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  • fairrosa 9:20 am on November 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck 

    Who would have thought? Richard Peck: the 21st Century Austen for the 8 to 10 set? But he IS! This little gem of a book has all the good stuff:

    A cast of talking mice whose actions and living conditions are completely believable and are in tune with children’s fantasy play; a twisting, surprising, and humorous upstairs/downstairs comedy that involves Royalty and seafaring; the perennial favorite plot progression allowing the lower class main characters go up the social ladder due to good luck and hard work; and clean grown-up romances.

    Peck’s deft hand also created a great protagonist in the no-nonsense Helena and made her think and speak properly like one would have from the late 1800s. I was completely charmed!

    (And the full-page incidental illustrations add to its charm even more!)

    Quick – go and get a copy and treat yourself and your young readers!!

  • fairrosa 12:02 pm on August 27, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Deadend in Norvelt 

    Author: Jack Gantos
    Publisher: FSG
    Page Number: 341
    Pub Date: 9/13/2011 (from Galley)

    I really enjoyed the many bits and pieces of humor that is a somewhat tamed version found in Gantos’ earlier works.  The characters are more eccentric than completely out of control (with perhaps a couple of exceptions.)  Most of them are quite endearing and are what hold the story together and pull me through — especially Ms Volker and Jack the first person narrator.  Jack’s narrative voice is so lighthearted that the deaths and destruction simply don’t seem that dire.  The mystery aspect only gains momentum toward the very end of the tale and the resolution is fairly uneventful, in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book.
    Jack Gantos puts himself into the story as the 14-year-old boy narrator.  It is set against the Cold War era, in a little town called Norvelt (established by Eleanor Roosevelt during the Depression.)  The old folks are dying (somehow mysteriously and rapidly,) the young people are leaving town, the children are bored.  The narrative voice is a sweet one – an earnest and nose-bleeding (there is A LOT of it in the book) boy whose life is both trapped by reality and freed by innovative imagining and by helping with an old woman who’s the town paper’s obituary writer and an inventive historian herself.
  • fairrosa 10:08 am on August 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Pieby Sarah Weeks

    This is a short and charming caper story with some not-quite-so-believable reconciliations — especially the incredibly fast and easy resolution of the mother-daughter relationship which was so extremely strained. I did enjoy the notion of aunt Polly being such a generous soul and that her legacy was felt and practiced throughout the town by those who truly loved her. I think many young readers will find great satisfaction in reading this story but those who came to PIE because they loved So B. It! should be told before hand to not expect the same kind of intensity, originality, and affecting ending as that previous most-beloved tale.

  • fairrosa 9:59 am on May 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Beauty Queens 

    Beauty Queensby Libba Bray

    It’s not easy to categorize this book. There is a little bit of everything — actually, there are A LOT of everything, and almost every “disadvantaged” group of characters: a transgendered former boy band member, a hearing-impaired dancer, a mechanically talented lesbian, a second generation South East Asian overachiever, an African American overachiever, a dumb blond, a sex-maniac teen, a die-heart beauty queen – and a host of other supporting characters and villains. There lies the strength and the weakness of the book: it covers many possible grounds and actually treats all these characters sensitively and with depth; and it loses focus sometimes because all the varied characters and their back stories are told alternatively and at times the readers are pulled into the past when we want to move forward with the plot. It feels too much like the subject (reality TV and mass media) that the author set out to mock. Again, that could be a strength, if one views it and appreciates the intent; or it could be a distraction — at times, the readers might feel completely overloaded by the bombardment of so much farcical humor. I might have loved the book a bit more if some parts are better pruned. I am trying to understand the conceit of the book being published by The Corporation while it paints quite truthfully all the evil dealings the Cooperation sponsored. Perhaps, it is fitting: since the Cooperation only cares about profit margin and a Tell-it-All probably generates the highest monetary return, they don’t even care that it makes the Cooperation the arch-villain in the telling.

    Very meta.

