Books


Dark Night by Dorothee De Monfreid

"Dark Night" by Dorothee De Monfreid

Every week I volunteer at the Center for Children’s Books and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  As such, I see a lot of great books for kids and young adults.  The Center for Children’s Books has a great non-circulating collection, and the Bulletin gets boxes upon boxes of books every week filled with the latest books before they are published.  I am going to try to be better about posting reviews of some of my favorites that come through.  Here are just a few quality picture books that are beautifully illustrated, have fun stories, and teach kids in an entertaining way.  These are of course viewpoints endorsed by Librarians are Weird, but are not to be confused with reviews of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  For those reviews please consider subscribing!  As of this posting it is only $15 for students!

Pepi Sings a New SongPepi Sings a New Song by Laura Ljungkvist is the story of a parrot who goes on a little adventure to different places around the city to learn new things so he can make up a new song to sing for the little boy that owns him.  He goes to the bakery, the dog park, to an artist, to a musician, etc.  The illustrations are fantastic and I thought the selection of words was a nice mix of the ordinary and less ordinary.

Dark NightDark Night by Dorothee De Monfreid is another really cute one that came in awhile ago, but is out now.  I love the color and the style.  It is about a little boy that goes into the woods and there are all kinds of scary animals, but with a help of a woodland friend he overcomes his fears.  It is a beautifully styled book.  I just love the look of it.  It is a great picture book for kids that are afraid of the dark.

Where in the WildWith a lot of hidden creature books it is easier to find all the creatures.  Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed Revealed by David M. Schwartz really made me look hard to see them, and it was very cool to learn about these amazing creatures.  The book has poems, shows the picture, and you try to find the creatures.   Then you lift the flap and it highlights just the creature.  Adults will have fun with this one, too.

Moon Rabbit by Natalie RussellMoon Rabbit by Natalie Russell does not feature a rabbit from the moon.  While this could be disappointing, it really wasn’t.  I loved that the little rabbit loves living in the city, but longs for a friend.  She ventures out to find a little brown rabbit that plays guitar. They form a fast friendship, and while the new friend wants her to stay she goes home.  It is a sweet tale of friendship, independence, and of knowing what makes you happy.

The Octonauts & the Great Ghost Reef by Meomi is the first I’ve read in the Octonauts series, but I am absolutely hooked.  Not only are the team of creatures beyond adorable, but they have a mystery to solve!  The team is on the case to find out why a large and bustling reef city has become a ghost town.  Not only is the book engaging as a mystery and kids will learn the names of all kinds of creatures, but kids will learn something when the mystery is solved!  Scooby fans will love The Octonauts, which is good news since The Octonauts will soon be an animated television series.  For more information check out the official website: The Octonauts!

Find these items at a library near you!

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Food Rules by Michael PollanBestselling author Michael Pollan’s latest book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, is a quick read, but is not light on information for anyone that eats.  There are a lot of long and exhaustive books that don’t get to the point, especially when it comes to diet and health.  Pollan however gets right to practical advice and scientific information with this slim book of ideas that span the space of a small page.

He makes interesting points, 64 in fact.  I tend to enjoy reading about health, and honestly, I find that a lot of these kinds of books are not quick and easy, or the advice is simply not good.  Not since I read You on a Diet have I felt so satisfied with a health advice book.

A lot of this was not new to me, but I tend to try to stay up on health news.  Even still, I found a lot to take away myself.  Pollan is an expert on food and the food industry, and informs us without a gimmick of weight loss.  Yes, you will lose weight if you follow his advice, but it is about being informed.  Like his other books and talks, he also discusses what has happened with the food industry and American society to cause our issues with food.

One thing that I loved about this book is that it didn’t focus heavily on meat vs. vegetarianism, but it did comment on it.  It is difficult when a book does not take into account the different perspectives of the potential readers.  It is a wonderful way to dip your toes into understanding food, but even people already knowledgeable will enjoy Pollan’s quick tips.  This book is really a great little read for anyone interested in being more mindful and healthy about what they eat with realistic solutions.

On Wednesday, April 21, the highly talked about Academy Award Nominated documentary film Food Inc. will be shown on POV.  Robert Kenner’s film features Pollan and other experts on food.  They explore the fascinating topic of how our food is making us sick, and what we can do to make it better.  Check your local PBS station listings.  You can even get a one time e-mail reminder from PBS so you don’t forget.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Because of this, PBS is featuring an excerpt from Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Unlike Food Rules, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is not quick tips, but rather a discussion of how our food industry is run and how we got to this point.  This is not to say it won’t help you make smarter decisions.  Rather, Food Rules is the distilled advice of Pollan, but is hardly exhaustive of his knowledge.

Additional information:

Official website: Michael Pollan

Interview: Michael Pollan on Democracy Now! (VIDEO) — highly recommended

Excerpt (PBS): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Excerpt (WorldCat/GoogleBooks): The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Additional websites:  Food, Inc. trailer on POV and Food, Inc. reminder

Official website: Food, Inc. documentary film

Find these items at a library near you! Don’t forget, this website’s official list of library items can also be found here or in our side bar by clicking on the WorldCat logo.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan — There is also a GoogleBooks preview, which you can find on WorldCat by clicking under the image of the book cover.  Or, you can click here to be taken there directly.

Food Inc.

