Monthly Archives: March 2013

Customer Review: Taylor, age 12

Lemoncello

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Chris Grabenstein

Random House Books for Young Readers

$16.99

June 2013

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein is a must-read. With an amazing setting and twists and turns in every chapter you won’t want to put down the book. You will be devestated when you are done with the book wanting more. Grabenstein does a great job of getting you to connect with his characters. This book is 100% worth reading. ~ Taylor, age 12

Note from Eight Cousins: Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library is like a love letter to children’s books. It is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Westing Game, but in what is sure to become known as “the best library ever”. EVER.  The story is crammed with fun references to children’s books old and new. Do not miss this phenomenal book!

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Morse Pond Reviews: The Great Dog Disaster and Spy Camp

Eight Cousins has traditionally been a children’s bookstore so our two favorite things — as you might expect — are kids and books. You know who else loves kids and books? School librarians. We are now working with the librarian at Morse Pond Middle School in Falmouth and her 6th grade book club, which happens to be filled with kids who love books. Members of the book club get a special sneak peek at Advanced Reader Copies to read and review. We’ll be publishing those reviews here. Enjoy!

The Great Dog Disaster: by Katie Davies

Review by Colleen, 6th grade

The Great Dog Disaster was an amazing book! It was suspenseful, happy, exciting and much more. One of my favorite parts was when Anna and Suzanne {the main characters} went down to Beatrice’s old owner’s house, Aunt Deidra’s house. That was where they left Beatrice {Suzanne’s new dog}. They left Beatrice there, but soon after they left her a great big storm hit and Aunt Deidra’s house is right near the water. Oh no and Beatrice was outside! When they were leaving to bring Beatrice home Anna’s younger brother decided to come and that ends up being a bad idea! I would recommend this book to everyone, and I recommend Eight Cousins to buy many copies!

cvr9781442445178_9781442445178_lg The Great Dog Disaster

Katie Davies

Illustrated by Hannah Shaw

Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)

Published May 2013, $12.99

Spy Camp: By: Stuart Gibbs

Review by: Celia, 6th grade

This book was funny, intriguing, and suspenseful. I really liked the characters especially Alexander. Alexander was a comical character that could easily exist in real life. My favorite part was when Ben, Eliza, and Alexander were in the helicopter and Alexander was trying to convince the people we was a head CIA spy and Eliza said he was not right in the head. I also really like the ending, with the tiny bit of romance. One of the funniest parts was this paragraph “You don’t look like you’re working hard at all,” Hand said. “Neither does Jawa,” I countered. “Jawa’s a freak of nature,”  Hank growled. “You’re just a freak. No way did you run the whole six miles.” This book was a suspenseful comedy with fantasy and realistic fiction. This was a really good book and I hope that eight cousins order lots of copies.

cvr9781442457539_9781442457539_lgSpy Camp

Stuart Gibs

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Published April 2013, $15.99

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Staff Review: A Tale for the Time Being

9780670026630One of the best things about  my first year at college was discovering the university libraries. I quickly settled on a favorite, and it wasn’t the beautiful old main library in the campus center, although I loved all of them (I don’t think I’ve ever met a library I didn’t like). Rather it was the library on the agricultural quad, with its utilitarian looks. The stacks were housed in a nine-story central tower, with study carrels tucked into the corners of each floor. The quietness was almost palpable and I rarely saw another person the higher in the stacks that I climbed. Sometimes I would wander through the stacks, perusing the titles, sometimes pulling one out for a closer look.  Just doing this gave me an almost giddy feeling, as though by random chance I might stumble across some forgotten tome holding the key to everything. At times I felt like a 20th century alchemist searching for a modern day philosopher’s stone — I know how pretentious this sounds, but don’t you remember how being 18 years old felt?

As the years have passed, I have given up searching for the answer to everything in dusty old books, and that feeling of giddiness is a lovely memory, but I have never lost my sense of wonder and curiousity about how the world works.

Every week it seems there are new scientific discoveries, and while they provide new answers, they raise yet more questions. For some time now I have felt that the field of quantum mechanics just might be the modern-day equivalent to the answer to everything, if only I could actually understand it. I am not a physicist, however. So I’ve read a few of those nifty “Very Short Introduction” guides that Oxford publishes; I’ve looked through Mr. Tompkins and Alice in Quantumland; and I’ve even read a graphic guide to quantum theory. And occasionally the fog I seem to wander through lifts briefly: I feel a glimmer of understanding. But when I try to articulate my “aha” moment, it just slips away.