    Just an aside: as a native of Republic of China – ROC, every time I see the Republic of ChaCha – ROC, with its grotesque dictator on display, I had the visceral cringing reaction. But, that’s just me.

  • fairrosa 8:35 pm on December 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Good Omens 

    Good Omensby Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

    This is just a total delight to read. I marked pages and wanted to record all the humorous metaphors and turn of phrases. Two ingenious literary minds worked seamlessly together to create something that I’d like to just flip to any random page in the future and get either a chuckle or be amazed again. This book makes me want to memorize quotes!

  • fairrosa 11:14 pm on October 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth 

    As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the EarthI will write more about this book later — just want to mark the space for it here. It’s a REALLY unusual book. I kept wavering between LOVING it and WONDERING if it is actually a children’s book. Also wavering between WANTING more (because of the incredibly cool ways Perkins writes and tells the story) and DREADING more (because there are simply TOO many things that go wrong… too many Uh-Oh moments that it sometimes grated on me…)

    Must think MORE about this one. But, finally finishing it, I found the ending satisfying and the book so so wise! My current thought is that this book deserves to be shared and many young readers deserve to be aware of this book!

  • fairrosa 3:06 pm on May 15, 2009 Permalink | Reply
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    Tiny Tyrant: Vol. 1 – The Ethelbertosaurus 

    Tiny Tyrant: Volume One: The EthelbertosaurusAuthor: Lewis Trondheim; illus. by Fabrice Parme
    Reading Level: 3rd to 5th grade

    Pages: 62
    Publisher: Frist Second
    Edition:Paperback, 2009

    Most excellent and fun short skit-like tales. This volume contains six stories. King Ethelbert is extremely spoiled and self-centered and yet one simply can’t help but adoring him (probably because more often than not, he gets his just-desserts: a spanking, or being blown out of the palace window!) A French import.

    View all my good reads reviews.

  • fairrosa 12:36 pm on December 24, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears 

    Little Mouse's Big Book of FearsAuthor: Emily Gravett
    Reading Level: K to 4

    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    Edition: Hardcover, 2008

    This is a fantastic offer from a truly creative mind, and I believe also, from a team of designers and editors who put in so much in carrying out all the ideas: from the nibbled cover and pages, to the flip-the-flap effects, to the completely black page (yes, I was fooled in thinking, ‘huh? this is the end of the book? No way…’ and found out, to my great delight, that there is still half of the book to go and plenty more of information to come!) And of course, Gravett’s talent in illustration is unparalleled! I just love that pencil, getting gnawed to a stub bit by bit.

    It will appeal to those children who love words and love to collect the names of so many phobias. It will appeal to those children who love poring over pages with extra words and details quite a few times over. It will appeal to those who enjoy visual jokes (“I worry about having accidents.” page has Little Mouse … um… accidentally leaves something on the bottom of the page… — opposing the picture of a toilet.)

    I love the page where all the feathers “have eyes” and “sharp teeth.” I love the page with the newspaper clipping about the farmer’s wife and the three mouse tails. I love the page with the fold-out map of the Isle of Fright. Actually.. I think I simply love all the pages, each for a different reason.

    View all my goodreads reviews.

  • fairrosa 11:40 pm on September 6, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    Author: Anisha Lakhani
    Reading Level: HS/Adults

    SchooledI read this after hearing lots and reading quite a few reviews about the book, so I am not entirely sure about my reactions – how much was my enjoyment and annoyance colored by these preset expectations? And how much of my secret pleasure and overt disgust came from my having known the author and has been working in the school that this fiction is supposed to be based on? So read on, those of you who are curious to know my opinions about the book, with caution and many grains of salt!

