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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Virtuosity
by Martinez, Jessica

School Library Journal Gr 8 Up-In this riveting novel, 17-year-old violin prodigy Carmen Bianchi is forced to question everything she believes when she falls hard for a rival musician. At first, she is, with her manager mother's encouragement, completely focused on her career and winning the Guarneri Competition. On her mother's orders, Carmen even takes prescription pills to steady her nerves during performances. When she meets Jeremy King, her main competition, he helps her see beyond her own sheltered world. This is a beautifully written story, especially the descriptions of the pressures and pleasures of Carmen's life as a professional musician. Readers will sympathize as she deals with a controlling parent, high-stakes situations, ethical choices, and uncertainties over Jeremy's romantic motives. Carmen's mother seems less fully developed, but the budding relationship between the teens is realistic, and the Chicago setting adds to the story. The portrayal of Carmen's world, in which every performance is terrifying and even one stumble could end her career, is unique and convincing. The novel builds to a satisfying finish as the competition arrives and Carmen discovers a terrible secret. Even readers without much interest in music will enjoy this exceptional novel.-Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Unified School District (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list Carmen Bianchi knows she will be a finalist for the Guarneri, an international violin competition. She has sacrificed a normal childhood and adolescence for her beloved violin, and her dedication has paid off with a Grammy Award and world renown. Although she can tamp down her nerves with increasing doses of Inderal, an antianxiety drug, she can't tamp down her growing fear that her only competitor, Jeremy King, is the better violin player. And once Jeremy kisses her, she has a new concern: did he do it because he cares about her or because he wants to distract her from the goal they share winning the Guarneri? First-time novelist Martinez has a gift for making classical violin accessible and understandable to even the most tone-deaf reader. The twists in the pair's love affair, combined with the turns in their careers, elevate this novel from sweet romance to a complex drama. Decisions are never easy, but will the cost of winning or losing be too high? For older readers of The Mozart Season (1991).--Bradburn, Frances Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog E-mergency!
by Tom Lichtenheld

Publishers Weekly Picture books often get by on a single comic device, but Lichtenheld (Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site) and his collaborator, 14-year-old Fields-Meyer, pack their alphabet book with jokes-it's like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on steroids. Imagine what would happen if the letter E broke its leg and O had to be tapped for substitute duty ("Big Troo Falls On Toony Car!" reads a newspaper headline). The co-authors invent dozens of puns, hiding them in the corners of pages (P is the source of potty jokes, Z is forever tired) and assembling acronyms ("The EMTs rushed in with an IV, ready to perform CPR"). The letters often assemble words on the spot (after E falls, some chums spell "OUCH!") and, in a grand finale of self-reference, they insist that the narrator play by the book's rules and quit using the letter E ("That's bottor!" says N, mollified). Though some of the jokes will be clear only to older brothers and sisters, readers who are in the thick of learning spelling rules will pore over the pages. Comprehensive, witty entertainment from A to Z. Ages 4-8. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* In this nontraditional, rascally, downright hilarious alphabet book, all 26 letters live together in one big house. One morning as the letters are descending the stairs to breakfast, the letter E takes a tumble and is rushed to the ER for some TLC. During E's extended recuperation, the letters decide that another vowel must temporarily take E's place. The letter O is chosen, causing chaos as people around the world try to make sense of all the misspelled mayhem. Spolling tost today! shouts a school billboard. Car horns go Boop Boop! And the injured E listlessly holds a balloon that reads Got Woll Soon. The jokes fly fast and furious, and it will take several reads to catch them all. Because of this detail, it's a book ideal for single readers or smaller groups, who will have to puzzle out a lot of the weird-looking words. It's surprisingly challenging, so give this to children who have a clear sense of letter sounds and wordplay. The ink, pastels, and colored pencil illustrations keep things busy, busy, busy, completing this package that readers will return to ovor and ovor. (Get it?) Recommended to fans of Chris Van Allsburg's The Z Was Zapped (1987).--Sawyer, Linda Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal K-Gr 2-All the letters of the alphabet live together in one big, happy house. One morning as they race down the stairs to breakfast, E goes too fast and falls, injuring one of her appendages. After the EMTs arrive, bringing TLC and carrying an IV, E is admitted to the hospital. To properly recover she can't be used, so O is picked to fill in on her behalf. Despite news reports, congressional hearings, reader boards, a spot on Oprah, and a world tour to spread the news to use O instead of E, the injured letter is still not getting better. In a surprise worthy of Jon Stone's The Monster at the End of This Book (Western Publishing, 1971), the letters suddenly turn on the narrator and demand that he stop using E as he is why she's not getting better. After a page of tricky-to-read prose, E is healed and ready to go back to work just in time for thE End. The text tells only part of the story. The detailed cartoons of the letters in action with a plethora of speech balloons take the story to a whole other level of humor. This artwork takes a funny story and makes it hilarious to the right readers/listeners, of which there will be many. Kids and adults will get more of the sly humor each time they read this book. Warning: It's not easy to read all those words with the E replaced by an O.-Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog The Invention Of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd


