The Fantasy World of Funke’s Reckless

Cornelia Funke is a genius. She just is. I listened to her newest book (although not that new anymore – first published in September 2010), Reckless. It captivated me from start to finish. The beginning of the story drops on the reader like a parachute out of nowhere. You are immediately immersed and confused with your surroundings. As you make your way from beneath the parachute another layer drops and another. I love this type of storytelling when it is done well. William Faulkner does this incredibly well. As a reader, you are forced to take a leap of faith that all will become clear or at least somewhat clear.  Funke can join the ranks of Faulkner-esque storytelling.

Reckless re-imagines fairy tales. Actually, it creates its own fairy tale but within a world of familiar fairy tales — however, these familiar fairy tales have become darkly twisted. The witch and the gingerbread house are real, a tailor with scissors for hands hunts people for their skin, and fairies are selfish creatures. Jacob Reckless has been living in both the real and this fairy tale world. He has been traveling through a mirror and finds solace in escaping to this hidden world where he steals enchanted artifacts for money. Everything changes when Jacobs younger brother, Will, follows him into his strange world. Will becomes infected with a curse that slowly changes his skin to stone (becoming a Goyl)–jade to be exact. Once Will’s skin becomes completely jade he will be lost forever. Jacob, Fox–a beautiful shape-shifting vixen/fox–, and Clara–Will’s girlfriend from back home–must race time to find something or someone to save Will.

Age Group: 14 and up
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Themes: Magic, Fantasy, Fairy Tales,
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group

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New Picture Books Galore – January & February 2012

Here is a list of some picture books I am excited about that were released in the month of January and February! I will try to come out with this list on a monthly basis; since this is the first, both months are squished into one.


Plant A Kiss
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: Little Miss planted a kiss . . . One small act of love blooms into something bigger and more dazzling than Little Miss could have ever imagined in this epic journey about life, kindness, and giving.


Maudie & Bear
by Jan Ormerod: Bear’s world revolves around Maudie. Maudie’s world also revolves around Maudie. This book is delightful!


One Cool Friend
by Tony Buzzeo: On a momentous visit to the aquarium, Elliot discovers his dream pet: a penguin. It’s just proper enough for a straight-laced boy like him. And when he asks his father if he may have one (please and thank you), his father says yes. Elliot should have realized that Dad probably thought he meant a stuffed penguin and not a real one . . . With illustrations from David Small, this picture book is utterly cool-dorable (Cool + Adorable).


Zoo Girl
by Rebecca Elliot: Zoo girl has no family. In the children’s home, she feels lost and alone. On a trip to the zoo, she is accidentally left behind. But the animals love her—and when she’s discovered snuggled in a cage with the tigers by the zoo keepers and brought back to the orphanage, she doesn’t want to go. Thankfully, the keepers know when they first see her that they have found a daughter at last, and return shortly with adoption papers to take her home with them. Zoo girl has found her family at last!


Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett: This looks like an ordinary box full of ordinary yarn. But it turns out it isn’t. Illustrated by Jon Klassen, this picture book is truly lovely. A town turns from drab to colorful with knitted sweaters.


Another Brother
by Matthew Cordell: Life for Davy was glorious as long as he had his mother and father to himself. But then he got a brother, Petey. When Davy sang, Petey cried. When Davy created a masterpiece, Petey spat up on it. And then he got another brother, Mike! And another, Stu! And another, Gil! Until he had TWELVE LITTLE BROTHERS! And that was only the beginning!


Gideon


Gideon & Otto
by Olivier Dunrea: Meet Gideon, the newest addition to Olivier Dunrea’s gaggle of adorable goslings! Gideon likes to splash with the ducklings, hop with the frogs, play chase-the-piglets, and scamper all over the farmyard. But one thing busy Gideon does not want to do is take his nap, no matter how many times his mother asks . . . until he gets tired, of course.


Duck for a Day
by Meg McKinlay: Abby’s class has a duck named Max who waddles and quacks and makes your feet all warm when he sits on them. Even though Max is a duck with demands – from an ideal aquatic environment to fresh strawberries – Abby might get to take him home overnight, if she can make everything perfect. And Abby is sure she can do it. The problem is, weird Noah from next door wants to take Max home, too. Abby can hear him digging on his side of the fence, but she knows he’ll never get Max. A duck needs calm, and what can Noah do about his chaotic backyard and noisy sisters?


What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld: Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people’s pain? These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring big points in this dynamic look at several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people’s lives. Offering profiles with fast facts on flaps and framed by a funny contemporary story featuring two feisty twins, here is a nod to the minds behind the gamma electric cell and the ice-cream scoop, improvements to traffic lights, open-heart surgery, and more – inventors whose ingenuity and perseverance against great odds made our world safer, better, and brighter.

