Little Elliot, Big Family: A Picture Book Review

Little Elliot, Big Family by Mike CuratoWith Mouse away at a big family reunion, Elliot decides to take a walk in the city where he sees all kind of families. The more families he sees, the more Elliot wonders what it means to be on his own. But as Elliot soon learns, families can come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they might even choose you in Little Elliot, Big Family (2015) by Mike Curato.

Everyone’s favorite polka dotted elephant is back in this delightful follow up to author/illustrator Mike Curato’s debut Little Elliot, Big City. When Elliot is feeling very alone, his best friend Mouse comes to the rescue and invites Elliot to the mouse family reunion. Soon enough Elliot is enjoying the festivities and finds himself an honorary member of the mouse family.

Curato’s distinctive style once again brings New York City to life as Elliot travels around the city in Mouse’s absence. While the idea that families are unique is a familiar one in picture books, Curato’s illustrations add extra gravitas to make this story stand out.

Little Elliot, Big Family is another great story about a determined elephant and his unlikely friends (and family!). Great for story times or one-on-one readings.

Little Elliot fans should also check out the book website where they can join Elliot and Mouse’s family in their own family portrait:

You can also check out the book trailer:

* A copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2015*

A Little in Love: A (Rapid Fire) Review

A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher (2015)

A Little in Love by Susan FletcherA Little in Love is a retelling of Les Miserables which focuses on Eponine’s story. In reading this book I discovered that, despite seeing the musical in college, I had retained very little of the story. Worse, I realized I had very little interest in reading a new retelling.

In retrospect this should have been obvious to me, but A Little in Love is not a fun story. One might even go as far as to say that it was, well, miserable. Eponine has a hard life which Fletcher aptly fleshes out in this story. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to hold my attention.

The characters, particularly Eponine’s cruel parents, came across as thinly-drawn caricatures while the story lacked much forward momentum and demanded little investment from me as a reader. The writing also felt stilted with florid descriptions to no particular purpose.

I could see this appealing to fans of Hugo’s original novel or the musical. It would also work well for readers who enjoy reading sad stories. For me, however, this one largely missed the mark.

*An advance copy of this book was acquire from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*

Week in Review: October 4

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

I can’t believe it’s already October. I feel like I blinked and September was over. Work was very, very busy this week (weeding consumed my life) and I am hoping for things to be quieter this month because I honestly can’t handle that pace indefinitely. This Friday I finally had some time to tackle my email inbox which is looking much neater and feels more manageable now. I already have a 2016 planner but I feel like so much is going on that I should be using it already. Which, of course, is not how planners work at all.

That said, I’m feeling pretty organized and on top of everything. I’ve been making a concerted effort to reconnect with friends and I think that’s probably a good thing and long overdue. I need to get a better handle on my schedule to make more consistent time for writing, but I’m getting there.

I’ve been trying for the past few months to get a handle on the amount of books I have to be read. Part of that has involved creating monthly reading trackers here on the blog. Part of it has been being more mindful about what I request and also more mindful of what I want to read. That said, I still wound up adding back a lot of books that upon further thought, I really do want to get to. Books I want to read are back up to 87 which is honestly not a lot. But I really, really want it to get lower. If only I could read faster.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my October Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Lair of Dreams: A Review

*Lair of Dreams is the second book in Bray’s Diviners series which begins with The Diviners. As such this review contains major spoilers for book one!*

Lair of Dreams by Libba BrayEvie O’Neil’s life changed forever when she came to New York City and helped her uncle Will (curator of “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies”) catch a supernatural killer.

Months after the Naughty John case was closed, it seems like New York has Diviners fever all thanks to Evie’s public revelation about her ability to read objects.

Evie is clinging to her fifteen minutes of fame with both hands thanks to her radio show as the “Sweetheart Seer” while other Diviners, some friends and some not, decide what to do in this new landscape where it seems everyone wants a Diviner ability–or wants something from someone who has them.

While Evie is having a pos-i-tutely grand time uptown, her friends have other problems. When Will runs off to investigate strange happenings, Jericho and his least favorite person Sam Lloyd are left behind to try and save the museum (again). Memphis and Theta aren’t  sure if they’ll ever find a space to be together while Theta’s best friend Henry walks dreams searching for his lost love, Louis.

In the midst of this turmoil, a strange sleeping sickness is weaving through Chinatown  leaving a trail of victims unable to wake from terrible dreams. Ling has walked dreams for years, but she has never seen anything like this. Ling has never had the patience for friends, much less other Diviners, but to stop the sleeping sickness Ling and the other Diviners will have to work together before it’s too late in Lair of Dreams (2015) by Libba Bray.

Lair of Dreams is the highly anticipated sequel to Bray’s stunning novel The Diviners first book in Bray’s four-book series set in 1927 New York.

Readers eagerly waiting this latest installment will not be disappointed.

Although Bray returns to familiar characters (notably Evie, of course), Lair of Dreams moves the novel in new directions as the main plot with the sleeping sickness focuses instead on Henry Dubois (one of Evie’s friends whom she met through Theta) and Ling (a character who only appeared for the briefest moment in The Diviners). Although readers will be itching to see what’s become of familiar faces, Bray quickly makes Henry and Ling’s stories just as fascinating with her signature blend of wit and storytelling.

Lair of Dreams is another dazzling installment in this sweeping historical fantasy series. Where the first book in the series introduced readers to New York City in the 1920s, this book blows that world wide open as the book moves into new neighborhoods (particularly Chinatown) and new historical details as a large part of the story involves the construction of New York City’s subway system.