Agatha Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog Mariners Compass
by Earlene Fowler

Library Journal In order to inherit a house from a man she never met, series protagonist Benni Harper (Dove in the Window, Prime Crime: Berkley, 1998) must spend two weeks alone in it. There, the folk art museum curator and sleuth follows mysterious clues her benefactor left behind. For series fans. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly A bizarre inheritance, a dangerous quest and a political battle are the main events of Benni Harper's captivating sixth adventure (after Dove in the Window). Benni's work at the San Celina Folk Art Museum is interrupted when she unexpectedly inherits the estate of a stranger named Jacob Chandler. His house in Morro Bay is worth $200,000, but Chandler's will stipulates that Benni can keep the windfall only if she lives in the house for two weeksÄalone. As expected, her protective husband, police chief Gabe, is none too happy about this development. But Benni is unwilling to turn down the money, and more important, her curiosity is piqued. After all, why would someone she'd never met make her his sole heir, especially when it turns out that many others were expecting to benefit from his death? To find the answer, Benni embarks on a dangerous search for Chandler's motives, following a series of cryptic notes that he's left for her all over California. Meanwhile, Gabe has his hands full keeping peace between San Celina's mayor and Benni's formidable Gramma Dove, who leads a sit-in at the Historical Museum to thwart the mayor's plan to convert it into a restaurant. As Benni's inquiries lead to unsettling information about her mother, who died when Benni was six, Fowler captures her plucky heroine's secret anxieties, but offsets them with a good dose of humor. Benni's need to know the truth about her family imbues the novel with alluring intimacy and suspense. And Chandler's penchant for wood carving provokes engaging descriptions of that craft, which accompany Fowler's usual bits on quilting and food. Chandler's puzzles test Benni's relationships with her husband, father and grandmother in this excellent addition to a notable series. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Ex-cowgirl and California Central Coast resident Benni Harper has inherited the house of Jacob Chandler, a man she never met. Chandler's will requires Benni to live in the house for two weeks and to solve a mystery. Meanwhile, her grandma Dove and six friends barricade themselves into the Historical Society to thwart a development-oriented mayor, and Benni is pursued by a mysterious assailant. In this sixth Benni Harper novel, Fowler continues to deepen her characters--eccentric and sympathetic Californians and transplanted southerners--and her plotting appears tighter and better organized. There are some surprising and funny moments here, and Fowler's skill in developing a mystery in an interesting community will appeal to fans of Rett McPherson's Veiled Antiquity and Leslie Meier's Valentine Murder [both BKL Je 1 & 15 98]. --John Rowen

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog River, Cross My Heart
by Breena Clarke

