Favourite: This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

This One SummerWhen I pick up a well-loved graphic novel (especially one that is recommended by other authors/artists I really enjoy), I am always reminded of why I love the format so much. A picture really is worth a thousand words in This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. I flew though this book, completely lost in the the story of Rose, Windy, and their families.

Rose and her mom and dad are going to their summer home on Awago Beach, which they have visited every year since she can remember. This year, though, things don’t feel quite as fun and easy for nearly-teenaged Rose. Her mother is sullen and detached; her father is trying to have a good time but seems to be struggling to put on a happy face. Rose’s Aunt Jodie, who says she will “never have kids because she is too much of a kid herself,” comes to visit with her husband, whose carefree attitude seems to aggravate Rose’s mom even more.

Meanwhile Rose and Windy, best summer friends since childhood, are also finding their differences: the two girls are starting to form strong opinions, and sometimes they find that they don’t agree on things. This is especially apparent when they begin to get obsessed by the plight of the local 18-year-olds who hang out around the town’s general store (and who seem to have a lot of drama in their lives). Windy and Rose curiously listen in on their conversations, finding any excuse to go to the store where two of the boys work.

I loved the scenes between Windy and Rose. At each other’s houses or at the beach, the girls alternate between exuberant play and serious discussion as they wonder about the local teens. On the beach, Windy performs hilarious monologues about hitting puberty, and talks with Rose about being adopted by her free-spirited mom. Windy, by the way, is hilarious:

One of my favourite pages: Windy dancing in the kitchen.

Realizing that their parents are human and that life can be difficult is bittersweet for Rose and Windy. This One Summer tackles some pretty heavy themes and occasionally uses some salty language, but it does so in a sensitive and realistic way. The pictures are beautiful, adding a lovely expressiveness to the setting and characters. Windy is a great lighthearted counter to Rose’s sometimes dark moods, and their honest insights are both funny and painfully true-to-life. This beautiful little novel captures perfectly the feeling of summer, of vacation, and of growing up. This is definitely a new favourite.

Enjoy,

-Bronwen

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Focus on Nonfiction: Bugged by Sarah Albee

BuggedWe recently added Bugged: How Insects Changed History to our collection, and it is a fun addition that is “swarming with facts”, according to the cover. After making my way through the book, I definitely see what they mean. This is the kind of book you can get lost in, and it’s overflowing with neat little tidbits that make it ideal for browsing or reading cover-to-cover.

Bugged begins with an introduction to insects, walking readers through the basics facts – like how most insects don’t actually bite, but “it’s easier to say ‘bite’ than the more technically accurate ‘stab with the proboscis and suck,’  don’t you think?” (that quote is an example of how the whole book reads! It’s a fantastic blend of chatty and informative). Readers can learn about early epidemics and “twentieth-century pox” (what a great chapter title!) while discovering “Insect Asides”, which offer additional insect-based information, like why you will find so many mosquitoes in swampy areas. The book covers insect-related history from ancient times right up until present day, and holds your interest throughout!

Here are a few more fun facts that I discovered when reading Bugged:

1) Justin Schmidt, a researcher, rated how painful bug bites were after allowing himself to be stung by 78 species of insects. He wrote that a bullhorn ant’s sting feels like “someone has fired a staple into your cheek.” I am glad I never have to feel that!

2) Early explorers to Florida had to dig holes for themselves so they could sleep covered in sand to avoid the clouds of mosquitoes that populated the area. I’m certainly glad Florida isn’t like that anymore.

3) Farm animals can suffer from something called “fly worry”, which is being stressed by the presence of too many flies. It can cause them to “produce less milk, lose weight, or lay fewer eggs,” which just goes to show you that little bugs can cause big problems.

There are many more cool facts in this book, and it’s a great way to introduce history to children. Instead of a dry text, this is a vibrant book that can inspire readers to want to learn more!

If your young reader likes these types of books, try out How They Croaked: the Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous and How They Choked: Failures, Flops and Flaws of the Awfully Famoustwo other fun nonfiction books that expertly blend humour and learning!

Happy reading!

