Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book 80 - The Danger Box by Blue Balliet - Three Oaks, Michigan, USA

How can a legally blind boy solve a mystery? Zoomy is legally blind - his world can be scarey sometimes as things come in and out of focus.  He lives with his grandparents who have taught him how to make lists to help bring some order and predictability into his world. 

One evening Zoomy's father returns driving a stolen car, bringing a mysterious box and danger into their quiet lives. This is the first time Zoomy has met his his absent father and he is not sure he likes the way Buckeye creates havoc for his family.

Zoomy's grandfather is an antiques dealer and he takes the box to his shop but not before Zoomy, a keeper of notebooks himself, asks if he can read the notebook they found inside the box.

The notebook holds many mysteries for Zoomy who spends time at his library trying to discover what the notebooks is all about. While at the library Zoomy meets a true friend in Lorrol, who is at Three Oaks for the summer vacation. Together they begin to work out that the notebook is very precious indeed and written by a famous man who not unlike Zoomy is full of self doubt and uses the notebook to bring order into his life.

Throughout the novel there are issues of "The Gas Gazette" written by Zoomy and Lorrol with clues as to the identity of the notebook writer. 

Review from Kidsreads by Norah Piehl   Review from the Chicago Sun Times by Deborah Abbott
Blue Balliet speaking about her novel

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book 79 - Hot House by Chris Lynch - USA

"Are ya winning?" Russ's Dad would always ask him that. They had a close relationship Russ and his Dad. Russ would sense when his Dad was about to come home and get up specailly to make him breakfast on the mornings after night shift. Russ's Dad was a fire fighter and Russ was training to be one too. For Russ his father was his number one hero always and forever - that was until he died in a blaze trying to save an old woman.

When is a hero not a hero? When it appears that there is more to the story. This novel expertly explores the depth of loss the death of a parent can bring. Russ remembers the wonderful times he had with his father. Then, as the fire investigation report becomes public, Russ is forced to acknowledge the pain his father lived with daily both physically and emotionally. Chris Lynch does pull any punches when it comes to the toll fire fighters and their families pay as they work in emergency rescue situations. He questions the public's loyalties and expectations of these heroic people.

Teenreads review by Norah Piehl   Interview with Chris Lynch thanks to Harper Teen

60 second recap views about the book

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Moving on from Between Two Worlds

Now that I have been in Turkey three years and have completed almost two months of the fourth school year I have decided to change my blog name. 

Originally I thought I would post about being in two worlds - the world of the classroom and the world of the library but guess what - it is one world for me. The library is my classroom and when I am in classrooms I am bringing all the richness of the library. 

I thought I would be writing about the two worlds of down town Istanbul and out at school but with technology despite the physical distance (and three days last week of more than three hours on the road I still physically feel the distance) there is no distance. Our library is available to everyone 24/7 and more and more of our collection is too. There are differences between our print collection and our electronic collection yes - but it is all one collection.

I imagined I would post about New Zealand and Turkey. I have been posting when in New Zealand and when in Turkey but the challenges, positive and negative, for school libraries in both countries are very similar.

So here I am - making the change to LibraryBond. I like the idea of the commitment of "My word is my bond" - it speaks of promise and trustworthiness. I like the 'promise' you can find in a library and a librarian, in this case promise meaning a reason to expect something. I hope people come to a library with the expectation that they will find things. I hope people come to see me with an expectation that we will work well together, to solve a problem, to find a resource, to enjoy a story or teach a skill. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Book 78 - The Cardturner by Louis Sachar - USA

I know nothing about cards, I don't play cards - well other than solitaire. This book features the card game 'bridge' and what an appropriate metaphor for life, for the complexities of the characters and their lives, for understanding and misunderstanding. 

