Archive for the 'Co-reviews' Category

Straight Talk About the Food Chain

h1 Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Adrienne Furness from WATAT is gracing 7-Imp with her presence again this week. This time she and I (Jules, that is) are having a conversation about our favorite Slightly Demented Picture Books. Hubba wha? you say. Adrienne will kick it all off with an explanation. Enjoy! And we hope folks will join in and add to our list . . .

Illustration by L. Leslie Brooke, from The Golden Goose Book, Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd. 1905Adrienne: Back in August, Jules and I began bonding over our shared love of what we’ve decided to call Slightly Demented Picture Books. It started with Jules’ review of Bob and Otto, written by Robert O. Bruel and illustrated by Nick Bruel. She and I have been talking about Slightly Demented Picture Books ever since.

So what makes a picture book slightly demented?

These are books that we love and that kids love that make other adults uncomfortable. My favorite example is the version of The Three Little Pigs that I tell in my preschool storytimes. I like the more traditional version where pigs one and two get eaten. There is none of this being saved by the smarter brother. No deus ex machina woodcutter. Kids love this version of the story. They huff and puff right along with the big bad wolf, and they nod or giggle in a satisfied way when the wolf gets a good meal and moves on. Cautionary tales make sense to them: those pigs make their homes out of inferior materials and suffer the consequences. That’s life, and I think this kind of story helps children make some sense out of a world they often find mysterious and difficult.

My telling of this story bugs adults. Every time I share it, at least one or two ask me if I’m not worried about warping the children. Honestly, I’m more worried about the telling where pigs one and two are saved. The theme of the original story has to do with the way our actions have consequences. Versions in which the first two pigs are saved by the pig who built his house out of bricks suggest that someone smarter will be there to bail us out when we do something stupid. I think the real problem is that adults hate to talk to children about the ways in which life is difficult. I think they hope the children won’t notice.

Of course they notice, and so do we. In that spirit, we’d like to offer you some of our favorite picture books that tell big truths about life in a way that makes us laugh a little. Or a lot. Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast #70:
Sara Zarr (and Jules and Eisha weigh in
on Sweethearts)

h1 Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Check it out, ya’ll: we’ve got Sara Zarr in da house. That’s right, National Book Award finalist, Cybils nominee, generally kick-ass writer for young adults, Sara Zarr.

She first hit the scene with Story of a Girl, which won rave reviews and landed her in the NBA nominee camp for its gritty, funny, touching, and – yeah, why not? – inspiring depiction of a girl who makes a really bad decision and has to figure out how to live with the ugly consequences. But unlike a lot of teen novels, in this case the consequences of having sex at 13 with the wrong boy aren’t tangible (pregnancy, STD) – instead, Deanna has to deal with becoming a legendary “slut” in her small town, falling from her father’s favor, and wondering if she’ll ever be asked on a normal date by a nice boy. As School Library Journal said in a starred review, “This is realistic fiction at its best. Zarr’s storytelling is excellent; Deanna’s reactions to the painful things said to her will resonate with any reader who has felt like an outsider.”

Read the rest of this entry �

Two Co-reviews: Our Favorite Freaks of Nature

h1 Monday, March 10th, 2008

Jules: Well, hello there on this Monday. I’m going to take a break from Nonfiction Monday today, as Eisha and I are trying to get caught up a bit here on reviews of a couple titles from last year. For no particular reason, other than sometimes just being slow, we have yet to talk about these two YA titles that we dug and dug hard.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Last August saw the release of Robin Brande’s first novel, Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature, released by Alfred A. Knopf. This “ambitious YA debut” (Publishers Weekly) was met with critical acclaim and was chosen as a 2008 ALA Best Book for Young Adults; a Fall 2007 Book Sense Children’s Pick; and a 2008 NCSS/CBC (National Council for the Social Studies and Children’s Book Council) Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies.

