Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Triss Crescent wakes up after being pulled from a pond, and there's something very wrong with her.  Her memories feel as if they are not her own, and it takes a few minutes for her to remember her mother and father at all.  And her younger sister, Pen, has an instant reaction upon seeing Triss - she screams that Triss is not Triss, and refuses to be near her.

At first, Triss chalks it up to the effects of the accident.  And Pen has always been difficult and resentful of the attention paid to Triss by their parents.  In fact, the family hasn't been the same since Sebastian, the oldest child, was killed in the Great War. But Triss is always so hungry - she eats and eats, even things, impossible things that aren't food at all.  And why does she keep finding bits of leaves and twigs in her room? And most terrifying of all, why do her dolls seem to come to life in her presence?

I can't say much more without giving spoilers.  Cuckoo Song is atmospheric and creepy, while giving us characters who you can't help rooting for, a historical setting and a mystery that is skillfully uncovered.  Unlike many teen books, the key relationship in this story is not romantic - it's between the sisters, and

While Cuckoo Song is cataloged as Teen, I can see it appealing to older youth readers - I would have loved it in 5th or 6th grade.   It is in the tradition of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and similar books which present a world within our world.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

You would think there isn't anything new to be said about vampires.  Between Buffy, Twilight, True Blood, Anne Rice and the countless other books, TV series and movies that have proliferated over the past 20 years, vampires would seem to be a dead end for a writer.

Not for Christopher Buehlman.  Buehlman, author of Between Two Fires and Those Across the River, has managed to make vampires scary again.

It is 1978, and Joey Peacock would be your typical New York City punk teen, spending his time clubbing and drinking.  Except what he's drinking is blood, and Joey is a lot older than he looks.  Joey is a vampire, and he maintains a low profile existence, feeding only enough from people to survive, but not kill.  He's part of a group of vampires that make their homes under the city, and they think they're basically the top of the food chain.

But they're really not.  One night, Joey sees a little girl and two small boys on the subway, just children on a train.  What he doesn't know is that his comfortable vampire world is about to go straight to hell.

The Lesser Dead  is compelling and unsettling.  The story is told through Joey's first person point of view.  He's oddly decent for a vampire, and the voice Buehlman gives him is very conversational in tone - this is a highly readable book.  No flowery Victorian language, no angst, no romantic subtext, just good old fashioned horror, and a very unexpected (to me, anyway) twist at the end.

If you appreciate creepy vampire stories, try Let Me In by John Lindqvist, or my personal favorite vampire book of all time, 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Fashionable Selby

by Todd Selby

How can you look at the cover of this book and not think "I MUST OPEN THIS"? But a word of caution for those who do decide to check this one out: It will immediately make you want to drop everything, quit your day job, and spend all your hours making and creating. In Fashionable Selby Todd Selby has curated a collection of unique fashion artisans in this behind the scenes look into their intricate creative processes. 

With minimal text and an abundance of captioned, pop-out-of-the-page photographs, readers are introduced to the eccentric characters behind many famous brands. Selby's interview style is a simple piece of paper with a few questions scrawled in his jittery handwriting. The interviewee then responds to the questions on the same paper, which gives the book a fun, quirky sketchbook feel. I also love the look into their studio spaces, as if Selby showed up unannounced and they were mid-workday.

Before you think "this book is not for me, I am not into fashion..." this book is not about how things look, but how things are made. It's more than the glossy, flat photos of models in magazines. It's an appreciation to the often overlooked dedication put in to the art of costume, craftsmanship, and transformation. If you like Selby's travels through the art world try his other books The Selby is in Your Place and Edible Selby.

Review by Stevie Z.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rookie Yearbook One

Edited by Tavi Gevinson

Rookie, a blog style site for teenage girls, was launched on an unsuspecting day in September 2011 when it's creator, Tavi, was only 15 years old. The site broke the one-million page views five days later.

