Thursday, December 30, 2010

Orphan Quiz

How well do you know your orphans in literature.  Click here to print out the Orphans in Literature Quiz.

So many great books are written about orphans.   Pip in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations gets a lot of exposure since this novel is often required reading.  Dickens stars orphans in some of his books and uses them as supporting characters in many others.

Louisa May Alcott wrote about orphans as well.  Rose Campbell, in Eight Cousins, is a solitary orphan who moves in with a large family of cousins.

The title character of Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher is an orphan who reluctantly gets to know the "other" side of her family when the aunts who raised her become desperately ill.

Barbara Brooks Wallace has made writing about orphans her stock in trade with such fun titles as Peppermints in the Parlor and Sparrows in the Scullery.

Just this year (2010), author Maryrose Wood introduced Miss Penelope Lumley, a fifteen-year-old orphan, in the book, The Mysterious Howling.  Penelope must play governess to three other orphans, who have all been raised by wolves.   

Take the quiz to read snippets about other famous orphans.
Click here for the answers.

Have a wonderful New Year's Eve.  Celebrate responsibly!  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

YA Favorites and orphans

The Youth Services Favorite Books for Teens 2010 is now available.  Click here to download this list.

There is no way that the YS staff would be able to hit every great book written this year. counts on teens to keep the website up to date.  Teens read and write reviews for TeenReads.  Some of the books are superb, some are just fun but they all have found readers who loved them.  Nominate your favorite book of 2010 by going to the TeenReads' Best Books Nomination list.

Let the Youth Services staff know about books that you loved. 

One of my choices for a Favorite Books is Behemoth by Scott Westerfield.  It's the steampunk sequel to Leviathan.  The story of an alternate World War I continues as two teens work together to insure the one's safety and possibly stop the war before it begins.  The steampunk elements are well done and the illustrations are amazingly detailed.
Both of the main characters, Deryn, who masquerades as a boy named Dylan, and Alek, the heir to the Austrian throne, have lost parents.  In the first book, Alek's parents are assassinated.  Deryn's father died before the book began.  Being an orphan makes plot development a whole lot simpler, since there are no pesky parents to get in the way.

Look at all the famous orphans in literature.  Starting with Oliver Twist, probably the most famous literary orphan, the concept of a child or teen set adrift on life's choppy ocean without parents to guide or control them is compelling for both the writer and the reader. 

In this list of Favorites, at least four of the books feature the adventures of orphans.  Check out the list and see if you can guess which books are "orphan" stories.

I recently read The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry.  In that book, the four children are not orphans but they sometimes wish they are.  When their less-than-perfect (understatement alert!) parents leave them in the care of a Nanny and sell the house while the children are still living there, the five of them - Nanny and the four children - become "orphans" and are thrown out into the street.  This book is a tongue-in-cheek romp through orphan story stereotypes.  Lemony Snicket fans will enjoy The Willoughbys.

Next week, I will give you an Orphans in Children's Literature Quiz.  For the quiz, the word orphan will be defined as "any child or teen whose parents are dead or absent." 

Enjoy your holidays and read, read, read.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


My absolute favorite book for 2010 was Neil Gaiman's Instructions.  This beautiful picture book visits archetypal fairy tale instructions and takes the reader on a journey far away and back again.  I want to give it to everyone who is embarking on a new phase of life - births, graduations, weddings, new jobs.  The book gives everyday choices a magical quality.

To download a pdf. of my list of Favorite Picture Books, Juvenile Fiction and Juvenile Non-Fiction of 2010, click here.   I formatted it as a booklet.  So print it out and carry it with you.  A list of YA favorites is on the way.  I will not venture to mention a date for that since I have not kept to my predictions very well in the past.

Here are highlights of the Favorite Picture books, besides Instructions, of course.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein features a young chick who simply can NOT let her father finish any bedtime story.  This book is laugh out loud funny.

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood.  You will be surprised at how many different kinds of quiet there are!

Jerry Pinkney has updated a Nursery Rhyme classic with his stunning rendition of Three Little Kittens.

