Monthly Archives: July 2008

Are you Savvy yet?

There’s been much buzz about the kidlitosphere recently related to Ingrid Law’s new book: Savvy. So it seemed like the right moment to grab the audiobook and start listening. I can see what all the kerfuffle is about, let me tell you. Great voice. GREAT premise. (Great cover too, by the way). This is the tale of the Beaumont family, more specifically, the Beaumont kids – Mibs, Rocket, Fish, Samson and Gypsy. In addition to their unusual names, the Beaumont kids have their fair share of strangeness, since when a Beaumont turns thirteen, said kid discovers his or her special talent, or “savvy.” And we’re not talking tap-dancing or baseball or playing the clarinet here. A savvy is a seriously powerful force, like creating hurricanes just by thinking about it, or making things levitate. Crazy.

Now, I’m only about half way through listening – and loving every second – so I won’t offer a review now. Instead I present some Savvy-licious treats:

Official Savvy Website

Ingrid Law’s Website

Straight from the Jar (The author’s blog)

Ingrid Law gets interviewed by the intrepid Fuse #8

A little clue as to the kookiness of some of the savvies in the Beaumont family:

And finally, the book trailer:

Enola Holmes: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady

I’m feeling pretty lucky at the mo’ because I’ve been fortunate enough to run across another fabulous sequel in my recent reading (the first being Hate that Cat – see post below). This one’s the second Enola Holmes mystery, and I’m just going to say it straight up, “I love these books.” Love them. Every reader has a certain type of book that is almost guaranteed to yank them out of a terrible funk. For some it might be mindless chicklit, or goofy romances, or great fantasy epics. For me it’s mysteries. A great mystery with Victorian flavour? Better still. Nancy Springer’s mystery series delivers in every way, and for that reason, I’m a firm believer in Enola’s happy-making powers.

To begin, read my review of the first book here. Now, don’t go running away to get the first book just yet. You might as well read my review of #2 and then go searching for both. Enola is in hiding in London, still searching for her mother, with her brother Sherlock doing all that he can to find his younger sister. But Miss Enola isn’t a Holmes for nothing. She shares many of her famed brother’s skills in disguise and detection and she decides to put those abilities into practice when a certain young lady, Cecily Alistair, disappears without a trace. Lady Cecily turns out to be a young woman far more complex and secretive than Enola imagined, and the spirited detective ends up on quite the journey into London’s seedy and sinister streets as she journeys towards solving the mystery.

Best Bits: The atmosphere in this story and in its predecessor is spot on, without being overdone. You do feel caught up in the sights and sounds of Victorian London. Enola herself is completely charming – clever and bold but with a streak of insecurity and uncertainty about the unorthodox path she has chosen. While the cover and larger-print format of the book might make you think it’s more middle grade, it is quite dark (deliciously so), and so is just right for teenage readers.

There’s a third Enola mystery out already (The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets), and a fourth slated for September (The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan). Good news for all mystery-lovers.

Hate that Cat

Ah Sharon Creech. You’ve done it again. I wouldn’t have imagined it was possible to approach the cleverness and charm and massive cute-factor of Love That Dog, but it would seem that the impossible has in fact happened. Enter Hate that Cat. I want to be a sequel lover, and sometimes I am. It’s just that so often the second isn’t as good as the first. I’m happy to report that Hate that Cat is a very fine sequel.

So, for starters, if you haven’t read Love that Dog, take a break from whatever you think you need to do right now (laundry, making dinner, writing the Great American Novel) and go get your hands on this book. All you need is about half and hour (ish) and you’ll meet Jack (reluctant poet), Miss Stretchberry (teacher extraordinaire) and Sky (beloved hound / poetic inspiration). When you’re done, you’ll have laughed and cried and you’ll feel good about life, the universe and everything. You will be all set for Hate that Cat.

Jack is back, and he’s lucky enough to be in Miss Stretchberry’s class for a second time. Lucky again because he’s heading into another year of poetic discovery, as both a reader and writer. This time, Jack learns a lot about finding inspiration in unexpected places and in the process, he becomes more sophisticated and self-aware as a writer. Once again, Sharon Creech has chosen the most delightful poems for Miss Stretchberry’s use in the classroom – a little Poe, T.S. Eliot, Valerie Worth and of course, William Carlos Williams. This slim book is practically glowing with teacher goodness. It’s impossible not to feel inspired to teach, read, and share poems with your students after reading Creech’s books. This is a story about finding your voice, appreciating language in its diverse forms, great teaching, and of course, grouchy/wonderful felines. You will be charmed.