-Valerie

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Awesome Picture Book: Captain Cat by Inga Moore

captainAs a self-professed cat lover, I’m always on the lookout for great cat-themed stories. When Captain Cat arrived, I was pleased to see that not only was this book full of felines, it was also a delightful story with beautiful pictures. This longer picture book is great for kids who love seafaring stories, cats or adorable and kindhearted sea captains!

On the very first page, we are introduced to Captain Cat, whose ship, the Carlotta, has more cats on it than crew. You see, Captain Cat can’t resist trading his goods for cats. His favourite thing in the world is sitting comfortably with cats, sipping tea and reading. This happens to be one of my favourite things to do, too, so I felt like I had found a kindred spirit in that rosy-cheeked captain!

All the other sea captains make fun of Captain Cat for his bad business sense and his desire to explore new and uncharted places. So when Captain Cat sails off in a direction that leads into the unknown, they shake their heads at him. Captain Cat sails away, and after many days, he comes upon an island that isn’t on any of his maps.

Captain Cat by Inga Moore

The queen of the island welcomes the visitor and is utterly charmed when she meets all of his cats; she has never seen a cat before because there are no cats on her island! Everyone on the Captain’s ship is invited for lunch, including his feline friends, and that is where Captain Cat learns something about the island – it is overrun with rats!

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but it unfolds wonderfully, with the Queen, the Captain and the cats all enjoying a delightful happy ending, with a few unexpected twists along the way. This picture book reads like an instant classic, in large part because of the rich illustrations on each page. The details are quite stunning – if you want to be convinced, take a look at any of the cats! They have different noses, expressions and patterns… it’s quite impressive! This picture book was a welcome change of pace from some of the sillier stories that I have loved and blogged about, so I had to share it. It is a longer story, but it is definitely worth the time!

Happy reading!

-Valerie

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YA-Inspiration: Read-Alikes for Michael Grant’s Gone Series

GoneHaving so many choices, I often don’t continue with a series after the first book. After reading the engrossing Goneby Michael Grant, I had to read Hunger right away! This is a bit of an older book, so it may not be a new title to many of you who have (or are) voracious middle-grade or young adult readers with a love for dystopia. Kids have been enthusiastically asking for this series for a few years now, so with a plane trip coming up, I made sure to download it on my e-reader. Fast-paced, fascinating, and sometimes scary, the series has been billed as a “page-turning thriller that invokes the classic The Lord of the Flies along with the horror of Stephen King” (HarperCollins). Being a fan of both, I couldn’t put it down. Here’s the premise:

“In a small town on the coast of California, everyone over the age of fourteen suddenly disappears, setting up a battle between the remaining town residents and the students from a local private school, as well as those who have ‘The Power’ and are able to perform supernatural feats and those who do not.” 

If you have already read the series but are looking for a fast-paced summery thriller like Gone, here are a few more you might enjoy:

AshfallAshfall (ebook) by Mike Mullin

After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, fifteen-year-old Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.

5th WaveThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

“Cassie Sullivan, the survivor of an alien invasion, must rescue her young brother from the enemy with help from a boy who may be one of them”– Provided by publisher.

 

Monument 14Monument 14 (trilogy) by Emmy Laybourne

Trapped inside a chain superstore by an apocalyptic sequence of natural and human disasters, six high school kids from various popular and unpopular social groups struggle for survival while protecting a group of younger children.

 

Life as we knew itLife as we knew it (ebook) by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Through journal entries sixteen-year-old Miranda describes her family’s struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

The LivingThe Living by Matt de La Pena
August’s OTBC pick: read the brand new discussion of this book here

After an earthquake destroys California and a tsunami wrecks the luxury cruise ship where he is a summer employee, high schooler Shy confronts another deadly surprise.

Other well-known trilogies that have been compared to Gone:
The Maze Runner  by James Dashner
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Infernal Devices 

Enjoy!

