, I might add!). He LOVED it! Now I get to go back to the library to get Origami Yoda again...and we're both looking forward to the next installment, which should come out in August 2012. Thanks, Tom Angleberger!

What question would you ask Yoda? What are your middle school memories? What award does your state have for children's books?