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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Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

strange and beautifulLast week, I participated in the “Good Reads in the Garden” panel at the library. I had a few of my favourite adults picks, but as the only Children’s Librarian on the panel, I knew I had to throw in a few YA titles that I thought would appeal to some of our adult readers. I inevitably mentioned Code Name Verity (I don’t think I will ever stop pointing out that book), but I also had to include a new YA novel that had completely surprised me (in a good way!). That novel is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.

This book took me by surprise. I didn’t know what to expect when I picked it up, but it intrigued me, so I had to give it a try. The story is told by Ava Lavender, a strange young girl who was born with wings. She recounts the tale of the women in her family, all of whom have been unlucky in love and plagued by tragedy and sorrow. Ava herself has lived a mostly isolated life, protected from the world at large by her mother, who fears what the public will do to the young winged child. The novel goes back and forth between Ava’s story, and the stories of the women in her family.

This is a really beautiful novel. It’s lyrical and readable. I was captivated by the story, and I didn’t want to stop reading. Unfortunately, it’s quite a short book, so the journey was over before I even knew it, but perhaps that’s just because the book was such a great read. Walton’s novel is an example of magic realism, where strange and magical things happen in a world that is entirely realistic (for example, a girl born with wings).

I encourage you to give this novel a chance, because it is a wonderful reading experience, by which I mean it’s a fascinating story that’s easy to read and beautifully written.

Happy reading!

-Valerie

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2014 TD Summer Reading Club

Every year, teachers warn parents and students about “the summer slide”, which refers to the fact that when kids go back to school in the fall, they have lost about two months of reading skunktabletand educational proficiency. One of the great ways to prevent the summer slide is to encourage reading during vacation which brings us to the TD Summer Reading Club!

This year, the theme is Eureka! It’s all about discovery, hands-on fun and creativity. We have many activities taking place at the library, along with the ever-popular reading logs! Kids can keep track of what they read (and they can read whatever they want). At the end of the summer, when they hand in their logs (the deadline is August 13), a few of the top readers will walk away with some cool prizes.

But that’s not all! You can…advertisement_computer

-guess how many LEGO candies are in our Reading Club jar – whoever guesses closest, wins the whole jar!

-complete the summer puzzle and get your picture taken for the Summer Puzzlers Wall.

-answer our weekly trivia question to be entered in the running for fun prizes!

We also have the following activities. Registration for the club, including all the activities listed below, begins this Sunday (June 29).

movingmouseLibrary LEGO
Tuesday, July 15 at 6:30 pm
Free. Registration Required.
Ages 4 to 8; Bilingual

Rainbow Looms
Wednesday, July 9 from 4 to 6 pm
Free. Registration Required.
Ages 8 to 13 ; Bilingual

Archaeology Adventure
Sunday, July 27 at 3 pm
Free. Registration Required.
Ages 9 to 13 ; Bilingual

Putty Creationslook
Thursday, August 7 at 6:30 pm
Free. Registration Required.
Ages 3 to 7 ; Bilingual

And finally, there’s our Closing Party, taking place August 17 at 3 pm. This all-ages party is a great way to celebrate the end of our reading club. There will be prizes, games and lots of fun.

So if your kids are looking to keep busy this summer, join the TD Summer Reading Club at the Côte Saint-Luc Public Library.

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Favourite: House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

House of the ScorpionSix-year-old Matt has grown up in a tiny cabin, locked away from the world and watched over by his loving caregiver, Celia. He lives on the Alacrán Estate in Opium (once called Mexico), which lies on the U.S. border. The only view from his window is a vast field of white poppies. Celia is a servant of the Alacráns, so while she works during the day, Matt is locked in the house and told to hide. Matt doesn’t know any other sort of life, so he doesn’t find it strange that he must “stay hidden in the nest like a good little mouse.” One day, several children living on the Alacrán Estate discover his home and coax him out. In the process of climbing out the window, he wounds himself badly. The worried children bring him to a great house, where the adults soon realize that he is a clone. Unfortunately, clones are considered sub-human. What Matt doesn’t know yet is that he is the clone of the most powerful man in the country, great-grandfather of the Alacráns and ruler of Opium: El Patrón.