Making analogies makes difficult concepts easier for me to understand, and one of my favorite analogies is to visualize quantum mechanics as a library — within the universe of each book, all the events are occurring simultaneously. It’s only when you pick up a book to read it that time moves in a linear fashion.

And then along comes Ruth Ozeki’s new book, A Tale for the Time Being, just in the nick of time! It may be the closest I ever get to understanding the basic concept of quantum mechanics. This book is a story told within the framework of quantum time. The two main characters, Nao and Ruth, never meet. Although their stories are told simultaneously, they occur at different times. Nevertheless, the two characters communicate with each other. Nao is a schoolgirl who lives in Japan prior to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and Ruth is a writer who lives on an island off the western coast of Canada. Nao puts her journal in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, which Ruth finds when it washes up on her island. Nao says that she is a “time being”, which she takes from a Buddhist poem with the words “for the time being” repeated in every line; we use this common phrase so often, to mean “for the present”, “for right now”, or “until further notice”, but Nao interprets them to mean that we are all time beings living somewhere in time, whether it is in the present, the past, or the future. Nao writes her journal as though she is speaking to whoever is reading it, and Ruth doesn’t want to finish reading it because she is afraid to end it and lose touch with Nao. Nao writes that she will commit suicide soon, and Ruth doesn’t want this to happen, even though it may have already happened. Ruth, who at one point declares that “writing is the opposite of suicide”, is suffering from a bit of writer’s block.

But wait, there is more: Zen Buddhism, Japanese popular culture, bullying, the dark legacy of Japan’s role in WW2, the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, island life, writing and literature, science, and philosophy. There is also sadness and joy and hope and love and humor. This is not a book I wanted to finish quickly.

I like to think of my books as my own personal quantum universe, my library of multiverses happening all the time right in my own house. A Tale for the Time Being is one place I will return to time and time again.

~ Lysbeth

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Reading Fictional Recommendations

This article, entitled “If your child won’t read, find another book”, written by Amanda Craig, appeared in the Telegraph yesterday. The books referenced are UK heavy and not all of her recommendations will be available in the US (it’s too bad, because Malorie Blackman’s Naughts and Crosses is one of the most phenomenal books *not* to cross the Atlantic). The concept of helping children find the ‘right’ book is one we are dedicated to at Eight Cousins. We don’t just shove books into children’s hands and demand that they enjoy them, we take the time to find out what children like to read, what they like, and why types of things interest them. We all have our favorites, to be sure, those books we think are so good that everyone should read them, but we strive to find the right book for the young readers who come in to our store. As such, overall, I agree wholeheartedly with Craig’s title. I think most children’s booksellers, librarians, and teachers would. Finding the book for every individual child is the very often attainable holy grail in children’s books.

What interested me about Craig’s article, however, is the opening paragraph in which she sites a study published by Dundee University. The research shows “that rising numbers of pupils, including the brightest, choose books like Roald Dahl’s The Twits, suitable for seven-year-olds, may confirm many of our fears about dumbing down”. Before you get up in arms, crying “what is wrong with Roald Dahl?”, let me just say, “what is wrong with Roald Dahl?” We keep most of Dahl’s books in stock in our grades 2-4 section. The implicit assumption, then, is that Dahl should be read by kids ages 7-9 and are not appropriate for 10-13 year olds. Well, first, we’re hitting on one of the crucial dilemmas of children’s books. What makes a book ‘a children’s book’? How do we identify ‘age appropriate’ books? I can hear thousands of adult voices declaiming “but I just reread *insert Dahl book here* as an adult and I loved it”. If adults love reading Dahl, then what is the issue with a 12 year old reading his books? And just because our store keeps Dahl in on section, doesn’t mean for a second that we think it should only be read by people who fall into that particular demographic. The term ‘cross-over book’ exists for a reason. Books aren’t very good about keeping themselves to the categories we assign to them. If you want to debate classification in children’s literature further, stop by the store. I find these conversations fascinating.

For now, however, I want to skip over these big questions and move on to something that I think Craig’s article, and the Dundee research is neglecting. Craig talks about the reading rut that children can get in to and how, as a parent, to encourage them out of it. Many of her suggestions are good ones and she demonstrates some excellent “if your kid likes this book, try this book” options. What I think she’s missing, however, is how often books themselves promote other books and encourage further reading. Children’s books are a hot-bed of intertextual references. Have you noticed how often children in children’s books read? Surely someone has done a study on this topic, but fictional characters are perpetually recommending books.