Library Journal YA-Set in Georgetown, this poignant coming-of-age story begins with the drowning death of six-year-old Clara Bynum. Johnnie May, at 12, was supposed to be minding her the morning the children went down to the river, knowing they were not allowed to play near it, much less swim in it. The Bynums had come to Washington, DC, from North Carolina looking for a better life, and life for the colored in Georgetown in the 1920s was better: plenty of work and good schools for the children. But Johnnie May's independent spirit causes trouble from the beginning. She is always asking why-why couldn't she swim in the pool on Volta Place, right across from Aunt Ina's house? Why does she always have to mind her little sister and clean up after her? Johnnie May is a natural leader, and "knowing her place" is a struggle. The story, which follows the Bynum family and friends in Georgetown for about a year, ends in triumph as Johnnie May wins a swim meet held in the new pool built for black people. Much of the book describes Johnnie May's relationships with her mother, her relatives, and her friends, painting a revealing picture of a river, a family, and a community.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Ten-year-old Johnnie Mae Bynum is haunted by the memory of her sister Clara, who drowned in the Potomac River at a point where the neighborhood children had been routinely warned against swimming. Five years older, Johnnie Mae had always been charged with Clara's care, so Clara's death stirs up guilt and confusion. Had she pushed Clara into the water or was she only guilty of neglect? The drowning changes the dynamics within the Bynum family, still coping with the move from South Carolina to the Georgetown area at the insistence of the mother, the strong-willed Alice Bynum, who wants opportunities for her children that she perceives exist in the North of the 1920s. Hence Alice both admires and fears Johnnie Mae's defiant resistance to segregated swimming pools, which chafes her own sense of racial injustice and political expedience. Clarke's first novel beautifully ties together themes of family tensions after the death of a child, a young girl's coming-of-age, and racial animosities in a small community. --Vanessa Bush

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Debut writer and Washington, D.C., native, Clarke has written a novel as lyric and alternately beguiling and confounding as its title. It is the story of the drowning of a six-year-old child, and the tragedy's ramifications for her family and neighbors in the black area of Georgetown in 1925 D.C. Clarke's scene-building skills are the novel's strengths and occasionally its weaknesses, as each chapter is an intense set piece that sometimes provokes more questions than answers. The story is ultimately that of the effects of Clara Bynum's death on her 12-year-old sister, Johnnie Mae, who was babysitting Clara at the time she fell into the river. Johnnie Mae suffers guilt, fear and loss, endures dreams, imaginings and confusion as she sees visions of her sister everywhere: in a trauma-stung classmate who wears braids like Clara's, and the vapor from a boiling pot of green beans that resembles her sister's face. Against a felt, poignant and meticulously detailed panorama of the African-American (then called "colored") community of Georgetown, Johnnie Mae struggles to find her bearings, to cope with institutional and family expectations, and with puberty and race. Johnnie Mae ultimately derives strength from her element, the water, as she becomes a talented swimmer, but her parents Alice and Willie struggle with inextinguishable grief. From the first vivid description of the Potomac, liquid elements provide themes and narrative tension in this plangent coming-of-age story, granting the reader a necessary, if temporary, distancing from the blunt fact of a dead child. Indeed, Clarke's research about African-American Georgetown in the early 20th century revisits a time and place as intricate as any, but so remote from most memories that the historical details are fascinating footnotes to an era. While authorial asides are sometimes intrusive, this is a haunting story. Agent, Cynthia Cannell. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Pulitzer Prize
Click to search this book in our catalog Gilead
by Marilynne Robinson

