Monthly Archives: September 2008

Cybils 2008

I am getting so excited about the Cybils 2008. If you’re new to the Cybils, they are the premier web awards for children’s/YA literature, given in all sorts of categories by members of the kidlitosphere. On October 1, you can begin to nominate those titles that you were craziest about in 2008: poetry, Middle Grade, YA, fantasy, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels… You name it, you’ll find it. The Cybils are all about high-quality writing with kid appeal, so every parent/librarian/bookseller/publisher (and kid!) should care about what gets nominated and of course, what wins. Visit the recently jazzed-up Cybils Blog for all the latest news as things get underway. Yippee!

Fashion Kitty Fantastic-ness

Question:

May I please be allowed to stay home from school tomorrow to read Fashion Kitty all day and eat cookies till I burst?

Answer:

Um… No.

One More Question:

Is it Friday yet?

Answer:

Um… No.

Darn it.

Then just allow me to say that I have only today discovered the utter fantastic-ness that is Charise Mericle Harper’s Fashion Kitty series. Do you know a tweenage girl who likes fashion, likes to laugh, likes a little sparkle and some gently-taught life lessons? Then I guess you know what to buy her for her next b-day.

Some Fashion Kitty Wisdom to tickle and inspire:

“There’s nothing that a tummy full of cookies can’t fix.”

“It is not very satisfying to do lots of arguing first thing in the morning before breakfast.”

“It is not a good thing to decide you don’t like someone before you even meet them, but it can happen.”

Grab a little Fashion Kitty. It’s what all the cool cats are reading this fall.

North of Beautiful

Now I know it’s not really very nice to review a book that hasn’t been released yet, and it’s doubly-not-nice to review a book that won’t be out for another 4 months (February 09), but… well… I’m gonna. Just cuz I like it so much.

In North of Beautiful, Justina Chen Headley, readergirlz Diva, writer, and world traveler extraordinaire, has written another thought-provoking, thematically-rich YA novel, with a protagonist you won’t soon forget. Her first novel for teens, Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies), was one of the very first YA titles I read as a grown up reader/reviewer, just as I was getting into this whole blogging thing. Let’s just say, it set the bar pretty high, and convinced me that teens today are pretty darn spoiled by the remarkable writing that’s happening right now, just for them. Since Nothing but the Truth, I’ve been waiting for EVER for the good ol’ Toronto Public Library to get it together and let me have a turn with Justina’s second book, Girl Overboard. Hopefully that will happen sometime before I hit middle age.

But back to North of Beautiful. If you’re the least bit into cartography, or geocaching, or art, or sexy Goth guys, or travel, or awesome family stories, North of Beautiful is your promised land. Terra Cooper could be beautiful. She’s tall, blond, has a great body and plenty of smarts. She could be beautiful if not for the large port-wine stain on her cheek. For years, Terra has hidden her birthmark under layers of makeup and her long hair, but everyone in her small town knows it’s there, and no one is more aware of her difference than Terra. She’s nearly through high school, and cannot wait to escape Colville and try out her own future at an East Coast art college. Terra isn’t convinced she’s an artist, just as she doesn’t believe she’s beautiful, so when her controlling cartographer father stamps out any hope of her leaving home, Terra feels more trapped than ever. Enter hot Goth Boy, Jacob. All of a sudden, Terra is headed on a journey she couldn’t have predicted. She has to trust herself, finding her way through new territory, within her family, her relationships, and all the way to the other side of the world and back.

I’m a sucker for a book that’s built around a central metaphor that the author carries through the text, refining and extending it right to the end until it’s all rich and delightful and worth pondering for a while. Justina Chen Headley does just that in North of Beautiful, taking the idea of life as a journey into unknown territory, and weaving into this notion concepts from cartography, adventuring and creativity. As an almost-adult, Terra is living through that uncomfortable period when she isn’t sure of who she is, or where she should go. And there’s no map for this, as everyone who’s grown up knows. Then there’s also the journey Terra’s been on since childhood, as she’s undergone many medical treatments hoping to “fix her face” for good. I think Justina offers readers a really complex look at the difficult, final stage of young adulthood, as experienced by a girl who’s almost ready to recognize her own strength. Terra learns that finding and defining her beauty is an interior journey that brings her a greater sense of calm, and also a thirst for what’s coming next. I love that lesson.

