Friday, February 26, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
WINNER OF THE 2010 PRINZE AWARD FOR YA LITERATURE
By Libba Bray
*Starred Review* In a giant departure from her Gemma Doyle historical fiction trilogy, Bray's latest offering is an unforgettable, nearly indefinable fantasy adventure, as immense and sprawling as Cervantes' Don Quixote, on which it's based. Here the hero is Cameron, a 16-year-old C-plus-average slacker who likens himself to driftwood, but he suddenly becomes the center of attention after he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease. In the hospital, he meets Dulcie, an alluring angel clad in fishnet stockings and combat boots, who presents him with a heroic quest to rescue the planet from an otherworldly, evil force. Guided by random signs and accompanied by a teen dwarf named Gonzo, Cameron sets off on a wild road trip across the U.S. to save the world, and perhaps his own life. Talking yard gnomes, quantum physics, cults of happiness, mythology, religion, time travel, the blues, Disney World, the vacuous machine behind reality TV shows, and spring break's beer-and-bikini culture all figure prominently in the plot, and readers may not feel equally engaged in each of the novel's lengthy episodes. But Bray's wildly imagined novel, narrated in Cameron's sardonic, believable voice, is wholly unique, ambitious, tender, thought-provoking, and often fall-off-the-chair funny, even as she writes with powerful lyricism about the nature of existence, love, and death.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010
*Starred Review* Growing up in a progressive family in Bombay during World War II, 15-year-old Vidya hopes that college is in her future, though her classmates are preparing for arranged marriages. After her father is severely injured in a riot, her life suddenly, irrevocably changes. Vidya, her older brother, and their parents move to Madras to join her grandfather's traditional household, where men and women live separately and Vidya's powerful aunt disdains the newcomers. When Vidya finds time after chores and schoolwork, she escapes upstairs to her grandfather's library, where she meets a young man who seems to understand her. The striking cover art, which suggests Vidya's isolation, as well as the unusual setting, will draw readers to this vividly told story.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
by Adam Selzer
In the style of acclaimed writers Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) and Steven Colbert (The Colbert Report), this witty, comedic, and appealing volume abandons the world of historical dates and battles to fill in some of the gaps in young Americans' knowledge of their country's history. Readers learn of General Washington's rebellion against the "basic rules of boating safety" as well as encounter James K. Polk's mullet ("Business up front, party in the back, baby.") while benefiting greatly from the book's efficient presentation of pivotal themes and events such as the American Revolution, Civil War, and Civil Rights Movement. This clever and informative work follows a chronological arrangement from early exploration to the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009. Each chapter concludes with a "Some of the Stuff We Missed" section, essay questions such as "Who was the bigger jerk, Hitler or Stalin?"; vocabulary words; and multiple choice "End-of-Chapter Questions" that range from "What do you think happened to those Croatoan guys-and what gave you that idea?" to "What Civil War guy had the best nickname?" Small black-and-white photos and reproductions appear throughout. The companion Web site contains supplemental information, links to relevant documents and other sites, and "Assignment Alerts!" for further exploration. This informal approach is sure to appeal to even the most reluctant of readers.