Archive for September, 2017


“The poems were cool. The best ones were like bombs, and when all the right words came together it was like an explosion.” CBR9 Reviews 53 & 54.

UnknownI’m still making my way through the constantly growing pile of books I need to read for work. I need to be able to comment on some of our “new and noteworthy” books picks, so if parents or teachers want recommendations, I can easily help them out. Oh, your kid likes dark fantasy and Neil Gaiman? Try The Girl Who Drank The Moon. You say your kid likes sports, but really isn’t much of a reader? Well, then get some books by Kwame Alexander. And get them now.

These books are my first foray into reading stories told in prose. I wasn’t quite sure how it would work, and to be honest, I didn’t think it would work for me. These are books about middle school boys who play sports — how could I possibly be interested in that?

I’ll tell you — when the writing is good enough, you can be interested in anything.

Crossover was Alexander’s Newbery Award winner from a few years ago, which tells the story of twin brothers Josh and JB, basketball stars at their middle school, and sons of a former NBA player and local legend.

Their whole lives have been about basketball and each other. But that all changes when JB gets a girlfriend for the first time. Josh is jealous and angry, and he takes it out on his brother, both in and off the court. Josh has a lot to learn about what makes a champion, other than just skill.

A loss is inevitable,
like snow in winter.
True champions
to dance
the storm.

We follow the boys and their family through their basketball season, right up through the playoffs. And I am not ashamed to admit that this book made me cry. Sob. Weep. I was bawling at the end. Seriously. A poem about basketball brought me to a complete stop and caused me to lose it.

The second book I was able to read was Booked — a story about a boy named Nick who’s whole world is soccer…until his parents decide to separate and his mom moves out of state.

He and his dad aren’t especially close. His dad spends all of his time writing a new type of dictionary, which he expects Nick to read…ALL THE WAY FROM A TO Z. He doesn’t understand his dad, who doesn’t understand his son’s love for soccer. They love each other, but don’t quite get each other.

“It’s just hard to love someone who cancels the cable right before the Walking Dead marathon.”

Nick leans on his friends, his awesomely geeky rapping school librarian, his teammates, and his new “special” friend, the lovely April to help him through this weird time in his life, in which Nick says he is:

“as confused
as a chameleon
in a bag
of gummy worms”

And I can’t help but love a character who wears a shirt that says I LIKE BIG BOOKS AND I CANNOT LIE. Seriously, that guy was the best.

These are two wonderful coming-of-age books that both sports and non-sports fans will like. I see the 5th and 6th grade boys at our school checking these out all the time, and now I totally get it. But hey, these books are for girls, too! Girls play soccer and basketball and have families and go to middle school, JUST LIKE BOYS. The life lessons in these books are for everyone.


I know you little libertine. I know you’re a cannonball. CBR9 Review 52.

UnknownAs some of you might be aware, I recently started a new job. My first real job since Bunnybean was about a year old…and she’s 13 now. So, its been a while. The great thing about this job, is that I’m not in an office — I’m out driving around and visiting elementary schools, and talking about books. I know! Books!

In my first week, my new boss gave me 9 brand new books to read. It was amazing. And then they showed me the warehouse, as big as a city block, and filled with books. My brain went into overdrive thinking about my brand new employee discount!

The first book I picked off of the pile was a cute paperback called The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which won the Newbery Medal this year, along with a huge list of other awards. And it was well deserved.

This is the story of a world filled with bogs and volcanos. All things in this world were born from the bog, including Glerk, the poetic bog monster, who is older than even he can remember. He lives on the edge of the forest with Xan, an old witch, and Fyrian, an impossibly small dragon.

Every year, Xan travels across the forest to a strange town where babies are left in the forest to die, for no reason that Xan can figure out. Xan picks up these precious babies and brings them to the cities on the other side of the forest to be loved by new families. On the way, she feeds them with the magic of starlight. Thus, the babies are known far and wide as the “star children.”

But one year, when Xan makes the journey to pick up the newly abandoned baby, she accidentally feeds it moonlight, which “enmagicks” the baby, and causes Xan, Glerk, and Fyrian to fall madly in love with her. Unable to give her away to a new family, they adopt her as their own and name her Luna.

Meanwhile, we find out exactly why these babies are being left in the forest. The citizens of the town have been told by their local leaders that every year, the witch of the forest DEMANDS a sacrifice, and that she eats the babies. The citizens live in fear of the witch, and never question this rule, as long as it means they can live in peace.