The novel tells the story of high school freshman Mena Reece. She’s cleared her conscience by doing what she considered the right thing (regarding a young man named Denny Pierce) by her friends, her church, and her family — but, as a result, none of them are speaking to her. Needless to say, her school year is not starting off well (“My life might really improve if I could just stop feeling so committed to the truth”). She does make one friend in her science lab partner, Casey, who happens to be brilliant as well as, Mena comes to realize, funny and cute and entirely not afraid to be himself. Since her former best friends have cut her off (“Ahh, that’s sweet—you made a new little gay friend already,” one of them tells her snidely), Casey’s pretty much all Mena has right now. And when her science teacher, Ms. Shepherd, begins a unit on the topic of evolution, Mena finds herself both fascinated by and caught up in a new controversy between those former best friends from the conservative church her family attends and those aligning themselves with Ms. Shepherd, trying to keep intelligent design from being taught in the school. As a result, Mena undergoes her own personal evolution, as she considers the subjects of religion, science, indoctrination, faith, freedom, and much more.

Read the rest of this entry �

Co-Review: Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House

h1 Monday, February 11th, 2008

Jules: If you’re a loyal reader of 7-Imp, you know Eisha and I have what could easily pass for a virtual fan club here at this blog for author Haven Kimmel, the creator of the two Zippy memoirs (this one and this one for which you should drop everything and read if you haven’t already) as well as the books in what is called her Hopwood Trilogy — The Solace of Leaving Early, her debut novel; Something Rising (Light and Swift); and last year’s The Used World (which Eisha and I co-reviewed at ForeWord Magazine’s Shelf Space in October of last year). More on those books and our undying devotion to her as an author are in this interview with her, conducted almost one year ago.

Haven has a new children’s book (geared officially at the “7-12” age range), just released at the beginning of February by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, with art work by Peter Brown (whom we heartily thank for sending us for our post today some of the interior art included in the book). It’s called Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House. Needless to say, Eisha and I were pretty psyched about reading it. Despite what Publishers Weekly wrote in their review of the book, this is not Haven’s children’s fiction debut. In 2003, she penned the picture book Orville: A Dog Story, published by Clarion.

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Tri-Reviews Before Breakfast #4: Featuring MotherReader, Elephant, and Piggie

h1 Friday, December 7th, 2007

Our apologies to Poetry Friday, which we love and adore, but we started this tri-review in mid-August. O yes, we did. It’s taken us this long. No more delays then. Here is 7-Imp’s absolutely riveting current tri-review. Go get your popcorn now, and come back, read, and enjoy.

Jules: Mo Willems, picture book creator extraordinaire, has graced the world of children’s lit with a new beginning reader series, the Elephant & Piggie books. And heaven bless him, because they are very funny and clever and . . . Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s just say they’re All Mo All the Time -– each and every book.

If you missed the first two -– My Friend is Sad and Today I Will Fly!, both released in April of this year by Hyperion -– then, run! Don’t walk! Run to the nearest bookstore or library, especially if you have those so-called emerging readers in your home, because the books -– met with rave reviews all-around -– are . . . well, as Booklist put it, they are “{a}ccessible, appealing, and full of authentic emotions about what makes friendships tick . . . {they} will put a contemporary shine on easy-reader collections and give Willems’ many fans–whatever their age or reading level–two more characters to love.” In July of this year, the following two books in the series, I Am Invited to a Party! and There Is a Bird on Your Head!, were released (also by Hyperion, whom we thank for review copies of these titles).

And how can we discuss Mo’s new beginning reader series without, arguably, the biggest Mo fan in the kidlitosphere, Pam Coughlan, a.k.a. MotherReader? So, we invited her to a tri-review of these titles and are thrilled she said yes.

MoReader, we are happy to have you here! I could go on and on about why I think these books work so well, but I’m sure we’ll all get into that. I’ll add quickly now before letting you really begin here that the very first time I read one of these, my three-year-old daughter was with me. We had picked up My Friend is Sad at the library and were really excited, as we’d been waiting for it. We sat down right there at the nearest table and took a gander, and we immediately were doing those nerdy hyperventilating laughs -– in a library, no less -– because it was almost painfully funny. So, we just packed up to take them home where we could laugh louder. I think that one’s my favorite, since the slapstick genius of all the Elephant & Piggie titles is at its best in that book, in my humble opinion.