    First, I was surprised how the book does not really feature many recognizable students and faculty from the school, nor does it develop the school as a setting fully. In fact, most teachers do not even enter the story. It’s as if this fictional K-12 school has but 50 students and they all go to the 7th grade and there are only half a dozen teachers who come into contact with the protagonist and the children. In short, the setting of the school is not quite fleshed out or rich, and the supporting characters are not 3-dimensional, either. A few incidents or coincidences are probably not identifiable by those who are not intimately connected to the school, either. So much, so much of the story is extremely exaggerated: the characters complete caricatures, and the whole world distorted with the kind of hyper-reality one can only find in Gossip Girls and Sex in the City. (Of course also in the highly manipulated Real Housewives “reality” shows…)

    This brings me to say to those who seem to think that this is a truthful portrayal of the Manhattan Private Schools/Ivy League Feeders world, “You are absolutely wrong.” This is fluffy fiction and no more than that.

    I don’t think there is even a need to defend my school since there is so little resemblance in SCHOOLED to the actual school — including the physical descriptions and the ways teaching and learning are accomplished throughout the years. Suffice to say that I have encountered scores of most brilliant human beings: readers, writers, thinkers, activists, artists, mathematicians, scientists, all kinds of people — both from its faculty pool and the student body, to feel privileged and proud to be part of this incredible institution.

    The biggest weakness of the book, to my eyes, is how bland the writing is… with few exceptions where the lines are actually funny or effective, such as, “The world could be coming to an end and my mother would still find a way to offer a cookie with the gas mask.” and “It was an all-purpose word, something of a Swiss Army knife capable of replacing all sorts of words, such as do, write, create, and especially finish.” The rest of the book is filled with lines with little crafting or “polishing”. Just a few examples here:

    page 124: Anna wonders “if Shakespeare would be … delighted that his work was the cause of such delight to a group of… seventh-graders.”
    page 126: “The last comment was like a wound in my heart.”
    page 131: “And I was an air traffic controller trying to control fifteen little planes all trying to land at one time.”

    To compound the problem of such thin prose is the poor editing. Missing punctuation marks, continuity errors, and misused words, such as “My ears were ringing. And when did faux mitzvah enter everyone’s vocabulary accept mine?” ACCEPT? And this is supposedly written/narrated by an Ivy-Leaguer who studied English in college and teaches English to 7th graders.

    The one saving grace is that the readers do not admire Anna (oh, maybe a little bit toward the end of the story when she suddenly has a courageous enlightment moment), and that adds some flavor to the tale of a small fry lost in the world of greasy glitz.

    And chatting online with a High School student might shed more light on our views over this book:

    Edited for clarity:

    fairrosa: Yup… I guess… closer to truth. Nothing is TRUE in this book, though. And it’s so hyper-reality that anyone thinks this has anything to do with reality is delusional themselves, I think.
    student: You overestimate that, I think
    fairrosa: overestimate how?
    student: I think you overestimate how attuned the average reader is to Dalton
    fairrosa: Definitely — that’s why I definitely need to write about how this is NOT the reality. But I did like the book enough… it’s better than some other trashy novels, for sure.
    student: Wha? O.o
    fairrosa: All the flaws aside, Anna Taggert is a main character that does not put on a holier-than-thou air, nor is she pretending to be anything but a corrupted small fry lost in a glitzy world, even though in reality, I have yet to encounter any such real-life teacher.
    fairrosa: That’s my last paragraph…now.. do you think my analysis fair?? any other issues with the review?
    student: Doesn’t put on a holier-than-thou air? I really don’t think you read this book XD
    fairrosa: please let me know if I can post it as is?
    student: It’s an okay-written review, it’s just wrong. It didn’t bother you that characters spent the whole time hitting on her? That, somehow, nothing was ever actually her fault?
    fairrosa: Hey.. .Anna Taggert is portrayed as a silly, money grabbing, totally lost person. There is nothing there to show that she is better than anyone else…
    Everything is her choice — she decided that she needed MONEY … she failed to plan lessons — she is stupid…The character is NOT portrayed as a GOOD person. Did you read the book?
    fairrosa: One does not read the book and says to oneself that Anna Tagger is SUCH A GOOD person. Does one?
    stuent: No, but she thinks she is!
    fairrosa: But the READER knows that she is stupid, spoiled, greedy…etc. and the AUTHOR writes in that way…
    fairrosa: she curses. she envies. she receives bribes. she cheats
    student: Mmm, yes. But do you really think the point of the book is that she’s bad, or that she was a good person placed in a bad system?
    fairrosa: I think she was WEAK… maybe Bad/Good is not a great way to describe her or anyone else.
    fairrosa: I think she did not really have moral fibers… of course, the world around her doesn’t seem to have morals either…
    student: She’s portrayed as a nice girl corrupted by an evil world. Yes?
    fairrosa: Nah… I don’t think she’s portrayed as a “nice girl” ever — her motive of being a teacher is so that she would be LOVED by her students…So, I never got the sense that the protagonist is supposed to be a GOOD person.
    student: Not that she would really teach or change students’ lives.
    student: That’s absolutely false.
    fairrosa: Did you find any of the book funny?
    student: no.
    fairrosa: Or are you just completely incensed?
    fairrosa: Do you think it’s because you’re too close to it? Too protective of our school?
    student: I think I might have been okay with it – or at least, not hated it – had it been marketed differently, had it not billed itself as that “look at what a 5-figure tuition really gets you”
    fairrosa: Fair.