Library Journal As his life winds down, Rev. John Ames relates the story of his own father and grandfather, both preachers but one a pacifist and one a gun-toting abolitionist. Amazingly, just Robinson's second novel. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Fans of Robinson's acclaimed debut Housekeeping (1981) will find that the long wait has been worth it. From the first page of her second novel, the voice of Rev. John Ames mesmerizes with his account of his life-and that of his father and grandfather. Ames is 77 years old in 1956, in failing health, with a much younger wife and six-year-old son; as a preacher in the small Iowa town where he spent his entire life, he has produced volumes and volumes of sermons and prayers, "[t]rying to say what was true." But it is in this mesmerizing account-in the form of a letter to his young son, who he imagines reading it when he is grown-that his meditations on creation and existence are fully illumined. Ames details the often harsh conditions of perishing Midwestern prairie towns, the Spanish influenza and two world wars. He relates the death of his first wife and child, and his long years alone attempting to live up to the legacy of his fiery grandfather, a man who saw visions of Christ and became a controversial figure in the Kansas abolitionist movement, and his own father's embittered pacifism. During the course of Ames's writing, he is confronted with one of his most difficult and long-simmering crises of personal resentment when John Ames Boughton (his namesake and son of his best friend) returns to his hometown, trailing with him the actions of a callous past and precarious future. In attempting to find a way to comprehend and forgive, Ames finds that he must face a final comprehension of self-as well as the worth of his life's reflections. Robinson's prose is beautiful, shimmering and precise; the revelations are subtle but never muted when they come, and the careful telling carries the breath of suspense. There is no simple redemption here; despite the meditations on faith, even readers with no religious inclinations will be captivated. Many writers try to capture life's universals of strength, struggle, joy and forgiveness-but Robinson truly succeeds in what is destined to become her second classic. Agent, Ellen Levine. 5-city author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Robinson's first book, Housekeeping (1981), remains an astonishment, leading to high expectations for her longed-for second novel, which is, joyfully, a work of profound beauty and wonder. Reverend John Ames of Gilead, Iowa, a grandson and son of preachers, now in his seventies, is afraid he hasn't much time left to tell his young son about his heritage. And so he takes up his pen, as he has for decades--he estimates that he's written more than 2,000 sermons--and vividly describes his prophetlike grandfather, who had a vision that inspired him to go to Kansas and make himself useful to the cause of abolition, and the epic conflict between his fiery grandfather and his pacifist father. He recounts the death of his first wife and child, marvels over the variegated splendors of earth and sky, and offers moving interpretations of the Gospel. And then, as he struggles with his disapproval and fear of his namesake and shadow son, Jack, the reprobate offspring of his closest friend, his letter evolves into a full-blown apologia punctuated by the disturbing revelation of Jack's wrenching predicament, one inexorably tied to the toxic legacy of slavery. For me writing has always felt like praying, discloses Robinson's contemplative hero, and, indeed, John has nearly as much reverence for language and thought as he does for life itself. Millennia of philosophical musings and a century of American history are refracted through the prism of Robinson's exquisite and uplifting novel as she illuminates the heart of a mystic, poet, and humanist. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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Scientific America Young Readers Book Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog Hidden under the Ground: The World beneath Your Feet
by Peter Kent

Book list Gr. 3^-6. Although the text may not go very deep, the illustrations certainly do, as Kent takes us to places both literal and figurative beneath our Nikes. On each double-page spread he treats a kind of underground with brief introductory text, a sidebar of interesting factoids, and something to look for (answers are at the back). For example, "Animal Underworld" illustrates moles, badgers, foxes, and rabbits and asks how many rabbits are in the picture. Kent travels from the mystical underworld (a hell that owes something to Bosch and Dante) to medieval dungeons to a village of caves in Sicily to city sewers, subways, and cables. Mining and the bunkers of the cold war are also noted. Digging tools, from the mole's jaws to tunnel borers, are illustrated, and so are a few "subterranean celebrities" such as Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor (note the initials), who was born on the Bakerloo Underground line in London. British and American measures are given. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Kent (A Slice Through a City) poses a fascinating questionÄjust what, exactly, lies underground beneath our feet?Äand gives a playful, if somewhat slapdash, answer in this picture book for older readers. He begins with a brief introduction that discusses why humans throughout the ages have tunneled under the earth and a page of one-paragraph descriptions of "Subterranean Celebrities" (both historical and mythological). What follows are 11 double-page spreads that present details about underground environments that have existed for centuries (animal and human homes, tombs, mines and dungeonsÄeven legendary "Afterlife Underworlds"), as well as more modern subways, city service systems and nuclear bomb bunkers. Many of the spreads' brief stage-setting introductions include overly broad generalizations and the occasional awkward phrase, and history buffs may wish for dates in several of the factoids (e.g., on the same page, King Wenceslaus's life span is given [903-935], but the completion date of the Mount Cenis railroad tunnel is not). But curious readers are likely to forgive these flaws in their eagerness to pore over Kent's humorously detailed, small-scale subterranean scenes. He invites readers' scrutiny with each spread's picture search ("Rabbits breed like... rabbits. How many rabbits can you find in this picture?") and offers answers at the book's close. Captions and sidebars provide factual tidbits both informative and amusing. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Gr 3-5-This easily read and highly pictorial work on a variety of underground landscapes suffers from a flaw common to many foreign imports when it comes to animal life. Similar-looking species may have widely divergent lifestyles when an ocean intervenes. The segment on the "Animal Underworld" depicts a colony of European rabbits (Oryctolagus) living in a communal burrow, or warren, and Eurasian badgers (Meles) in a clannish tunnel system called a sett. American badgers (Taxidea) are loners except during the mating season, and most American rabbits (Sylvilagus) live their entire lives above ground. Aside from that problematical display, Kent's cartoon drawings are appealing and informative and contain Waldoesque elements of searching for rats in a dungeon and enumerating the kings, queens, and knights in a Medieval European vision of hell. Sidebars present extra information on such topics as "Grave Facts" and "Safety in Shelters" (where there is a caption error). While certainly fun to peruse and aimed at a much younger audience than Christie McFall's straightforward America Underground (Cobblehill, 1992; o.p.) and David Macaulay's more tightly focused, top-notch Underground (Houghton, 1976), the variances in the section on subterranean animal life and such overly simplified statements as cave creatures are "...blind because there is no light, so they don't need eyes..." should give one pause.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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National Book Critics Circle
Click to search this book in our catalog Women in their Beds
by Gina Berriault