Bray strikes a perfect balance between expanding old storylines and building new ones in this second installment.While it references events from The Diviners heavily, the shift in character focus helps this book remain very much its own story. Similarly, while Lair of Dreams hints at things to come in books three and four, it still delivers a contained plot from inception to resolution to make this a satisfying read on its own.

Lair of Dreams is another vibrant and thorough book done only as Libba Bray can. Truly stunning and highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Born of Illusion by Teri Brown, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, Sabriel by Garth Nix, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters, The Stand (mini-series)

*This book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA 2015*

October 2015 Reading Tracker

You can also see what I read and received in September.

Books Read:

  1. The Truth Commission by Susan Juby
  2. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Books On Deck:

  1. Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  2. City Love by Susane Colasanti
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  5. Losers Take All By David Klass
  6. Last Night at the Circle Cinema by Emily Franklin
  7. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen
  8. Beauty by Robin McKinley
  9. The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick
  10. This Ordinary Life by Jennifer Walkup
  11. Never Never by Briana Shrum
  12. Spelled by Betsy Schow
  13. The Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myers
  14. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
  15. The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
  16. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
  17. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Books Bought: 0

Gifted/Traded Books: 0

Arcs Received: 0

If you want to see how I’m doing with BEA 2015 books check here.

October 1: 10 books in September! Starting the month with The Truth Commission.

October 1: Okay, obviously I am not going to read 18 books this month. That’s nuts. Last month I was really strict about sticking to my proposed reading order. I’m going to try to do that this month BUT if I have to, I’m also okay with letting myself swap out categories (these all fit in specific categories for my personal reading including BEA or review books). If I get more “obligatory” reading I might also have to shake this up.

October 5: The Truth Commission was everything I hoped it would be and more. Possibly my favorite book of 2015. Onto Book of a Thousand Days.

Princess of the Midnight Ball: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day GeorgeGalen is a soldier returning from war. At only nineteen he has been on the battleground most of his life. He is world-weary and eager to return to Westfalin and try his hand at civilian life now that the war is over.

Rose is one of the twelve princesses of Westfalin cursed to dance each night for the King Under Stone where they wear out their dancing slippers every evening. Unable to speak out about their nightly activities or defy the King Under Stone, Rose and her sisters suffer in silence.

Many princes try to discover where the princesses go each night. All of them fail.

As the stakes grow higher, Rose and Galen will have to work together to break the curse and save Westfalin from threats found both underground and above in Princess of the Midnight Ball (2009) by Jessica Day George.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is the first book in George’s trilogy of companion novels following the princesses of Westfalin. It is also a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” fairytale.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is written in the third person and alternates between Galen and Rose’s points of view to create two protagonists who are very authentic instead of relying on character archetypes. George also flips several standard fairytale tropes upside down with her refreshing and well-rounded characters. Galen is levelheaded and cautious while still having enough charm to rival any prince. He also knits his own socks. Rose is clever, sharp and decidedly proactive as she works independently of Galen to try and save her sisters.

Together Galen and Rose are unstoppable as they face faeries, curses and other ills besides in their efforts to break the curse and save Westfalin. Despite having numerous secondary characters–just with all of Rose’s sisters!–George manages to present concise snapshot descriptions for each character without bogging down the narrative. This story can also appeal to a broad age range as it’s thin on gore or violence with a lighter tone overall.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a delightful retelling that stays true to the source material while also adding original touches and memorable characters. A thrilling plot, sweet romance and genuinely scary villains make for a winning combination in this reinvented fairytale.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Entwined by Heather Dixon, Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Toads & Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde

Banned Books Week Blind Book Display (Library Life)

Banned Books Week is a week-long event to raise awareness about the dangers of banning or challenging books as well as to celebrate the intellectual freedom that people enjoy by reading books and having books available in their libraries or schools.

Banned Books Week runs from September 27 to October 3 this year.

If you want to know more you can visit BannedBooks.Org. The American Library Association also has a handy Banned Books Week landing page with a lot more information. School Library Journal also has compiled many useful resources.

This year for BBW I knew I wanted to do a blind display. I’ve seen other librarians make displays covering books with paper bags and listing the reasons they were banned or challenged. (The Lorax is always an interesting one for this since it is sighted as promoting eco-terrorism and being anti-industry sometimes.)

I wanted to streamline the process (because restocking my Blind Date with a Book display got to be a bit tedious last February) so I went a little simpler. I made a few graphics with a “banned” stamp and some of the top reasons books are banned or challenged in libraries.

Here’s what that looked like:


Like my Blind Date with a Book display, these books are all wrapped in such a way that they are still scannable at check out and easily unwrapped if someone needs the book.

I also have a poster board I use for displays so I made a sign with some text background and Banned Books Week information:

IMG_0294Part of the sign is a little hard to read because I didn’t make the background opaque enough when I made the sign in PicMonkey but I kind of like that because it seems fitting with what Banned Books Week is all about.

After that I put everything together and installed the display.

IMG_0329Reasons listed include: nudity, sexually explicit, anti-family, controversial, unsuited to age group, drugs/alcohol/smoking and offensive language.

Here’s a closer view of the display:

IMG_0330How are you exercising your right to read this Banned Books Week? Does your library have any cool displays for Banned Books Week this year? Are you featuring Banned Books Week content on your blog?

Let me know in the comments!