Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

16143347 There isn’t much I can say about We Were Liars without giving it away.  I can tell you that it takes place on the private island of a rich Boston family.  I can tell you that it’s about a group of four friends who call themselves “the Liars”, and that there are indeed a lot of lies in the story.  I can tell you that the writing is fearless, razor-sharp and beautiful, and that I read it in the space of about three hours.  But as for what it’s actually about?  No, I can’t tell you that.  The heavy, portentous suspense in We Were Liars is the book’s best feature.  The phrase “unputdownable” gets thrown around a lot with new, hyped books, but I’m gonna say it anyway: you will genuinely not put this book down until you get to the end.  As it says on the back of the book: Read it.  And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart; Random House; 17.99; 13+ years old

Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

17756559Kestrel, the aristocratic daughter of a warmongering nation, buys a man named Arin at a slave auction.  Her purchase sets off a unstoppable chain of events, both in the delicate politics between their people and in her own heart.

The world of The Winner’s Curse is inspired by the Roman Empire, which lends weight to its star-crossed love story. The world-building is great, with Kestrel’s imperialistic society layered over the ruins of Arin’s peaceful one.  I found Kestrel’s political awareness to be the most interesting part of the book – it’s rare to find a teenage heroine these days whose strength isn’t some kind of literal skill with weapons. It was awesome watching her strategize and stay two steps ahead.  The Winner’s Curse ends on a killer cliffhanger, so be warned – Marie Rutkoski is just getting started!

- Emily

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski; Macmillan; $17.99; 12+ years old

Book Review: Camp Rex by Molly Idle

51PPTDnsRiL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Calling all outdoorsmen and women! Camp Rex is the perfect camping book for you and your dinosaur friends. You’ll get good advice on where to set up camp, how to make a fire, and fun games you can play in the wilderness. Just make sure you don’t run afoul of the animals already living in the forest! Molly Idle returns with an adorable sequel to the tea party hit Tea Rex. Just like its predecessor, Camp Rex features absolutely beautiful art composition and gorgeous pastel colors. Almost every page in this book could be a painting on your wall!

Camp Rex by Molly Idle; Walker & Company; 16.99; 3-6 years old

Book Review: Edgar Gets Ready for Bed by Jennifer Adams

9781423635284_p0_v1_s260x420“Edgar, finish your vegetables!”

“Nevermore!” quoth the tiniest little raven you’ll ever see.  The literature-themed board book series BabyLit gets an even more adorable addition with this Edgar Allen Poe-inspired picture book.  Edgar struggles through dinner, clean-up time, bath time, and bedtime stories, until his mama finally assures him that no matter what, she will love him “evermore”.  Will you ever find a cuter introduction to important American literature? I think you know the answer to that…

Edgar Gets Ready for Bed by Jennifer Adams; Gibbs Smith Publishers; 16.99; 3-6 years old.

Book Review: The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell

The Mermaid and the ShoeAll of Triton’s mermaid daughters have special skills and interests, except for Minnow, who just seems to get in the way.  Minnow asks too many questions, like “Why don’t crabs have fins?” and “Where do bubbles go?” But when Minnow finds a mysterious object, that tireless curiosity leads her on a journey to discover what it’s for, and maybe even to discover what it is that makes Minnow unique.

I love that where most mermaid books are aimed at pre-teens or teenagers, this sweet, beautifully illustrated story is for the younger set.  It’s also nicely reminiscent of The Little Mermaid, without any of more “grown-up” aspects of the original story.  Its simplicity, innocence, and fairy-tale feel make The Mermaid and the Shoe really stand out from the mermaid crowd.

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell; Kids Can Press; 16.95; 3-6 years old

Book Review: Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play with Your Food! by Bob Shea

dont-play-with-your-food-by_bob_sheaRARR!!  Buddy the monster has his eye on some bunnies!  But how can he eat them when they’re about to make delicious cupcakes?  Or go swimming?  Or go to the fair?  Every day Buddy promises to eat them tomorrow.  But Buddy may have forgotten the rule… you don’t play with your food!  Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play with Your Food! is fun and colorful and hilarious in the way only Bob Shea can be.  The headline implies that there will be more of these books, and I for one can’t wait!

- Emily

Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play With Your Food! by Bob Shea; Hyperion Books; 16.99; 3-6 years old

Music, Drawing, and Anthropology!

Two picture books in the past couple of years have explored the possible ways that humans first discovered music and drawing. These titles would make a great starting point for students studying early humans and their world or just a fun read aloud for families.

First DrawingThe First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein; Little, Brown; 17.00; Ages 3-7

Mordecai Gerstein sends the reader back in time with his first images and sentences in The First Drawing, about a boy living “…thirty thousand years ago.”  In present tense sentences that give a sense of immediacy, Gerstein sketches the reader’s life back then: “You live in a cave with your parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers…and your wolf Shadow.” “You love to watch animals.” Illustrations with bright color and scratchy line quality show how the protagonist (you) looks at clouds and stones and sees animals there, that no one else in the family can see. After an encounter with a woolly mammoth, while sitting by the fire, the young artist finally finds a way to show the rest of the family these visions–in drawings on the cave wall. After initial panic (the father throws a spear at the wall, expecting the drawing of the mammoth to charge) everyone agrees that “It’s MAGIC!” which, of course it was. And still is. In his author’s note, Gerstein points out that children are much more likely to draw than adults…so it makes sense that the first person to invent drawing was probably a child. Read this book and then do some drawing, of woolly mammoths or whatever you like!

Kalis SongKali’s Song by Jeanette Winter; Random House; 16.99; Ages 3-7

Jeanette Winter imagines a somewhat similar tale about discovering music in Kali’s Song (complete with another woolly mammoth on the cover.) Kali is familiar with drawing, as his mother paints animals on their cave wall and tells him “soon you’ll hunt and kill animals like those.” Kali’s father gives him a bow so that he can practice shooting, but Kali soon discovers another use for the weapon: plucking the string to make music. As in Gerstein’s book, family members are astonished by this new idea and honor Kali for his talents. This book would be fun read aloud for young musicians, kids interested in history or anyone interested in wondering a little about the past.

—Cecilia