1.20.2016

Review: The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary

Title: The Night Parade
Author: Kathryn Tanquary
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1492623245
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating:

Synopsis (from Publisher):
In the shadow of the forest, the Night Parade marches on…
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s remote mountain village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki, and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked…and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth- or say goodbye to the world of the living forever.

Praise for The Night Parade...

“Wonder and imagination abound in Tanquary’s debut, a fantasy set in a contemporary Japanese mountain village; filled with respect and admiration for cultural tradition, it evokes both Grimm’s fairy tales and Miyazaki’s films...Vivid details and realistic situations ensure accessibility, and subtle teaching moments are wrapped in wide-eyed enchantment.” –Publishers Weekly STARRED Review

“An entertaining mix of Japanese folklore and teen angst” –School Library Journal

“Highly imaginative, beautifully written and what a wonderful book that talks about becoming true to oneself. While reading this all I could picture was a Miyazaki film in my head, and it was beautiful!”--Teresa Steele, Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO)
  

In the dead of night, she woke to three cold fingers on her neck.
Saki blinked in the darkness. The sliding door was open to the forest. The fingers pressed against her jugular, and bright, thundering panic surged through her body.
The fingers curled down toward her throat.
She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her jaw was locked shut. Her hands groped for her phone under the futon. Before she reached it, she touched her grandfather’s worn-­out charm. The three fingers retracted, leaving her skin cold and bloodless.
“Oh good, you’re awake.” She heard her brother’s voice.
Saki flipped around. Lying on her back, she stared up into a pair of eyes.
It was not her brother.
It knelt next to her on the tatami floor, knees brushing the edge of her pillow. Her brother’s futon was empty, and the blankets were flung around the room. It may have been Jun’s body kneeling there, but whatever stared back at her was not her brother.
The clouds shifted, and light fell through the open door, burning moon-­blue on everything it touched. Her not-­brother’s eyes reflected the light like a will-­o’-­the-­wisp.
“I thought you might sleep through it.” The creature smiled. Her brother’s teeth seemed sharper than usual.
Saki touched her hand to her jaw. It unlocked. Her voice was little more than a whisper. “Sleep through what?”
It leaned over. She stared into its will-­o’-­the-­wisp’s eyes.
“The Night Parade, of course.”
With a single movement, it was standing by the crack in the door. The forest stretched on into the night.
“Get up, get up! We’re late already.”
Saki scrambled to her knees. She pulled a blanket around her shoulders and clutched her phone to her chest.
“W-­what have you done to my brother?”
It rolled her brother’s eyes around the room and licked his teeth. “Impressive, isn’t it?” It opened its arms and looked down at the body it had taken. “Of course, beautiful maidens are traditional, but we must work with what we have, no?”
Saki eyed the backpack in the corner. It was heavy enough to swing in a pinch. “If you touch me, I’ll scream.”
The creature with her brother’s body became very serious. “Oh no, that won’t do any good. They won’t hear you anyway. This is your burden, little one.” It barked out laughter, eyes wide open, reflecting the moon.
“This is crazy. Jun, if you’re playing a joke, it isn’t funny. I’m telling—­”
“Why do you refuse to believe what you observe to be true?” it asked. “I don’t know what sort of game you’re playing at, girl. You invited me here.”
Saki blinked. “What?”
It dropped on her brother’s knee beside her. “Don’t you remember? On hallowed ground, you put your hands to the summoning table. You called out our names. You rang the bell. So we came to you, as we must. Well, I came to you.”
“You’re Kokkuri-­san?”
“No and yes. I am the first of three. The others will be along later.”
“Others?”
“Oh yes. I’m always the first, whether I like it or not. The third you will like very much. Everyone likes him. But the second…” It covered her brother’s mouth as a malevolent glee twinkled in its eyes. “Oh my. I daresay you will not like him at all. Very…scary.” It curled and uncurled her brother’s fingers.
“No,” Saki said. “No. No, no, no, no.” She pulled the blanket over her head and rolled into a ball on the floor. “This is crazy. This is insane. This is not happening. I am asleep and having a dream. When I wake up, it will be over.”
The creature sighed. “Very well. If that is your
final decision…”
Saki waited underneath the blanket. The wind whistled through the cracks of the old house, but after more than five minutes, she heard no sounds of the stranger anywhere. Bit by bit, she peeled back the blanket and peeked over the top.
Her brother slept soundly on a mess of tousled blankets. His face squished against his pillow as he drooled a bit down the side. His eyes were closed and didn’t shine at all in the moonlight. Saki wrapped her blanket around her shoulders as she rose to shut the open door.