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A Lesson in Narrative Voice

I have survived another holiday season. I apologize for my self-imposed blogging silence. I have tons of posts to write and have not settled down to write them.  Until now.

I finished a book, way back in December, called, The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (I have to look up how to spell Pseudonymous every single time I write it).  The book is quite enjoyable (a great first book to the series). It follows two  precocious children, Cass and Max-Ernest. The book (I will refer to it as “the book” because it has a long title) is about kids solving a mystery and saving the day but it is also about the existence and even intrusion of narrative voice.

In general, the narrator in a book can blend so perfectly into the storytelling that you have to remind yourself someone or something is telling the story and it is NOT the author.  Sometimes the narrator is a character, well the narrator is always a character, but sometimes it is a character in which the action is happening directly to.  And sometimes the narrator is just there, hovering and watching the characters from above.  Understanding the importance of the narrator was key in my literature education. The Name of This Books is Secret is a wonderful example of narrative voice and specifically unreliable/ridiculous narration. The narrator is simply hilarious (even when s/he does not mean to be).

Cassandra (also known as Cass), the survivalist enthusiast, and Max-Ernest, the non-stop talker, join forces to discover the secret hidden in a box called The Symphony of Smells, or at least they try to discover the secret. The box leads them to discover the evil workings and diabolical plans of Ms. Mauvais and Dr. L. The book is filled with adventure, intrigue, and a great sense of humor. Read it and be prepared to get hooked.

Age Group: 8/9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy / Mystery
Themes: Magic, Friendship, Discovery, Secrets
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group

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The Human Experience: Stick Review & Giveaway Winners

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

I’m drawn to stories about family-life. Stories so lush with genuine character that I start to use the framework of the story to emphasize, or explain, or dramatize aspects of my life, my story. I live within the story, however fabricated. As readers, we love this. We live for it.

At the end of the day, we yearn for the relatable, the real, the story that will speak directly to us. Whether that’s within the world of fantasy or science fiction or romance or contemporary fiction, it doesn’t matter. They all—the lot of them—in one way or another, and on varying levels, hold some invariable truth that is uniquely relatable and salient to us as humans—readers, bibliophiles, book junkies.

Andrew Smith’s books take this concept to an entirely new level. Not only do they provide the reader with characters to love and to relate to, they also inspire us to think differently about the world.

In Stick, Smith’s most recent novel, the world he creates is very much our own. It’s recognizable. And the characters themselves, they are people we know, or apt representations of people we know of.

Stick, the main protagonist of the story, is disfigured. His ear is a mess of mangled cartilage and dulled hearing. And he lives with it. It’s part of who he is. Bosten, Stick’s older brother, is the more raucous of the two. And he loves his brother, and would do anything for him. Emily is Stick’s best friend, the two of them sharing an important bond. The rest of the story is replete with both the highs and the lows: characters that support and provide care for the protagonists and characters that hinder and harm.

It’s these latter kind that inspires Bosten to leave home. And it’s his absence that inspires Stick to find him. Over the course of the story, the brothers take part in their own unique journey—to escape the pain caused by parents that either relish in or pay no mind to said pain, and experience something that will build character out of the goodness and joy and revelation.

We know this world. It’s here, it’s there. It’s us and it’s those people there. It’s a world in which people exist as unique individuals, journeying to find out what it means to overcome, what it means to glean, what it means to live.

Readers, Stick is the type of book we live for. It is the human experience. In these words and these characters, we learn and we relate and we love.

Bosten and Stick know this. They lived it.

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And the winners of the Andrew Smith Giveaway are:

Doppelganger – Stick

AnnieMooreBooks.com – Ghost Medicine

Charles DeMoss, Charlesthereader.blogspot.com – In The Path of Falling Objects

Winners were chosen randomly using Rafflecopter. Please email your mailing addresses to ReadSchmead at Yahoo dot com. If I do not hear from you by December 15th then a new winner will be chosen. Thank you so very much for all of the love and support.

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Adventure, Fantasy & Jim Dale = The Emerald Atlas

 

I love listening to audiobooks (as you may have discovered from a previous post, Listening to Words). When I found out that Jim Dale, the reader for the Harry Potter audio series, narrated a new book called The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, I practically squealed with excitement. I had heard great things about The Emerald Atlas (especially from Erin at Random Acts of Reading). I was excited to read the book, but learning of the audiobook I became even more excited. I was not disappointed.

The Emerald Atlas is delightful. Maybe delightful is not quite the right adjective. “Delightful” makes it sound unassuming and “nice.” The Emerald Atlas is exciting, intriguing and wonderfully written.

