Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Art by Maira Kalman

broke up Hindsight is 20/20:

Most relationships collect things along the way –little trinkets that hold a memory of a whole night or maybe just a moment. The breakup story of Min and Ed is told through the significance of 25 items that, looking back, are keys to why they broke up. From bottle caps to ticket stubs the relationship swells and breaks within the confines of these objects. We go with Min as she looks back upon their story both with clouded eyes of love and the clear-headed eyes of a sober (out of love) person. The novel is one long letter explaining the reasons for the beginning and end of their relationship. Their story is familiar, the old stomping ground of 80's movies: two people from different sides of the social stratosphere meet and, against all odds, fall in love. John Hughes was a sucker at heart and most of his heroines got their happy ending. But unlike Hughes, Handler gives that classic routine a reality check in the dramatic, sometimes funny, and always realistic story of Min and Ed. Min is an artsy old-movie fanatic, Ed is co-captain of the basketball team with celebrity status and a string of ex-girlfriends. But when they meet at a party they connect. The plot seems routine; it is the details and the characters that make this title stand out. I love Maira Kalman's work in general, but her paintings of the items framing Handler's prose are the epitome of the beauty of form and content. Her paintings pack the emotional punch to Min's words and give the book its cinematic feel. The cover art alone (a teacup paused in the moment before it falls to broken pieces, paralleling Min and Ed's own break into pieces) is a great example of a how a well-designed book can help bring the story to life.

Handler can be likened to John Green for sure as both make their teens quite witty, and both take on the trials of those years with gusto. Here is a little taste of Min: "I love like a fool, like a Z-grade off-brand romantic comedy, a loon in too much makeup saying things in an awkward script to a handsome man with his own canceled comedy show. I'm not a romantic, I'm a half-wit…I'm like every single miserable moron I've scorned and pretended I didn't recognize. ..The only particle I had, the only tiny thing raising me up, is that I was Ed Slaterton's girlfriend, loved by you for like ten secs, and who cares…How utterly incorrect to think it any other way, a box of crap is treasures, a boy smiling means it, a gentle moment is a life improved."

I highly recommend checking this out. And if you need to, Daniel Handler has created the "Why We Broke Up Project," a website devoted to telling your own breakup story. Express feelings, explain reasons, or relate anything else that bothered or bothers. Everyone has a story, and Handler has created an outlet for any and all emotional outbursts. Some end happy, most don't, but a lot are quite humorous.

Check it out  Review by Lizzy Healy

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

This month’s book: Matched by Ally Condie

Copies of Matched are available for check-out!  Come in to the young adult dept. and check it out!  Review to follow.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

If You Liked Fetch….

Are you inspired to learn more about dog training (to use on dogs or human beings of your choice)? Check out these great books:

The Modern Dog: A Joyful Exploration of How We Live with Dogs Today by Stanley Coren

The Original Dogs for Kids!: Everything You Need To Know about Dogs by Kristin Mehus-Roe

4-H Guide to Dog Training and Dog Tricks by Tammie Rogers

Dog-friendly Dog Training by Andrea Arden, illustrations by Tracy Dockray

Dog Training in 10 Minutes written and illustrated by Carol Lea Benjamin, with photographs by Stephen J. Lennard and the author.

Cesar's Rule : Your Way To Train a Well-Behaved Dog by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier.

Or you could try a more traditional approach to problem-solving:

Uncool: A Girl's Guide To Misfitting In by Erin Elisabeth Conley.

Yikes!: A Smart Girl's Guide To Surviving Tricky, Sticky, Icky Situations from the editors of American girl, illustrated by Bonnie Timmons

Stand Up for Yourself & Your Friends: Dealing with Bullies and Bossiness, and Finding a Better Way by Patti Kelley Criswell, illustrated by Angela Martini.

Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy, Rachel Simmons, editor

Here’s another book about dogs and bullying


Dog sense : a novel

by Sneed B. Collard III

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kiera Stewart


Kiera Stewart is a writer for teens and tweens. Her qualifications include never having gotten wisdom teeth. She's been writing since she was five, but with titles such as "Mixed Feelings," "Old Monster, the Bees, and Karen," and the self-congratulatory, "The Amazing Story!" it's no wonder FETCHING is her first published novel. She's currently at work on her second tween novel and lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her family and her dog, Casper, who, despite shots and proper training, tends to look slightly rabid in photos.



Excerpt from an interview with Kiera Stewart

Where did you get the ideas for the novel? How did you learn about dog training?  What inspired you to (brilliantly) connect dog breeds to middle schoolers?

My dog Casper was definitely my muse for Fetching. We adopted him from a great organization called Friends of Homeless Animals. They’re located on a nice stretch of land out in Loudoun County, Virginia where you can meet and greet potential pets — even “test-walk” them. He’d come from an animal hoarder who had 126 dogs. But given Casper’s sweet demeanor, I’d guess that this hoarder was probably just a really kind person with a really huge problem.