Read North of Beautiful with your gal pals. Read it in Mother/Daughter book clubs. Read it for a book report. There’s lots to talk about and to inspire. Then head over to www.geocaching.com and try a little treasure-hunting in your own backyard. And be sure to check out Justina’s current adventures with her family in Shanghai, over at her blog, Wordlings by Justina.

North of Beautiful is published by Little Brown and will be released in February 2009.

Elf Envy: Random Round Up

Fun stuff for ya from around the kidlitosphere:

Read Kelly Herold’s excellent review of Tamar, by Mal Peet. Great crossover material. This one was one of my favourite reads last year. I like this cover a lot better though:

Jen Robinson offers up a deliciously creepy book trailer for S.A. Bodeen’s, The Compound. (I’ve got this ARC gosh darn it. So why haven’t I read it yet?)

I’m happy to have discovered another cool reading blog: People Reading. You’ll find lots of posts in which the blogger interviews random people about the books they’re reading. Fun! Thanks to The Well Read Child for the link.

For teachers out there, you’ll appreciate a peek into great spaces for student learning in other people’s classrooms over at A Year of Reading. Nifty round up idea. I’d love to see more!

Given the news of late, The Ya Ya Yas have compiled a list of titles connected to teen pregnancy. Worth knowing about.

Read about one Very Cool Librarian. Thanks to Siobhan of The Longstockings for that link.

And speaking of those Longstockings… Caroline Hickey’s new book, Isabelle’s Boyfriend was released this week. Congrats to her. I enjoyed her first book, Cassie Was Here, during Cybils season last year.

Done and done.

Jessie’s Mountain

Kerry Madden’s third Maggie Valley story, Jessie’s Mountain, seems to me to be just the right book to ponder on the very last day of summer. It seems right because it’s a story with a good measure of longing and a feeling of being grateful for the good things you’ve got, and time moving along no matter what. It’s about doing difficult things and remembering to keep on dreaming.

If you’re not already Kerry Madden-crazy, then I’m envious, because boy-oh-boy do you have a treat in store. Three whole Maggie Valley books that you can read one after the other without waiting! Happy day! You’ll be starting off with Gentle’s Holler, meeting the Weems family and getting into the rhythm of life in the Smoky Mountains with Livy Two and her eight (eventually nine) siblings, her Mama and her musician Daddy. Then, in Louisiana’s Song, we learn a lot more about Livy’s sister Louise, the artist in the Weems family, as Livy Two faces more challenges and the looming possibility that her family might have to leave the valley for good. Running through both of these tales is music, Livy Two’s music and her Daddy’s and her sister Gentle’s angelic voice. Music holds this family together, lending humour and tenderness to day-to-day life and struggle in Maggie Valley.

Which brings you right up to Jessie’s Mountain, the third (and it looks like final) installment in the Weems’ story. Livy Two makes a risky and bold decision to run off to audition for a music man in Nashville, hoping that her success will save her family’s home in the valley for good. Grandma Horace gives Livy her mother’s childhood diary, and Livy and her siblings learn a lot more about the girl her mother used to be. Of course, events do not unfold in the way Livy dreamed they would, but she keeps her family’s best possible future close in her sights and works hard to get there.

I think it’s the warmth and honesty pouring from these stories that has made this trilogy one of my happiest reading experiences during the last year. It’s quite something to write a family story that is rooted completely in everyday trials and tribulations and pleasures that turns out so absorbing and never veers towards sappy. With characters quirky enough to be interesting without being unbelievable, an evocative setting and important conflicts that kids will connect with, Madden’s books spoil readers. At the end of every one of the Maggie Valley novels, I felt completely filled up with the big-hearted story and the country music and landscape of the Smoky Mountains. Kerry Madden is a gifted and graceful writer, and I think Livy Two’s story is going to be treasured by kids for a long time. (Kerry… say you’ll write more… pretty please?)