    View all my reviews.

    • fairrosa 10:39 am on September 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Please do not use my blog comment to promote books (for yourself or others.) I am deleting the comment here due to its irrelevance to the post.

  • fairrosa 5:16 pm on July 9, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    Quote of the day 

    I’m listening to Toole’s A Confederacy of Duncies and have many occasions to chuckle or even laugh out loud — although the many comical situations are also profoundly sad. Here’s a quote for the day to show Toole’s genius in characterization without getting into tedious details:

    Miss Trixie was never perfectly vertical; she and the floor always met at an angle of less than ninety degrees.

  • fairrosa 10:37 am on July 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply
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    William Sleator’s books 

    It was telling when Orson Scott Card, upon finding that I had read many of his books and not just the Ender series, got so excited and asked, “So, you must like William Sleator’s books a lot?” and proceeded to gush over Sleator’s work, specifically Singularity. I acted a bit dense and tried to high-five Card who told me that he’s not the “high-five kind.” ooops! But, our brief conversation reminded me how much I DID enjoy all the books I read by Sleator, and how much I appreciate that he not only creates gripping plot and probing philosophical and moral dilemmas, he also really gets in science right (at least according to the theories of the time when the books were written.) My favorite titles by him are Singularity, for its illuminating explanation of black hole and singularity and for its protagonist’s emotional and moral struggle after he realizes that he can age himself and turn the table on his superior and sometimes bullying brother; The Boy Who Reversed Himself, for its vivid depictions of different dimensional worlds and the protagonists’ grappling with adolescence and romance; The Green Future of Tyco, for its dizzying time-hopping scenes and Tyco’s realization of how a person’s past shapes his future and how one can become careless with one’s actions and turn out to be quite despicable; The House of Stairs for its chilling social experiment and exposure of the darker sides (and some brighter sides) of human nature; Among the Dolls, for its creepy depiction of neglected dolls and their revenge upon the careless girl. And I can’t talk about Sleator’s works without mentioning how much fun my students and I have had for years now when we shared the jokes (gross, quite often) and humorous events (highly exaggerated, quite often) in Oddballs — short stories based on his family stories.

  • fairrosa 10:13 am on June 24, 2007 Permalink | Reply
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    Duck at the Door 

    Author: Jackie Urbanovic (also the illustrator)
    Reading Level: pre-k to 2nd

    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Edition: Hardcover, 2007

    This is an absolute WINNER! The text is sparing and just right to convey the situations from page to page — I enjoyed the individual thoughts from the animals mixed in with the straightforward text.

    Each animal in the house is distinctly designed and incredibly adorable/attractive/expressive. Their body language speaks volumes!

    The surprising second-to-last spread made me *GASP* with horrified delight.

    This whole package just WORKS!

