The Marvels

I started reading The Marvels by Brian Selznick back in March, and tore through the pictures. Then I got to the text and read maybe 20 pages and got bored. The book lived in my car for almost a month. I even changed my Goodreads to mark it DNF (did not finish). For some reason, however, I was drawn back to the book on Thursday.

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I stayed up way too late reading. Since it had been almost a month since I began the book I had forgotten who was who, so I kept having to flip back. In the end, I really liked it! I like the construction of The Invention of Hugo Cabret more than The Marvels (I still haven’t read Wonderstruck) since the text was interspersed with the pictures, and the pictures are really Selznick’s strength.

I don’t want to summarize too much, because I’m afraid I’m going to give away the twists. Check out the blurbs on Goodreads, but for goodness sake, don’t read the 1 star reviews. Makes me sad for humanity. So many close minded people out there.

PopSugar Reading Challenge: Book with pictures

Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge: Book over 600 pages

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ

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Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

A friend of mine from grad school posted on Instagram that she was approved for a NetGalley copy of Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan and I decided I had to try as well. I am so pumped about the third installment of Crazy Rich Asians! Anyway, once I got into NetGalley (it had been a while) I poked around and found a few more books that might fit into my goals of 1) reading more juvenile books this year and 2) could fit the PopSugar Reading Challenge checklist. One of which is Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George.

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The story centers around orphaned mouse Mona who finds herself carried away in a storm and finds refuge in a fantastical hotel called Heartwood Hotel. Readers meet sweet woodland creatures (like Mrs. Prickles the cook, Tilly the squirrel maid and owner Mr. Heartwood the badger), go on brave adventures with Mona, and learn about Mona’s family and past.


One Goodreads reviewer compared Heartwood Hotel to The Wind in the Willows, and while I see his point, I disagree. Mostly because the writing and characterizations are lacking. While Heartwood Hotel is no The Wind in the Willows it is a sweet and enjoyable read. I foresee those who like Critter Club and Puppy Place and The Saddle Club snapping these up. The fact that the book is an ARC and already a “book one” tells me publishers are also seeing the connections.

Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm popped up in my Goodreads “readers also enjoyed” section. I can’t remember which book readers also enjoyed, but the bright and simple cover appealed to me and I immediately put Sunny Side Up on hold.

Sunny Side Up is a graphic novel about a girl sent to Florida to spend the summer with her grandfather. Through a series of flashbacks we learn why Sunny is sent down to Florida, while we also watch her bond with her grandfather and Buzz, the only other kid in her grandfather’s retirement community. Sunny’s summer isn’t filled with beaches and Disneyworld, like she expected, but discovering Big Al, Swamp Thing and comics more than make up for it.

I greatly enjoyed Sunny Side Up, but the references to addiction in her family and the relationship with her brother is very vague. I wonder how much the target audience understands. Granted I was a very sheltered middle schooler so my experiences are probably very different from others. This books could lead to some great discussions however, and it broaches a topic not normally discussed in children’s literature.

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My Favorite Audio Books: Not Adult Ficiton

Since my car rides are so long I generally listen to adult fiction or nonfiction, as they are usually longer. But sometimes I like to switch it up. These are my favorite children’s, middle grade and YA audiobooks.

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Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

Unless you’ve lived under a rock since 1991 (can you believe Sorcerer’s Stone came out 25 years ago!), you know the general outline of the Harry Potter series. Jim Dale does a marvelous job of narrating Harry’s adventures. I listen to Harry Potter all the time. It’s a great distraction while running on the treadmill.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Tara Sands

This audiobook takes listening to the next level. It isn’t just someone reading the books, but every time Ulysses is about to begin a heroic, superhero feat, music swells to accompany the task. When Ulysses gets sucked up by the vacuum cleaner, he knows all is lost. But! Something amazing happens and he is reborn from the vacuum cleaner with amazing abilities. Namely, the ability to fly, heroic strength and poetry. Flora is changed too. The pessimistic reader of “Terrible Things Can Happen to You” learns to hope.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Morven Christie, Lucy Gaskell

I don’t even know where to begin describing this book. There are so many great details and plot twists that I don’t want to inadvertently spoil. So I’m going to cheat and copy the Goodreads blurb.

“I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.”

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra

Eleanor is different from everybody Park knows. Sure, her clothes are strange and there are whisperings about her family, but there is something else about her. Something special. And so begins their Romeo and Juliet romance. Full of heartbreak, honesty and passion, Eleanor and Park will truly make you feel.

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, narrated by David Tennant

You may have seen the 2010 movie How to Train Your Dragon, but did you know it’s a book? The series follows Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (also called Hiccup the Useless by some) on his quest to become a hero. While the print version is wonderful, and has humorous illustrations, the audio version is narrated by David Tennant (of Dr. Who and Harry Potter Fame) and filled with music, accents, and dragonese.

Middle and High School Book Club

I started a middle and high school book club in my second year as the school librarian in Louisiana. We had a small group, but each student actively participated and came up with their own questions, and encouraged discussion amongst the group. Overall, my role was pretty limited. Watching the leadership and teamwork develop was pretty wonderful. Over the course of the year, we read:*

The Giver by Lois Lowry

“The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.”

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

“Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.”

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

A brave and beautiful story that will make readers laugh, and break their hearts at the same time. Now with a special note from the author!

Steven has a totally normal life (well, almost).

He plays drums in the All-City Jazz Band (whose members call him the Peasant), has a crush on the hottest girl in school (who doesn’t even know he’s alive), and is constantly annoyed by his younger brother, Jeffrey (who is cuter than cute – which is also pretty annoying). But when Jeffrey gets sick, Steven’s world is turned upside down, and he is forced to deal with his brother’s illness, his parents’ attempts to keep the family in one piece, his homework, the band, girls, and Dangerous Pie (yes, you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human … until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Inside Out and Back Again by Lai Thanhha

Inspired by the author’s childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child’s-eye view of family and immigration.

Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope—toward America.

This moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it “enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny.”

My favorite part of book club, was seeing book reviews by students who claimed that the book club books were their favorite books. One girl cited Stargirl as a positive influence on her self confidence and another wrote that Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie encouraged her to be more patient with her hyperactive brother, because it “could be so much worse.”

*reviews from Amazon.com