Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Here we are at the end of 2007 already. One of my goals for the year was to read 100 books (grades 4 and up--i.e. not picture books). I met that goal yesterday after reading all afternoon to finish book #100, The God of Animals, by Aryn Kyle. My favorites of the year:

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo. I know, I just posted about this one, but to reiterate: I find this reminiscent of The Velveteen Rabbit, but less abstract. A fairy doesn't appear to make Edward real, but he does realize that even after having lost everyone he loved, it is still worth it to love again. (OK, that sounds cliché, but really. It's a lovely book.) Edward Tulane is aimed at grades 4-6.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, tells the story of a German girl during World War II. The book is written from the perspective of Death, which sounds weird, but works well. Zusak writes with powerful descriptions: "A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses." (and that's only the 4th page.) As he writes, "It's just a small story really, about, among other things: *A girl *Some words *An accordionist *Some fanatical Germans *A Jewish fist fighter *And quite a lot of thievery." The Book Thief has been marketed to teens, but it was one of my mom's favorite books of 2007, as well.

While we're on the subject, Tamar, by Mal Peet, is another good World War II book for teens. The story alternates between the 1940's and the present day as a girl uncovers the mystery of her grandfather's past.

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, is a bit hard to describe. Four children, some very tricky tests, a villain bent on taking over the world, plot twists and dry humor add up to an eminently enjoyable tale. (Grades 7-9, give or take.)

Edward's Eyes, by Patricia MacLachlan. It's a tear-jerker, I admit. But first it's a story of family and summer sun and neighborhood baseball and old family friends, with a little James Taylor thrown in. (Grades 4-6.)

Solomon Snow and the Silver Spoon, by Kaye Umansky. The first word that comes to mind to describe this book is "Dickensian," as it is set in turn-of-the-century London, with orphans and a chimney sweep and names that betray their characters' personalities (who else could Miss Starch be but a prim schoolteacher?). However, I don't think I've ever laughed out loud at a Dickens novel. I did at Solomon Snow. (Grades 4-6.)

So there you have it. (A select few of) my favorites of the grades 4-and-up books I read in 2007. What were your favorites this year?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

After-Christmas Titles

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and were granted many new books to take you into the new year!

Today is the on-sale date for a few new books:

One is a new picture book version of The Ugly Duckling, retold by Stephen Mitchell and beautifully illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.

Another is Dark River, the second book in the Warriors: Power of Three series, written by Erin Hunter for grades 4-6.

My personal favorite, though, is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo, which is now out in paperback. This is a story similar to The Velveteen Rabbit in that it is about a toy rabbit, love, and loss. However, I think that The Velveteen Rabbit can be rather abstract and not always easy to understand, while Edward Tulane is more straightforward and equally beautiful.

All three are now available at The Alphabet Garden. Call (203) 439-7766 to reserve a copy!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale

Wow. I'd heard a few of you exclaim over The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, but wasn't quite convinced until Karlene offered to lend it to me and it hooked me after the first page. I'm not sure it would matter to me what this author was writing about--it's the rhythm of her phrases and unexpected word choices that really make the book. Like this sentence: "The monotonous fragment of a tune was scratching at my brain." How can you not love a book with sentences like that?

The plot is wonderful, too. It kept me guessing right up to the end, and after I finished reading I was tempted to go straight back to the beginning to pick up details I missed the first time.

Have you read any great books lately? Feel free to recommend them in the comments section!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Stroll

Mark your calendars for Friday's Holiday Stroll through the Watch Factory Shoppes. The Alphabet Garden, The Funky Monkey, Peddler's Corner, Picture Framer, and Toyz will all be participating with special events and/or discounts.

The Alphabet Garden will be open until 10 PM with 15% off everything in stock. Join us from 6-9 PM for a gift-wrapping party inspired by the Main Street series by Ann M. Martin. Scholastic has donated books that you can help us wrap. We will then donate the books to a charity that you can help choose. (Leave a comment here with your suggestion, or call (203) 439-7766.) At 8 PM we will draw the winner of the Julie Albright American Girl doll.

Plan to come and enjoy the festivities with us!