Monthly Archives: November 2009

readergirlz Homecoming chat extravaganza!

I am so SO excited about today.


No, not because I am sending my students home with their report cards.

Also not because Monday is doggy bath night in my house.

Because tonight, at 6pm PST, 9pm EST, I will be joining in the readergirlz Homecoming Rave Chat with our Circle of Stars. That’d be authors like:

Coe Booth, Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Cecil Castelucci, Justina Chen, Rachel Cohn, Holly Cupala, Liz Gallagher, Nikki Grimes, Lorie Ann Grover, Ellen Hopkins, Sarah Miller, Mary Pearson, Mitali Perkins, Dana Reinhardt, Laura Resau, Melissa Walker, Ellen Emerson White, Rita Williams-Garcia, Sara Zarr…

and others too. Is that not almost beyond belief? All of those star authors? In one place? Chatting with us? Seriously?


You must be there. It will be way better than any other Homecoming you’ve ever been to. Come to the readergirlz blog tonight and join in the party. Be prepared for some insanely fast typing. This chat is going to buzz.


Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

I read quite a lot of YA realistic fiction, and almost none of the books that I read actually make me wish I could be a teen again. Most of the time, I’m glad to be a grown up. While I wasn’t a miserable teenager, looking back, I wasn’t ever content, and that was mostly because I wasn’t cool. I didn’t belong, and as much as I acted like my academic success was all that mattered to me, I always wanted to have more friends than I did and I always wondered what it would be like to live life in the cool crowd.

Was I a nerd? I never thought so. I guess I always thought that nerds were smart and really weird. Oddball genius types. Some probably gave me the “nerd” label because of the grades I got all the time. Bottom line was I didn’t really belong in the nerd category or in any other category. If I’d read Julie Halpern’s novel, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, when I was in high school, I might have felt less nerdy, or at least, I might not have felt offended if others thought of me that way. This book is all about nerd-power, and it is fantastic.

Jessie is a sophomore in high school. She actually likes school, but she doesn’t want to crow about it, because then she might look like a nerd. She loves math most of all. In her spare time, she’s started sewing funky skirts with weird and hilarious theme fabric from the fabric store: jelly bean fabric, prairie dog fabric, dalmations & hearts fabric… She also likes playing the drums. Jessie has had the same two close friends for years, and she’s also had the same crush for ages, her brother Barrett’s band-mate, Van. Even though her social life and school life have always seemed more or less sorted out, Jessie can’t decide where she really fits. This feeling gets stronger when her best friends decide at the start of the school year that they are going to become punks and groupies for her brother’s band. Then one starts chasing Jessie’s crush and Barrett sheds his punk-status when he starts dating the homecoming queen. Nothing makes sense anymore. This turmoil launches Jessie into friendship territory she never considered exploring before: the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. Before she knows it, she’s deep in nerd land, and unbelievably, she kind of likes it there. This leads her to question all she thought she had decided about what’s cool, what’s geeky, and where she belongs. Continue reading

Winter Trees

Winter Trees- by William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.



Yes. The leaves are gone. I know because I was the one who raked them all up. One good thing about winter being almost here. No more raking.

(From Poetry Foundation. Image from stock.xchng.)

Lost Worlds

I wasn’t really sure how to tag Lost Worlds by John Howe: Middle Grade? Picture Book? Illustration? Crossover? Adult? Nonfiction? Bottom line? This book will appeal to all sorts of readers.

I can tell you one thing, whatever category you slide it into, it’s one beautiful looking book. It is shouting, “Give me to someone this holiday season! Give me to someone!” Especially give me to someone who has a hankering for history or fantasy or outstanding artwork.

Lost worlds is a collection of research, theories, photographs and illustrations about numerous worlds “abandoned in time, buried and forgotten… and the ones that live in the imagination” (from Howe’s introduction). You’ll find pages on Eden, Thebes, Pompeii, Persepolis, Teotihuacan, Camelot, Faerie and many more. Then there’s an appendix of more lost worlds at the end. For those non-Tolkien types, Howe was one of two lead concept artists for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The guy knows fantasy. He even managed to snag Sir Ian McKellen (aka Gandalf from the LOTR movies), to write a foreward to this book.