Publishers Weekly Whether focusing on yuppies or drifters, social workers or Indian restaurateurs, heroin addicts or teenage baby-sitters, Berriault (The Lights of Earth) writes with great psychological acuity and a compassion that comes always from observation, never from sentimentality. These 35 short stories have been published in magazines ranging from the Paris Review to Harper's Bazaar; 10 of them are here issued in book form for the first time. In "Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?" the dapper Alberto Perera, "a librarian who did not look like one," fears that the young drifter who has befriended him, wishing to discuss the Spanish poetry he carries in his pockets, is out to kill him; but the drifter is only trying to understand how?both literally and philosophically?to live. A 79-year-old psychologist woos a young, pragmatic waitress in "The Infinite Passion of Expectation." When she meets his ex-wife and witnesses the selfishness spawned by a life spent in deferment, she flees. In the clever "The Search for J. Kruper," an extremely famous and narcissistic novelist, noted for writing grand, poorly disguised autobiographical confessions, learns of the possible whereabouts of one of the few remaining living novelists as famous as he, a recluse who betrays nothing of himself in his writings. Each story is constructed so gracefully that it's easy to overlook how carefully crafted Berriault's writing is. Her lilting, musical prose adds a sophisticated sheen to the truths she mines. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Berriault's title story contains all the key elements of her metaphysical, compassionate fiction. Angela is deeply affected by the women she works with in a city hospital. Their fates make her think not only about her own sorrows, but about all the complex consequences of what happens to women in beds, from dreaming to sex, childbirth, and death. This elevation from the particular to the universal is a hallmark of Berriault's finely wrought stories. Another motif is a life-altering confrontation with a stranger, such as when a librarian talks about poetry with a homeless man in "Who Is It Can Tell Me Who I Am?" and a magazine writer attempts to interview a recalcitrant physicist in "God and the Article Writer." Outsiders intrigue Berriault; her insights intrigue us. Bradfield's novels, including Animal Planet [BKL O 1 95], veer toward the anarchistic. In his meticulously structured, high-voltage, surprising short stories, he explores the more instinctive, less "civilized" aspects of our enigmatic natures. Bradfield is a virtuoso of dialogue and a connoisseur of personality, and his narrators are steeped in stress, from the homicidal jilted lover in "Sweet Ladies, Good Night, Good Night," to the brooding loner in "The Wind Box," and the little girl who can't speak in "Closer to You." These are very much tales of our time, sharp-edged yet seething with ambiguity. Petrushevskaya writes from a completely different world, giving voice to the frustrations of Soviet Russia during the 1970s and 1980s. Banned for 30 years for being "unSoviet," she finally achieved recognition with her acclaimed novel, The Time: Night (1994). Her seemingly direct but quite shrewd and ironic stories portray women struggling to achieve love, respect, and peace of mind. Petrushevskaya is keenly aware of the vacillations, hypocrisy, and opacity present in all kinds of relationships, and her fictional universe is rich in mockery and melancholy, and short on privacy and trust. As her characters seek escape from the cruel, colorless confines of their lives, resiliency and the courage to carry on become heroic. --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Walk Two Moons
by Sharon Creech