Anthony Horowitz tomorrow!

•April 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

7pm, be there.

Sylvan and an awesome customer made this scorpion out of Scorpia Rising:


Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

•April 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

RevolutionHere’s a review of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, from Celia, one of the members of the teen book group.

Revolution most often comes about because of a need for change. In the case of the French Revolution, for liberty, equality and fraternity. But all Andi Alpers wants is for the crushing sadness that she feels over her brother Truman’s death to go away, to not have to feel the horrible guilt that she feels every second, that she might have been the cause of it all. Andi’s life has begun to feel meaningless, with no relief in sight except ending it.

But the one highlight of her life is music. An extremely gifted guitarist, Andi can play anything from David Gilmour’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to Bach’s Sonata in D minor. All she has in life is music, and her talent matches her need for it. Her mother, a French native and talented artist, paints canvas after canvas of Truman, nearly driven mad with grief over her son’s death. Andi’s father, a Nobel prize winning scientist, buries his anguish with his work.

Before Truman’s death, Andi was a nearly straight-A student, but now that she sees no point in academics, her grades are failing. After a troubling letter from her school, Andi’s father decides to check Andi’s mother into a hospital and take Andi to Paris to spend winter break with him. While staying at her father’s friend’s house, Andi happens upon an old guitar case that is mysteriously locked. She is told that it was brought back from the catacombs dug under Paris during the French Revolution. But what she finds inside will leave her permanently connected with another girl’s undying devotion to a little boy, Prince Louis-Charles, Dauphin and heir to the French Crown. It will also send her traveling back in time. literally.

I really liked Revolution. It’s gripping story was very imaginative and was set against the backdrop of a fascinating part of history.  Though incredibly sad, it was also surprisingly uplifting. Two thumbs up!  –Celia

Revolution was also one of our favorite books of 2010 (PDF).  Read this review from Kerri, one of our booksellers:

Andi escapes her crippling grief at the loss of her younger brother by burying herself in the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, an aspiring actress living in Paris during the French Revolution.  Alex is a young peasant girl unexpectedly befriended by the young prince of France, the Dauphin Louis-Charles.  Alex is so devoted to Louis-Charles that she risks her own life to ease his suffering when he is imprisoned.  Jennifer Donnelly’s well-drawn characters will absorb your thoughts until you reach the conclusion of this compelling novel.  —Kerri Poore

A Northern LightJennifer Donnelly is also the author of A Northern Light, one of our department’s favorite books of the last 25 years.

Kekla Magoon

•January 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

My latest favorite author is definitely Kekla Magoon. Her new book, Camo Girl (Aladdin, $15.99), came out just a week ago and I’m so excited to recommend it and share it with people.

Ella and Zachariah have been friends for their whole lives. Zachariah, who goes by Z, used to be a lot of fun, but as more and more sad things happened in his life, he retreated into himself, creating a sort of alternative world where he feels safer. Ella insists on sticking by him, even when it means that she loses all her other friends. Z doesn’t seem to mind or even notice that kids make fun of him, but it pains Ella to be left out. Ella is grappling with a lot of difficult issues at the beginning of the book. Not only is she lonely, but her family is always short on money, and the splotchy discoloration of her skin causes her hated nickname, “Camo Girl.” When a new boy named Bailey joins their school, Ella is thrilled to no longer be the only African-American student , and even more thrilled when he seeks out her friendship. Z’s frustration with her new friendship forces Ella to make tough choices about where her loyalties lie and how best to help people she cares about. It’s written in wonderful and simple language, and the plot moves so quickly that it’s hard to put down. This book moved me so much that I not only cried when I read it, but have been thinking about the characters since I finished it.


I liked Camo Girl so much that I went searching for Kekla Magoon’s other book to read as well. I was definitely not disappointed; it’s another heart-wrenching, richly written story that will change you. The Rock and the River (Simon & Schuster, $15.99), takes place in Chicago in 1968, at the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement. Thirteen-year-old Sam is the youngest son of a famous activist, and has grown up believing in peaceful protesting and the power of words to change minds. So when Sam’s older brother Stick becomes involved with the Black Panther Movement, an organization known for defending themselves with guns, Sam is shocked and confused. However, as he learns about the group’s beliefs, he realizes how many important things they are doing and that he may want to be a part of it. While tensions between his brother and father build at home, the trial of a friend wrongly accused of assault draws responses from both groups. Full of politics, emotional struggle, and a little bit of romance, Magoon brings to life a particular historical moment in this wonderful book.

–Amy Kane

The Kid Table

•December 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Here is a review from a member of our teen book group:
The Kid Table by Andrea Seigal

Seventeen-year-old Ingrid Bell’s life has always been about family and the Kid Table.  The Kid Table has always been the place where Ingrid’s older relatives parked their children at family gatherings, long after most of them had outgrown the plastic table with tooth marks on it.  Brianne, Micah, Dom, Autumn, and Ingrid are all finishing up high school or going to college and feel that sharing a table with Katie, their four-year-old cousin, is no longer even laughable.

