Book of the Week: Amos & Boris

Book of the Week, Children's

Amos & Boris by William Steig

Published: 1973 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

From the very beginning readers will be able to tell this isn’t going to be a typical story about a mouse.

I love how Amos the mouse lives by the ocean, not in a typical hole in the wall.

I love how Amos doesn’t let his size stop him from doing something.

It shows what hard work, determination, and a little bit of knowledge can get you. All these things have helped him, not only build a ship, but set sail upon the ocean he loves so much.

I love how Amos names his boat Rodent. It’s appropriate and hysterically funny!

I love how Amos and I have something in common: both of us get seasick.

I love how this book shows readers the enjoyment of being outside, and taking advantage of all that nature offers us.

The book is well written, and features words that most picture books wouldn’t dare feature. Readers will definitely learn something from it.

I love how this book shows how vastly big this world is, and how often we take that for granted.

This book is extremely insightful.

It shows that friends could be made in the most unlikely places – even in the middle of the ocean in Amos’ case.

Even though Amos and Boris are both mammals, it shows how they are vastly different.

It shows why it’s important to compromise and to work together.

I love how it shows that friends come is all shapes and sizes. Friendship has no boundaries.

I love how Boris the whale is a big softy. He cries!

Hereafter

Reviews

Hereafter by Tara Hudson (will be released June 7, 2011)

Amelia doesn’t know her full name, just her first. She doesn’t know why she keeps having terrifying nightmares that always transport her to a graveyard. She doesn’t know exactly how long she has been dead.

For sometime now Amelia has spent the better part of her afterlife wandering aimlessly in a fog, not sure of what she is or even where she’s going. But she always ends up back at High Bridge Road, the place where she died. And the place where another may soon die if she doesn’t find a way to help him.

When Amelia saves Joshua Mayhew from for the rivers evil currents, he inadvertently saves her. Now only does saving him wake her up from the fog she’s been in since her death, but it also makes Joshua see her, literally. Not only see her, but touch and feel her as well.

With new-found life and love Amelia and Joshua bond and form the strongest of all relationships. She doesn’t care that he’s a living, breathing boy. And he certainly doesn’t care that she’s a ghost. But when Joshua’s seer grandmother and the evil spirit Eli threaten to tear the lovers apart, Amelia and Joshua will fight until the death to protect each other. But Amelia’s already dead, so who’s the one that needs protecting?

Tara Hudson, author of Hereafter, is a true storyteller. In just over four hundred pages readers will instantly be taken with the lush descriptions of Amelia’s two worlds – the physical world she experiences and encounters with Josh, and the ghostly world she is truly a part of. Hudson’s decriptions are vivid creations that help paint a clear picture in readers minds.

Hereafter is very much a traditional ghost story in the sense that paranomal elements really shine through and drive the story forward. But if you’re looking for a horror story that will scare you sleepless. What Hudson does is craft and create haunting moments that will not easily escape readers minds.But at it’s core, Hereafter is a heartfelt story that celebrates both life and love, and all the adventures life and love creates!

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills

Reviews

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills by Lizabeth Zindel

As if her mother’s death wasn’t hard enough to process, Holly’s father spring the worst news on her at the worst possible time. He’s dating someone: his dead wife’s sister. It’s just too sick for Holly to think about. But she’s forced to deal with both her father and his new zombie loving girlfriend, Aunt Claudia, a horror film producer. It’s only a few weeks, and it should be relatively easy to avoid them both since her father is always working and Aunt Claudia doesn’t live her.

But things have changed since the last time Holly was home from school. Her father still works a lot, but not as much as he used to meaning he’s home a lot more. And worst of all, Aunt Claudia has moved in. Okay, no big deal Holly thinks. She’ll just have to try harder to avoid them, that’s all. And besides, It’s only a few weeks. With the help of best friend Felicia and new boyfriend Oliver, winter break will fly by and Holly won’t really have to deal with them.

That is, until her deceased mother pays Holly a very unexpected visit asking Holly to seek revenge on the one person she’s trying to stay as far away from as possible – Aunt Claudia.

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills is a (very) loose rewrite of William Shakespeare’s famed play Hamlet. Even though author Lizabeth Zindel doesn’t stick closely to the original storyline, readers will see enough similarities within the text to see where inspiration was drawn from.

