Love. Loss. Revenge. A little history. A little fantasy.

book of pearlIf you are looking for a straightforward action story, do not read this book.  If you are 100% anchored in reality, maybe take a pass.  If, however, you are on vacation, like to think about alternate realities, or don’t mind a love story which stretches far beyond the “normal” lives of two people, find a way to get your hands on The Book of Pearl.

I think it’s fair to say that Timothée de Fombelle has reached a status with me that almost touches Kathi Appelt.  I sought this book out, ordering a copy from England when I didn’t see it in the libraries around me. (Apparently, on further research, it won’t be released in the U.S. until Feb. 2018.  So that’s why…)  I loved de Fombelle’s Vango stories and have recommended them to several kids who like action but also appreciate good writing and story development and all kinds of twists and turns.  He’s not a popular author in the U.S., I don’t think, but maybe he should be.

And the extra work was worth it.  It’s a beautiful book, although maybe not one that you’d want to try to read in just a chapter a day.  There are a lot of characters to keep track of, characters who dip in and out and who might just seem to inhabit the fringes until suddenly they don’t.  There is evil and loss and quite a bit of sadness, but the joyful moments are almost luminous.  (I’m assuming the translators get some gold stars for that, too.)

It’s the perfect book for a long afternoon of quiet in a state forest.  Detach from technology and give it a try.  It’s not exactly a happy ending, but hey—he’s French.  Deal with it.

The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle

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Mother Goose – wannabe fairy or name-dropping gossip?

mother goose diaries“Have you noticed every village idiot with a quirk becomes national news?  Jack and Jill fell down the hill – so what?  Little Bo Peep lost her sheep – how is that my problem?”  (The Mother Goose Diaries)

Oh, Mother Goose, the secrets you know about the fairy tale world!  And now you’re visiting our reality and hanging out with everyone from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Napoleon to Martin Luther King, Jr.

I must admit that I have read none of Chris Colfer’s other Land of Stories books.  I checked the first one out and didn’t get it read in time, and then the others piled up and I was just too lazy to face the whole thing.

This one looked like more of a companion piece, and it’s short, so it was perfect for the end of summer reading brain I’ve got.  This is not serious literature, people, but it’s a fun, silly ride through a somewhat embittered non-fairy’s life, and while time-traveling and speaking her mind, Mother Goose has a way of dropping a few words on social justice in, too.  I’m good with that.

The Mother Goose Diaries by Chris Colfer

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Read. Repeat. Now read it again.

turn on the nightI came across this one in the new picture books at another library.  (Yes, I’m just that much of a geek that I visit other libraries in my free time.)  I glanced at it, and seeing it was wordless, it went into my stack to take home.  On the first read, I thought it was a little weird.  Then I read the inside flap.  Aha… I read it again, noticing a few more details.  And then again.  More.  And again.  Even more.

It’s the best kind of wordless picture book.  You could read the story each time in a slightly different way, and it might change a little as you notice more and more of the details.  Don’t get me wrong – the pictures are not full of tiny, over-the-top drawings that make you stay on a page for five minutes.  They’re simple, but deceptively simple.  Is that another reindeer?  Are the lights different now?  What happened to the sleeping girl?  Definitely worth another look.

Turn On The Night by Geraldo Valério

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Grief and how to look at it

where do they goSome years ago, a dear friend told me to keep an eye out for blinking lights.  “When you see them, you’ll know it’s me on the other side,” she said.  Once you start noticing it, lights are blinking all the time.  So, of course, I think of her every time.  And they are always good memories – eating her cookies, talking (in a kind way) about everyone we knew in common, remembering the time she held my just-born son only a few weeks before she died.

Death and grief can be tough topics for adults to address with kids, but it has to happen, right?  It’s part of life to deal with death, and finding gentle ways to grieve and remember can help kids realize that.

Where Do They Go tackles it head on, but in a way that leaves the door open to many interpretations, religions, and backgrounds.  The pictures support the words and bring out the joy in remembering and sadness of losing someone.

Where Do They Go by Julia Alvarez and Sabra Field

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A bad guy meets his match

bad-guy-9781481460101_lgAh…siblings.  The power struggles, the down and dirty tricks, the trips to the library.  All part of that constant struggle to stay on top, right?

There’s a nice twist here.  The bad guy whose mom calls him “sweetie” turns out to have an equally evil sister, the kind who will eat the last popsicle in front of you and probably laugh her evil laugh.  And Mom?  Maybe she’s not so nice, either….