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. documentary film

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Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Librarians agree:  Alice in Wonderland in 3-D is well worth the money and the entire country has Alice on the brain.  On opening week I organized a group of librarians and library students to attend a screening of Tim Burton’s latest film in the relatively new Real-D.  While I am certain this film will be amazing either way, it is truly a masterpiece in 3-D.  Without giving in to creating shots blatantly for the use of 3-D, it still manages to take full advantage of this feature.

This is clearly Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland.  For one Alice is older, and the film takes a much darker tone than the classic Disney animation (is anyone really surprised that this film might be too much for young children) and there are many twists and surprises along the way.  That said, it does not lose the sense of Wonderland for older fans of early imaginings of Lewis Carroll’s work.  I am certain that fans of Tin Man will be delighted to see this incarnation of Alice in Wonderland.  I know I am.

I was a bit nervous that it would be too Mad-Hatter-centric.  It was not, however.  The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) did play a large role and I understand why Disney would throw their money behind the star.  However, I felt the advertising for the film overshadowed the other amazing performances, none so much as Alice (Mia Wasikowska).  She is perfect as 19 year old Alice, who is expected to accept the marriage proposal of Hamish (Leo Bill), but thankfully gets distracted by a silly white rabbit.  It is not surprising that Tim Burton also cast Helena Bonham Carter in her role as The Red Queen, but it is not just favoritism.  Ms. Carter is amazing as the large headed and violent queen.  Anne Hathaway is no less brilliant as the flighty and hilarious White Queen.  Of course, the best part of the movie are the amazing creatures and world Burton and his team has created:  the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Red Queen’s frogs, the Caterpillar, and the Cheshire Cat!  My favorite moment being when he is kneading (as cats do).  Lovely!

Fans of this film also might like to check out The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  It has a very similar dark take and I am excited to reread the original to compare. In this first in a series of books, we learn that Alice is from Wonderland.  She was heir to the thrown until her aunt, the Red Queen, waged war against her family to cease control of Wonderland.  Alice escapes Red, her army of card soldiers, and an assassin with the help of her friends (including a Mad Hatter that is a skilled fighter himself), but she is cast out from Wonderland lost and alone.  Another related book that is on my to-read list was recommended to me by Laura Rancani.  She recently wrote about the historical fiction Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin, so please visit her website for the full review.

In related news, to celebrate the release of the film, I visited the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where there was an exhibit of rare Lewis Carroll items including original photographs taken by the author (my personal favorite), games owned and/or invented by him, books, and memorabilia.  They also held a tea party for children and had games that Lewis invented that visitors could try out.  I was very bummed out to have had to miss out on tea, but I was late for a very important date!  Still, I managed to quickly snap a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

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Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: movie

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: movie

“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is an example of a rare case where the movie is very different from the book in some key ways, but both are insanely good.  What they do have in common is the main premise — the excitement of being young and looking for affection and great music — without the usual corniness of Hollywood.

Nick is the only straight member of a queercore band.  He has just been dumped by his girlfriend Tris, and by dumped I mean crushed into a squirming pulp of emo boy.

Norah would do anything to avoid talking to Tris and has been trying to get over her quasi-ex-boyfriend Tal, so, when Nick asks her if she will be his girlfriend for 5 minutes she plays along (in the movie Norah makes the first move).  This first kiss soon leads to a night of falling in and out of love, laughter, angst, and of course music that captures the frantic energy of this night (also heightened by being in NYC). If you are not young, it will make you wish you were again.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist book

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: book

Nick and Norah are straight-edge (label or not). However, I would be remise not to point out that there are many references to underage drinking and sex, but it is a story about teenage love after-all.

The book, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, switches back and forth between the title characters’ points of view (a chapter at a time). Unlike the pair’s “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List,” which takes a similar approach, but fails miserably, this technique in “Nick and Norah” allows the reader to have a sense of intimacy with the characters and avoids it becoming a book that only one gender will enjoy (the “No Kiss List” is a sad disappointment in contrast). This back and forth is especially effective in the sexy scene later on in the book (no spoilers from me!). I will say that while both book and movie have versions of this…um… climactic scene, the book is much more saucy (see it pays to read kids!).

The movie has a wonderful cast that infuse the script with humor (including a running joke about a piece of gum…trust me). While clearly Michael Cera and Kat Dennings shine in the lead roles, it is also the supporting cast that make this film a must have. In the book Tris is more relatable, but movie Tris (Alexis Dziena) is deliciously hate-able. The book shows her in more of a humanized way. Speaking of humanized characters, one of the shining points to both reincarnations are the gay characters. Instead of being token, they are just characters (key characters). Their sexuality is obvious, but not anymore-so than the straight characters. Rafi Gavron (Dev), Aaron Yoo (Thom), and Jonathan B. Wright (Beefy Guy) are fantastic (and not too bad to look at either). Despite her troubles throughout, Caroline (Ari Graynor) also still manages to look smoking hot…most of the time. Her comedic instincts took the film to another level. Jay Baruchel is convincing as Norah’s ex. All I have to say is Tal “brings the Jew fire” and I can totally see where Norah was coming from dating him.

The movie rocks — as evident by the soundtrack that features artists like Vampire Weekend, We Are Scientists, and Bishop Allen. I would also suggest purchasing the soundtrack. It is a fantastic trio of materials for a YA collection.

Check out extras and read the first chapter of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan at:

  • http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/nickandnorah
  • Then watch the trailer, make a playlist, and search NYC for Where’s Fluffy at:

  • http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/nickandnorah
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