Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What's Your Favorite Animal?

What's Your Favorite Animal?
Author: Eric Carle and Friends
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Sue


Summary: Fourteen children’s book illustrators have gone together to make this wonderful book.  Each illustrator has written a small bit about his favorite animal, and drawn a picture of the animal in their distinctive artistic style.

Review: Each large illustration is beautiful in its own creative way.  And the story, poem, or informational text is fun to read.  At the end of the book there is a very short biography and a photo of each illustrator when they were a child. Just a fun book to look at and read!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster

Jeneration X
Author: Jen Lancaster
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Reviewer: 20's/30's Book Group


The following review is a summary of what the 20's/30's Book Group thought of their April title Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster.  The next 20's/30's book choice is Gone Girl and will be discussed on May 19 at 7:00 p.m. at Panera Bread in Round Lake Beach.

Book Description (from amazon): In Such a Pretty Fat, Jen Lancaster learned how to come to terms with her body. In My Fair Lazy, she expanded her mind. Now the New York Times bestselling author gives herself—and her generation—a kick in the X, by facing her greatest challenge to date: acting her age.

Jen is finally ready to put away childish things (except her Barbie Styling Head, of course) and embrace the investment-making, mortgage-carrying, life-insurance-having adult she’s become. From getting a mammogram to volunteering at a halfway house, she tackles the grown-up activities she’s resisted for years, and with each rite of passage she completes, she’ll uncover a valuable—if probably humiliating—life lesson that will ease her path to full-fledged, if reluctant, adulthood.

Book Club's Review:  The reviews on this book were somewhat mixed.  A few people really enjoyed and a few others were more neutral towards it.  We all thought it had laugh out loud funny moments to it.

Brief thoughts
  • It's somewhat hard to relate to her at times given her current wealth and status as a full time writer (she has a lot of time and money that the rest of us aren't lucky enough to have!)
  • Reading a memoir that takes place in Chicago and Lake County is really neat.  There were a lot of moments of "Hey! I've been there!"
  • Read Chapter 24 titled "Generator X".  It's one of the funniest parts of the book.  
  • Chapter 2 and 7 are also really good.
  • Some of us felt her criticisms of generations Y and the millennials were unjust.   
All-in-all, we enjoyed the title and about half of us would read more by this author.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Spooky Box

The Spooky Box
Author: Mark Gonyea
Rating: 3/5 Stars
Reviewer: Christi


Summary: After viewing scary things that might slither, slice, or slide their way out of a creepy black box, the reader is asked to lift the top to reveal its contents.

Review: Spoiler Alert! A great idea for storytime, similar to one of my favorites There’s A Monster at the End of this Book, but, unfortunately falls a little flat for me at the end. The story starts with a box at the door. What’s in the box? Maybe it’s a spooky box with spooky stuff in it. Could it be bats, spiders, or even snakes? Okay, so far so good, especially for a Halloween storytime. But when you get to the end of the book and you still don’t find out what was in the box, it was disappointing. You do get to use your imagination at the end to decide what you think is in the box and it could be a good discussion point in storytime.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

Author: Anton DiSclafani
Rating: 4/5 Stars 
Reviewer: Lydia


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a confused novel. Part coming-of-age story, mystery, and historical novel, this book manages to touch on such disparate topics as horseback riding, the Great Depression, and incest—yes, incest—within the slim volume between its covers. On paper it sounds like a train wreck, but somehow, DiSclafani manages to weave all of these threads together. It doesn’t always translate into a seamless story, but it was an interesting read nonetheless.

Thea Atwell is a young girl growing up in the 1930s sent away to an exclusive private camp for girls. While isolated from her family due to mysterious circumstances, Thea embarks upon a sexual awakening while exploring her true identity. This is a true coming-of-age story which explores the themes of friendship, romance, and family, and how love complicates each of these categories.