-Bronwen

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YA-Inspiration: Summer Romances

In the summer, maybe because of the heat, maybe because of vacation, a lot of readers are looking for fun romances to while away the days and hours. I was in that mood a few weeks ago, so I ransacked our collection and filled up, so if you are looking for just that kind of book, here are a few to check out:

My life next door

My Life Next Door
by: Huntley Fitzpatrick
“When Samantha, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a wealthy, perfectionist Republican state senator, falls in love with the boy next door, whose family is large, boisterous, and just making ends meet, she discovers a different way to live, but when her mother is involved in a hit-and-run accident Sam must make some difficult choices.”
I was surprised by this book – mostly by how much fun I had reading it. I liked Sam’s struggle to find her voice, which she knows goes against her mother’s. Some of my favourite parts had to do with Sam and her best friend, who seem to be moving in different directions. There were elements of class-conflict that I wasn’t expecting and that I really appreciated. While the ending felt a bit rushed, I liked the whole reading experience.


what I thoughtWhat I Thought Was True

by: Huntley Fitzpatrick

“17-year-old Gwen Castle is a working-class girl determined to escape her small island town, but when rich-kid Cass Somers, with whom she has a complicated romantic history, shows up, she’s forced to reassess her feelings about her loving, complex family, her lifelong best friends, her wealthy employer, the place she lives, and the boy she can’t admit she loves.”
I really liked this one! I found Gwen compelling and relateable, and I kept hoping things would work out for her. While Cass wasn’t exactly my favourite leading gentleman, I thought Gwen’s insecurities and her difficulty trusting her rich crush were absolutely understandable. I also liked the secondary stories, although I think the friend tension was better in My Life Next Door. I picked up this book mostly because I was hoping the reading experience would remind me of Sarah Dessen (who has not come out with a new book this summer), and I wasn’t disappointed.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Beforeto all the boys
by: Jenny Han

“Lara Jean writes love letters to all the boys she has loved and then hides them in a hatbox until one day those letters are accidentally sent.”
This was a fun romantic comedy! Lara Jean tries to disguise her true crush (who received one of the letters) by pretending to be involved with a guy she has no interest in.  He, in turn, is trying to make his ex jealous. Of course, she discovers that he isn’t exactly who she thought he was when they start spending more time together. The elements of romance are great, but so are the family relationships. Lara Jean’s mother passed away when she was very young, and her older sister has always taken on the most responsibility. Now that she is away at university, it’s Lara’s turn, and she struggles to fill her sister’s shoes. This was a book I devoured, and it was lots of fun.

The Geography of You and Megeography of you and me
by: Jennifer E. Smith

“Sparks fly when sixteen-year-old Lucy Patterson and seventeen-year-old Owen Buckley meet on an elevator rendered useless by a New York City blackout. Soon after, the two teenagers leave the city, but as they travel farther away from each other geographically, they stay connected emotionally, in this story set over the course of one year.”
I have read all of Jennifer E. Smith’s books, but I was never quite smitten with them. This was the first of her three books that really captured my interest the whole way through. I loved reading about Owen and Lucy and their respective adventures. This was a very fast read, and I was rooting for them the whole way through. I found both characters three-dimensional, so it was easier to care about their problems. Not only was the romance well-developed, but the secondary relationships were also good. I liked seeing Lucy struggle to bond with her somewhat distant parents, and I liked reading about Owen as he and his father try to find a new place to settle down.

Those are just a few  of our newer summer romance titles, so give them a try next time you’re at the library.

Happy reading!

-Valerie

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Hidden Gem: The Ability by M.M. Vaughan

abilityIn a recent new arrivals post, we featured Mindscape as an intriguing new addition to the collection. I also mentioned that the first book, The Ability, has been compared to some very popular middle-grade series. Being a big fan of fantasy and adventure, especially the kind where the hero or heroine discovers that they are much  more than ordinary, I couldn’t resist the read.

Chris gets in trouble at school more often than he should. He has to take care of his mother at home, who is severely depressed and often very unpleasant toward him. His father has passed away. He doesn’t seem to have too many friends, either. He is just about to get expelled from school when a very unusual woman arrives to test students for a special opportunity to attend Myers Holt, a prestigious boarding school. Ms. Sonata sees a spark in Chris, and we discover–along with our hero–that he is much less average than he seems. Miss Sonata’s test is bizarre: Chris is asked to envision a real place and explain exactly what is going on at that very moment. He is even asked to read Miss Sonata’s mind. After passing with flying colours, Chris is invited to attend Myers Holt, a government-run school for extraordinary 12-year-olds, like himself, to help hone special skills (also known as”The Ability”) in order to save the lives of very important people.