The illustrations inspire spine-tingles in their epic style, strong sense of mood, and their dramatic detail and colouring. (I’m not kidding. I have goosebumps right now as I’m staring at the illustration of Morgan Le Fay holding Arthur on the boat bearing his body to the isle of Avalon. Wow). In fact, the artwork is so strong, that it’s kind of hard to even take your focus away for long enough to read the text. This is the kind of book I would look at first, and then read. The text is packed with history and legend, and I liked the way that photographs of actual landscapes, sites, and ancient relics are blended with Howe’s pictures. This really adds to the overall richness of the content.

Here’s John Howe, talking about the book:

I must mention that the design of the cover is, in a word, awesome. It will bring to mind the “ology” books (Dragonology, Egyptology etc), which will certainly pull in fans of those titles. The window reveals only a glimpse of the stunning illustration of Atlantis that you see when you open the book. So dramatic. You’ll stare at it for a long time before you even want to head into the rest of the text. That’s exactly what this book will do to a reader: stop you in your tracks, again and again. This is one to linger over, to browse through for hours. Give this to a fantasy-loving kid (or grown up) this holiday and you probably won’t see him/her for the rest of the day. They’ll be lost – in a good way.

Lost Worlds is published by Kingfisher.

Perfect Snow

I’ve had the chance to hear Barbara Reid talk about her books and her plasticine art on a few occasions, and every time, I walk away thinking what a charming, smart, funny, talented person she is. It always makes me love a book more when the author or artist impresses me as an individual. Her latest picture book, Perfect Snow, is another remarkable creation with plasticine artwork so outstanding that you’ll be gobsmacked, yet again. It is crazy what she can do with the stuff.

The book was inspired by a snow fort that Reid’s daughter made when she was young, a fort that became legendary in their family and community. Two boys, Scott and Jim, each wake up thrilled to see that snow has fallen overnight. Both are excited to get to school and make the most of the white stuff at recess. Nearly all of the story takes place during recesses, following the boys’ games on their own and with their friends.

For the first time ever, Reid includes ink and watercolour panels along with the plasticine landscapes, and the mixed media works beautifully. I wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to improve upon her genius plasticine illustrations, but I really liked the way that the black and white sketches served to set off the rich detail and colour in the plasticine images. Also, the comic style layout of the ink drawings allowed Reid to get in even more narrative, giving readers an opportunity to get to know the characters better as we have more of a chance to see them in between major scenes in the story.

Looking at one of Reid’s full-page or double-page plasticine spreads, you really have to wonder: a) how does she do it? b) how long does it take? There is one illustration that shows a tornado of kids, swirling up in a mess of flying scarves and hats and mitten strings and big sweeping whirls of snow. The facial expressions of the children and the textures in the flying snow and the tremendous movement on the page gets full marks – more than full marks because it’s stunning that she does it with plasticine.

Here’s Reid introducing the book:

The tale itself is straightforward and pretty simple, but so true to a kid’s perspective, to what matters to them in their day-to-day school life. It’s an honest, entirely relatable winter story, brought to life in a uniquely vivid style, making the experience seem fresh as… (dare I say it?)… brand new snow.

Perfect Snow is published by North Winds Press, an imprint of Scholastic Canada.

Perfect Snow is perfect for a wintery gift. Just perfect. So quit it with the rain, and let’s get some white stuff started.

No one wants to play with me

So… I am abandoning my Swap-er-ama.

It would seem that no one wants to play with me. Not sure why. (Ok, one person played with me. I’ll send you your book!)

That’s ok. (*sniffle*)

To console myself, I think I will purchse:

My very own Worry Woolie Notebook (from Spiderbite Boutique).

I will write about my worries. This little fella will keep my secrets.

Shelf Elf’s Swap-er-ama: Day 2 – Ice

So it’s day two of my “Swap-er-ama.”

Want to swap books with me?

Yesterday, I offered up Sara Zarr’s amazing latest book, Once Was Lost. (Click here to swap for that one).

Today I am offering Sarah Beth Durst’s newest, Ice. Loved it, loved it, loved it:

This one is perfect for winter reading. Read my review here.