What do you think? As a Hugely Huge Mo Fan, are you just crazy about them? Disappointed, by chance? Are they all you thought they’d be? Read the rest of this entry �

Co-Review: Haven Kimmel’s The Used World

h1 Thursday, November 1st, 2007

{Note: Please see the post below this one for today’s Robert’s Snow schedule}

For our final post over at ForeWord Magazine (we’ve been guest-blogging all month and have enjoyed it), we offer a co-review of Haven Kimmel’s latest novel, The Used World (Free Press; September 2007; review copies), which is made of awesome-ness (that’s not a very eloquent way to describe an eloquent book, but it’ll have to do for now). Eisha and I adore Haven’s books, and if you do, too, head on over to this week’s “Shelf Space” column to read our co-review, if you’re so inclined. We may — at a later date — post the co-review itself here at 7-Imp, but for now if you want to read it, you’ll have to click once. That’s not too much effort, no? Enjoy.

Seven Impossible Tri-Reviews Before Breakfast #3: Featuring Roger Sutton and Perry Moore’s Hero

h1 Monday, October 22nd, 2007

{Note: Please see the post below this one for today’s Robert’s Snow schedule}

Hi there. It’s post number three here in our fledgling tri-review series, in which we discuss the merits and/or pitfalls of a new title with a blogger whom we have invited to come play with us (these things are way more like book discussions than traditional reviews, as you can tell by the length of these posts). We kicked the series off with a discussion of Cat Weatherill’s Snowbone with Betsy Bird, a.k.a. Fuse #8; continued with a discussion of Gabrielle Zevin’s Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac with Jen Robinson; and are currently enjoying a discussion of Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie beginning readers with none other than MotherReader (to be posted soon) . . .

And this week we’re happy to have Roger Sutton, Horn Book editor and blogger, with us to discuss Perry Moore’s new novel, Hero. We’d like to thank Roger for joining us to discuss the new book.

{Note: Beware — Plot spoilers included below}.

Jules: Hero, the first novel by film producer, screenplay writer, and director Perry Moore and just released last month, is “the coming of age story of the world’s first gay superhero,” as the publisher (Hyperion) likes to put it. (And I have to quickly share Fuse’s thoughts on the matter in her post about Moore’s September book release party, because it made me laugh out loud: “And though I didn’t know it before I read the book, I LOVE gay teen superheroes! They’re the bestest superheroes out there”).

Read the rest of this entry �

Co-Review: Mokie & Bik by Wendy Orr

h1 Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Mokie & Bik
by Wendy Orr
with illustrations by Jonathan Bean
Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers
June 2007
(review copies)

Jules: “Mokie and Bik lived on a boat called Bullfrog. They lived in it, on it, all around it—monkeying up ladders and down ropes, over the wheelhouse and across the cabin floor.” This is our introduction to Mokie and Bik, the two young children of this most unusual chapter book, who climb and crawl and generally scamper their way around this houseboat, while their father is off working his day job as a “parrot” (who will come home with a “pirate on his shoulder”) on his “ship-at-sea with clouds of sails on five tall masts and brrr-ooping broop for fog, and he salty sailed around the world.” The children live with their mother, an artist, who I thought was so savagely cool and who is depicted in my favorite illustration of the book with “her easel and her Art” and “roaring brrr-oaring down the road” on a “botormike,” telling the children, “{a}sk me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.” And their nanny, Ruby, lives with them; she can usually be found telling the children to “get out from underfoot!” The illustrations have been done by Jonathan Bean, an illustrator for whom I have already declared my great love this year (here and here and here and here and here. Whew).

Eisha, what did you think? The language in this title, I should add for those who haven’t read it yet, is quite distinctive. But I really fell in love with it:

Every morning, as the sun came up, when Mokie and Bik were still in their bunks in the bow, they heard Erik the Viking’s seagull boat chug-chug-chugging out to sea while the seagulls squawk wawk rawked and Erik shouted “No fisk yet for pesky gulls!”