This next one is for Cooking Channel and Food Network fans.  Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst follows poor Henry as he attempts to play "cooking show" with his little sister, Ellie.

If your favorite picture book of the year doesn't appear here, or on my list, please let me know.  I'll share your suggestions with the other readers of this blog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More gift ideas

I love books but I also love libraries.  So, when it comes to suggesting books as gifts, I prefer books most people won't find on library shelves.  Books that have pages that flip or move, books that invite readers to scribble inside or tear pages out - these make excellent gifts for children and teens. 

Other types of books I enjoy to give - and receive - are books that give instructions, like cookbooks or craft books or how-to books. 

Here are some activity/recipe/instruction books for children and teens.
Make Art Mistakes : a creativity sketchbook   978-811870764  Chronicle $16.99
This book includes graphic scenes that the reader can add words and drawings to.  All ages. 

Papertoy Monsters by Brian Castelforte  9780761158820 Workman $16.95 Offers cardboard punch-out models to build and inspiration for more.  Ages 9 - up

This book made me do it: cool things to make do and explore by John Woodward  97810756668815  DK  $19.99.  Instructions for landing a plane, knitting, staging a ghost hunt, treating hypothermia and baking a chocolate cake are just a few of the instructions in this book that I have decided is going to each of my 10 year old nephews!  Ages 10 - up.

Do Something : Change the world!  a handbook for activists.  Workman 13.95  97807661157472  This handbook helps youngsters analyze problems they hope to solve and gives the steps needed to organize, understand and work toward change.  Ages 9 - 12 

Wind Power : 20 projects to make with paper by Clive Dobson.  Firefly, $24.95  9781554076598  Instructions about wind powered models abound with a discussion of the uses and problems of wind power.  Pretty technical and a lot of reading is involved.  Still the models look fascinating.  Ages 10 and up.

My list of favorites of 2010 will be posted on Friday!  Keep reading.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Gift ideas and Favorite Books 2010

The PCL Favorite Books of 2010 survey is up on the Parkland Community Library's homepage.  Take the survey and you may even win a prize.  Prizes include Wii game accessories and gift cards and more prizes are being selected.  The survey runs until December 27th.  And in January, 2011, the PCL staff will pull together all of those nominations and post our patrons favorite books of 2010.

In the meantime, here are a few titles to consider for holiday gift giving.  The titles below are the type of book not usually found in Library collections - except for the record books of course.

Flip-o-Saurus by Sara Ball and Britta Drehsen is put out by Abbeville Press.  This book allows the reader to flip the feet, torso and heads of different dinosaurs to create new prehistoric monsters.  The text explains the differences between the different types of dinosaurs.

Harry Potter : a Pop-up Book is based on the wildly popular film versions of these children's blockbusters.  Bruce Foster created this book and Andrew Williamson illustrated it.  It is published by Insight Editions and lists at $34.95 but is cheaper in online markets.

The Robot Book by Heather Brown will delight little engineers and their moms.  The book is about a little robot and how he is put together.  Every page has a piece that moves.  Bloggers are excited by this title published by Andrew McMeel.  It retails at $16.99.

The Guinness World Records 2011.  It's already here and it's amazing.  This book will delight anyone who is interested in the biggest, smallest, longest, shortest, most or least of anything.

Boxed sets of favorite series are always a hit and there are a lot fo series to choose from:
Fancy Nancy  by Jan O'Connor for the pretty fancy girls between the ages of 3 and 8. (and up.  We all want to be fancy sometime.)
Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows.  These friends have wonderful adventures just being girls.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.  Present a whole set of the escapades of Greg Heffly to a pre-teen, girl or boy.
Dork Diary by Rachel Renee Russell is a series that pre-teen and middle school girls are eating up.
Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan for adventure and loves of mythology between the ages of 9 and adult.
The 39 Clues by various authors, follows the adventures of clan members who are trying to win a huge inheritance.
For fantasy lovers, don't forget The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley.

There are so many hot series out for children and teens, it's impossible to keep up with them.

My next post will include suggestions for teens and stand alone titles.