Until Luna’s mother. Luna’s mother loves her baby so much, that giving her up simply breaks her. And a young man named Antain, who is training to join the elder leaders of the town, begins to question just why this practice is allowed, and why these babies are given up so easily.

As Luna grows up and becomes more and more magical, Xan and Glerk worry about how to manage her powers. As Luna grows stronger, the magic inside Xan seems to be withering. And the more Antain questions what is going on in his town, the more uncomfortable the leaders of the town get.

Let me just say that although this is a book targeted toward 8-12 year olds, I literally couldn’t put it down. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking story about what makes a family. It made me laugh and it made me angry and it made me sad.

And there was certainly some gorgeous and mature writing here (let me clarify — nothing mature like “adult” or untoward, but mature, as in, not pandering to children. this author treats her audience as intelligent readers across the board.) For instance, when Glerk realizes that his beloved Xan is growing weaker as Luna grows stronger, he sorrowfully thinks:

Death is always sudden…Even when it isn’t.

And when Luna begins to realize that maybe there is more to her family’s story than her beloved Xan has told her, she wonders:

I had a mother once, Luna though. I must have. She frowned. And surely, she must have asked about it, too, but she seem to remember doing so.
Luna made a list of what she knew in her head.
Sorrow is dangerous.
Memories are slippery.
My grandmother does not always tell the truth.
And neither do I.

Not exactly the sentiments you expect in a book for elementary students, right?

The story doesn’t have a “and they lived happily ever after” for all of the characters, but it does have the right ending. Highly recommended. I’m glad it was the book I chose to write about for my seventh (SEVENTH!!!) cannonball.


Bird and Bear and Hare and Fish. CBR9 Review 51.

imagesOnce upon a time, I read Wizard and Glass for the very first time, and thought that there could never be a greater book in the world. I was swept up in the world of Mejis and horses and Roland and Susan and the Big Coffin Hunters. I didn’t mind being apart from Eddie and Jake and Susannah (and Oy!) for such a long time, because this story was EPIC!  It was romantic and tragic and IMPORTANT to the plot of the overall series. I wanted more and hated leaving young Roland and his friends when the story was over.

I just finished listening to Wizard and Glass, and I think this was my fourth time though this book (I reviewed it for CBR4 and see that my sentiments are eerily similar). And I mostly find myself wishing it were different. I was annoyed that we were yanked away from Eddie, Oy, et al, for so many hundreds of pages. I just wanted to get back on the path of the beam and get moving to the Callas in the next book. Yes, we get a look at how the events of Roland’s youth shape the man that he becomes, and that’s of great value to us constant readers. And I’m glad we get some insight into his friendships with Alain and Cuthbert, his OG Ka-Tet. But I really just needed to move on.

Don’t get me wrong, its still a great book. In between descriptions of counting nets and dead snakes, there were plenty of amazing scenes, like Roland’s trip into the world of the pink ball* (which reminded me an awful lot of Stuttering Bill’s meeting with the Turtle in IT) and the events leading up to the big finale in Eyebolt Canyon.

And the writing is gorgeous. Who would have thunk that Uncle Stevie could slip something like this into a book about glorified cowboys on an epic quest?

So do we pass the ghosts that haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all. The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely if ever crosses our minds. Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little.

It just isn’t my favorite anymore. Maybe because I know what’s coming in the next installments and I just need to get there? I don’t know.

But as much as I complain about what we do get in this book, there’s plenty in this one that I almost wish we knew more about.

Instead of pages and pages about Susan’s lovely hair or the places where they met to have sex, how about more about:

*Maerlyn’s Rainbow. We know what the pink ball does, and SPOILER we find out more about the black one from Pere Callhahan, but I’d love to know about the other 11 balls. What powers did they have and what happened to them?

*Eldred’s origin. While we spend pages and pages in the past, why not tell us how Jonas got from being a boy sent West to becoming a hired gun for John Farson’s people?

*Sheemie. SPOILER I know we find out what happened to him eventually, and that the comics tell about his journey to Gilead, but what about everything else?  He’s a fascinating character, and I’d like to know more about how things go for him in Gilead.

I’ve already started listening to The Wind Through the Keyhole, so it won’t be long until I get back on the path, slowly heading toward Thunderclap and the Tower.

*SPOILER Let’s talk about that vision in the grapefruit for a minute. I literally gasped out loud when I heard the part about the bumbler impaled on the tree. That was almost too much for me to take.



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