On the wooden walkway in full moonlight sat a fox with four tails.






Kathryn Tanquary is a graduate of Knox College with a B.A. in Creative Writing. She currently resides in Japan as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language.






If you're looking for a magical title that integrates culture and folklore, The Night Parade needs to be added to your reading list. The author, Kathryn Tanquary, currently dwells in Japan and has reflected the culture in her debut, making it a fascinating read for those unaware of just how deep Japanese folklore bridges the spirit world with the breathing world.

Saki is a 13 year old girl from Tokyo whose family is visiting her grandmother in an isolated village near the mountains to celebrate the Obon ceremony.  Saki is the epitome of preteen angst, and is too caught up in missing her advances with the popular crowd to take the ceremony very seriously. The plot initiates when Saki is to bring a living branch from a sakaki tree to light the Welcome Fire, but instead brings a dead one. She then meets some locals who bully her into taking them to the graveyard by her grandmother's house, and they summon "Kokkuri-san" through a game that is very similar to our version of the Ouija board. Needless to say, we have a recipe for disaster, and the spirit of death is welcomed to The Night Parade.

Torn between the two worlds, Saki must lift the death curse off herself before the parade is over in three days. We meet some interesting guides on the way (honestly, I expected the second one to be a little more intimidating than it turned out to be), and find that many of the stories Saki grew up hearing may not be stories after all.

The character of Saki isn't necessarily the most likable, especially in the beginning. But she did grow through the story, and I felt that I grew along with her. The plot moved at satisfactory pace, and I loved all the little side adventures that we had to go through to reach the final goal. It was like adding different seasonings to enrich the overall flavor of the plot. Tying back to some of those parts always adds extra points in my book, and Tanquary did exactly that.

The realization of the connection between the spirit and living worlds was beautiful. I felt that outside of the story, it gave me a newfound appreciation for the belief the we are interlaced and what is done in the living world carries over to the spirit world.

If you are wary of themes that carry a high level of fantasy and mysticism, then this probably isn't for you. I will also warn that there are a few parts that could be pretty scary to a child. They weren't over-the-top, but enough to make this title teeter between Middle Grade and Young Adult. Other than that, I would highly recommend this book, especially if the Japanese culture fascinates you.

The Night Parade is a fantastical and mystical work of wonder and folklore. It truly is reminiscent of  a Miyazaki film. I finished this book in just a few hours because I couldn't put it down!
Let's celebrate! Enter for your chance to win a copy of The Night Parade (U.S. and Canada only)!
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1.11.2016

Happy Youth Media Awards Day!!!

It's one of my favorite holidays in the bookmosphere...the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards! I was up bright and early with other book lovers who weren't able to make it to the ALA Midwinter Conference this year...but we had a pajama party and watched the live webcast. Thanks to ILoveLibraries.org for connecting us who were #ALALeftBehind!

Also, a special shoutout to my friend and former colleague, Sarah Bean Thompson from Green Bean Teen Queen who served on the Caldecott Committee this year. I'm so proud of you!
(Oh my god, I know her!!!)

All year long we try to predict who will win, and who will at least snag an honorable mention. I'm excited to see that some of my predictions made the list! So without further ado, your best books of 2015:

ALEX AWARDS for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences.

All Involved by Ryan Gattis
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Girl at War by Sara Novic
Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton
Sacred Heart by Liz Suburbia
Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta
The Unraveling of Mercy Louis by Keija Parssinen


SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARDS for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

Children Ages 0-10:
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Schneider Best Middle Grade Ages 11-13:
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullally Hunt
The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Schneider Best Teen Ages 13-18:
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten


STONEWALL BOOK AWARDS - Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children's & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children's and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

Honors:
Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak
Sex is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and YOU by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth

Children’s Winner: George by Alex Gino
Young Adult Winner: The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg


CORETTA SCOTT KING AWARDS which recognizes an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults.

Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement: Jerry Pinkney

John Steptoe New Talent Author Award: Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith
John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award: Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, Ekua Holmes (Illustrator)

Honors for Illustrations:
The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
Winner for Illustrations: Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews and Bill Taylor,  Bryan Collier (Illustrator)

Author Honors:
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
X: a Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon

Author Winner: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia


MARGARET A. EDWARDS AWARD for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

David Levithan


WILLIAM C. MORRIS AWARD for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens.

Finalists:
Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Winner: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


YALSA EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION AWARD

Finalists:
Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle
First Flight Around the World: The Adventures of the American Fliers Who Won the Race by Tim Grove
This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audoban by Nancy Plain

Winner: Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin


MICHAEL L. PRINTZ AWARD for excellence in literature written for young adults.

