Books We Love by Holly Black

by Alena Rivers and Hal Patnott

The Butler Lecture 2017 will be held tomorrow, March 16th at 6pm. We are excited to welcome our featured lecturer, Holly Black, renowned children’s and teen author of many titles including, the Magisterium series, the Newbery Honor Book, Doll Bones, and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. If you haven’t read anything by Holly Black, take a look at the ones we’ve highlighted below.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Little, Brown (2014)

In this chilling twist on vampire romance, seventeen-year-old Tana wakes up after an all-night party to a house full of corpses. To protect herself and the ones she loves, Tana, her irritating but charming ex-boyfriend, and a mysterious vampire boy set off on a quest for the last place Tana ever wanted to go, Coldtown. Although many teens dream of an eternal youth in the high-luxury prison, Tana doesn’t thirst for a life of blood and murder. Teen Readers craving a high-action, suspenseful story with a powerful, female lead will devour The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

Doll Bones by Holly Black, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry (2013).

Ever since they were young, Zach, Poppy and Alice have been playing an imaginary game filled with the adventures of mermaids, pirates and thieves who are ruled by a bone-china doll they call the Queen.The three friends are in middle school now and their enthusiasm for the game suddenly comes to a stop when Zach puts an end to the game without a convincing explanation. Meanwhile, Poppy has been having dreams of the doll Queen and the ghost of a young child whose grave is empty. Poppy is compelled to find the ghost’s grave where the doll can be buried in place of the missing child and she convinces Zach and Alice to join her on the quest. Adventure, secrets, and strange occurrences will engage middle school readers.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Scholastic (2015).

In this Harry Potter meets Avatar the Last Airbender adventure, Callum Hunt dreads his first day at The Magisterium, a school for children with magical power. His attempts to flunk the entrance exam impress neither his future teachers nor his fellow classmates. Callum’s father warned him of the danger and certain death that awaits him at the school. However, unexpected friendships and mysteries to solve open Callum’s mind to a new world of enchantment and wonder. Perfect for the middle grade collection, The Iron Trial includes a diverse cast of characters and subverts tropes of fantasy.

A Review of Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

by Hal Patnott

This week’s review features the sequel to Openly Straight by Stonewall and Lambda Award-winning author Bill Konigsberg. Honestly Ben stands out for its achievement of more than one of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness), but it especially shines for the inclusive way Konigsberg explores the complexity of identity. Stop by the Butler Center to take a look at our advanced reader’s copy of Honestly Ben.

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Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2017)

After winter break, Ben Carver returns to his boarding school still feeling betrayed by his ex-best friend Rafe who kept a big secret from him. Last semester Ben’s Calculus grade slipped to an unacceptable C-, when his social life got out of hand. With his father’s approval and a prestigious scholarship at stake, Ben is determined to leave Rafe in the past and focus on returning his GPA to perfection. However, his unresolved feelings for Rafe come back to haunt him as he develops a connection with an outspoken girl named Hannah. Ben struggles to understand his feelings and make sense of his identity in a society that demands he choose from labels that don’t fit him.

Companion novel to Openly Straight, Honestly Ben continues the story of Rafe and Ben from Ben’s perspective. Although the book takes place after Openly Straight, Ben’s narration provides enough context and setting that new readers can easily follow the story.  The characters are well-developed and flawed, often for a lack of awareness of their own privilege. Still, Ben, Rafe, and their friends remain lovable and sympathetic. Plenty of humor keeps the story engaging too. Konigsberg explores the themes of identity, honesty, and bravery in a thought-provoking way without offering easy answers to readers. Honestly Ben deserves an A+. This must-read book for teens is a necessary addition to the library’s young adult collection.

March B3 – Butler Book Banter

After a great group discussion on our featured Mock CaldeNott books for the February B3, we are already preparing for our upcoming March B3. It’s right around the corner on March 1st and we will be exploring gender identity. All of the books we are recommending were either featured on the 2017 Rainbow Book List or are part of our 2017 collection. You can also check out a couple of our past blog posts featuring Newsprints and If I Was Your Girl.