Read the rest of this entry �

Seven Impossible Tri-Reviews Before Breakfast #2: Featuring Jen Robinson and Memoirs of a
Teenage Amnesiac

h1 Thursday, September 20th, 2007

US cover of the title

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
by Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 2007
(advance reading copies)
Note: The U.S. cover is pictured here;
the U.K. one, below

We’re here to discuss Gabrielle Zevin’s second YA novel, her first one being 2005’s Elsewhere (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a 2006 ALA Notable Book and a Quill Book Award nominee, in which the afterlife is portrayed as a place where its inhabitants age in reverse until they reach infancy and are then sent back to Earth and reborn. She has also written one book for adults, Margarettown, and several screenplays.

In this novel, we meet seventeen-year-old Naomi, who takes a tumble down her high school steps one day after losing a coin toss with her best friend and co-editor of the yearbook, Will, over who should go back into the building to get the yearbook’s camera. She wakes to find that the past four years of her memory have been wiped clean and that she’s being assisted in the ambulance by a rather handsome fellow student about whom she knows nothing. Thus begins her journey of self-discovery as she tries to put back the puzzle pieces of her life, trying to remember Ace, her boyfriend; the complicated relationship she had with Will; why her parents are divorced; and why it takes her father a good while to tell her he’s now engaged. There’s also the issue of her mother’s new family, including a half-sister Naomi doesn’t remember at all.

We’re happy to host Jen Robinson for this, our second tri-review, the first one being fairly recently with Betsy Bird of A Fuse #8 Production and linked here, if you missed it. It was a pleasure to chat with Jen about this book. She’s a very astute reader, that one. Not to mention she graciously put up with our busy schedules while this was composed (we started this review one month ago!).

Watch Out: Some spoilers in the review below . . .

* * * * * * *

Jules: Jen, we’re excited to have you tri-reviewing with us! What did you think of the novel? I, for one, really enjoyed it, though I admit it took some convincing for me to swallow the premise. I was scared of the whole amnesia set-up – in a this-is-a-bad-soap-opera-narrative kind of way. But kudos to Zevin for making it work. It quickly became entirely believable for me, and I was really wrapped up in what I thought were such honest and perceptive characterizations. And, of course, Zevin is using memory loss as a way to explore issues of – the very nature of – identity; I guess making it a temporary and partial amnesia worked better for me. A full-fledged one might have been harder to swallow. And, though I’m getting ahead of myself here, I found the ending to be pitch-perfect and perfectly charming. Yes, I used the over-rated “charming” in a review, but it really fits here.

Did you like it? And how did it compare to Elsewhere for you? I have yet to read that one, though the premise sounds fabulous to me. Read the rest of this entry �

Co-Review: Punk Farm on Tour and Punk Farm’s
New PunkFarmSpace Site, a 7-Imp Exclusive . . .
(we’ve always wanted to say that)

h1 Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Punk Farm on Tour
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers
October 2007
(advance proofs)

*** Note: Scroll down below this co-review for a
kickin’ announcement
(via author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka) which will make you Punk Farm fans really squealy-happy . . .

Jules: They’re back! Cow, Sheep, Pig, Goat, and Chicken, that is. When we met the gang in 2005 in Punk Farm (Knopf Books for Young Readers), Eisha and I were both impressed with the droll humor of the book and the explosive, dynamic, all-around rockin’ illustrations by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. In that title, the gang rocks out with “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” while Farmer Joe sleeps. This time, Farmer Joe heads out for the Tractor Society Conference in Reno, but meanwhile, back at the farm . . . well, the gang sneaks out on a cross-country Punk Farm concert tour, no less. Unfortunately, their beat-up, worn-down old tour van is threatening to ruin their plans, and Krosoczka uses this premise to give us a glimpse into Punk Farm’s current tour hit, “The Wheels on the Van” (thanks to some quick thinking on the part of Sheep).

Eisha, you told me in an email that Punk Farm on Tour=awesome, and I’d have to agree. Would you like to elaborate?

eisha: Happy to, Jules . . . Read the rest of this entry �