Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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Moriarty, L. (2014). Big Little Lies. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9780399167065

Annotation: Three women in a idyllic suburban neighborhood are dealing with different personal challenges as their children begin kindergarten, and they learn to lean on each other for support.

Reaction: So on the surface, this book is a mystery. It opens with interviews of the attendees of a Parent’s Trivia Night at the local elementary school where Something Has Happened, but we don’t know what yet. The main narrative arc then begins about six months before the Trivia Night, and leads us through all the events that led up to the Something That Has Happened.

But really? The mystery is secondary to the relationships between the three main characters, Madeline, Celeste and Jane, and what’s going on in each woman’s life. Which is not to say that I didn’t spend the entire book trying to guess what happened to whom, but I think this book really triumphs in it’s depiction of the friendships between adult women. In talking about this book with my own friends, that’s the one aspect that has been really refreshing; Moriarty’s characters rely on each other and become stronger through their friendship, and I don’t think that’s something you see very often in literature. And sure, Madeline is a little catty, but when it comes down to it, she’s all about supporting the women around her, even her nemesis.

On top of that, all of the characters in this book, even those we only see in their interviews and the entire class of five year olds, are all really well drawn and unique. There are a lot of characters in this book, and I think it would have been really easy for them all to become just part of the crowd, but by the end, Moriarty has told us significant details about every one.

On top of ALL that, this book was compellingly readable. I was listening to the audibook on CD in my car, and I found myself not only looking forward to long drives alone so that I could really dig into the story, but also sitting in the driveway listening because I had to find out what happened next. It was completely engrossing and emotional and funny, and oh my God, I want to be Madeline when I grow up. She’s the best. And there’s nothing I love more than when an author creates characters I want to hang out with.

Author’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)


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Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

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Jeffers, O. (2010). Up and down. New York: Philomel Books. ISBN: 9780399255458

Annotation: The boy and the penguin are best friends who do everything together, until the penguin decides he wants to learn to fly.

Reaction: I love these boy and penguin books. Once I found Lost and Found, I had to read all of Jeffers’ other books. The illustrations are simplistic and adorable, and the story is a sweet tale about two friends being best friends. I love the bright colors Jeffers uses in his illustrations and the big text. Jeffers doesn’t over complicate his illustrations or the text, which allows these books to work well for younger kids while still appealing to them as they get older.

Media Used: Watercolor on Arches cold-pressed paper

Author’s Website

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The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

This is the second book trailer I have created for my Booktalking and Book Trailering class. I used Windows Movie Maker 2.6 (the old version) to create this, and I’m really happy with how it came out!

On a review-ish note, I loved this book. I’ve been really interested in reading more books about running recently; I find them very inspirational, and they help remind me of all the things I love about running. This book was no exception. I really felt for Jessica, and I thought her journey was very realistic and relatable, and in the end, this book is just so wonderful and heartwarming that I kind of want to cuddle it. It’s a total upper of a book, even though the subject seems really heavy.

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One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo

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Buzzeo, T., & Small, D. (ill.) (2012). One cool friend. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780803734135

Annotation: Elliot is a proper young man, who discovers the perfect pet on a trip to the aquarium.

Reaction: This book is so adorable and funny. I love seeing Elliot’s efforts to take care of his new pet, and I love the little surprise Buzzeo and Small give readers at the end.

As always, David Small’s artwork is fantastic, with just the perfect amount of whimsy and his facial expressions are completely delightful. The palette is primarily black and white, but the small splashes of color he adds keeps it feeling fresh and vibrant.

I think is a little long to use during a storytime, but it would work for kids in smaller groups, and my husband thought it was HILARIOUS.

2013 Caldecott Honor Book
2013 Notable Children’s Book

Media Used: Pen and ink, ink wash, watercolor and colored pencil

Author’s Website (she’s a librarian!!)

Illustrator’s Website

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Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu

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Nyeu, T. (2012). Squid and Octopus: Friends for always. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780803735651

Annotation: Squid and Octopus are best friends, as shown in the four mini stories collected in this book.

Reaction: Oh my good gosh, this book is so cute. Plus it’s got knitting AND cephalopods?! WIN. Squid and Octopus have a great friendship and would be a wonderful example for little kids. Even though they don’t always get along or agree with each other, Squid and Octopus are always there for each other. Each story is self contained and ends with a reaffirmation of their strong friendship.

The art in this is adorable. Nyeu uses a fairly simple color palette, using mostly greens, blues, yellows and oranges, making the art feel welcoming and soothing, while also being reminiscent of actually being under the ocean. Her animals are all friendly and totally adorable, even her toothy sharks.