The Emerald Atlas is about three precocious siblings who are whisked away from their parents at a very young age to protect them from a merciless evil. Kate, the oldest, is the only one to remember their parents. Michael, the middle, is quite nerdy and loves everything that has to do with dwarves. Emma, the youngest, will be the first to bully her brother and the last–if anyone else tries to bully him then they will have to talk to her fists. The three kids are passed from orphanage to orphanage until finally landing in a mysterious town called Cambridge Falls. There they find an enchanted book, a kind of emerald atlas. This book transports them to a past time in Cambridge Falls where they must defeat a wicked Countess. The world of The Emerald Atlas involves dwarves, giants, wizards, and witches. It is a great fantasy book and if you have enjoyed the Harry Potter books then you must pick this one up. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Non and I had the privilege of meeting John Stephens at The Why Chromosome Event, hosted by Bridge to Books. Stephens was delightful; and this time “delightful” is exactly the right adjective. I told him that the audiobook is fantastic (as if he needed my validation). We spoke briefly about how amazing Jim Dale is as a reader. Stephens described a dinner outing with Jim Dale in which Dale would order food using various Harry Potter character voices. I only wish I could hear Dolores Umbridge order a burger with fries (I’m sure this is not what Jim Dale ordered).

Age Group: 9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy
Themes: Family, Siblings, Time, Magic, Dwarves
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random House

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Side note: Audiobooks in general are amazing. If you haven’t tried listening to one then get some recommendations from friends or myself so that you start the experience out right. There have been times when a reader has not captured the world or voices correctly (or at least in my opinion). Neil Gaiman has started an amazing audiobook production called Neil Gaiman Presents, which can be downloaded/purchased from Audible.com.  He matches readers with books and understands the importance of a well-read audiobook. See a review of one of the adult titles, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel (from Bookriot.com).

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Another side note:

Don’t forget about the Giveaway Schmiveaway! Win a signed Andrew Smith book! The giveaway ends December 10th at midnight, PST.

   

Enter to win by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments. Every current and new subscriber is entered into the contest automatically. If you happen to leave comments on posts then those will count as additional entries. Winners will be picked randomly.

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Read to Your Bunny

In Rosemary Wells’ book Read to Your Bunny, she explains the importance of reading to the little ones in our lives.  She says:

ALL OF US love our children more than anything in the world. In their first years we feed them so they grow. We bring them to the doctor so they are healthy. We strap them in car seats so they are safe.

But the most important thing in the first years of life is the growth of the mind and spirit. This is when a child learns to love and trust, to speak and listen.

After a child turns two years old, these things are very difficult to learn or teach ever again. Trusting, singing, laughing, and language are the most important things in a young child’s life.

And so they must come first for mothers and fathers, too, because we can never have those years over again.

Every day, make a quiet, restful place for twenty minutes. Put your child in your lap and read a book aloud. In the pages of the book you will find a tiny vacation of privacy and intense love. It costs nothing but twenty minutes and a library card.

Reading to your little one is just like putting gold coins in the bank. It will pay you back tenfold. Your daughter will learn, and imagine, and be strong in herself. Your son will thrive, and give your love back forever.

I love this.  Occasionally a parent or both parents will come into the bookstore and ask what they should read to their one year old. I say every story you can get your hands on. Short stories, long stories, medium size stories. Read them all to that little one year old.  I also feel that parents should not stop reading aloud, even when the child becomes a teenager. Reading aloud can be a wonderful bond (see The Reading Promise).

For more information about literacy and this passage visit Rosemary Wells website.

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Measuring Up to Other Dystopian Worlds: Divergent Review

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

In reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent, two other book series came to mind. One, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. And the other, the massively popular Hunger Games trilogy from Suzanne Collins. While I don’t think Divergent packs the same amount of punch like that of Uglies or Hunger Games, I do believe it has just enough exciting elements for an enjoyable read.

Akin to the different houses at Rowling’s “Hogwarts,” Roth’s world is separated into factions. Five factions, in this case. Each of which dedicate their lives to a particular culture and ideal. Candor values honesty. Abnegation values selflessness. Dauntless values bravery. Amity values peacefulness. Erudite values intelligence.

And like all the other kids turning 16, Beatrice (or “Tris,” as she calls herself) has to decide which faction is for her. She does, but the result is something she wasn’t at all prepared for.  What follows is an enjoyable and often exciting dystopian tale that has the right idea about how we live. Ms. Roth, it seems, understands that things are not always so black and white; that the narrow-minded can, in fact, be quite dangerous; that it’s important to recognize individuality as it pertains to the cultures or “factions” we live within; and that each culture holds inherent value we as individuals need to recognize—for ourselves and our factions.

Unfortunately, even with the above mentioned, I was mildly disappointed in the story’s originality. It just seemed, as I was reading, that I had read it before—in Uglies and Hunger Games, for instance. I wanted something more. Something that I didn’t see coming. Something that was going to surprise me.

All in all, it was fairly enjoyable. And, being the dystopian junkie that I am, I will continue reading the series. But with some trepidation.

Age Group: 12 and up
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian, identity, discrimination
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books

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