Monday, July 27, 2009

Long Time No See

Wow. Have I really not posted at all in July?

And August 1 is this Saturday?

To say that this has been a busy summer would be an understatement! More pressing things pile up or need to be addressed, and this blog slips in importance. I'll definitely try to keep it more up to date.

Now, what have I been reading?

The resettlement of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to Cuba was something that I vaguely knew about, but had not learned about in detail. It was with great curiosity and anticipation (the author, Margarita Engle, received a Newbery Honor for last year's The Surrender Tree) that I picked up Tropical Secrets. Although it is told in Engle's customary multiple-voice narration and free verse, it is definitely not as violent (although Engle's violence is never gratuitous) as her previous novels. It is, however, a deeply affecting, honest, and moving novel.

I wasn't a huge mystery fan as a child, but I loved the Encyclopedia Brown series. I recently reread the first book in the series (although it doesn't really matter which book you start with-from what I remember, Sobol gives Brown's background in every book) and found it to be just as fun as I remember. It's not even hugely dated, which sometimes disappoints me when I reread a childhood favorite. Not great literature, that's for sure, but they are fun choices for beginning mystery fans or for those that are looking for short "chapter" books (each chapter contains a different mystery).

Another childhood favorite and one I recommend to those looking for a short chapter book. Chocolate Fever is the story of Henry, a chocoholic who learns an importance lesson on restraint and self-indulgence. Well, that's the moral of the story, which thankfully is conveyed through a comic and touching story. It's easy to get this confused with The Chocolate Touch, which was also a childhood favorite, but one that I haven't reread recently. The Chocolate Touch is a loose retelling of the King Midas story, and one that I found a bit creepier than Chocolate Fever.

Sometimes, the shortest novels can pack the hardest punches. I was reminded of this when I read A Taste of Blackberries. At 85 pages, it's one of our shortest chapter books in our juvenile fiction section (that's not shelved in our easy chapter book section), but don't make the mistake of thinking this is an easy read. It is a powerful and, at times, devastating look of the effect of a child's death on his best friend. The unnamed narrator's feelings of disbelief, shock, and guilt are sensitively drawn.

Why all the "oldies but goodies?" I'm biding my time until the onslaught of fall releases hits our library! Fall is an amazingly packed season for children's and teens' literature. While spring is also quite busy, fall is when many of the publishers' hopefuls for the big children's literary awards (Newbery and Caldecott are the two biggest ones for children's literature; the Printz, for young adult literature, is well known among librarians and booksellers, but perhaps not as much with the general public). There are some exciting new titles that will be released soon, along with some blockbuster series additions and authors (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4, the sequel to Graceling, etc). Can't wait to tell you about them!

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