Saturday, June 23, 2012


Nick and Maxine move into a new apartment with their parents. When they spot an old-fashioned house out the window, they have to visit. There they find Mrs. Noodlekugel, a kindly old woman with a talking cat, friendly mice, and superior baking skills. This is the whimsical premise to Daniel Pinkwater's Mrs. Noodlekugel.

This story is cheerful and sweet, evoking memories of other children's classics like Amelia Bedelia, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and even a little Hansel and Gretel minus the witchy component. The description of her house reminded me of Miss Honey's house in Roald Dahl's Matilda. Overall, this is a warm almost-fairytale. Nick and Maxine are sneaky only in that they go to visit Mrs. Noodlekugel when they're told not to and their parents exist in the background of the story. It's all about the magical world Mrs. Noodlekugel inhabits.

The dialogue in this story, if read aloud, sounds very stunted and weird: "She is nice," Maxine said. "We know she is nice." It's not the meatiest, most scintillating conversation. That being said, this is a beginning chapter book for early readers, and the repetition is useful. Read the same word enough times and you will learn it!

I love the illustrations drawn by Adam Stower. Although I felt the book could have ended less abruptly, Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice is slated for 2013. I'd give this to kids who are beyond Biscuit but still not quite ready for longer books.

This book was published by Candlewick Press and is available now.

Ex libris,


Thursday, June 21, 2012

A search for identity

You know the phrase "You've got a face for radio?" That's how Gabe feels about himself in Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Gabe has a weekly late night radio show on a community station and develops quite a following. However, he is an outcast at school, because at school he's Elizabeth, a female-to-male transgender teenager. Gabe is struggling to find his identity and share it with others. His parents are not the most supportive, but luckily his friend Paige and next-door neighbor John are by his side.

As Gabe's senior year of high school winds down, he looks toward his future as a male. At the same time, some of his classmates and fans are making a connection that he is really Elizabeth, that "lesbo chick" from school. What happens when Gabe is confronted by peers who see him as an abomination?

When I read the description of this book on Netgalley, I wondered how the author could make Gabe's character relatable to non-transgender people. Instead of making the book all about Gabe's gender identity, Kirstin Cronn-Mills includes themes that everyone can relate to: being a teenager, conflicts with parents, trying to figure out "what's next," and how to find one's voice. I felt for Gabe because it's hard enough to go through all the regular teenage "stuff" without having to face the potential backlash from others for being transgendered. I felt that Gabe was authentic and likable and I liked how the different story lines came together but didn't tie up neatly, because when does life end up neatly?

The musical references in this book are amazing. Gabe is a total music nerd, and his neighbor John is even more so. I think the overarching theme of music is great, but I don't know if potential readers will identify with the idea of having a radio show. Do teenagers still listen to the radio? With MP3s and satellite radio pervasive, I hope that "community radio" is still relatable.

I think this book will appeal to teens facing gender transitions of their own, but I would also give it to anyone who is trying to figure out their identity. Honestly, I don't know how well it will circulate at the library, but I think it is important to have on the shelf. I also applaud Ms. Cronn-Mills for including resources and support groups in the back matter of her book.

This month's School Library Journal has a focus on serving LGBTQ teens with an extensive list of books, and I think Beautiful Music for Ugly Children fits neatly on it.

This book is being published by Flux Books in October.

Ex libris,


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reading out of genre

Horror has never been my genre, really. As a kid I was afraid of even pulling The Exorcist off the bookshelf in our library, and I tried Amityville Horror as a teenager but got so creeped out. I've read some Stephen King short horror stories, but even then I get the jibbilies (possessed trucks ominously circling a rest stop-- creepy!)

So, when I was sorting through some of the ARCs that my colleague brought back from BEA last week, I found myself strangely intrigued by Breed, which is, in fact, a horror novel. I started it that day (Thursday) and finished Sunday morning. I couldn't stop reading it because I had to know what would happen.

Before I give a synopsis, here are some tech specs, if you will: the book is published by Mullholland Books, a division of Little, Brown and Company. Their tagline is "you never know what's coming around the curve." That's exactly how I would describe this book.

Alex and Leslie have everything-- Alex is a successful lawyer, Leslie works at a publishing company, and they live a wealthy life in an old house that has been in Alex's family for years. (Un-spoiler: it's not a haunted house.) The only thing they don't have is a child, an heir to the family home. After many procedures, Leslie urges Alex to think about adoption, but he wants a child bred from his genetic material. The couple learn through the grapevine about a Slovenian doctor who is doing groundbreaking work in the field of fertility, so they go to visit him.

Leslie and Alex both receive a cocktail of genetic material drawn from a variety of sources and Leslie is almost instantly pregnant. She and Alex start exhibiting strange characteristics, though-- excess body hair, heightened sense of smell, and teeth that are just a little too big...and pointy.

Ten years later, their children start to notice the same weird things about their parents. Why do the children have to be locked in their rooms at night? Where do their pets keep disappearing to? They have to get out of the lovely home, now in disrepair with a basement of horrors. They try...but how can they escape? This book brings a whole new meaning to "My parents are going to kill me!"

There is a plenty left to the imagination as to what has happened in the intervening years. I like how Breed lets the reader fill in some of the terrifying blanks themselves. I also think the subject of infertility and gene therapy is a nice, timely twist. Should we be mixing cocktails of genes together, or let nature be? Interestingly, this article from Mental Floss showed up in my Twitter feed this week, and I felt the universe align a little bit.

So I read a horror novel! I had to find out what happened next. Thanks, Chase Novak and Mullholland Books, for the surprises around the curve. If you want to read an excerpt, you can find it at the book's website. You'll be able to read the whole thing in September, when it's published.

Ex libris,


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

B-E-A is R-A-D

I went to BookExpo America (BEA) for the first time today. It was amazing. So many people and authors and booooks. Highlights: author breakfast with John Green, Chris Colfer, Lois Lowry, and Khadir Nelson. John Green being totally sweet and signing 2 copies of TFiOS for me, one for me and one for the library. Maureen Johnson who is just as awesome and funny as I expected if not more so. Chris Colfer who was hilarious at the author breakfast and looked so overwhelmed at the signing-- we're not at McKinley anymore! And the epic Libba Bray, who is sweet and charming and rad.

People and books I missed go on the TO READ list. Also just signed up with Netgalley. Very tired but...

I totally love what I do.

Ex libris,


Monday, June 4, 2012

Looking into the future.

Yesterday, my library threw a shindig for our director who is retiring at the end of the month. It was such a party! Musicians, poems, speeches. I left feeling wowed. I hope that when I retire, I'm as highly regarded and have made as much a difference as Kathy has. TO THE STACKS, BATMAN!

Ex libris,


Sunday, June 3, 2012

A REAL librarian

I am a real librarian, friends. Graduation was a few weeks ago and I'm taking a break from my final paper to write this blog post. I will turn it in and the graduate school will issue my degree in August. It feels great and also weird. Going to school and working full-time is HARD, yo. But it was worth it because I'm doing what I love!
Next week is Art Adventures, a four-week mini art history and craft program. We're doing Mondrian first. I went to the art store on Friday morning and got all my supplies. I showed actual restraint and didn't buy anything for me, which is very hard at an art store.
I say this every time I blog, but now that school is pretty well done I hope to blog more. And read more. Quick book recommendation: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour.

Ex libris,