I was actually working on a different novel when we adopted Casper and started working on training him. I took him to classes (another confession: we were obedience school drop-outs, but that’s another story). I also read some books and watched a lot of training shows on TV. What fascinated me the most was how big of a role human behavior played in dog training. Sometimes it wasn’t really about the dog, but about the owner. Self-doubt, weakness, lack of confidence — dogs notice these things and react pretty negatively to them. It’s not hard to believe that people do too.  And where is self-doubt, weakness and lack of confidence more rampant than in middle school?

Read the rest of Erika Robuck’s interview at:

Friday, February 10, 2012

This month’s book: Fetching by Kiera Stewart

fetchingWhat a great idea!  Use dog training techniques to shape your enemies’ behavior!  Olivia decides she’s had enough of being tormented by Brynne and her mean group of friends.  If she can use training to change a dog’s behavior, why not a person? The first step is: body language.  If you are someone who’s always tormented by bullies, you need to cultivate a strong assertive presence (think Cesar Milan!) –head up, shoulders back. “Basically, the way you walk and stand and talk tells everyone how you feel about yourself  It can say that you’re in charge and you know what you’re doing, or it can say ‘loser.’” Olivia has a hard time convincing her fellow Bored Game Club members that her plan can work, but they gamely (ha ha) try to ignore any bad behavior –even when it makes them feel like wusses.  Then Olivia teaches them about looking for cues that bad behavior is about to occur: “’You know how when a dog starts to get upset, sometimes its hair stands up on its back, or it might start to growl…There’s always some type of cue before an attack, and we’ve got to start noticing these signs…Because once you see the cues, you can create a distraction.’”  They’re having some mild success, but what really gets things going is when Olivia decides they have to step up the training by using treats (gum, cookies, post-it notes) to reward good behavior (anything from Corbin passing by Mandy without making an insulting noise, to actually witnessing one of Brynne’s minions standing up to her).  It isn’t long before the balance of power has shifted: Olivia’s friend Mandy, formerly a social outcast who outlined her lips with Sharpie, is running for class president, and their lunch table is so crowded with popular kids that there’s no place for Olivia anymore.  It also isn’t long until Olivia feels sorry for the formerly-popular, now-outcast Brynne.  When Olivia finds out that her best friend Delia shared some very private information about Olivia’s mentally-ill mother, Olivia turns to Brynne to fill in for the friends she’s turned against.  The class election provides plenty of drama, especially after Olivia tells Brynne the reason for her social downfall: that Olivia trained the other kids to dislike her.  This is a very clever book, and the techniques will be recognized by anyone who has familiarity with dog training.  In the end, Olivia promises to never use dog training on humans again, but I think a little calm, assertive behavior can go a long way towards improving your relations with the people around you!  Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

okayIt’s 1968, and 8th grader Doug has just moved to the small town of Marysville, in upstate NY.  He has no friends.  He is living with his angry, abusive father, and a bully of an older brother, who, after only a few days in the new town, is already falling in with the wrong crowd. Doug doesn’t particularly like the idea of moving to this new town, or a house he calls “the dump,” especially since everyone in town already considers him a bad egg, or a “skinny thug” just like his Dad and brother. He struggles against being the bad kid that the police and most of his teachers assume him to be. Doug truly wants good things to happen, although he feels that if something good happens, then something bad will too; it’s as if he is always waiting for the other shoe to drop and remind him of his low place in the world. Doug finds an unlikely ally in the fiery Lil Spicer, whose father offers him a job delivering groceries. Doug begrudgingly takes the job because he has nothing else to do, but his life is forever altered when he wanders into the library and comes face-to-face with the plates of John James Audubon’s birds in a book under glass.

“I went over to the table to see how come it was the only lousy thing in the whole lousy room. And right away, I knew why. Underneath the glass was this book. A huge book. A huge, huge book. Its pages were longer than a goodsize baseball bat. I’m not lying. And on the whole page, there was only one picture. Of a bird. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

He was all alone, and he looked like he was falling out of the sky and into this cold green sea. His wings were back, his tail feathers were back, and his neck was pulled around as if he was trying to turn but couldn’t. His eye was round and bright and afraid, and his beak was open a little bit, probably because he was trying to suck in some air before he crashed into the water. The sky around him was dark, like the air was too heavy to fly in. This bird was falling and there wasn’t a single thing in the world that cared at all. It was the most terrifying picture I had ever seen. The most beautiful. I leaned down onto the glass, close to the bird. I think I started to breathe a little bit more quickly, since the glass fogged up and I had to wipe the wet away.”

The power of the Audubon paintings causes an intellectual awakening in Doug. The local librarian starts teaching him ho to draw, and he discovers that the library is a safe haven from his terrible home life. Doug’s friendship with Lil is the driving force that helps him discover friendship and goodness all over the town. He finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and even the tragic return of his oldest brother from Vietnam. Together they find inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and have a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. There are many themes in this story, some devastating and others wildly funny, but ultimately the book is about the healing power of friendship and art. Review by Lizzy Healy

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This month’s book: Flip by Martyn Bedford


As I was reading over my review of Flip, I remembered how much I liked it, and I thought, “Hmmm…why don’t I use this for this month’s book?”  So, here you go.  For the review, see below.