The only real flaw I found to this book was the California slang. It sometimes felt a bit over the top and stereotypical. For example, when Holly and best friend refer to each other as “dudette” at times.

Zindel is a strong writer who doesn’t beat around the bush. Plunging into the meat of A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills from the start Zindel’s book is a quick and fun read. But what really makes it what it is, is her heroin Holly. Holly’s determined, passionate almost to the point of obsessive when it comes to seeking revenge, but most of all, she’s real.

Book of the Week: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Book of the Week, Children's

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Published: 2010 by Roaring Book Press

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Loved how it shows how animals aren’t just animals, but as also friends and should be treated that way.

It shows how we all have our own schedules. And they are important aspects of our lives.

I love how this book is funny and how it relies on subtle humor rather than over the top humor. For example, the owl is afraid of the dark, and the rhino has allergies.

While reading this book, I feel like each animal represented qualities that all of us humans feel: thoughtful, shy, scared, sick, and even proud. It shows just how alike animals and humans are.

The illustrations are simple yet beautiful. It’s a welcomed departure from the overdone and flashy picture books that grace the shelves as of late.

I love how the writing and the illustrations are independent – one doesn’t need the other to fuel the story forward.

I love how the HUGE elephant sits effortlessly on a tiny stool.

This book is full of small nuances that make extra special, and extra funny: Amos wears bunny slippers, when the tortoise crosses the finish line a small bird is holding a “hooray” sign and an even smaller mouse holds a pom-pom, and how the shy penguin wears socks to keep warm.

I love how it shows the value and the importance of a good friend.

Each animal featured in the book has their own personality.

Amos is a lovable character, and someone readers will immediately want to befriend.

Shootin’ The Breeze With Josephine Angelini

Interviews

I had the privilege to ask debut author Josephine Angelini a few questions about herself, her writing, and of course her debut novel Starcrossed.

BookBandit (BB): Could you tell me a little about yourself, your background as a writer, and your writing in general?

Josephine Angelini (JA): I’ve always written. I started keeping a journal when I was ten years old and I wrote in it faithfully every day, but I never considered myself good enough to be a writer.  To me, a writer had to be so much smarter, so much worldlier than I could ever be. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that my husband pointed out that I wasn’t happy unless I was writing every day and that I should knuckle up and do if for real.  He was right.

BB: Starcrossed is your debut novel. How long has the story lived in your head and what is the inspiration behind it?

JA: I came up with the idea for Starcrossed in a flash. I guess that was over two years ago now.  I was pitching a different idea for a supernatural YA series to my husband, who is a screenwriter.  For the life of me I couldn’t spit out a logline or sum up that other series is two or three concise sentences.  He told me to start with a simpler idea for my first book, as I had never written a novel before.  Of course I started bawling my eyes out immediately.

I was convinced that I was never going to be a writer.  Then, in the middle of my pity-party, I saw a copy of Romeo and Juliet sitting next to The Iliad on my bookshelf, and it hit me.  What if I took Homer’s amazing characters and set it up so that if two teenagers fell in love they would start a war?  Then I took the opening line of Romeo and Juliet, which begins:  Two Households. And I started writing.

BB: When naming it did you ever fear that people may associate it with two other star-crossed lovers: Romeo and Juliet.  Do you feel the association would help or hinder your own story?

JA:  would be more than happy if people associated Romeo and Juliet with Starcrossed, as it was my inspiration.

BB: What is your writing process like? Do you tend to outline or jump right into it?

JA: I am a meticulous outliner (is that a word?) and planner.  I do complete character bios, timelines, plot arcs. I even do something that I learned from screenwriting, called beats.  What that means is that I do a list of every single action before I start writing.  I map out every moment, “Helen wakes up, goes downstairs, sees her father cooking breakfast’ before I write Chapter One, Page One.  I’m so obsessive I even continue to outline as I write.  If I discover something along the way and need to add it, I go back to my outline and alter it, making sure it doesn’t cause any conflict.  This may sound like a waste of time, but it makes the rewriting process so much easier.  I have a blueprint of sorts that lets me know if I can knock down one wall or add another room someplace else.

BB: You must have done a lot of research for Starcrossed. What kind of research did you have to do? What was the best and worst part of research in this case?