Other reviews:

Sarah Miller
Fuse 8
A Year of Reading
Welcome to my Tweendom
Literate Lives

Hate that Cat will be available in September. Read Love that Dog now.

Elf Envy: Random Roundup

Sorry for the lapse in posting. I’ve been reading. Honest. But I’ve also been cooking and painting and cleaning and lying in front of bad television, with a bottomless glass of lemonade clutched in my hot little hands.

So today I made a point of visiting a bunch of my blogish haunts, just to see what’s been keeping you busy. Here is some good stuff:

Miss Erin points us to a great article by Margo Rabb in the NY Times.

Check out Mother Reader’s Interview with Jenny Han. Love her. Love Shug. Perfect time to read it.

I am SO eager to get my hands on Allegra Goodman’s first YA book, and Jen Robinson’s review just makes me want it even more. I loved Intuition.

Kelly’s got a great interview of Thomas the College Guy over at Guys Lit Wire, all about the fav books and reading habits of a second year English major.

This weekend I did a little browsing (and book buying… naughty me). I can’t wait to read Savvy by Ingrid Law. If you haven’t visited her blog, Straight from the Jar, you ought to.

Over at 7 Imp’s 7 Kicks you’ll find Laini Taylor featured this week. Yay!

So many goodies.

An Interview with Chris Rettstatt

Today I’m pleased to host Chris Rettstatt, author of Kaimira: The Sky Village. He’s on a Blog Tour this week, and this is his second stop. So, welcome Chris!

What tends to inspire you (situations / works of art / places / foods / people)?

Music inspires me. Sometimes I’ll hear a song that strikes a deep emotional chord with me, and I’ll listen to it over and over, dozens of times, and then I’ll try to write a scene that strikes the same chord.

The other thing that inspires me is losing myself in cultures very different from my own.

What inspired you to write The Sky Village, and to create the Kaimira world? Did you just wake up one morning thinking, “Hmmm, perhaps today I will write about a flying city and teenagers who can conjure demonic creatures and communicate with each other using a magic book…”?

I was thinking about science, how it’s racing toward places that would seem to us to be magic. Once we pass through to the other side, and we’re faced with a post-scarcity world (at least for those with access to advanced science), where will we find meaning and structure? So much of the structure of the world we know now is tied to limitations. When those limitations vanish, my feeling is that we’ll look to mythology of various sorts for meaning and structure. So Kaimira emerged as a hybrid of science and mythology.

The best Fantasy (or Sci-fi) book of all time is…

This is impossible to answer. If Lord of the Rings had been published as a single volume, as originally intended, I’d have to choose it, simply due to the impact it’s had.

If you could live inside a kids’ book, which book would you choose?

Where the Wild Things Are. Every day a wild rumpus and back home in time for dinner.

How tough was it to create a rich, realistic fantasy world that would appeal to hard-core, Sci-fi/Fantasy fans, but that would still be accessible enough to engage typical readers too (i.e. those unaccustomed to enjoying books about biotech chimera)?

Putting it that way, it sounds really tough. But from the beginning I wanted the book to be a Sci-Fi story that feels like a Fantasy. I felt like this approach would fit best with the science-meets-mythology themes in the story.

If this approach also makes the book appealing to a wider range of readers, I’ll be very excited about it. I never thought Kaimira would appeal to everyone, but I do know the sort of person I’m writing for, and there are a lot of us.

How do you hope that the online aspect of your work, at www.kaimiracode.com, will enrich readers’ experiences of the world you’ve created?

The website currently has short pieces I wrote that provide glimpses into different parts of the overall Kaimira story, from stories about Dragonfly and Breaker as they would appear in the Tree Book to journal entries written in the Kaimira Code.

Once we’ve rolled out the more interactive elements of the site, readers will be able to help build out the storyverse in a number of ways, from fan fiction to gaming.

Can you imagine this sort of cross-media initiative working as effectively in other genres, not just Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

It does work for other genres until you start getting into gaming. Sci-Fi and Fantasy tend to have pretty solid building blocks for gaming, but there are other genres that have it as well, such as thrillers and military action.

But I think there’s just something about Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans that attracts them to big, immersive stories. Maybe there’s a Sci-Fi gene we haven’t discovered yet.