    • LiteracyTeacher 9:57 pm on July 10, 2007 Permalink | Reply

      Would you mind submitting some of your picture book posts to http://blogcarnival.com/bc/cprof_1951.html, which is the Picture Book Carnival I set up? I'm trying to get a big Carnival going here so we can all learn from each other.


  • fairrosa 6:55 pm on January 14, 2007 Permalink | Reply
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    Lily Reads: Funny Frank 

    Author: Dick King Smith
    Reading Level: 1st and 2nd

    fairrosa: So, how would you describe this book?
    Lily: I would describe this book as funny, sarcastic, and cute.
    fairrosa: Anything else you’d like to share?
    Lily: Yep. I liked it because it was full of ideas that were cool.

  • fairrosa 11:03 pm on December 24, 2006 Permalink | Reply
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    Nothing but the Truth (and a Few White Lies) 

    Author: Justina Chen Headley
    Reading Level: 7th-9th

    Pages: 256
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    Edition: Hardcover, 2006

    I had to try twice to finish this book. During the first attempt, I got SO annoyed by the piled-on, not-always-so-clever, made-me-cringe similies and metaphors (dried shitake mushroom of a heart?) that I simply had to put it down. I couldn’t believe that the author was getting away with such a case of over-writing syndrome.

    However, since I had to read it for the Asian Pacific American Award of Literature, I braced myself to continue reading. Gradually, I accepted that this habit of overusing figures of speech belongs not to the author but to the narrator, who is both an over-achiever and someone who does not recognize her own strengths. Lots of humor and cultural references (although they can be somewhat stereotypical) – both realistic and with quite a bit of exaggeration make the book eventually an entertaining read, albeit a bit of a mess in plot twists and tangents. But, hey, a half-half Taiwanese-White American girl whose father went absentee when she was just a tot, whose mother is pushy and demanding, whose brother just got into Harvard, and whose first love turns out to bit quite a jerk, is nothing short of a messy situation.

  • fairrosa 10:00 pm on September 7, 2006 Permalink | Reply
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    You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah 

    Author: Fiona Rosenbloom
    Reading Level: 6th – 8th

    Pages: 190
    Publisher: Hyperion
    Edition: Hardcover, 2005

    It’s a fun and quick read. Stacy Friedman’s voice is lively and funny. The story, although utterly unbelievable, is actually charming at moments. However, it is highly predictable and sugar-sweet: everything works out in the end so do not worry about having to feel sorry for anyone.

    • Anonymous 8:03 pm on March 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      great book!!

    • Anonymous 8:04 pm on March 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      ausome book i loved it!!

  • fairrosa 6:37 am on September 5, 2006 Permalink | Reply
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    The Chocolate Touch 

    Author: Patrick Caitling
    Reading Level: 1st – 3rd


    Lily and I took turns reading aloud to each other and had a blast. This is definitely a “messegey” book: don’t eat too much junk food! but it works well as a highly entertaining and imaginative story. I read it a long time ago and this time around, I still enjoyed it.

    • Anonymous 4:35 pm on September 18, 2006 Permalink | Reply

      i loved this book. i read it in 2nd grade for a school project and we made our own short story of it. i read it all the time for fun and i definitly reccomend it!


  • fairrosa 6:35 am on September 5, 2006 Permalink | Reply
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    Be A Perfect Person in Just Three Days 

    Author: Stephen Manes
    Reading Level: 1st – 3rd

    Pages: 76
    Publisher: Yearling
    Edition: Paperback, 1996 (1982)

    Lily read it and found it mildly amusing. (I had to nudge her to finish it, though.)

  • fairrosa 11:50 am on January 2, 2006 Permalink | Reply
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    Me Talk Pretty One Day 

    Author: David Sedaris
    Reading Level: High School and Adult

    Edition: Audiobook, read by the author

    This one, read by Sedaris, too, was thoroughly enjoyable. Witty, at times bitter, and other times revelational, it presents the modern American life’s many quirky sides. (Of course, it’s such life viewed via a very strange mind indeed.)

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