Sunday, August 27, 2017

Shelf Awareness--A Properly Unhaunted Place

MG Review: A Properly Unhaunted Place

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander, illus. by Kelly Murphy (Margaret K. McElderry/S&S, $16.99 hardcover, 192p., ages 8-12, 9781481469159)

Rosa Ramona Diaz is not impressed when she and her mother move from the city to a basement apartment underneath the Ingot Public Library. Rosa's mom is the new library appeasement specialist, a job that involves calming down ghosts who get upset and keeping the really nasty ones distracted. But there are no ghosts in Ingot. In fact, it's "the only unhaunted place that Rosa had ever heard of," and nobody knows why. Which means that when Rosa goes out to explore, she leaves her "tool belt" behind.

While exploring, Rosa meets Jasper Chevalier, who is dressed as a squire and following his dad, "Sir Morien, Black Knight of Arthur's court and table." They make their way to the splendid Ingot Renaissance Festival, where "centuries smacked into each other" in a hodgepodge of historical reenactment. When a beast (mostly mountain lion, with "an antlered deer skull... where its head used to be") charges out of the forest, Rosa springs into action. She's got no salt, matches or chalk, but she's been well trained by her mom. Grabbing a roll of copper wire, Rosa manages to fend off the "rearranged wildlife," but she knows it's only the beginning. Ghost-free Ingot has just had a haunting.

Though primarily about ghosts, A Properly Unhaunted Place is also about respect; Rosa's mom doesn't hunt spirits or banish them. Rather, she appeases them using the powers of listening and speaking their language--she even offers her own voice (literally) and the beast absconds with it! Kelly Murphy's illustrations help bring life to William Alexander's (Goblin Secrets) succinct gem: a meticulously crafted world so tangible it feels like an alternate version of our own. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI. 

Discover: A town with no ghosts hires a ghost appeasement librarian, then suddenly plays host to a haunting.

Monday, August 14, 2017

August Recommendations


THE APPRENTICE WITCH, by James Nicol, features Arianwyn Gribble, a young witch who is mortified when her magical assessment goes horribly wrong and she’s labeled an apprentice who "has not yet reached the maturity of her powers.” Nevertheless, she’s sent to a small town that’s in need of a witch, where she makes charms and deals with the less dangerous beasts that plague the neighborhood. Until something huge, dark, and twisted emerges from the Great Wood and Arianwyn has to step up to save the town. Feeling both fresh and familiar, this one’s for fans of Jennifer Nielsen and Eva Ibbotson. (MG)

In THE GIRL IN BETWEEN, by Sarah Carroll, the only thing that the unnamed, "invisible" girl who narrates this lyrical yet chilling novel wants is a safe place to live with her Ma, off the streets, where the Authorities can't get them. Because the last time they were sleeping in an alley, when Ma was still drinking and using drugs, the Authorities came to take the girl away. The girl never doubts her mother's love for her, and spends her time weaving fantastic tales, exploring the mill, and hoping that one day Ma will bring them home to Gran's. It’s powerful and, despite a young-sounding protagonist, probably a better choice for older kids. (YA)

THE HATE U GIVE, by Angie Thomas, is an intense, engaging story: sixteen-year-old Starr lives in Garden Heights, a poor black neighborhood, but she goes to school at an elite, mostly white prep school. She feels torn between who she is in each of these two very different worlds when, over spring break, she finds herself at a “Garden party.” Leaving with her old friend Khalil, Starr is the only witness when Khalil is shot by police. She has to navigate the ensuing community outrage and media fray as she decides who she is and who she will become. It recently won the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for fiction. (YA)

Picture Books:

THE LEGEND OF ROCK PAPER SCISSORS, by Drew Daywalt with pictures by Adam Rex, is packed with action and kid-friendly snark. From the mysterious Forest of Over by the Tire Swing to the great cavern of Two Car Garage, it’s Rock vs. Scissors vs. Paper to see who is the champion of them all!

In COLETTE’S LOST PET, by Isabelle Arsenault, Colette has just moved to a new neighborhood. When her mom sends her out to explore, she meets some kids and invents a lost bird who gets more and more spectacular. Everyone has fun searching for the parakeet named Marie-Antoinette who can surf, speak French, and is the best pet anyone could dream of. The art is rendered in panels and the text all in dialog. Arsenault has been on the NY Times Best Illustrated Books list twice, and the illustrations in this one does not disappoint.

TRIANGLE, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, is about how Triangle leaves his triangle-shaped house to go over to his friend Square’s square-shaped house and play a sneaky trick. It’s droll and a bit philosophical, with Klassen’s signature art. The bookmaking is nice too—there are chunky board covers with no dust jacket, and regular paper pages inside, for a different look and feel.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

August's Book of the Month--Scythe

August’s Book Talk book is the futuristic dystopian fantasy SCYTHE, by Neal Shusterman.

It is some far distant year in the future. No one knows for sure when, because once death (along with pain, misery, disease, and old age) was conquered, there seemed little point in counting. However, a simple truth remains: to ease the tide of population growth, people still have to die. The Scythedom was created to deal with this responsibility.

Citra and Rowan have been chosen by Scythe Faraday to be his apprentices. They will both train for a year, although only one will be ordained as a Scythe. Neither wants to kill (now referred to as gleaning), but it seems they have little choice. In fact, Scythe Faraday considers their reluctance the very reason they will make good apprentices. He and other traditional scythes consider the taking of life to be a serious responsibility, a necessity for the good of society. However, a new school of thought is emerging, promoted by Scythe Goddard, whereby gleanings should be spectacular, en masse, and even enjoyable affairs. Citra and Rowan find themselves caught up in the politics of death and immortality in this novel full of twists, and turns, and the struggle for power in a world where most forms of power have been rendered obsolete.

Shusterman, National Book Award winner for Challenger Deep and the author of numerous well-spun tales, unravels his complex world via narrators Citra and Rowan as they learn the fine art of killing, and supplements it with passages from the mandatory gleaning journals of Scythe’s Curie, Faraday, Goddard, and others. Ethical questions abound!

Have you read Printz Honor book SCYTHE? What do you think?