April 2010 Archives

What I Saw and How I Lied

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Click for availability and more information What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell
 
In 1947 Evie Spooner is fifteen years old, living in Queens with her mother Beverly and her stepfather Joe. After returning from the war in Europe, Joe has become a successful owner of a chain of appliance stores. Joe and Beverly make a glamorous couple; he is charming and handsome and Beverly is a sophisticated beauty who turns heads wherever she goes. Having a beautiful mother makes the teen years especially hard for Evie, who "takes after her father" and is struggling to find her identity as a young woman.

National Book Award After he receives a series of mysterious phone calls, Joe impulsively decides to drive the family to Palm Beach resort for a vacation, where they meet the Graysons, a couple with whom Joe quickly begins to make business plans. Evie becomes infatuated with 23-year-old Peter Coleridge, an old army buddy of Joe's who coincidentally shows up at the resort and distracts her from understanding the impact of the tensions that develop between her parents and the other guests.

After a tragic boating accident and the trial that follows, Evie is forced to take an honest look at the events she witnessed and the character of the adults in her life.

This coming of age mystery is a 2008 winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Grades 7 - 12

-Catherine

Click for availability and more information The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling, by Maryrose Wood
 
Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia may have been found in the woods of Ashton Place, but under the guidance of their governess Miss Penelope Lumley, these "Incorrigible" children work hard to learn proper manners, poetry and Latin verbs. But can they curb their instinct for chasing squirrels? As a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, fifteen year-old Penelope frequently calls upon clever phrases coined by the school's namesake when teaching her three charges. The Mysterious Howling, the charming first installment of this series, will leave you hungry for more.
In the words of Miss Agatha Swanburne herself: "If it were easy to resist, it wouldn't be called chocolate cake."
-Catherine

Open: An Autobiography

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Click for availability and more information Open: An Autobiography, by Andre Agassi
 
While usually praised as being a true giant in the world of professional tennis, Andre Agassi has emerged as a gifted and totally engaging writer with his book Open: An Autobiography. Driven by his tyrannical father to develop at an early age as a skillful and extremely competitive tennis player, Agassi did just that. Oddly enough, he keeps telling his readers how much he hated tennis. And, it is easy to understand that through Agassi's clarity and truthfulness in his writing. Turning pro at 16, he entered the world of professional tennis at full speed. Playing in tournament after tournament, he did more than fulfill his father's desires to become a nationally recognized tennis player. But, as Agassi relates, the price was high. His description of life in professional tennis is harrowing at times. His personal life is covered as well from his troubled first marriage to Brooke Shields to finding supreme happiness with Stephanie Graff. He ends his tennis career as a true champion and then goes on to create a remarkable school in Las Vegas for underprivileged children and adolescents, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Open: An Autobiography is a terrifically interesting, well written and entertaining book!
-Roy

Brava, Valentine

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Click for availability and more information Brava, Valentine, by Adriana Trigiani
 
Adriana Trigiani has done it again with her latest novel; Brava, Valentine; the second of a series following Very Valentine. When Valentine Roncalli's grandmother gets remarried and moves to Italy, it is up to Valentine to take over the family business of making hand crafted wedding shoes. From the streets of Greenwich Village, to Italy, and Buenos Aires, family secrets and scandals are uncovered, relationships are threatened, and plots take unexpected twists. Throw a little romance in the mix, and things get even more turbulent.

Trigiani does a terrific job with offbeat, loveable characters, and she also provides beautiful well-written descriptions of locations. I recommend reading Very Valentine first so you can understand more about the character's relationships, which are key to the storyline. A very warm, funny novel that is sure to keep you captivated from cover to cover.
-Debbie O.

Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle

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Click for availability and more information Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle, by Michael Benson
 
Fantastic! That's the word to describe Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle by Michael Benson. Benson uses photos from the Hubble Space Telescope to look at stars and galaxies as they appeared millions of years ago. Since interstellar space is measured in light-years (the distance light travels in a year) and distances between objects in space are tremendous, we are actually viewing stars and galaxies as they appeared in the past. Each chapter includes a discussion of the objects, "plate pages" to index the photos, and full page photos. There is some historic analysis to give one a frame of reference. The author explains that the reader can start at the beginning and move back in time to the genesis of our solar system, or start at the end and move forward to today. The terminology is somewhat complicated, but can be overcome. The pictures of nebulae, molecular clouds, dust, remnant stars and well-defined galaxies are amazing! This is evidence of definite order in our universe. If you really want to put things in context, take a look at the photo of galaxy systems that interact with each other. Check it out and marvel at the Hubble Telescope photos.
-Carl

Hatching Magic

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Click for availability and more information Hatching Magic, by Ann Downer
 
13th Century English wizard Gideon goes in search of his pet wyvern (think--dragon) that disappeared through a magic hole in time and landed in modern day Boston. Gideon needs all the help he can get to find his pet, since an evil wizard and his demon sidekick are looking for Wycca too. He may find that help in Theodora Oglethorpe--a modern day girl who happens to know a few things about wyverns and whose summer just got a whole lot more interesting.
-Deirdre

Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Click for availability and more information Fantastic Mr. Fox
 
While Fantastic Mr. Fox is marketed to the kid audience it should be said that it is also director Wes Anderson's best movie since Rushmore. That means the discerning parent will enjoy themselves immensely as well. Based loosely on the Roald Dahl book of the same name, it features stop motion animation (remember that?) instead of the slick and sometimes soulless computer animation we usually see. But that's only part of the charm.

Mr. Fox is an incorrigible thief. He knows pilfering from the surrounding farms is wrong but... he just can't help himself. It's who he is. Needless to say his predilection gets himself (and many other animals in that neighborhood) in hot water. The story's main action focuses on how he and his family extricate themselves from danger. Their arch-enemies are three neighboring farmers who will do anything to get rid of Mr. Fox. There are lessons learned and many moments of hilarity but really, this movie is so much more than that.

My insightful wife feels that Anderson possesses a deft touch when it comes to portraying male relationships, and I tend to concur with her. He showed this in his previous films Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. It's touching without being cloying and rings true every time. The relationship between Mr. Fox and his insecure son Ash is true to this form. When his cousin Kristofferson shows up and immediately (but not purposefully) shows him up in his father's eyes, Ash acts up in the ways all parents have come to know. Ash begins a campaign to win back his father's attention that is both heartbreaking and hilarious.

There are also countless smaller touches included here that make the movie so successful: a running gag about a bandit hat, Kristofferson's meditation habit, the game "hotbox" that all the kids play, and so much more. There is an extended discussion on Internet Movie Database about the movie's "little things" that fills several pages. Everyone seems to have their favorites and it takes several viewings to catch them all.

On top of all that you have George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe doing the main voices. And, it wouldn't be a Wes Anderson movie if it didn't have a top shelf soundtrack. The incidental music, composed by Alexandre Despalt is the perfect complement to the action on screen and the Stones' "Street Fightin' Man" pops up just when you need it most.

This is not only a serious technological marvel (the animation must be seen to be appreciated,) but a clever and very funny film the whole family will enjoy.
-Stephen

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