JA: For me, the research was so much fun!  I love The Iliad and The Odyssey and all the Greek myths, so although I was “working”, or so I told my husband, really what I was doing was having a blast reading.  The only thing about research that I consider not so fun is when you can?t get the pieces to fit together the way you want.

BB: Starcrossed is the first book in a trilogy, can you tell what readers can expect from the upcoming books in the series?

JA: Danger!  Love!  Torment!  Heroism!  You know? the works, of course.  It wouldn’t be Greek if it didn?t have all those elements.

BB: Your characters are exceptionally well-developed and realistic. Did you face any challenges in creating them? With that, it seems like a lot of authors base their characters on themselves or people they know. Did you create any characters with specific people in mind?

JA: My characters always start with a realistic anchor, someone who I can visualize perfectly because I know them on some level, but they always grow from there.  I spend a lot of time working on my character bios, and the longer I think about them the more they become unique.

BB: What young adult books and/or authors do you read and like?

JA: There are a lot of YA authors out there that I admire.  I can’t really pick favorites, but I love Phillip Pullman, Suzanne Collins is amazing, and there’s a debut author named Amy Plum who I think is just fantastic.   Of course I’m leaving out about a gazillion people.

BB: Do you have any tips for any aspiring writers?

JA: Don’t get discouraged in the middle of a rewrite!  Rewriting is hard, but it’s so important.  My writing skills in general ,not just my stories, get better every time I rewrite.  Notes are hard to take, but they are the fastest way to grow.  Keep going.

Starcrossed

Reviews

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini (will be released May 31, 2011)

To say Helen Hamilton has always been different is an understatement. A big one. For the past seventeen years she’s tried to hide it, but her small Nantucket town has picked up on her freakishness.

Helen never really considered herself to be an outcast until the vision of the three old hags weeping bloody tears started appearing, until she started having horrific nightmares where she descends to the dry lands and returns covered in dirt.

When the intriguing Delos family moves to town, Helen doesn’t exactly care. But when she has a run in with Lucas Delos, she not only finds she’s drawn to them and repulsed by them, she finds that they are the key to Helen’s discovery of who, or rather, what she really is.

Starcrossed written by Josephine Angelini is as exciting and as adventurous as a rollercoaster ride. Full of ups and downs Anglelini has a way of engaging readers with, not only her fast moving plot, but also her characters.

Each character featured within Starcrossed’s pages are strong, and play important roles in the greater story. Helen especially is emotionally charged adding to the her “realness.” Readers will feel drawn to her, and compelled to find out what makes her different from most girls her age.

Starcrossed is heavily steeped in Greek Mythology, but that doesn’t mean that it’s like every other book out there. Angelini excels at offering readers something different from any other young adult book featuring Greek Mythology. She’s created a storyline that is familiar yet unique her own, thrilling yet heartwarming. Starcrossed will fit any book lovers taste!

Book of the Week: Different Like Coco

Book of the Week, Children's

Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews

Published: 2007 by Candlewick

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

The book promotes individualism. And shows the benefits to being yourself.

It’s a fun book full of facts. It reads as a picture book rather than a typical biography.

I love how Coco wasn’t afraid to be herself, and challenge the social standards of her time.

Coco was an innovator, and the book is a real inspiration that urges children to follow their dreams no matter what.

I love how Coco Chanel is deemed the woman who changed fashion, who took women out of corsets and brought them into a much more forward thinking mindset.

The book shows what hard work and determination can get a person.

I love how the book painted a vivid scene of Paris in the early 1900s. It really does paint a romantic scene.

Coco had a vivid imagination. I love this aspect of her. It not only helped her thrust her career forward, but it also helped her get through tough moments in her life.

The book shows that having an active imagination is a good think, not a bad thing like the nuns in the orphanage in which she lived believed.

Coco was proud, but humble.

I love how the book told how Coco made her dresses – since she couldn’t draw, she designed by using wooden dummies/models. It shows just how ingenious she was, and just how creative she was.

I love how the book showed the importance of being positive, even in negative situations.

It shows that no ones life is perfect or glamorous.

I love how the illustrations are simple, yet really tell the story.

There’s a timeline and a bibliography at the end of the book in case readers want to do some further research on Coco Chanel.

Book of the Week: Ellington Was Not a Street

Book of the Week, Children's

Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Published: 2004 by Simon & Shuster

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

I love how subtle, yet powerful this book is.