Tavi and the Rookie staff are like a beacon in the tumultuous, drowning sea that is puberty. Teen years may seem like some of the loneliest, awkward, and desperate years of our lives, but Rookie provides a place not only to talk about it, but make it fashionable. Moving from blog format to book, Rookie Yearbook One compiles some of the best articles, interviews, poetry, photo editorials, and illustrations from the Rookie site's first year. It's contributors are talented girls of many shapes, sizes, colors, and styles from all over the world covering topics of health, love, fashion, feminism, and entertainment. Some of my favorites include articles like "Literally the Best Thing Ever: The Golden Girls," "Teenage Girls Assaulted by Wild Animals: an interview with John Waters," and the photo editorial "Younger Than Yesterday" where pictures of five girls at dusk are having "the kind of day you don't want to get called inside for dinner".

Tavi with the yearbook's first publication

Oh, how I wish I had Rookie to lean on as an awkward teenager, but still today these yearbooks are a must-read to evoke laughter, tears, creativity, empowerment and nostalgia. Tavi and the Rookie team have caught the attention of many influential celebrities and figures, including the Queen Bee herself, Ms. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue. Tavi was even invited to do a TED Talk for her inspiring role in modern feminism. Be sure to check out some of Rookie's talented veterans like Roxanne Gay's Bad Feminist and Emma Straub's The Vacationers. And if you get as hooked as I did, be sure to put on hold Rookie Yearbook Two and Rookie Yearbook Three.

Review by Stevie Z.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Touch the Brightest Star

by Christie Matheson

Tap the Magic Tree fans, REJOICE! Christie Matheson is back with her second book, Touch the Brightest Star, and I am happy to report that it is just as whimsical as her first. Adorned with watercolor illustrations and cut paper collage, readers are taken through a quiet night that comes alive at the touch of the page. Psst, what happens when you touch the brightest star you see with your magic finger? Check out this book to find out!

Great for a one-on-one bedtime treat, or a big group storytime, educators, parents, and kids light up for Matheson's interactive books. A bonus addition to this book is the last page where she describes "how the magic happens". It may seem like magic, but these little tidbits of facts explain just why fireflies light up at night, or a meteor is called a "shooting star". Perfect for little inquisitive minds and a great way to add nonfiction and science into such an imaginative story!

Be sure to visit our review for Tap the Magic Tree. For a more participatory book try The Odd One Out: A Spotting Book. For more imagination mixed with nonfiction try What If You Had Animal Teeth.

Review by Stevie Z.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Red Bird

Poems by Mary Oliver

It was a surprise to me to discover that I like poetry.  Why is it that I (and maybe you too) was introduced to poems that I had no connection to?  There’s a plethora of fantastic poetry and poets out there are understandable, relatable and inspiring to us ordinary people, or “poetry layman”.
I discovered Mary Oliver when an old friend of mine, a published poet and assistant professor of English, requested favorite poems on Facebook.  I took the plunge and started reading, discovering Mary Oliver’s well-known poem, The Summer Day, from her collection New and Selected Poems (1992).  All nineteen lines resonated with me, but none more than

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Her poems are gems packed into little packages that are perfect for reading a few at a time or all at once.

In Red Bird, Mary Oliver studies the place of each thing in the context of this vast world.  She studies it, not in a scientific way, but more like tasting something new, identifying subtle flavors intertwined.  The collection is a homage to a creator and the myriad of discoveries that can be made through quiet observation.

The poem “Invitation” is a reminder of everyday opportunities.

“Oh do you have time
    to linger
       for just a little while
          out of your busy

   and very important day
     for the goldfinches
        that have gathered
          in a field of thistles…”

 The first poem in this collection is titled Red Bird.  It asks why the red bird comes all winter.  Why does it matter?  Is it because of its bright colors contrasting with the gray and white of winter, or is it something else?  Red Bird revisits in different forms and ideas throughout the linked poetry.  Finally in the last poem, Red Bird Explains Himself, Mary Oliver explains what it’s all about.

Pick up Red Bird or any of Mary Oliver's collections of poetry at one of our libraries.  The latest is Blue Horses: Poems, published in 2014.

Review by Rebekah K.