Practicing The Ability requires the small group to learn how to read minds, how to control the thoughts and actions of others, and how to install mental blocks in order to keep people from entering their own minds to do them harm. Unfortunately, they are not the only students of The Ability, and someone is using their powers to hurt people. The really neat thing about The Ability is that everyone has had it: between the ages of 12 and 13, however, is the only opportunity to develop The Ability before it is lost.

I loved the atmosphere at the school, which was full of imaginative details. The children are trained completely underground, but the school is always sunny, with beautiful views of fields and forests. The teachers are delightfully varied: I liked the grumpy and slightly scary telepathy professor. The Ability itself is fascinating: students learn to enter people’s minds, where all of their thoughts, feelings, and memories are organized like a small town, the aptly named “mindscape.”

All in all, I enjoyed the book. I’d rather not have gone into it expecting Harry Potter (although it’s a great read-alike suggestion, it’s not particularly fair to compare a well-established book to a blossoming new series, especially one so different), but I wasn’t disappointed with what I read! The best part of The Ability was the pure adventure of it: as Chris and his classmates learn to control their potentially dangerous telekinetic powers, we see other sinister characters sharpening theirs as well. Can the children of Myers Holt defeat the evil minds behind a deadly plot? What happened at Myers Holt that forced them to close their doors 30 years earlier? The mystery, adventure, and pure wish-fulfillment of this book is enough to make me want to read the next one! This is great summer reading, perfect for ages 8-14.

Enjoy,

Bronwen

 

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Audiobook Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

RithmatistDuring the summer months, I go through audiobooks faster than at any other time of year, and I’m not the only one! Most people are more likely to pick up an audiobook and give it a try in the summer, probably because family road trips are such an ideal time to discover this new way of enjoying books. A few weeks ago, I finished an audiobook that I wasn’t expecting to like, but that ended up being exactly what I was looking for – a captivating listen that had me discovering a cool new world, which means that I had to share it with our faithful readers.

The name Brandon Sanderson became familiar to me when he took over writing the end of Robert Jordan’s mega-series The Wheel of Time. Sanderson is a fairly prolific writer, but I had never read one of his original novels, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up the audiobook for The Rithmatist. First off, if you have read The Rithmatist, it may seem like an odd decision to listen to a book that relies a lot on drawings and diagrams in the novel (so much so that there is an illustrator), but it really worked!

In The Rithmatist, Sanderson introduces us to a world where Wild Chalklings, two-dimensional creatures who eat human flesh, are held at bay by Rithmatists, magicians who can transform chalk drawings into defenses and attacks. Joel, the main character, is fascinated by Rithmatists; he spends all his free time studying Rithmatic tactics and strategies, to the detriment of his own school work. Joel’s fascination with that world leads him into loads of trouble, however, when he finds himself in the middle of a very serious investigation about the disappearances of Rithmatic students. Who could be harming these promising students, and how can the villain be stopped?

Joel’s investigation leads him to work with Professor Fitch, an established professor of Rithmatics whose kindly demeanor makes him a valuable friend to Joel.  Joel also ends up befriending Melody, the only Rithmatics student who will give Joel the time of day. Unlike Joel, Melody doesn’t like Rithmatics and wishes she hadn’t been chosen. She is inept at drawing circles, the simplest of the Rithmatic forms, and has to be tutored by Professor Fitch for the summer session, which is how she meets Joel. Together, this unorthodox trio will try to figure out what is going on and how to stop it.

The Rithmatist was a completely unexpected and very original book. It was fun to listen to, with exciting passages, great adventures, and a really tense mystery that I didn’t manage to figure out before the big reveal. This is a great book for adventure lovers and fantasy enthusiasts. I listened to the audiobook, and the reader, Michael Kramer, was fantastic! He seemed to change effortlessly between the different characters, embodying the somewhat absent-minded Professor Fitch one moment, and the brash Nalizar a second later. When researching Michael Kramer, I discovered that he has read for loads of books, including the aforementioned Wheel of Time series. In fact, he has won the Audiophile “Earphones” award for outstanding narration!

This adventure-packed read, chalk-full of tension and danger, is a great summer selection, so think about giving this hidden gem a try next time you visit.

Happy listening!