This doesn’t stop the Alacráns, El Patrón’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, from treating Matt like an animal: “To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. A room full of chicken litter with roaches for friends and old chicken bones for toys is considered good enough for him. But for El Patrón…Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, for Matt is himself” (jacket).

In his society, Matt learns, clones are rendered braindead at birth. Somehow, Matt has escaped some of a clone’s fate: he has been educated and taken care of by Celia, but he doesn’t know why. Is it El Patrón’s doing? Is the drug lord El Patrón a man with a good heart? Does Matt possess the same qualities that brought the man who shares his DNA to power? Despite El Patrón’s special treatment, the rest of the Alacrán family continue to scorn Matt whenever El Patrón’s back is turned. Matt’s only friends are Celia, Tam Lin (El Patron’s body guard, who has been charged with Matt’s protection), and the kindly Maria, one of the girls who found six-year-old Matt in his shack in the poppy fields.

“At his coming-of-age-party, Matteo Alacrán asks El Patrón’s bodyguard, ‘How old am I?…I know I don’t have a birthday like humans, but I was born.’

‘You were harvested,’ Tam Lin reminds him. ‘You were grown in that poor cow for nine months and then you were cut out of her.'”

As Matt grows from a child into a teenager, he discovers that his life is not nearly as secure as it was when he was hidden away with Celia in the poppy fields. He doesn’t know who his true friends are, but he has many enemies. House of the Scorpion is entirely captivating: it has plenty of action, truly great characters, and some very surprising twists. Farmer has done a wonderful job of showing the world through Matt’s eyes. Here’s what sci-fi/fantasy great Ursula K. LeGuin wrote about the book:

“It’s a pleasure to read science fiction that’s full of warm, strong characters–people who are really fond of one another, children who are ignorant and vulnerable, powerful evildoers whom one can pity, good people who make awful mistakes. It’s a pleasure to read science fiction that doesn’t rely on violence as the solution to complex problems of right and wrong… It’s a pleasure to read House of the Scorpion!”

I have been a longtime fan of Nancy Farmer, and this book, with the three glittering awards adorning its cover–The Printz, the Newbery, and the National Book Award–was impossible to resist. I mistakenly left our copy at the library one weekend, and I was so distraught that I actually had to buy the e-book so that I could read it in the meantime. It was that good.

If you know a young adult who is interested in science fiction which is driven by a gripping storyline and interesting characters, this is a great suggestion! Farmer’s Lord of Opium, the long-awaited sequel to House of the Scorpion, is also available at the library.

Enjoy,

-Bronwen

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Awesome Picture Book: Shoe Dog by Megan McDonald

shoe dogJust like Boot & Shoe, the scruffy main character of Shoe Dog stole my heart immediately. As soon as I started reading, I discovered that although adorable, this little dog would be a mischievous companion in real life!

Shoe Dog is adopted from a shelter, only to reveal a bad habit: he is infamous for chewing his owner’s shoes. Every time the lady brings home a shoe box, the excitable dog simply cannot help himself. He must first unwrap them from their beautiful boxes, then rip through the tissue paper, then chew them until they are in tatters. The well-meaning pet never seems to learn, even though he is punished each time by his frustrated owner.

The illustrations in this book are very charming; shoe dog has an almost shoelace-like quality to his furry brown coat, rendering him much like the thing he loves most. Shoe Dog’s best emotions are drawn out plainly on his expressive face as he discovers each shiny new pair of shoes to lovingly destroy.

This book would make a great read-aloud; the lively pictures of the little dog jump off the page as his behaviour earns him worse and worse punishment for his naughtiness. What begins with no more “cozy covers” digresses into being confined to the basement with “only a mop for a friend.” This isn’t a tragic story, though. Shoe Dog’s mind finally changes when his new owner brings home a pair of slippers he simply can’t chew: shoe cats!

The adorable and reassuring conclusion will charm little ones and adults alike. This is a wonderful book for 2 to 5-year-olds. It has just the right amount of repetition, and gives some great opportunities to predict what’s going to happen next: will Shoe Dog ever learn? Megan McDonald is also the author of the very popular Judy Moody and Stink series, and she infuses the same humour and quirkiness into her furry characters as she does with her human ones. Shoe Dog isn’t perfect, but he is loved (and he really does mean well). In the end that’s all that matters.

Enjoy!

-Bronwen

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