Saturday, February 7, 2009

Grey skies, it’s above 40 degrees already, and it was light outside at 7:30 this morning! More time to read at both ends of the day-

There are many great books and I choose 5 or so a week (except for this last little hiatus) that I have especially enjoyed to share with you. I am not a critic, I only read what I like, and I don’t always even give the book a hundred pages. Sorry!

When kids’ books are only 200-300 pages long, I just don’t want to take the time reading something that rates a shrug from something that rates a two-handed, bowed over the table, what time is it?, butt-numbing, reading in the dark because it was too good to stop, read!

The books in these newsletters are things I just had to finish, usually in one gulp. I hope you and the people you share this with agree! Let me know, I would be interested in what you think of them, too.


The Black Book of Colors, by Menena Cottin, Rosana Faria, and translator Elisa Amador, is one of the most amazing books we have seen this year. It is a book about colors all in black with raised shapes to feel and Braille to explain what the color is.

Green has raised wavy grass and the authors use descriptions of senses other than sight to explain what green is. The text is in English and in Braille. It’s hard to explain but extraordinary to experience. I hope you all get a chance to stop in and see (and feel) it, soon. All ages. (Grounwood Books, $17.95.)

The Tomorrow Code, by Brian Falkner. The Tomorrow Code is a really good science fiction novel about two kids who, in the middle of some dire straits, get a message from the future that will change their lives, and maybe even effect the continuation of the human race. It takes place in New Zealand, which is cool in and of itself, and also talks about Maori culture and its relationship to nature and the earth.

Rebecca is smart and scientific and Tane, her best friend since birth, is a more artistic person. Together, using their considerable talents, they are able to figure out what the message is and how it will impact everything they know. Great science, great discussion of how science and art need each other, smart girls, sensitive boys, good adventure, this is a book for everyone 10 and older.

I finished this book on the bus, and, while we were driving past Lake Union, I looked out at the Space Needle. The top of the Needle, the tops of the skyscrapers, the top of Queen Anne, were enveloped in fog, chopped off in a flat line, even the lights were gone. When you finish The Tomorrow Code, you will know why I shivered at the view. (Random House, $16.99.)

Scat, by Carl Hiaasen, is really good! One of his funny, environmentally oriented books for kids and young adults, this one also takes place in Florida and is about the fragile ecology in the swamps. When Nick, Marta and their class get back to school after a field trip to Black Vine Swamp, they realize that their biology teacher didn’t come back with them.

Fearing she has been caught up in something nefarious, Nick and Marta set out to find out what happened and where she is. Unfortunately, there is a whole lot more going on in the swamp than kidnapping or death!

I love Carl Hiaasen’s kid’s books. He writes really good mysteries that have odd people, smart kids, and the environmental issues that we’re interested in. What is also cool about his books is that they are written like his adult books (without the sex, drugs, and violence), so adults can read them and enjoy them, too! Ages 10 and up. (Knopf, $16.99.)

3 Willows: the Sisterhood Grows, by Ann Brashares, is a really good follow-up to the Traveling Pants books. It feels slightly younger as it focuses on three friends who met in elementary school and, on the edge of leaving middle school and heading into high, realize that they may not have as much in common, now.

3 Willows follows Ama, Polly and Jo through the summer between middle and high school as they spend their first summer apart as teenagers, seeing their friendship fall apart as they each try on new roles. There aren’t any magic pants. This book connects the girls by the willow shoots they plant on the day they met.

They are just three very different girls, each with her own set of problems, who find that they really aren’t alone. I enjoyed the cameo appearances of the Traveling Pants girls. Ages 12 and up. (Delacorte, $18.99.)

Shift, by Jennifer Bradbury. After Chris and Win, best friends for years, graduate from high school, they decide to bike west across the US, heading to Seattle. They will reach Seattle, turn around and go back, and get on with college and the rest of their lives.

But they have a fight halfway across and split up. Chris makes it back home but Win never does. Where did he go?

A mystery, a friendship book, a travelogue of sorts, local author Jennifer Bradbury has written a great story about how things fall apart and how, no matter how close two people can be, you can never really know what is going on in someone’s head.

There aren’t any “issues” (sex, drugs, alcohol, too much “bad” language) to keep someone in middle school from reading this, even though it’s written about high school graduates, so I would recommend it for 12 and up. It’s GOOD, with a little romance and a great deal of mystery. (Atheneum, $16.99.)

The School for Dangerous Girls, by Eliot Schrefer. Wow. This is a thriller of a book about a bunch of girls thrown together in a secluded private school for those who are considered dangerous, dangerous to themselves and to others.

This school is the last place for these girls and it claims that it will change them into model citizens. It uses incredibly harsh methods to do so: no medication, no leniency, no freedom, no questions, no answers, solitary confinement and occasional torture.

Angela has been sent to this school because her parents don’t know what to do with her any more. There are questions about how her grandfather died while she was living with him, she is heavily involved with a boy who is using her, there has been drug and alcohol use, and she is unable to make good decisions about her life without being influenced by other people.

When Angela and her friends at the school begin to be culled from the group, answers to the questions about who gets “fixed” and who doesn’t become important to the girls’ very survival.

Maybe this isn’t high literature but there are issues in it that are important ones: Angela ends up in the situations she gets into mostly because she is so easily influenced by stronger personalities; people in power situations can really abuse those positions and they should be checked; mental illness masks itself in many ways.

The kids’ book staff at Third Place could not put this down once they got started. Ages 14 and older. (Scholastic, $17.99.)

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford. The Third Place staff who have read this, loved it. Jamie Ford will be at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, on February 11, at 7:00. I hope you can come and meet Jamie and hear his story about the writing of this book.

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the story of a young Chinese boy growing up in Seattle during World War II. He lives in what is now the International District but was then separated into many more –towns like Chinatown and Japantown.

Told in alternating chapters, the book begins as the older Henry Lee is walking past a crowd hugging the entrance to an old hotel called the Panama Hotel, where the Japanese internees had stored all their belongings, when he sees someone open a parasol that plunges him into memories of the past.

In the 40’s, during the war, Henry became friends with a young Japanese girl, Keiko, who went to his school, Rainier Elementary, where they were both ignored by the white kids. Their friendship, forbidden by his father, grows and becomes a romance.

Henry defies his father and stays friends with Keiko until the day she, her family, and all the other Japanese people are rounded up and sent by train out of the area to the internment camps where they are to live for years.

We travel through Henry Lee’s memories with him: the Jackson Street jazz scene, Bud’s Jazz Records, the racism of the time, and Seattle in wartime, as he takes steps to investigate the boxes and things stored in the Panama Hotel that may have belonged to Keiko and her family.

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is SO good, it is such a well-told story, we are sure you are going to thoroughly enjoy it. It is also one of those great cross-over novels from adult to teen readers and would be a good addition to any school library or family bookshelf.

I loved the descriptions of pre-I-5 times and will be taking my map and the book out for a tour of the places Jamie mentions. Adult, but with teen appeal. (Ballantine, $24.00.)

Well, there it is for another week. There are so many good books coming and so many great events and things happening, I hope you get a chance to come to the store and sample a few.

The events for the Lake Forest Park store are on our site:, and you can also order -- and have delivered -- books from that site, if you don’t want to leave the warmth and comfort of your home.

Remember, when you spend your dollars with an independent store, those dollars stay in your community and so support you and your business!

P. S. -- A fellow book person sent me this link to a piece by Ann Patchett, of Bel Canto, Run, and my personal favorite, Patron Saint of Liars, fame. It is a lovely piece about books and reading. Thanks, Kathi!

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