DiSclafani has created a truly sensual story with his first novel. My only criticism of the book is that it does not adequately portray the time period in which Thea’s story is set. I was halfway through the book before realizing that the story takes place during the 1930s, since the characters speak and behave in very modern ways. DiSclafani needed to take more time in fleshing out the story and its environment, time period, and setting. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls would be better suited to a more current time period in order to be wholly believable and worthy of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

The Sixty-Eight Rooms
Author: Marianne Malone
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Aleece


Summary: Ruthie thinks nothing exciting will ever happen to her until her sixth-grade class visits the Art Institute of Chicago, where she and her best friend Jack discover a magic key that shrinks them to the size of gerbils and allows them to explore the Thorne Rooms--the collection of sixty-eight miniature rooms from various time periods and places--and discover their secrets.

Review: The mixture of fantasy and history that are intertwined throughout this book is simply stunning.  The Thorne Rooms themselves are wonderful in their own right but to come alive in the book made them so much more magical.  The characters were very believable and their curiosity that they showed was a little more than the average person, but still made you wish you were the characters too.  The story was told beautifully, and because it was so enjoyable it was an extremely quick read.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Troll's Eye View:A Book of Villainous Tales

Collected by: Ellen Datlow (Editor) , Terri Windling (Editor)
Rated: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Todd


Summary: Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the villains in fairy tales--evil, no two ways about it. But the villains themselves beg to differ. In this anthology for younger readers, you'll hear from the Giant's wife (from Jack and the Beanstalk), Rumpelstiltskin, the oldest of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and more.

Review: This anthology was an amusing read and is a reminder of the joys of a tale retold. This anthology is perfect for children who love the classic fairytales; because not only is every story delectable in its way, they also plants the seeds of important lessons. Lessons such as no matter how a story is a told it there is always is another view; that there is more to person, even a villain, than what is usually shown. And of course the lesson, one that gets forgotten with sad ease, that who a Villain and Hero are depends entirely on the point of view.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book
Author: Diane Muldrow
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Helen


Summary: The author has taken illustrations from the classic Little Golden Books and added some good advice for life.  For example:  “Let your children know you love them.”  This was the best advice given.

Review: We’ve all owned, read and loved our Little Golden Books and carried on the tradition with our children. This was a weekly treat when we went shopping—one Golden Book for each of them. The artwork is amazing taken from the original books, with vintage illustrations; a wonderful walk down memory lane.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods

Author: Matt Bell
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Lydia


There are no words to describe Matt Bell’s first book; mesmerizing, confusing, and surreal only begin to scratch the surface. Although the long title may sound pretentious, it fits with the level at which this book operates. This book cannot be just read; it must be read and re-read, savored and puzzled over.

The book contains no dialogue, and is set in a fictional place somewhere between reality and a fairy-tale. There are mythical monsters, a moon which falls out of the sky, and a woman who can sing objects into existence. It is a heartbreaking novel centered around one unnamed family—primarily the husband and wife—who long for a child but are unable to conceive one. The novel ruminates on marriage, and what happens to that union when it is based solely upon the desire for children.

While the book is complex and at times a dense read, the language is too beautiful and full of imagery too ignore. In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods is a massive undertaking, and I think Bell achieved his goal of creating a dreamlike and fantastic world. I eagerly await his next novel.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Aaaarrgghh! Spider!

Aaaarrgghh! Spider!
Author: Lydia Monks
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Christi


Summary: A clever spider is lonely and longs to become the family pet.

Review: This story is a lot of fun! It’s such a great premise – the spider on the wall who wants to be the family pet. I’m scared of spiders so I understand when the family isn’t happy to see the spider “dancing” for them. Though spider tries a few more times to show the family what a great pet he is, they’re still just too scared and keep taking the spider outside. One day the family goes outside and sees all these beautiful sparkly webs in the backyard and decides they might like a spider for a pet. All seemed well until he brought over some of his spider friends to meet his new family….Aaaarrgghh Spider!