Everything seems annoyingly the same at Uncle Kevin’s non-religious bar mitzvah celebration until it becomes clear that Brianne, the eldest cousin, has been mysteriously upgraded to the adult table, leaving Ingrid and her other cousins nonplussed at this sudden favoritism.  But what Ingrid really doesn’t expect is to feel an attraction to Trevor, Brianne’s new boyfriend, leaving Ingrid torn between going behind Brianne’s back or never being with Trevor.

Andrea Seigal’s The Kid Table is a wry gripping read, though it doesn’t really feel like a real girl is telling the story.  Ingrid acts the way people would like to act at family gatherings.  She is an enjoyable character, likable, and (mostly) self-possessed.  However, the character and the situations don’t always feel realistic.  The situations described in The Kid Table are far from your run-of-the-mill family’s eccentricities (for example, hiring a grown man to serve champagne and portray a diapered Baby New Year for Ingrid’s aunt and uncle’s New Year’s party).  Though somewhat far-fetched, I still found The Kid Table quite a witty and entertaining novel.


I Capture the Castle

•October 14, 2010 • 1 Comment

The once-prosperous Mortmain family hasn’t paid the lease on their crumbling castle home in years.  As her family struggles to get by without any reliable source of income, 17-year-old Cassandra scribbles furiously in her journal for hours in the barn attic. Her goal: to develop her skills as a writer by recording and “capturing the characters” of the people that surround her. In I CAPTURE THE CASTLE (MPS, $14.99),  Dodie Smith uses Cassandra’s journals to bring to life a group of loveable characters and tell the masterful and charming tale of the six months that changed the Mortmain’s lives forever.

When the rich and charismatic brothers Simon and Neil move in nearby, Cassandra’s older sister Rose immediately declares that she will marry one of them, and the wooing begins. What follows is a wonderfully complex romantic saga as Cassandra simultaneously supports her sister and struggles with her own first feelings of love. Moving from hilarious and absurd scenarios to tear-jerking confrontations between characters, Smith seamlessly weaves a story where love and duty clash and no one is quite sure how they feel.

While first love is a central part of the book, the relationships within the family are equally important in shaping Cassandra’s story. Cassandra’s father, after writing an outrageously successful novel many years before, stows away in his room reading mysteries and avoiding conversation. Cassandra works tirelessly with her siblings Rose and Thomas to try to change his ways, employing increasingly radical and amusing strategies. Meanwhile, the girls grow closer to their young stepmother Topaz, who just wants to be needed (although she also enjoys “communing with nature” on the castle grounds in nothing but a pair of boots).

I loved this book from the first page until the last. Cassandra is so likeable that I couldn’t help but root for her and the rest of the Mortmain family throughout the story. There are infinite reasons why this coming of age story is such a timeless classic. –Amy Kane
If you’ve read and loved I Capture the Castle, try A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper.

Swim the Fly

•October 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

One recently arrived book you might want to check out: BEAT THE BAND, Don Calame‘s follow-up to SWIM THE FLY, one of our favorites from last year.  It’s perfect if you’re already feeling a little down on the new cold weather and want to get back to summer.  Here is Dara’s review of Swim the Fly to whet your appetite.

Each summer, Matt, Sean, and Coop set themselves a challenge.  This year it’s to see a real live girl naked.  In order to impress Kelly, a new girl on the swim team, Matt also has another goal: to teach his scrawny body to SWIM THE FLY (Candlewick, $16.99). Author Don Calame captures the raunchy yet odd sensitivity of 16-year-old boys in a side-splittingly funny novel.   Dara La Porte

Teen book group & Prince of Mist

•September 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We had a very interesting meeting of the teen book group this past Sunday, when we discussed Allen Zadoff’s Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have.  I can’t say that our discussion focused very much on the book itself; instead, we talked a lot about the kinds of characters we meet a lot in young adult books: boys who want to get the girl.

Next time we’ll be talking about a ghost story: Prince of Mist, the first book Carlos Ruiz Zafon published in Spanish, which has just this year been translated into English.  It was one of our favorites this summer.  Here’s Dara’s review.

Max and Alicia Carver flee their war-torn city and move to a rambling seaside house where the previous owners’ son, Jacob, drowned. Is it the cat, the spiders, or the dust wafting through the open windows that gives Max the feeling that he is being watched?  First Max, then Alicia, befriends Roland, the grandson of the lighthouse keeper, and bizarre incidents intensify, especially at the sea. Carlos Ruiz Zafón tightens the tension of this superb ghost story until Roland, Max, and Alicia have their final confrontation with THE PRINCE OF MIST (Little, Brown, $17.99). Dara La Porte

Read the book, then come join us to talk about it at our next meeting, on Sunday, October 24, at 3:30pm in the Remainder Room at P&P.