So here’s a quick recap on how this swap business goes down:

You like the book I’m offering to trade? Then you, dear elf-y readers, will leave a comment, offering me a book in exchange.

You will receive extra special consideration if:

a) you link to a review you’ve written of the book you’re offering to trade
b) you can tempt me with one of the books on my Wish List of Happiness, although I am entirely happy to receive other fab suggestions for a trade! (See said Wish List here).

At the end of the week, I’ll contact the winners of each title and we’ll set up the trades.

Thanks for playing!

Shelf Elf’s Swap-er-ama: Day 1 – Once Was Lost

I realized two things this morning:

1) My book piles are getting seriously, dangerously out of control.
2) I still want more books.

So, I have hatched a brilliant plan to address both of these issues:

Everyday this week, I will offer up a book that I have read and enjoyed to swap with one lucky reader. I’m talking good books here folks.

I will link to my review, just to prove that it is, indeed, a book worth swapping for.

Then you, dear elf-y readers, will leave a comment, offering me a book in exchange.

You will receive extra special consideration if:

a) you link to a review you’ve written of the book you’re offering to trade
b) you can tempt me with one of the books on my Wish List of Happiness, although I am entirely happy to receive other fab suggestions for a trade!

The Wish List of Happiness
Newsgirl –  Liza Ketchum
Princess of the Midnight Ball –  Jessica Day George
Hold Still –  Nina LaCour
The Indigo Notebook – Laura Resau
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder – Julie Halpern
The Season – Sarah Maclean
Ash – Malinda Lo
Angus, thongs, and full-frontal snogging – Louise Rennison (been stuck on my TBR list for years!)
Something you think I just have to read

At the end of the week, I’ll get in touch with the winners, and we’ll arrange the swaps. I will also send every trader a tiny surprise something along with the books, just to say thanks for joining in on the Swap-er-ama.

So… let’s get going. The first title I offer for the Swap-er-ama is…

Sara Zarr’s Once Was Lost is one the best YA books of the year. Read my review here, and my interview with Sara here.

Then, drop off a comment with your name, your suggested swap title and your review link (if possible).

(Note #1: Open only to residents of the US and Canada, since the Elf’s penny supply for shipping is limited.
Note #2: Ms. Elf lives in Canada, so that’s where you’ll be mailing your book).

To Kindle or not to Kindle…

This morning I read an article in the Globe & Mail by Ian Brown, in which he more or less trashes the Kindle. Towards the end he writes:

I whizzed through four chapters of Twilight on Kindle, inhaling screenfuls of text at a single glance. She’s a very readable writer. But that’s also the secret of Kindle: It’s brilliant for popular stuff, for the kind of genre book that delivers reliable, not-too-radical thrills you can absorb with half your brain elsewhere. Kindle is a marketing gadget that could make the consumption of certain kinds of book more convenient and efficient. Unlike its battery, a life of the mind is not included.

Read the full article here. I’m not getting one (not that I was considering it before reading Brown’s piece). I like books, the old-fashioned way. The only thing that tempts me in this technology is the cut-back on paper consumption. I wonder what the user demographics are with this device? It seems like more younger techy types might want one, but it would be interesting to see who is actually buying them most of the time. Are booklovers and avid readers buying Kindles? Older people who want to take advantage of the text to speech feature?

Any bookworms out there who are Kindle believers?

Winter Blog Blast Tour Final Day

Phew! Here we are after a week packed with absolutely fantastic author and illustrator interviews for WBBT 2009. A giant thank you to Nova Ren Suma, Beth Kephart and Laini Taylor for their stops here at Shelf Elf. You spoiled us by spilling lots of secrets and stories.

For a full round-up of who said what when and where, visit Colleen’s day-by-day listing here, at Chasing Ray.

Now don’t fret, you’ve still got six more outstanding interviews to enjoy today. Here’s the schedule:

Lisa Schroeder at Writing & Ruminating
Alan DeNiro at Shaken & Stirred
Joan Holub at Bildungsroman
Pam Bachorz at Mother Reader
Sheba Karim at Finding Wonderland
R.L. LaFevers at Hip Writer Mama

It’s been fun gang!