I think that The Sky Village has the potential to appeal to both teen boys and girls because of the strong male and female characters, awesome action sequences and rich thematic elements. However, I can imagine some might think the series is pitched more towards boys (gaming tie-ins, focus on weaponry, fight sequences etc). I’m interested to hear your thoughts concerning “boy vs. girl” stories. During writing, were you consciously working to keep the narrative as gender neutral as possible?

It’s true that some have said the series seems to be skewed more toward boys, but there are others who say it’s more girl-focused. The truth is that I didn’t think much about gender when I was writing The Sky Village. I thought more about the kinds of readers I was writing for, the ones who love to get lost in a story and who, once it’s over, find creative ways to keep that experience alive.

What part of The Sky Village are you most proud of, because you think it’s the most creative or dramatic or just plain fun aspect of the book?

The chapter where the Sky Village encounters a storm. This was a late addition. I met with a group of students who gave me feedback on an earlier draft of the story. One of the students asked what would happen if the Sky Village ran into a storm. I thought it was a great question, and it lead to the creation of that chapter. And I had so much fun writing it.

This first novel in your series doesn’t present science and technology in the most positive light. What drew you to write about the destructive potential of these fields?

It’s true that science isn’t shown in the best light in The Sky Village. But Mei’s and Rom’s powers, and the Tree Book, are all products of the same science. With the right wisdom and balance, this wonderful and terrible technology might be put to more harmonious use.

And finally, a little randomness:

If you were forced to engage in a little gladiator-style fighting yourself, which element – human, beast or mek – do you think would likely dominate in you?

People who know me would probably say mek because I tend to stay very calm and focused. But in truth, I’d have to say human. When logic fails, there’s nothing like human instinct to carry you across the finish line.

Thanks so much to Chris for stopping by Shelf Elf. Tomorrow’s stop on the tour is at a wrung sponge. On Friday, you can read my review of The Sky Village at Guys Lit Wire.

It’s My Party! My 1-Year Blogiversary Carnival

Today, I am one. One year old (in blog years, that is). Pretty darn awesome. It’s been nothing but fun leaping into the land of kidslit blogging. That’s in great part due to the fantastic, supportive, encouraging, welcoming community of expert bloggers who’ve been stopping by Shelf Elf to say hello since the beginning. It’s been delightful and I’m all set to take on the Terrible Twos in the kidlitosphere. (Does this mean I can slip some tantrum posts in every once in a while now? Just kidding…)

As promised, thanks to the generosity of a whole bunch of you reader/blogger types, I’ve got a little celebratory mini-carnival of happiness, just to say, “Happy Birthday to Moi.” So go check out all of my cool birthday gift-reviews. I feel spoiled… truly spoiled. I send each and every one of you a virtual cupcake with an elf on it.

From Terry:
Happy Birthday! We hope you enjoy My Name is not Isabella! Fun, history, girl power!

From Sarah:
Happy Birthday! I hope you enjoy Katherine Appelt’s The Underneath.

From Cheryl:
Happy blogiversary! It is something to celebrate.
You said you like sad books with romance. The Pretty One has sadness and pain, and romance, but it also has hope. Hope you enjoy it.

From Jen R:
Happy birthday! I know you like mysteries, so I gift you Eleven, by Patricia Reilly Giff, reviewed here. Here’s to many more years of blogging at Shelf Elf.

From Kelly:
Happy anniversary! You’re doing a bang up job.
Here’s a present that might come in useful one day. You never know when you might run into
monsters
.

From Em:
Oh man, oh man, I don’t know what to give you! How about one of my recent favorites? Happy Birthday! Gossip of the Starlings.

From Miss Erin:
You will love this: The Patron Saint of Butterflies.

From Janice:
Happy blogiversary.
I hope you enjoy The Princess and the Captain AND Red Sky in the Morning. Neither are new books, but they both are a bit sad, but great stories.
You can find them here.

From Becky:
Happy blogiversary! I hope you enjoy Artichoke’s Heart.

From Melissa:
My contribution: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Happy blogiversary!

From Doret:
Happy Blogiversary
Its my first time here but I see we have some books in common so I know you’ll enjoy The Missing Girl by Norma Fox.

From Mother Reader:
Always a challenge to find the right gift…
It’s not a light book, but I’d love you to read Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

From Megan:
Happy Blogiversary to you! You live in a zoo!
My gift to you is…
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor.

From Jennifer:
I gift you only the best YA supernatural/horror in recent history: Bliss.
Happy Reading!

Thanks for the fun everybody!

(photo © Adrian van Leen for openphoto.net CC:PublicDomain)