Honors:
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
The Ghost of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

Winner: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby


ODYSSEY AWARD for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

Honor Audiobook: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Narrated by Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, Macleod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler

Winner Audiobook: The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Narrated by Jayne Entwistle


PURA BELPRÉ AWARDS honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.

Honor Books for Illustrations:
My Tata’s Remedies = Los remedies de mi tata by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford, Antonio Castro L. (Illustrator)
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina, Angela Dominguez (Illustrator)
Funny Bones by Duncan Tonatiuh (Writer and Illustrator)

Winner for Illustrations: The Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, Rafael Lopez (Illustrator)

Author Honors:
The Smoking Mirror by David Bowles
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina, Angela Dominquez (Illustrator)

Author Winner: Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle


MAY HILL ARBUTHNOT HONOR LECTURE AWARD recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children's literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site.

Jacqueline Woodson


MILDRED L. BATCHELDER AWARD for an outstanding children's book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States.

Honors:
Adam and Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld, Philippe Dumas (Illustrator)
Grandma Lives in a Perfume Village by Fang Suzhen, Sonja Kanowski (Illustrator)
Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers (Illustrated and Translated)

Winner: The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna (Writer and Illustrator)


ROBERT F. SIBERT MEDAL for most distinguished informational book for children.

Honors:
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown (Writer and Illustrator)
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, PJ Loughran (Illustrator)
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, Ekua Holmes (Illustrator)

Winner: Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh (Writer and Illustrator)


ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL for excellence in children's video.

That is NOT a Good Idea! by Mo Willems, produced by Weston Woods Studios, Inc.


LAURA INGALLS WILDER AWARD honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

Jerry Pinkney


THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL AWARD for the most distinguished beginning reader book.

Honors:
A Pig, a Fox, and a Box by Jonathan Fenske (Writer and Illustrator)
Supertruck by Stephen Savage (Writer and Illustrator)
Waiting by Kevin Henkes (Writer and Illustrator)

Winner: Don’t Throw it to Mo! by David A. Adler, Sam Ricks (Illustrator)


CALDECOTT AWARD for the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Honors:
Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, Bryan Collier (Illustrator)
Waiting by Kevin Henkes (Writer and Illustrator)
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, Ekua Holmes (Illustrator)
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de le Peña, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)


NEWBERY AWARD for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature.

Honors:
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Writer and Illustrator)
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

And your 2016 winners for the Caldecott and Newbery Awards go to...drumroll...

CALDECOTT                      NEWBERY

CALDECOTT WINNER: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

NEWBERY WINNER: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)

Congratulations authors and illustrators!

1.10.2016

Review: Time Traveler's Rock: Flaming Eagle (Time Traveler's Rock #1) by Rick Heiman

Title: Flaming Eagle
Series: Time Traveler's Rock #1
Author: Rick Heiman
Publication Date: January 31st, 2015
Publisher: Xlibris
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 104
ISBN: 9781503539273
Source: eBook from Author
Rating: 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It's 2065, but retired computer programmer James finds himself transported back in time 500 years. Suddenly he is living the life of a 10 year old Indian child named Baby Bird. His life is flipped upside down once he is taken away by an uncle he has never met to a village where he is not easily accepted. Here he must learn to build canoes alongside his uncle while keeping ideas and concepts from the future-his own time-secret. With the help of his uncle, two quiet sisters, an old man, and his new friend Phoenix, Baby Bird slowly finds his place his new home with a few challenges and adventures along the way, including the ceremonial ritual to become a man. Will Baby Bird find his way back to his own village, and will James return back to 2065? 


Time Traveler's Rock: Flaming Eagle is a story that weaves the past and future together with action and adventure, drawing in children and young adult readers. 
  





Rick Heiman started working in law enforcement in 1988 and has spent countless hours writing police reports. In 2000 he started writing fiction but was slow to start until the Time Traveler's Rock series came to him in a dream and the story practically wrote itself.






Time Traveler's Rock: Flaming Eagle is a unique title of it's kind. As an outdoor enthusiast myself, I really enjoyed jumping into a story where I was transported into wilderness living. The protagonist, James, is a retired computer programmer who sets off on a hike one day. While stopping to rest, James falls asleep and wakes up to different scenery than what he recalls dozing off to. He comes into confrontation with a young boy speaking a different language, and is then shoved with such force, he falls and strikes his head on a rock. James blacks out.

Suddenly, we are seeing the story through the eyes of a young American-Indian boy named Baby Bird...and we are transported back 500 years.  He is taken from his family and forced to live with a Canoe Man. Baby Bird is exposed to many facets of growing up, such as hard work, bullying, sportsmanship, and responsibility. The reader grows right along side him.