-Valerie

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Awesome Picture Book: The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

There are some writer/illustrators that are so tremendously talented that it feels necessary to read everything they have written. Shaun Tan is the perfect example of an author and illustrator who is not to be missed. His books are beautifully rendered, atmospheric, and somehow poignant. They usually leave me feeling happy and sad at the same time, and they are always worth multiple readings to uncover small details and peel back layers of meaning. If you are an adult, you may love his unmistakable illustration style and the (non-judgmental) messages that his books convey. Children will enjoy the unique pictures and the ability to narrate each one on their own. Shaun Tan has a great imagination, and his newest picture book is no exception!

Rules of SummerThe Rules of Summer may be one of those picture books that although words are few, is intended for slightly older readers. Unlike The Rabbits and The Lost Thing (also, I would say, for older readers than 3 to 6-year-olds), it doesn’t follow a story arc, exactly, but the pictures tell a multitude of stories. The sheer imagination behind a page that simply reads “Never leave the back door open overnight”–a fiery tree growing out of the living room floor, exotic insects and reptiles climbing the walls, sea creatures bursting forth from the carpet–is quite something to behold.  Tan has a way of bringing usually inanimate or imaginary creatures to life in surprising ways. The spare text paired with descriptive pictures gives the reader the ability to interpret and to tell their own stories. You could spend hours with a child, narrating the detailed drawings and imagining what had come to pass in each scene in a myriad of different ways. You can make the meaning your own, which is one of the neatest parts about reading Shaun Tan (and reading in general).

Never Leave a Red Sock

“Never leave a red sock on the clothesline.”

The Rules of Summer is pure visual fantasy. It follows a big brother and a little brother as they remember the previous summer and what they have learned. Each page features a story contained in one sentence and a rich illustration. It is sometimes haunting and wild or light and funny, but it is always beautiful and completely inventive. Like many of Tan’s books, this is best read one-on-one or alone. The experience is one you won’t soon forget! The inscription in the back of the book is “For the little and the big,” and I think it’s a perfect one.

See what other Shaun Tan books we have here.

Enjoy!

Bronwen

 

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New Arrivals: Chapter Books Edition

Some intriguing new chapter books will debut in the department this weekend! We have a few sequels, one of which is being compared to Harry Potter (The Ability). From the action-packed to the fantastical (or both), these could be your next summer reads.

BogleHow to Catch A Bogle by Catherine Jinks

In 1870s London, a young orphan girl becomes the apprentice to a man who traps monsters for a living.

 

MinionMinion by John David Anderson
A companion to Sidekicked

“Michael Morn is a supervillain-in-training and the adoptive son of the brilliant criminal mastermind whose sense of right and wrong is thrown into question when a new superhero arrives in town” Provided by publisher.

CuriosityCuriosity by Gary Blackwood

In 1835, when his father is put in a Philadelphia debtor’s prison, twelve-year-old chess prodigy Rufus Goodspeed is relieved to be recruited to secretly operate a chess-playing automaton named The Turk, but soon questions the fate of his predecessors and his own safety.

CloakThe Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz

Alex Knight, a twelve-year-old in training to be a supervillain in the elite Cloak Society, becomes friends with a young superhero and begins to question where his loyalty lies.

 

JacketMindscape by M.M. Vaughan
Sequel to The Ability

Overwhelmed by guilt for his role in a boy’s death, Chris resumes his secret Ability training but begins to suspect that the spectre of the boy he sees everywhere is more than a figment of his imagination, a growing belief that is tied to an adversary’s murderous plot.

Enjoy!

-Bronwen

 

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Parenting Program: Building Blocks of Speech

Building Blocks of Speech poster 11x17 2014-06How and when little ones learn to speak can be a bit of a mystery, and sometimes it’s hard to know how you can help them along. Next Monday, July 14 at 7 pm, we have speech-language pathologist Leetal Cuperman at the library to help parents with just those types of questions.

Leetal has visited the library before, and so we are pleased to welcome her back for her second discussion on speech development in young children. The program will focus on some of the language milestones you can expect from 0-to-5 year old, as well as some suggestions on how to help your child’s development. Leetal will also help debunk some myths surrounding language and speech (debunking myths can be such fun!).

This is sure to be an engaging presentation, and you’ll leave with great tips and strategies that you can apply at home. Call the Children’s Department (514-485-6900 ext. 4111) to register for this free workshop.

We hope to see you there!

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