Join us in the Butler Center on Wednesday, March 1st from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. (books and snacks out at 5:30 p.m., discussion at 6pm). We look forward to seeing you in March!

Picture Books

big-bob-little-bob      introducing-teddy

Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe, illus. Laura Ellen Anderson (Candlewick, 2016)

Graphic Novels
newsprints     princess-princess-ever-after
Young Adult
if-i-was-your-girl
 

A Review of The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

by Hal Patnott

Over the last two weeks, we have looked at titles that stand out for their representation of ALSC’s Core Values (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s selection, The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan, demonstrates three of these values—collaboration, excellence, and innovation.

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The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, 2016)

A man promises his daughter to the devil. Two children stumble across the house of a witch in the woods. Jealous and spiteful, a queen casts a spell on her step-sons and turns them into swans. Unable to resist his nature, a cat betrays and devours his mouse friend.  Shaun Tan presents a new contribution to the vast treasury of retellings and works inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales. Seventy-five photographed sculptures accompany excerpts from each of the selected tales. Crafted from papier-mâché, air drying clay, and paint, the texture and the shadows in every piece bring to life a haunting atmosphere. In the forward, Neil Gaiman writes, “They feel primal, as if they were made in a long-ago age of the world, when the stories were first being shaped, and that perhaps the sculptures came first.” Along with the plates for seventy-five tales, The Singing Bones includes a forward, a historical introduction by Jack Zipes, an afterward with more details about the art from Shaun Tan, an annotated index, and suggested further reading. This collection is worth exploring for long-time lovers of fairy tales and newcomers alike.

A Review of Same But Different by Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and RJ Peete

By Alena Rivers

The Butler Center continues to feature books from our collections that highlight one or more of the core values of children’s librarianship (collaboration, excellence, inclusiveness, innovation, integrity and respect, leadership and responsiveness). This week’s book, Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express embodies “inclusiveness”, “collaboration” and “responsiveness”.

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Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express by Holly Robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and RJ Peete (Scholastic, 2016)

Callie and Charlie are the fictional representations of real-life teenage twins, Ryan and RJ Peete. They share their story, which resembles those of many other teenagers on the autism spectrum and their families, to let readers into the intimate thoughts of Charlie, who is autistic and his twin sister, Callie, who is not. Each chapter is told in the alternating voice of each twin as they explore the range of challenges and triumphs typical of young adults but complicated by the life-altering effects of autism.

The story begins with their reflection on how they feel about their first day of school where the twins are separated for the first time as Callie enters 10th grade and Charlie repeats 9th grade. Their separation is met with both a sense of freedom from their constant partnership and trepidation as they experience school without their twin. Callie, who has been a perpetual supporter and advocate for her brother worries that, without her help, Charlie will be too vulnerable and taken advantage of by less sensitive classmates. Charlie is anxious about starting a new routine and being placed in a special education class which comes with its own negative stigma. The Peetes take turns lending their perspective to what it is like to attend school, date, eat meals and vacation together. Both of their voices provide insight into their actions and reveal the rationale behind them, giving readers two sides of the story to consider.

Members of the Peete family have taken on a follow up to their picture book, My Brother Charlie (Scholastic, 2010), told from Callie’s perspective about her 10-year old brother Charlie’s autism. Same But Different is an honest and courageous exploration of the thoughts and feelings shared by their now teenage counterparts. Their story is straightforward and engaging. Their experiences can be appreciated by readers with and without autism. A substantive resource guide on autism and transitioning through adolescence with autism is included with links to websites, guides, fact sheets, education and training opportunities, and videos.

Twists on Myth

By Hal Patnott and Alena Rivers

This week we decided to take a look at two books that share a tie-in with Greek Mythology. Check out our advanced reading copies of Bull by David Elliott and The Icarus Show by Sally Christie at the Butler Center.

