Monthly Archives: March 2013

A big shout out for “!” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

exclamation

In late March, most people can use a little more ! in their lives. I know I sure do. So when I spotted Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s sunny new picture book, I had hope that a smiley happy boost was headed my way.

I was not wrong. It’d be near impossible to read Exclamation Mark and not be charmed and cheered.

Here’s the trailer:

You know when you read a book, and you can just tell the creators had a blast making it? That’s this book. In fact, I’d say that I get this feeling when I read all of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s books. This is a woman I’d like to spend the day with. I imagine we’d do something fun and probably kooky and we’d be laughing nonstop. Our conversations would be full of clever puns and silly stuff and we’d feel smart and giddy and just plain delighted to be alive.

Not to mention, I love me a book that I could imagine using with wee folk right on up to Grade 8. (Cuz you know those Grade 8s aren’t all pros with their punctuation. Shocker). Exclamation Mark has a message that little guys can relate to, but the concept and execution are so clever that older kids will laugh on every page.

So Amy, if by small chance you ever read this tiny shout out for Exclamation Mark, I’d like to say thanks for making stories as witty as they are wise.

Exclamation Mark is published by Scholastic.

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Light as a feather: Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

destinySometimes the second you lay eyes a book, you cannot wait to read it. That’s how I felt when I first saw Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s new middle grade novel, Destiny, Rewritten. Everything about that cover (by Erwin Madrid) speaks to my inner 11-year-old, and I’ll bet it will speak to a whole lot of actual 11-year-olds too. I mean, what’s not to love, from the point of view of a starry-eyed, fashionably cute, bookstore-loving, cat obsessed girl? Even the title font is pretty much spot on, promising a little whimsy and romance and some artsy flair. Add the soft, magic-is-about-to-happen lighting from above, and I’m sold. Bam. Done. My only complaint, post-read, is that the cute kitty does not feature in the story, which seems misleading, since he features so prominently on the front. (And clearly he has a story. I mean, look at that face!)

So it was with a heart full of expectation that I began to read about the life and adventures of eleven-year-old Emily Elizabeth Davis, who is destined to become a poet, just like Emily Dickinson, because that is who she was named after. Emily’s mother, herself a poet, and a rather flaky, destiny-loving lady, named her daughter after ED in the hopes that her daughter would grow up to be a remarkable poet as well. Too bad Emily has no talent for poetry, or any interest in it really. She would rather read romance novels, and imagine her future as a famous writer in the tradition of Danielle Steel, to whom she writes frequent letters. She hasn’t told her mom about all this… yet. Things get complicated when Emily finds out that her mother, who has kept the identity of Emily’s dad secret, reveals that she wrote his name into the special volume of Emily Dickinson’s poetry that Emily has treasured for as long as she can remember. But before Emily can find this life-changing information, the book is lost. So begins her search to find the book, find out the truth about her father, and hopefully, discover her true destiny along the way.

There’s a lot to love in this gentle story. Fitzmaurice creates a wonderfully realistic relationship between Emily and her best friend Wavey. I particularly appreciated the dialogue between the two of them. I like the way it bounces back and forth, with each one of the kids adding on to what the other one says, finishing up the other’s thoughts in that way that real friends sometimes do. You really believe in their friendship. The setting, Berkeley, California, comes across as quirky and warm. Emily writes to her author-hero, Danielle Steel, and the letters are delightful little funny and heartwarming treats scattered throughout the narrative. In fact, heartwarming is pretty much the perfect word for this whole book. I also like it when an author is successful in bringing together different narrative threads in a way that doesn’t feel contrived, but rather captures how life can surprise us with circumstances that might be destiny, or perhaps only strange coincidences.

Just two complaints. First, sometimes Emily’s language did not ring true for an eleven-year-old. It came off as too adult in places. I’ve listened to many an eleven-year-old, and there were moments when Emily’s way of speaking / thinking seemed far too adult to be convincing. This was occasionally distracting. Also, while I get that Emily’s mom was meant to be flaky, she came off a little one-dimensional and hard to believe a lot of the time. I found her unsympathetic overall, almost like she was toying with her daughter’s emotions by being such a slave to the notion of everything being destined. I found it hard to think that a mother would treat her daughter’s desire to know her father with such a lack of seriousness and respect, almost as if it was a kind of game.

Destiny, Rewritten is an Indiebound Kid’s Pick for Spring, and I can see why. Pick it up and you’ll be delighted you did.

Destiny, Rewritten is published by Katherine Tegen Books.

I can’t wait to read these!

gryffI promise I won’t be starting off every post with a puppy picture, but c’mon, how could I deny you such an adorable face? He’s a little charmer, that’s for sure. Moving on to All Things Booky.

It’s my March Break from school next week, and I plan to read, read, read (when I’m not training a certain someone to Sit, Down, and Come). There are so many books coming out now or in the next couple of months that I cannot wait to read and I’ve started keeping a list so I don’t forget any of them. What’s on your TBR list?

Here’s a collection of links to reviews of upcoming or brand new titles that you might want to remember too:

According to Reading Rants, Dark Triumph: His Fair Assassins by Robin LaFevers is “way more bloody and fast paced than the first but just as deliciously juicy.” I devoured book one, so this one is probably at the top of my list. Coming in April.

According to Vikki, The Darkness Dwellers by Kirsten Miller should hopefully get the Kiki Strike series onto more people’s radar. I support that. The first two books were such fun. More kids should be reading them. Vikki imagines a movie version would be “like Kick-Ass meets The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants only set in NEW YORK!” Yes please!

A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy adored The Madness Underneath: Shades of London, Book Two by Maureen Johnson: “I loved, loved, loved The Madness Underneath. The Name of the Star is like the TV Pilot that gets the gang together and sets up a premise and The Madness Underneath is the episode where it all comes together and sparks fly.” I’m pretty sure that this one will be at the top of my vacation reading list.

Confessions of a Bibliovore thinks that Robin Benway’s latest, Also Known As, is pretty delightful. She promises, “if you’re jonesing for more Gallagher Girls, this should help with that. Breezy, funny, and sweet, this confection of a novel is just right to put a smile on your face.” Sounds like a treat.

I absolutely cannot wait to pick up Lisa Graff’s new Middle Grade title, A Tangle of Knots. Those who know me well know that a book with recipes is sure to get my attention. Welcome to My Tweendom was crazy about it for lots of reasons. Here are a few: “a bake-off, recipes, attempted adoption, archeological crime, a mysterious wordless stranger, a wayward ferret and an in-and-out narrator dressed in a gray suit, and you have A Tangle of Knots.” Sounds a little Polly Horvath-ish in terms of quirkiness.

So those are a few books I’m hankering after at the moment. Reviews to come soon, pinky swear! It’s hard being a new mama 🙂

Happy Friday!