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

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The Mighty Lalouche

mightylaloucheThe Mighty Lalouche is a feel-good, inspiring story to start off the summer! Lalouche is a French postman living in a Paris apartment without a view. Although Lalouche is small and bony, he is also nimble, fast, and strong. All the qualities of a great postman! One day the postal service decides to buy a fleet of cars to replace the walking postman, leaving Lalouche out of a job and worried about where he and his pet finch, Genevieve, will live.  On his way home, Lalouche sees a sign for the Bastille Boxing Club and goes to inquire. The boxing manager discounts Lalouche based on his size and stature, but Lalouche is determined to be a boxer. With his speed, strength, and agility, Lalouche takes on on the biggest and best boxers of the world, proving to all that looks aren’t everything.
Not to be left out is a brief discussion of the art. The pictures are delicately crafted out of paper cut-outs, then layered and arranged to create intricate and beautiful scenes. My two favorite depictions are the 2-page spreads of the victory scene and the view of Paris from Lalouche’s apartment.
— Leah
The Mighty Lalouche, by Matthew Olshan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Schwartz & Wade, $17.99

The Story of Hand-Me-Downs

Are you the youngest? The youngest sibling, cousin, friend? Well then you know very well that hand-me-downs have a story, a history, some carry a novel within them. You didn’t know that? Well then maybe this book will change your mind. All old clothes have been somewhere else before and withstood many adventures. In Mary Ann Hoberman‘s story, a brother and sister have fun imagining the adventures these clothes have been on, imagining adventures for them to have, and also imagining who will have the clothes next. Do you still think that your hand-me-downs are boring?

Not only do the clothes in this book have a story, but so does the story itself. Mary Ann Hoberman originally published I Like Old Clothes in 1976 with different artwork. Now, Patrice Barton‘s illustrations bring a new life to the story, showing different styles and fun in the clothes.

I Like Old Clothes by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Patrice Barton; Alfred A. Knopf; hardcover;$16.99; ages 3-6

Happy Reading,

Maryam

Liar and Spy

Rebecca Stead might just be gearing up to win yet another Newbery Award. Her new story follows seventh grader Georges, named after Georges Seurat (or as he pronounces it: Sir Ott). When his father loses his job, the whole family has to move from their house into an apartment down the street. Georges quickly meets Safer, a 12-year-old with an eccentric view of life, who enjoys all things spy-related and being quite mysterious himself. The boys have met at the right time, for Georges, a friend is greatly needed among the bullying at school and his mom working extra shifts at work, and for Safer, he could really use another spy to help him track the mysterious Mr. X who always wears black and carries suitcases in and out of the building at odd hours.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Rebecca Stead has created a middle schooler than most can relate to. He’s living for Fridays when he’s at school, like most kids (and adults!) I love Safer’s family, from the kids having named themselves (in a way) to each of their different personalities. Safer’s little sister Candy especially had me laughing; I loved her extensive knowledge of when and where to buy different types of candy in New York City. And I couldn’t help but think that she would love The Sugar Cube here in Old Town. I would recommend this book to anyone 5th grade and up; I even handed it to my 13-year-old brother when I was done reading it.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead; hardcover; Random House; $15.99; ages 10+

Happy reading,

Maryam

A great new read for grown-ups: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Harold Fry and his wife Maureen live in a quaint English village. Harold is recently retired and not quite sure what to do with himself, but appears to be somewhat content with his life.  Maureen, on the other hand,  is a cold woman, easily irritated with her husband and quite obsessed with cleaning the house. You can instantly tell they do not have a typical marriage (and the house cleaning is a bit comical, tinged with a more than a bit of sadness).
When the mail arrives one afternoon, Harold receives a letter from his former coworker, Queenie, stating that she is dying of cancer. Not quite sure what to say to Queenie, a woman he hasn’t heard from in years, he manages to write out a quick note and plans to walk down to the post office box and deliver it. Instead, Harold keeps walking. He decides to walk all the way to her hospice facility, hundreds of miles away, in a pair of boating shoes, and without any supplies. This is the story of Harold’s walk to Queenie.
I loved the entire idea of the novel and the description reminded me a bit of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, a book several of us here at the store were totally charmed by last year. Harold is an incredibly likeable character and you want him to make it to Queenie, so badly, even though you aren’t quite sure why. You only slowly learn Queenie’s part of the story as Harold walks.
Harold becomes a media sensation — walking across the English countryside as he is — never knowing if Queenie is still waiting for him to arrive or if she has passed away. He meets incredible characters along the way, each interesting and inspiring in their own way.  Every time it seems like he should just give up, the right person comes along to convince him otherwise.
Maureen was the most complex of the characters and I found her journey my favorite part of the book. Her husband just walks out of the house one day and decides to walk to another woman, making Maureen’s life instantly more complicated, as well. She is a hard woman, but you can slowly see her interior emotions breaking through as the story progresses, and it’s her breakthroughs that I kept looking forward to the most.
This was an utterly charming story and perfect to gift to those hard-to-buy-for friends and family. There is so much to like about Harold’s story that everyone could learn a thing or two from him. It’s quirky, inspirational, and a wonderful read.
-Amanda

 The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce; $25.00; Random House.

Even we had to learn how to read!

When I asked everyone to remember their learning-to-read experience, staffer Leah said, “there was a time I didn’t know how to read?,” and it sure is hard to believe, when you’ve pored through thousands of books, that there was a time when you had to sound out “b-o-o-k.” Yet there was a time when all of us had to learn to read, or when someone had to read books to us, and we book-lovers look to those memories fondly.

Hooray for Books! owners Ellen and Trish have spent a lot of time around books: reading books, reviewing books, and handing their favorites to young readers here at the store. When asked to share their favorite beginning reading story, it was tough to pick out just one especially with all their favorite books and book memories. They were eventually able to narrow it down and share a story for all new and old readers.

Ellen remembers being read to in her kindergarten class. Everyone probably remembers their teacher asking the class to gather around for the daily picture book reading. Her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Galbraith, used to read Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson to the class. Ellen one day realized that, even though Harold was a made-up character, he was creating a marvelous and amazing world and adventure. Ellen says this was “the moment when the book literally came alive for me.” I’m sure she didn’t mean the pun when describing the book, but if any picture book were to “come alive”, Harold is perfect.

Trish remembers moving to the D.C. area from Tennessee in the 2nd grade and discovering Landmark Biographies.  She would go to pick out a new biography every week at her school library. Like many of us, Trish swears that even though she must have learned how to read, it’s more likely that she had just always known how, because she does not remember where or when she started to read! While most of the Landmark Biographies have gone out of print, we still have some of them (as well as other biographies from other series) here in the store.

Whether it’s being read to you or you’re reading it on your own for the first (or 100th) time: happy reading,

Maryam

Rocket Writes a Story

Rocket is using his knowledge from when he learned to read to piece together his very own story. Rocket finds words everywhere, from the world around him, and from his teacher, the yellow bird. When Rocket gathers together enough words, he tries to to write down his story, yet nothing is inspiring him like the books he reads. When his walks keep taking him to a tall pine tree with an empty nest on its tallest branch, Rocket finds the inspiration he was looking for, as well as an unlikely new friend and reader.

This book is great for kindergartners or 1st graders who are beginning to write stories of their own, especially if they’re having trouble finding their inspiration! Rocket teaches that inspiration can come from anywhere when you least expect it.

Happy Reading!

-Maryam

Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills; Random House; hardcover