Flashback September 2009

And now, a look back at what I reviewed in September 2009:

The Squirrel’s Birthday by Toon Tellegen. Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. From my review: “Simple stories with the logic of childhood. Squirrel has a birthday; he invites people by writing invitations on beech bark. The wind delivers the invitations and the acceptances.”

Letters to Anyone and Everyone by Toon Tellegen. Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg. From my review: “Animals write letters to each other. And to tables. And to themselves. And the sun. The short, semi-intertwined stories continue. The stories and language are magical: “But the squirrel and letter noticed nothing of that. They slept and dreamed of words and sweet ink.“”

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino From my review: Neil Armstrong begins and for just a moment, you think, this is going to be an old fashioned type of book, set in a nicer, calmer time. Before working parents and structured playdates. Oh, a sweeter and gentler time, when a sad day was when your best friend moved away. And in a way, Neil Armstrong is that. Those parents who want that type of book will be satisfied with the old-school tone. But Neil Armstrong is so much more than just an old fashioned read about friendship among ten year olds. First, the casual mention of Kebsie being a foster child who has now moved back to live with her mother. Suddenly, the story shifts; a hint that the past was not so perfect. Kebsie was the foster child on the street; and Muscle Man and his older brother are the two new foster children. Tamara, our narrator, never over explains — never explains beyond how a ten year old would see the world — but suddenly we know, we know why the neighborhood indulges Muscle Man’s lies.”

The Betsy-Tacy Companion by Sharla Scannell Whalen. From my review: “Oh, fans, I love you. Especially when you create labors of love that almost defy common sense. It’s tough enough explaining blogging to other people — imagine years spent on researching the “truth” behind a (then out of print) series of children’s books? What does a fan who loves BetsyTacy do? They know its based on Maud Hart Lovelace’s real life; but they know it’s also fiction. Don’t you want to know what is real? What isn’t? What happened to the real life Betsy (Maud Hart Lovelace), Tacy (Frances “Bick” Kenney Kirch), and Tib (Marjorie “Midge” Gerlach Harris)? Whalen did more than wonder; she put together what is obviously a labor of love, best read with a Betsy-Tacy book in front of you.”

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. From my review: “Prince Aleksander, 15, is the only child of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. He is awaken in the middle of the night and flees the palace; his parents have been murdered and, while he is not a direct heir, his life is in danger. Alek is a “clanker” — part of the world that is all about machines. Deryn Sharp, also 15, is pretending to be a boy named Dylan to get a chance to fly with the British Air Service. But she’s not learning how to fly machines. Deryn is a “Darwinist” — the part of the world that has created living creatures to fly, to use for messages, as pets. The assassination of Alek’s parents starts a World War. As Alek runs for his life, and Deryn finds danger and adventure on the flying living ship Leviathan, their paths grow closer and closer.”

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. From my review: “Nora Grey’s entire life shifts when her biology teacher switches the seating chart, moving her best friend Vee to the other side of the room and instead putting new student, Patch Cipriano, in the seat next to her. From that moment on, nothing is the same; nothing can be trusted. Not Patch, that’s for sure. Not her best friend, Vee, who is hanging out with two boys, Elliot and Jules, that Nora doesn’t trust no matter how cute (and rich) they are. Nora cannot even trust her own feelings or memories. Is what she is feeling for Patch real? Why are so many odd things happening in her life? Why does Vee see nothing wrong in Elliot and Jules’ odd behavior? And who is Patch?

Malice by Chris Wooding. From my review: “”Tall Jake, take me away.” Combine the right things in the right type of bowl. Set them afire. Say the right words six times. And Tall Jake comes to take you away — away to Malice. A place of nightmares seen only in a secret comic book. Rumors, urban legend, whispered about, believed in, not believed in. Luke says it. And disappears. His friends Seth and Kady decide to investigate. How far will they go to find out whether Malice is real? “Tall Jake, take me away.” . . . Why would anyone want to take the risk of going to Malice? One look at the comic book — and pages of the comic book in black and white are incorporated into this book — shows a nightmare landscape with hellish mechanical creatures that attack, kill, tearing teens limb from limb. Seth wants to save Luke. But what is the lure for other teens? To go to Malice… to stay… to escape. Malice offers something to them; something Tall Jake gives. A chance at something… something else. Something different. Remember, nightmares are still dreams. By the time you realize the dream isn’t what you wanted it to be, it’s too late.”

Ash by Malinda Lo. From my review: “A Cinderella retelling. Aisling, nickname Ash. Mother dies, father remarries to woman with two daughters, father dies, stepmother turns Ash into a servant, the Prince is looking for a wife, there’s a ball, with fairy help Ash attends the ball. You know the rest. Or do you? This retelling unfolds slowly, deliciously. It’s an internal story; a story about Ash grieving the loss of her parents, shutting down from it, and eventually choosing life and love. This is a tale about recovering from grief and unbearable loss.”