Think of Matilda, for example, she’s the quintessential avid reader. If you hand Matilda to a child, you’re also handing over Moby Dick, Great ExpectationsThe Secret Garden. Do kids pick up on these internal book recommendations? Well, yeah, I think they do. At least, anecdotally I think they do. I read and re-read Madeleine L’Engle’s books when I was in high school. At Eight Cousins, L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, et al are kept in our 5-7th grade section, which means I was reading below my reading level. L’Engle’s characters, however, often discuss literature, music, art, architecture, theater. I so heavily identified with Vicky Austin, that if she was reading Shakespeare’s As You Like It, then I wanted to read it as well. I don’t see what we’re ‘dumbing down’ here.

What do you think? Do you think that we should discourage young readers from books that are below their reading level? Do you ever read books that are recommended by characters in books? Tell us in the comments.

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Staff Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

9780399162411

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Putnam, $18.99

Published May 2013*

Can we please be done with vampires, please?

What would you do if aliens invaded the earth, but you couldn’t see them? What if the aliens had no corporeal presence, and instead were implanted in some humans like sleeper cells? Whom could you trust?

In The 5th Wave, most of humanity has been eliminated by aliens in four waves of death, starting with a complete cessation of power, followed by a tsunami, a plague virus, and finally the activation of the dormant aliens. The fifth wave is when things get interesting, since now nobody can tell who the real humans are, and the alien/human people use this confusion to manipulate the remaining humans to kill each other.

However (you know there has to be a however) the alien inhabitants are now part of their host, in a kind of symbiotic relationship. They are now corporeal; therefore they have all of their human memories; they feel what humans feel; and they won’t survive if their host dies. It’s not clear who is human and who is more than human. Maybe it doesn’t matter because in the end the aliens will be changed just as much as their human hosts. So what defines a person? Who is really human?

In case you’re thinking that this book is some sort of metaphysical treatise, fear not: it’s a YA novel, so there are some laugh-out-loud moments, mostly involving 16-year-old sarcasm, which I happen to find extremely funny, having teenagers myself. Also included is a truly amusing Donald Rumsfeld ramble, a kickass heroine, an old high school crush, and a mysterious new love interest.

Fans of I am Number FourPassageDivergentThe Hunger Games, and Battlestar Galactica should enjoy this book.

~Lysbeth

*Note from Eight Cousins: Books that are pre-ordered more than 10 days before publication will receive a 20% discount.

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Customer Review: The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

9780385739795
The Language Inside 
Holly Thompson
Delacorte Press
Published May 2013*

Author Holly Thompson uses free verse to weave together a great
multi-cultural story about family, friends, love, hardship, and what to do
when the language inside doesn’t match the language outside.

The main character, Emma, and her family move from Japan (the only home
Emma has ever known) when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. The
family moves to Massachusetts to stay with a relative so that her mom can
be treated in Boston.

Her mother’s breast cancer and the move all leave Emma with a lot of
stress and she starts to suffer from severe migraines. Emma also
experiences a lot of guilt for having left Japan right after it has been struck by
the tragedy of a Tsunami. She feels she should be there with her friends to
help clean up the destruction and start rebuilding.

Her grandmother signs Emma up to volunteer at a long-term care facility
while she’s in town. She is there to help Zena, a patient who
suffers from locked-in syndrome, write poetry.  The only way Zena can
communicate is with her eyes. Emma has to hold up an alphabet board
organized by row and color, reading each one out until Zena looks up to
select a letter. I found this dynamic of the story to be very heartwarming
as we get to watch Zena and Emma’s relationship grow as they connect with
one another through their mutual love of poetry.

This book deals with a lot of different issues; breast
cancer, locked-in syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder, and migraines,
to name a few, but it does so effortlessly, weaving the issues together into one
coherent and touching story about one girl’s journey to find herself.

~ Amanda

*Note from Eight Cousins: Books that are pre-ordered more than 10 days before publication receive a 20% discount. If you are interested in reviewing Advanced Reader Copies, please contact events@eightcousins.com.

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Book Watch

In the opening sequence of Stardust — based on the book by Neil Gaiman –Sir Ian McKellen as the narrator poses a question about stars that could easily be modified:

A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at [books], or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really… “Do the [books] gaze back?” Now *that’s* a question.

If you’ve visited us recently, you’ve probably been asking yourself this very question.

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Digital Poetry Contest Winner

Congratulations to Leah, age 17, whose poem “Be Infinite, Look Up”, was selected by YA author Lisa Schroeder as our Digital Poetry Contest winner. You can find Leah’s poem on our website.

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