Jet Set  
submitted by Natalie

Whether or not you’re plan on traveling overseas with children this summer, you can still enjoy reading these picture books set in far off destinations.

Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan
“Dodsworth was a little nervous. Japan is a land of customs and manners and order. The duck wasn’t very good at those things.”

A mild mannered mole travels with his duck companion to Japan for sightseeing. To the surprise of Dodsworth, the duck manages to control himself (most of the time) but occasionally slips up in full public view. This beginning reader book is peppered with Japanese language and culture with characters that both parents and children can identify.

Flight 1-2-3 by Maria van Lieshout
Many first time air travelers are naturally a bit nervous about flying. Prepare for takeoff with this boldly graphic counting book that asks, “When taking a flight, what do you see?”

Kiki and Coco in Paris by Nina Gruener

A lucky girl and her doll go on a journey documented in large photographic illustrations to the City of Light. They visit palaces, museums, a Parisian salon, and chic cafés. It will make you dream of visiting there yourself.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer 
submitted by Lynette

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer is not a new teen book but I do feel like it has gotten a little lost and perhaps is on the way to soon be forgotten. This book is a gem I discovered several years after publication, just perusing the book stacks for a good read. It was a 2002 National Book Award winner, and additionally won honors from both the Newbery Medal and Michael L. Printz Awards in 2003.

This is a nice change of pace if you feel like you’re stuck in a teen reading rut. It is not formulaic, which I have been finding too much of my teen reading is falling into one of several basic plots – and it is getting old. This is a nice way to shake thing up for the spring if you, too, feel like you keep reading the same book over and over.

The story takes place in the not too distant future in Mexico – on the beautiful hacienda with a poppy plantation, owned by El Patron, Mexico’s oldest, and most dangerous, drug lord. El Patron is so old, no one can say his exact age, but he is still around to see his great-great grandchildren. Even El Patron’s grandson, El Viejo, is described as “a very old man.” This raises the question; how has El Patron been able to live for so long?

Matt has grown up on El Patron’s vast estate his whole life. He’s not a grandchild or child of anyone there, nor a worker. Matt is El Patron’s clone, and is raised like a second class citizen, only getting care and pity from others because they were instructed to do so by El Patron.

Though Matt is family to El Patron, he is never treated as such. Never included in the family affairs, and regarded as almost a “pet” to their old patriarch. The family is dysfunctional, spiteful, power hungry, and rather unloving - even to their own family. This means that though Matt is almost always surrounded by the family, servants, and field workers he is nearly invisible to them. This leaves Matt alone with just himself for most of the time.

Not having contact with anyone outside of the poppy plantation and house, Matt doesn’t see his life as so strange. Up until his teen years he never really considered why El Patron would need a clone. Surely it is just to relive his childhood through him? El Patron loves Matt too much to ever hurt him – or does he?

This was a book I could not put down! The story was captivating, and the writing was stellar! I would recommend this young adult title for middle school readers and up.

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Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren 
submitted by Katy

Gabi and Lia aren’t having a great summer despite the fact that they are spending it in Italy. Their mother is an Etruscan scholar who drags her teenage daughters on searches for tombs to excavate. In a moment of teenage rebellion the sisters enter the latest tomb unseen. There are markings on the wall, pottery, and a set of handprints into which their hands fit perfectly. A time portal throws the sisters more than 600 years into the past where they find themselves in the center of a battle between two feuding families.

Gabi is saved by Marcello Forelli but her sister Lia is nowhere in sight. Taken into the Castello Forelli as a guest she puts her 21st Century skills to use with simple medical advice. She then lends her skills with a sword in battles against Castello Paratore, and offers insight into battle strategies. Everyday life is hard enough but when Gabi learns that Lia is a “guest” in the Castello Paratore no one will keep her from rescuing her sister.

While there is a good deal of historical fiction, there are also facts that bring everyday life in the 14th Century Italia to the forefront. There is romance, adventure, and intrigue as you might expect in any tale that takes place in Italy, but seen from the perspective of modern teens.

Though not labeled Christian fiction, the novel skirts the edges with its mention of beliefs, as well as its clean cut romantic adventures. By no means is the story preachy or lacking in adventure, romance, intrigue, or mystery.

And this is just the beginning as Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren is the first in a trilogy. The other two books in this series - known collectively as the River of Time - are Cascade and Torrent. For those who enjoy eBooks there are two novellas which heap more fuel onto the already heated storyline.