I think this book is a great way to introduce music to young readers, since the book’s main focus is music and musicians.

I love how the books is based upon Ellington’s Mood Indigo and worked a whole story around them

The writing its fluid and poetic. Readers will appreciate that.

It’s a story for readers of all ages. Just because it’s a picture book younger readers will get just as much out of it as old readers will.

I love the little girl featured in the book, she’s simply adorable.

The book shows the importance and influence of music in one’s life.

It showed how musicians we look up to become parts of our everyday life, even if they aren’t literally in our living rooms.

I love how it shows how music can stir up emotions, yet calm us down at the same time.

The colors featured in the book’s illustrations are lush, subtle, but just as powerful as the words.

I love how the author provided information about all the famous musicians featured in the book. Located at the back, Shange offers mini biographies on everyone from Robeson to Ellington to The Clovers.

The author also provides the lyrics to Mood Indigo at the back of the book too.

Struts & Frets

Reviews

Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron

Samuel “Sammy” Bojar’s whole life revolves around listening to and making music with the high hopes on one day making it big in the underground scene. Despite what his therapist mother says. There’s just one hitch in his plan: his band, Tragedy of Wisdom. Tragedy of Wisdom has the potential of being a really great band, but besides Sammy and his drummer/friend TJ, no one else seems to take the band seriously, or even care that much about it.

So when his band decides to enter a local Battle of the Bands he knows it’s going to end in utter disaster. But Sammy’s willing to give it a chance as long as his slacker friends are willing. And besides, this will give Sammy something to look forward to, something to distract him from the other problems in his life. Problems like an ailing grandfather who thinks that people are after him, and then there’s the fact that he may be in love with his best friend, Jen5.

Struts & Frets written by Jon Skovron is a richly realistic and deeply honest look into the life of a teen musician. In a three hundred and four pages readers will experience the highs and the lows of being in a band, the emotions that go into making music, and all of the insecurities that go along with the territory of being the leader of a band.

Skovron’s writing is exceptionally smart, witty, and full of laugh out loud moments. But the writing isn’t the only thing readers will appreciate. They’ll find many life lessons within the pages – lessons like shoot for the moon, no matter how far away it seems.

Struts & Frets is full of unforgettable characters that are full of unique personalities, that all compliment main character Sammy. Each of these characters bring a better understanding of who Sammy is as a character, while adding their own flair to this already great story.

Book of the Week: Edgar, Allan, and Poe, and the Tell Tale Beets

Book of the Week, Children's

Edgar, Allan, and Poe, and the Tell Tale Beets by Natalie Rompella and Francois Ruyer (Illustrator)

Published: Lobster Press 2009

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

Most people I know HATE beets, I don’t. I LOVE them, and loved how this book featured them.

This book shows just how picky and choosy children can be when it comes to food. It makes me glad to know I’m not the only one!

The book pays homage to (one) of my favorite author/poet: Edgar Allan Poe. And I love how, in the book, Edgar Allan Poe isn’t one character, but three main characters.

Even though Edgar, Allan, and Poe are sneaky tricksters, they mean no harm. It’s all in good spirited fun. Well … maybe not for the beets who often get shoved under the loose floorboard.

The characters are just as imaginative as the book is. For example the boys decide to distract their mother by telling her a giant wearing an Elvis styled wig was standing outside of their window . (While she’s looking out of the window, the boys dispose of their detested dinner).

After a few days pass the food disposed under the floorboard comes back to haunt them. Edgar, Allan, and Poe begin to hear “Beet, beet – beet, beet.”

I liked how the book illustrated what could happen when food is disposed improperly. And makes people realize the importance of using a trash can.

I like how the boys, once smelling the reeking remains of the beets, realize how wrong it was of them to be wasteful.

The book shows how even though it’s okay not to like certain things, it’s important to try those things before judging them.

It also shows that when you do something wrong and are deceitful there will always be consequences for your actions.

It shows how children are often remorseful for their action, especially when they know they’ve done wrong.

The colors and the illustrations are bold, rich, and beautiful! (just like the beets!)

The writing is fun, and whimsical. This aspect of the book will make readers laugh out loud – especially when the food combines and erupts out of the floorboard and onto poor Edgar).

I really loved how the book named various kinds of food that most kids (and people in general) dislike: liver, beets, brussels sprouts, squash. This aspect added a believable quality.