I love this book and would love to read it with some small children.

Media Used: Silkscreened using water-based ink and a colored pencil

Author’s Website

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

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Wein, E. (2012). Code name Verity. New York: Hyperion. ISBN: 9781405258210

Annotation: A female English spy is arrested by the Nazis in France, and in order to end her torture, she agrees to write a full confession of everything she knows about wartime England.

Reaction: I don’t remember when I first heard about Code Name Verity, but I remember that I KEPT hearing about it. It was on many “Best of 2012” lists and many people were recommending it, which meant that I needed to read it. It’s finally due at the library while Feller and I are on vacation, finding me madly reading to finish before we leave.

As ever, I didn’t know much going into the book, but the story, while a bit confusing at first trying to figure out just what is going on, is engrossing, and hearing Queenie (to use the name by which we first know her) tell about Maddie’s career and experiences and their friendship is a delight. In fact, I really love that we find out the most about each girl from the other. We get honest depictions of their personalities and their strengths and weaknesses from a person who loves them, and the admiration each girl has for the other comes across very clearly.

I love that Wein wrote about a female pilot and spy in England during WWII. She created characters and an atmosphere that is totally believable and compelling. These girls live exciting, dangerous lives, and they’re helping their country during a terrifying time in England’s history. Queenie’s account of her torture is awful to read, and her bravery in the face of her dismal odds is inspiring. Maddie’s account is just as heartbreaking as she finishes the story Queenie begins.

I think this book would be great in conjunction with a middle school unit about WWII. Wein includes information about her some of her research in the Acknowledgements as well as a bibliography for readers interested in learning more about female pilots or spies during this time period. I always feel super inspired to read more about the subject matter after wonderful historical books like this, and I think this is the kind of book that could really inspire kids to read more on their own as well. This book has some mature themes: violence, torture and some mild swearing, so I wouldn’t give it to anyone under 13.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was moving, heartbreaking, inspiring, beautiful, exciting, suspenseful and tragic. This is a great book to finish off 2012 and start 2013, and I’m so glad I made the effort to read this. This book has made My Top Ten Favorites.

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012
School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year 2012
Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice
Library Journal’s Best YA Books for Adults
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year 2012
Goodreads 2012 Choice Awards Nominee

Author’s Website

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A Thief in the House of Memory by Tim Wynne-Jones

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Wynne-Jones, T. (2004). A Thief in the House of Memory. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN: 9780374374785

Annotation: After a man is accidentally killed in sixteen year old Dec’s childhood home, he begins to relive memories of his mother, who left six years ago. Dec ventures back into the House of Memories to find out what really happened to her.

Reaction: To be totally honest, I picked this book up because I thought the author might be related to Diana Wynne-Jones, who is such a delightful, amazing fantasy author (seriously, if you haven’t read any of her books, get thee to Howl’s Moving Castle). Turns out, as far as I can tell, he’s not. Apparently, he’s a fairly prolific Canadian author, whose credits include a picture book called Pounce de Leon. Why, yes, I will be reading that, thankyouverymuch.

Reading the second person prologue, I really wasn’t sure that I would enjoy this book, but I was willing to give it a try, and as it turns out, I enjoyed it. This book is not in my usual wheelhouse of teen science fiction/fantasy/paranormal, but part of this exercise is to stretch my boundaries a bit.

Dec is a quiet teen with dreams of architecture and a fairly dysfuntional family. He, his dad, his almost step-mom and his five year old sister live in a pretty normal house, but just up the hill is the family home, referred to as the House of Memories, because it holds all the possessions and memories of several generations of Steeples. Five years after his mom abandoned the family, he begins to see her around the House of Memories, reliving his own memories of his volatile, vivacious mother. He starts to suspect that things aren’t the way they always seemed, and he’s determined to get to the bottom of his mom’s disappearance.

Wynne-Jones creates a quiet and somewhat lonely book about finding truth about family and friendships. Dec’s outlandish accusations about what REALLY happened to his mom seem crazy but also sort plausible, and he begins to find comfort from unlikely sources when he feels like his world is falling apart. Wynne-Jones captures the way it feels to be a teen (or an adult, really) who feels lost and left behind by everyone he cares about. This book has a little hint of ghost story to it, through Dec’s vivid, visceral flashbacks to his time with his mother, but overall, it’s realistic, and I would totally recommend it for a teen feel abandoned or maybe just someone sick of the current sci-fi/fantasy craze.

Author’s Website