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Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie by O. E. Rolvaag 
submitted by Debbe

What makes a book memorable? Why can a reader clearly remember the plots, characters, themes and settings of some titles and others are gone ten minutes after closing their cover? I recently watched a documentary on To Kill a Mockingbird’s author, Harper Lee, where author after author discussed how that book influenced them as young readers but the documentary tied the book and the movie together to explain its influence.

That book certainly resonated with me when I read it in high school, but there is another book that I have thought about many times throughout my life. I read it over forty years ago, and there are no images from a movie to drive the memories.

When I was a fifteen year old high school sophomore, my American History teacher assigned the book Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie by O. E. Rolvaag to my class. After I read it I told my teacher “This is the best book I have ever read.” I often thought about the book and remembered the main characters, Norwegian immigrants attempting to make a new life in the United States.

Originally written in 1927 it tells the story of Per and Beret Hansa and their family, as they take advantage of the United States Homestead Act, which gave immigrants 160 acres of land in the Great Plains. Per and Beret settle in the Dakota Territory, attempting to farm on land that can be as harsh as their native Norway but without the family support they might have found back home. But Per had a vision for his family and America was the land of opportunity. This book taught me about the hardships that immigrants endured in their hope for a better life. I vividly remember learning about sod houses and to this day I can’t imagine living in one. But most of all it taught me the human stories that encompass American history.

Twenty-five years later I convinced my book group to read the book. I rarely reread books, but I wanted to discover what it was about this book that had stuck with me. To my surprise I loved this book again and still consider it “the best book I have ever read.” What resonated with me on the second reading was the story of Beret, the young mother, attempting to nurture and sustain her children. By that time I was a mother of young children so I was not surprised by my identification. Her loneliness and depression were heartbreaking.

What still amazes me is how this story gripped me at fifteen and has never left my consciousness. How lucky I was to have a teacher that recognized the power of literature to teach history in a way that highlighted the reality of people’s lives. Later that year she had us read the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and then she took us to see the movie. Thank you Sister Rene.

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Carnegie Medal Short List 2013 
submitted by Caren

For me, spring doesn’t mean basketball “madness”, or chicks and bunnies, but the arrival of the new short list for the Carnegie Medal. I spend the time from late March, when the list appears, until June, when the winner is announced, deliciously immersed in reading the best of the best in children’s literature. The CILIP Carnegie Medal is the British equivalent of our ALA Newbery Medal. The winner is chosen by a panel of twelve children’s librarians.

What sort of book wins? From their website, here is what they are looking for:
”The book that wins the Carnegie Medal should be a book of outstanding literary quality. The whole work should provide pleasure, not merely from the surface enjoyment of a good read, but also the deeper subconscious satisfaction of having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards.”

I couldn’t have said it better! The short listed books are always varied but top-notch.

Here, then, is this year’s list. Please note that I have omitted only one book from the CILIP list as that book won’t be published in this country until July 2013.

The books I have read so far:

1. A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle - Irish writer, Roddy Doyle, has won a Booker prize for one of his adult novels. In this book, four generations of females (a twelve-year-old, her mother, her dying grandmother, and the ghost of her great-grandmother) take a midnight road trip to what was once their family farm.

2. Wonder by R. J. Palacio - August ("Auggie") was born with a rare genetic facial deformity that required many surgeries through his younger years. During that time, he was homeschooled. He is finally going to enter fifth grade at a private school, and this novel tells of his year there. I love the way his story is told through the eyes of different characters, and the ways in which the reader is given insights into each character's own personal struggles.

3. A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton - This has got to be one of the quirkiest books I have ever read. The title really says it all. Why is a boy traveling along in a boat rowed by a bear? Where are they headed? I don’t know. The adventures along the way are lots of fun though. Could their journey be a metaphor for life itself? Hmm….here’s a book to make you think.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Two British young women from different social classes meet during World War II. One is an airplane pilot, the other a spy. They become best friends and are sent on an undercover mission into occupied France. To say much more could ruin it for you. Let’s just say, this is a real thriller that will keep you awake reading late at night, and which you will be thinking about for weeks after you close the book. Earlier this year, it won a Printz Honor (which is awarded by ALA for excellence in young adult literature).

Here are the books I will be reading in the coming weeks:

1. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

2. In Darkness by Nick Lake - This one won the Printz Award this year.

3. Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Won’t you read along with me? As C. S. Lewis said,
“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”

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