There is a strong theme of growth in this book. It has a very interesting premise and I thought it had a well developed plot that moved at a satisfactory pace. There are just enough plot points and surprise turns to keep your interest from dwindling. The book itself is a time machine, and I found it intriguing that we traveled from the future to the past in one sitting!

Cons are: I wish there was a little more development around how the time traveling happened and why; that seemed a little unclear to me. I also think there needs to be a little more grammatical cleanup in terms of punctuation and sentence structure.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book! It has a lot of potential and I think it would do well in the library. Special thanks to Rick for supplying me an ecopy of his book, it was a pleasure meeting him at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville!

12.05.2015

Review: Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All The Wrong Questions #1) by Lemony Snicket

Title: Who Could That Be at This Hour?
Series: All The Wrong Questions
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Seth
Publication Date: October 24th, 2012
Publisher: Little Brown
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 258
ISBN: 0316123080
Rating:

Synopsis (from the Author):
In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn't have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn't be read.
Lemony Snicket is looking for trusted associates! He's ready to reveal his account of the time he spent in a fading town full of mysteries, and share his secrets with associates-in-training.

Do you know a curious reader? Get started on an intriguing journey.

Come along with Snicket as he embarks on his own apprenticeship, hidden in this special edition, readers will encounter three personalized letters from Lemony Snicket, guiding them through their own training, including uproarious quizzes and instructions. Order a personalized copy of this book:



All the Wrong Questions is Lemony Snicket’s second series and follows the wildly successful A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has sold over 65 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

All the Wrong Questions has reunited Snicket with his longtime representative, Daniel Handler, author of the Printz Honor–winning young adult book, Why We Broke Up, which was described as “beautifully rendered” by the New York Times and “perfectly pitched to woo romantics of any age” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Handler is also the author of We Are Pirates, The Basic Eight, and Adverbs.

Acclaimed illustrator Seth returned (against his better judgment) to illustrate the cover and interior art. The cover of “Who Could That Be at This Hour?” was named one of the New York Times’ and Flavorwire’s favorite covers of 2012. Seth is also the creator of Palookaville, Clyde Fans, and The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists.


About Put Me In The Story:
Put Me In The Story creates personalized versions of bestselling books featuring your favorite characters. With your name, picture, dedication message, and more, YOU—our readers—have become our most dynamic characters.

Put Me In The Story inspires a love for reading, across all ages and generations, through the experience of shared, personalized stories. Become the star of a great adventure at www.PutMeInTheStory.com.

In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn't have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn't be read.
I would like to thank Little Brown and Put Me in the Story for providing me personalized copies of this series for review. These books are too cool!

This isn't like any series you've read; if you order these books from the Put Me In the Story website, you can personalize each book with the following features:
  • Personalized covers with the reader’s name and initials cleverly integrated in the front and back cover art
  • Reader’s initial designed into the opening artwork page
  • Photo of the reader included on a character portrait page
  • Unique customized letters and interactive messages to the reader from Lemony Snicket
  • Two of the reader’s friends’ names incorporated in the letters and messages
  • Dedication page for the gift giver to write a personalized message to the reader
For those who enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket has set a new pace for his readership. In this introduction to the All The Wrong Questions series, we meet Lemony Snicket before he became the author of the ASOUE series. Yes, that's right. This is a prequel!

Lemony began with an apprenticeship in a secret organization dedicated to solving mysteries. In "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" we travel to the land of Stain'd-by-the-Sea where a special  object has supposedly been mysteriously stolen. But has it?

Although this series (so far) doesn't quite reach up to par with A Series of Unfortunate events, it definitely has its own charm. I love that Lemony is matched up with the 52nd ranked chaperone out of 52, thus causing moments where Lemony is more aware of what is going on than the person training him, S. Theodora Markson. I thought it was clever how the "S" in Theodora's name is a mystery, and whenever asked about it she responds with alliteration of the same. The tone is reminiscent of previous Snicket books. I read half the book in text and then finished it on audio, and I enjoyed both.

Regardless of whether the story meets preconceived standards, I think the personalization makes them worth it. Imagine your 10 year old self receiving a book by one of your favorite authors with your name and photo in it. This goes beyond just sticking a name in a book; it's executed in such a way that the receiver truly feels like the book was made for them. I haven't seen this done in this detailed of fashion before, and I am very impressed.

Some examples of the book personalization. All photos are property of putmeinthestory.com (click on thumbnail for larger size):

These make great gifts for any little adventurer!