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor. From my review: “Three stories that hinge on a kiss. In Goblin Fruit, Kizzy wants to be someone different, somewhere different, she wants to be kissed; In Spicy Little Curses Such As These, Ana wants to be loved and accepted; and in Hatchling, Esme is haunted by memories that are not her own. . . . I love the twists to tales that Taylor gives; taking Goblin Market to modern times. Creating a Sleeping Beauty who can kill with a whisper — or a shout. And lastly, a story that seems to be about Esme — until we find out there is more to Esme than meets the eye.

thirtysomething. From my review: “Episode 1 does a brilliant job of setting up this series. Hope and Michael, the thirtysomething couple with a baby and their circle of family and friends. Ellyn, Hope’s best friend from childhood. Gary, Michael’s best friend from college. Melissa, Michael’s cousin. Elliot, Michael’s business partner, and Elliot’s wife, Nancy. A created family, revolving around the orbit of Hope and Michael. thirtysomething was a show about, well, nothing. And everything. It was about life — friendships, career, children. Small choices, big events. Running a business; losing and finding love; figuring out how to have balance in life. And doing so not with family.”

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles. From my review: “Four friends. Ellie, Corinne, Caleb, Josh. High School Juniors. Ellie and Josh “hook up.” Three months later, she’s late. One person’s choices impact all their lives. . . . Different chapters tell the different point of views — Ellie, believing the boys, wanting the love, being left with nothing. Corinne, the best friend who doesn’t know what to say or do. Caleb, their friend who has a crush on Ellie and doesn’t want to believe the rumors about her. Josh, who did believe the rumors and now is embarrassed by what he did and didn’t do.”

My Life In France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme. From my review: “Julia Child’s memoir (with great nephew Alex Prud’homme) of how she became, well, Julia Child. . . . Child describes her life in France as a newlywed. Child and her husband, Paul (who met and wooed during World War II) travel to France for Paul’s job shortly after their marriage. The Childs’ married when Julia was in her mid 30s, Paul ten years older. Oh, to be in post-World War II France. Reading this is not just traveling through someone else’s experiences; it is doing so to a time long past. Paris, sixty years ago. I adored all the details of living in France, traveling, and, of course, eating.”

Betsy: Twentysomething: Betsy and the Great World (1952) and Betsy’s Wedding; A Betsy-Tacy Story (1955) by Maud Hart Lovelace. Illustrations by Vera Neville. From my review: “For the first time, I’m glad that I didn’t read the Betsy-Tacy books sooner. Because with these two books, Betsy is firmly in the grown-up world, and for children or young teen readers, that would have presented a barrier. . . . Betsy is like the present day backpacker through Europe, except with a heck of a lot more luggage. Instead of hostels, she stays at a pensions and boarding homes. While her parents have arranged for some chaperoning, just as often Betsy is on her own to explore Munich, Germany, Venice, London. And as for her parents — Betsy has dropped out of college. While her father isn’t necessarily pleased with her college career to date, he does not give her grief. He talks to her about it matter of factly — and offers to take the money that would have been spent on college tuition and expenses and use that to support her visit to Europe, agreeing that the life experiences she will get will be as valuable an education as college.

We Were Here by Matt De La Pena. From my review: “Miguel’s tenth grade ends with being sentenced to one year in a group home. Plus he has to write a journal. Considering what he did, he’s surprised, and tells his mother, “Yo, Ma, this isn’t so bad, right? I thought those people would lock me up and throw away the key.” His mother says nothing. “She didn’t say anything back, though.. Didn’t look at me either. Matter of fact, she didn’t look at me all the way up till the day she had to drive me to Juvenile Hall.” Miguel wants to do his time. Doesn’t want to make friends. But somehow, he finds himself running away to Mexico with Rondell and Mong. Miguel, half-Mexican who doesn’t speak Spanish; Rondell, big, black, strong, and slow; and Mong, Asian American with a scarred face, who is… well, let’s just say he greeted Miguel by spitting on him. And before Miguel got to the group home? Broke someone’s arm.

Hannah’s Winter by Kierin Meehan. From my review: “Hannah, 12, is staying with friends of her mother in Kanazawa, Japan. It’s supposed to be an opportunity for Hannah to polish her Japanese language skills. Instead, it turns into an adventure to help a ghost.”

Liar by Justine Larbalestier. From my review: “Micah is a senior in high school. She lies. She knows she has to stop; and on page one of Liar, she promises to tell you her whole story with no lies. Micah tells you about herself, her school, Zach (the senior who just went missing), her family. And she tells you the truth. Except when she is lying. She cannot help herself; it’s not just a bad habit, it’s something she inherited. Her father, she tells us, is also a liar. And with the family illness that got passed down to her, she is almost forced to lie. But reader… she’ll tell you the truth. Or, at least, admit when she’s lied. Or when she lies about the lie. What is true? When can you believe a liar? And what happened to Zach?”

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