Alton Richards is not having the best of summer vacations. His girlfriend is now dating his best friend, his family is not able to go anywhere and before he even starts to look for part time work his mother's favourite uncle decides to sack his regular card turner and insist that Alton step in to fill her place. Uncle Lester is a cantankerous, self made millionaire who is only his family's favourite uncle because of what he might leave them in his will. Uncle Lester needs a card turner because he is blind. He plays bridge, he plays like a genius and he plays to win. In this story the card game bridge becomes an arena in which the tactics and strategies echo the real life manipulations of Alton's family, close and extended. Alton's  mother thinks she knows everything about the hands that have been dealt to her Uncle, his wife, his wife's sister and so on but as Alton gets to know his uncle and his bridge partners he discovers the truth.

Not knowing anything about bridge was not a problem as Alton has a method for describing the features of the game without letting it get in the way of the story. I enjoyed this book and can thoroughly recommend it.

Guardian Book Review

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book 77 - Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton - Fictional Country in Sub-Saharan Africa

We meet Chanda as she waits in the office at Bateman's Eternal Light Funeral Services. She is there to arrange the funeral of her half sister Sara, who died age one and a half. She is helping becasue her mother is still holding Sara and her step father is lying drunk somewhere and Chanda is the eldest child living in the home. Chanda is an intelligent young woman who has lived through some very tough times in her short 16 year life. She wants to continue with her schooling, she wants to be a writer, she has dreams but the realities of her life, of the lives of her family members crowd out those dreams. The realities of life as a child in a society where many of the adults are dying of disease, in mine accidents and through poverty mean that her friend also is forced to make some terrible choices. 

Chanda is someone who cares, who is resourceful and who finally decides that the prejudice and fears of other will not dictate the actions she takes to care for the people she loves. This is a powerful novel and well deserving of the medals and awards it has received.

Allan Stratton's website             Annick Press website and promo    Annick's book trailer

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book 76 - My name is Mina by David Almond - England

How does a novel about the life of a troubled girl grip the reader so effectively? David Almond has this ability to make a simple life so enthralling. Don't get me wrong Mina is far from simple. She is home schooled by her mother and she tells the story of her everyday life and how she came to be home schooled. 

At one point Mina recounts how she made a friend at school who limped badly and was a fellow outcast from the rest of the school children. Their conversation evolved as the friend says she is going to have a very painful operation so she won't limp any more. She then asks Mina is she will have an operation to repair her strangeness.

Mina is strange to her peers and to her teachers. She is brilliant, she thinks deeply about things, she is a tortured soul who is trying to come to terms with the grief of her father's sudden death. Her favourite place to be is sitting in the tree at her house. She writes in her journal up there. She watches the neighbourhood from there. She feels safe there.

Mina is a character from David Almond's book Skellig (review from Reading Matters) and this novel is the prequel to Skellig. In the last few chapters of My name is Mina Michael and his family move into the house next door and his baby sister is shown to be very ill. 
Guardian review                                                                                                     David Almond's website
David Almond speaking at Scottish Book Trust event 'Authors Live' about writing about the ordinary.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book 75 - The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango - Ecuador

As you can see this novel is based on a true story. Pictured below are Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango. This is a fictional story based on the life of Virginia. The main character is called Virginia and we meet her as she is turning 7 years old. She lives with her family in an Andean village in Ecuador. She works in the fields all day with her family. They are called "longa tonga" or stupid Indians by the ruling class of mestizos - the Spanish descendants of the conquistadors  Virginia at age of seven is taken by a mestizo couple to care for their baby and do the household chores. They live in a city a long way from Virginia's home village. The wife terrorises Virginia and often beats her mercilessly. The husband calls her his 'hija' or daughter. Virginia spends her first year plotting ways to run away but as time goes by she gets used to her life, she likes the baby she is raising and this couple lead her to believe her family do not want her.

Virginia's spirited self belief is amazing and she dreams of a different future. She demands to be taught to read and once she does she secretly reads all of the books in the house - including the books the wife is using as a Biology teacher in a high school. When she finally does have the courage to break free from this family Virginia's determination to make a life for herself leads her to hard work but great success.

Laura Resau's website promoting the book
Book trailer by a student at Hillsborough County Public Schools