Bull by David Elliott (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)

Most stories remember Asterion the Minotaur as a monster, the terror of the labyrinth. They never tell us that he was a boy, half-human and half-bull, rejected by his family, unable to fit in anywhere. Bull, in verse, reimagines the famous Greek myth of the minotaur as a tragedy about a lonely boy struggling with his identity. While the structure of the myth remains in tact, Elliott fleshes out Asterion’s youth and explores his relationship with his half-sister Ariadne. In the backmatter Elliott explains how he altered the myth and the choices he made for poetic form. Poseidon, Minos, Pasiphae, Asterion, Daedalus, and Ariadne share control of the narrative. Each character speaks with their own poetic style. Playful use of modern slang and swearing bring the story into the present and defy the notion that myth should be highfalutin. As Poseidon says, “You think a god should be more refined…[Never bawdy, raunchy, racy, rude]? News Flash: You don’t want a god. You want a prude.” Elliott’s retelling of the myth of the minotaur is part tragedy, part dark comedy, and entirely engaging.

The Icarus Show by Sally Christie (Scholastic, 2017)

Do you believe a boy can fly? Students in Alex Meadow’s Year 7 class at Lambourn Secondary School are suspicious but no less curious when they start receiving mysterious messages in their school bags leading to an invitation to see the Icarus show. While the other students speculate about who is behind the messages, Alex discovers that the showman orchestrating all of this is closer than he would have imagined. Despite the distraction of the upcoming show, Alex must continually work hard to steer clear of the taunting and bullying doled out by Alan Tydman and his “Battalion” of boys who lord over his classmates. Alex has developed rules to help him survive his secondary school years; stay in control, “Don’t React”, “Trust No One.”

Over the course of the weeks leading up to the Icarus show, Alex cautiously befriends a classmate, David “Bogsy” Marsh who, since the start of secondary school, has been a target of Alan Tydman and his Battalion. Together Alex and Bogsy share a secret that eventually allows them to trust one another.

Christie identifies how trust and patience are required to overcome loneliness and how courage is required to confront that which makes us feel different. Issues of bullying and suicide are handled in a subtle manner that allows youth to reflect on these issues while challenging them to explore the big and small ways they can have a positive impact on others.

A Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

by Hal Patnott

Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child–Parts One and Two by J.K.Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine 2016)

Albus Severus Potter lives in the shadow of his father’s legacy. After the Sorting Hat places him in Slytherin, other students call him a failure, even his cousin Rose refuses to associate with him at school. Albus may look like his father, but the resemblance ends there. Scorpius Malfoy, Albus’s best and only friend, also struggles to escape his family’s reputation. Rumors that Scorpius is the son of Voldemort rather than Draco haunt him. Both Albus and Scorpius feel “spare,” and it is that dark thought that sends them plunging into the past.

A familiar cast of characters return to the stage in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Fans of the original seven books get a glimpse of how a life post-Voldemort has changed the old heroes. The importance of family and friendship remain central to the story as they were in past Potter adventures. Harry grapples with his relationship with his Albus Severus. Ginny tells him, “Harry, you’d do anything for anybody. You were pretty happy to sacrifice yourself for the world. [Albus] needs to feel specific love. It’ll make him stronger, and you stronger too” (277). Saving the world never guaranteed he would excel as a parent.

Although nostalgia will draw a huge audience to Cursed Child, the script relies on readers’ prior knowledge of characters and events from the book series, particularly the Triwizard Tournament from Harry’s fourth year. The plot suffers from a fixation with the past. Time jumps rapidly from scene to scene. In the opening of the play Harry and Ginny are dropping off Albus at Platform Nine-and-three-quarters for his first year at Hogwarts. This scene corresponds to the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, though the order of events and the dialogue are inconsistent between the two texts. By the tenth scene of the play, Albus is already entering his fourth year; we don’t have a chance to get to know him or Scorpius. Readers witness only flashes of their, apparently bitter, experiences at Hogwarts. The other students also lack much introduction or depth of character. Ultimately, when one of the new characters, a student in Albus’s year, dies in a manner reminiscent of Cedric Diggory’s murder, the emotional significance falls flat. Perhaps this episodic approach works better as a live stage production, which is how it was originally conceived and is presented here, and perhaps it isn’t fair to evaluate this as a narrative like its predecessors. But overall, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child adds little as a new installment to the Harry Potter series. The popularity of the original series demands its presence on library shelves, but by comparison it’s a spare.