Bad Guy by Hannah Barnaby and Mike Yamada

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Wonder Twin Power ACTIVATE!

cosmic commandosI have a confession to make.  For years, my husband has randomly said something along the lines of “wonder twin power—activate!”  Because we are a family loaded up in references—many dating back to Firesign Theatre, which he listened to with his friends when he was a teenager—I have never actually asked about or looked up the reference.

This morning, however, when I was thinking about Cosmic Commandos, the first thing that popped into my mind was, “wonder twin power”, so I finally decided to look it up.  It turns out that the Wonder Twins are Junior Superfriends and were in a cartoon way back, which explains everything I need to know.  I was more of a Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes gal.

Reference explained… and now on to the book of day!  Cosmic Commandos is a light, fun read.  You could delve into the relationship between the twins – one brash and bold, the other nerdy and social – but it’s as much fun to read along as Jeremy of the “stinkish life” charges forward without thinking and ends up mostly succeeding at destroying an evil alien power.  Why not?  It’s a little bit of summer fun, right?

Cosmic Commandos by Christopher Eliopoulos

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When your parents are kind of homicidal

andthentherewerefour

In this case, “kind of” is generous.  The parents and guardians of these five teenagers want them dead.  When the first attempt fails, managing only to bring the kids together and make them realize something nefarious is up, it’s on, baby.  The parents have a variety of reasons – fear that a child will die of a horrible disease, feeling like their child is becoming too independent, not liking their sexuality, money, just being a psychopath.  Ok, so it’s a little absurd, and there are moments when it’s all just a little too lucky or unlucky, even when you’ve given yourself over to it, but it’s fun in a dark and gripping kind of way.

My first thought after I finished it?  “Well, at least I’m not THAT bad at parenting.”  My son would never have recommended it to me otherwise, right?

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Fangirls and glass slippers

geekerellaA fondness for Star Trek (or Starfield).  A love of cons.  A pumpkin orange vegan food truck.  A fairy god-seamstress.  Evil stepmother.  Mean stepsisters.  Glass slippers.

It’s all here.  It might sound a little clichéd at first, but Geekerella does a splendid job of mashing all of these worlds together, creating a heroine who’s more than a Disney princess waiting around for a guy and including support characters who are fully formed and seem appropriately geeky or evil, depending on their role.  Elle is an outsider in an image-obsessed family, and her Prince Carmindor has challenges of his own.  It’s a sweet, modern re-telling, perfect for a summer afternoon, especially if you are a fan.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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Two balls of clay

claymatesTake a deep breath and imagine what you’d do if you had two balls of clay.

This book would be my dream scenario, since honestly, no animals I’ve ever made from clay look remotely like this.  You could probably figure out my elephant from the anatomically incorrect long trunk, but otherwise, good luck.

And that’s why I love this book so much. It’s beautiful, packed with creative and easy-to-pick-out animals and shapes and things.  Kids will love it, too, because it’s kind of sassy and funny, and the unseen artist’s attempts to create one thing might turn into something else.  Definitely worth a look and possibly a great one for a kindergarten book lady day next year.

Claymates by Dev Petty and Lauren Eldridge

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Private Eye July

FirstClassMurder_finalUS_200x300Ah, mysteries…I love mysteries.

I finished reading Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz a few weeks ago – a nice homage to Agatha Christie and Hercule Poirot with an added complication or two.  Then there was The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, another great Ruth Galloway mystery.

And then First Class Murder landed in my holds stack … another homage to Agatha Christie, complete with a trip on the Orient Express with girl detectives, Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong.  Daisy and Hazel started their detective work in a boarding school, and then solved a head-scratcher of  a murder at a country home.  The Orient Express is supposed to get them away from murders, but it never works out that way, does it?

The cast of characters is quirky and interesting, with a Russian countess, her American Pinkerton-obsessed grandson, a spy, a magician, a medium, maids who might be more than they appear, an obnoxious husband and an heiress.  It’s a fun, light read, despite the murder, and Daisy and Hazel’s detection skills are just getting better by the moment.   There are another three already-released-in-the-UK books in the series, so now I’m debating whether to wait for their U.S. release or get them over here now.  Sigh.  So many books.  So little time.

First Class Murder: a Wells and Wong mystery by Robin Stevens

 

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