Inventory Finds: Should We Read These?

Cindy and Lynn:  Earlier this week we spent all day helping to do an inventory of one of our district elementary libraries.  Inventories aren’t unusual of course but the reason we were doing the collection count was that in the spring the administrators eliminated the library secretary positions.  Since the elementary librarians spend 98% of their time teaching technology in adjacent labs, this move means that there is no one to attend to the library, check out books, shelve, process new materials, assist students or do any of the myriad of other important tasks the secretaries did.  No one thought to ask the librarians or teachers about the impact of this move and there is no district plan to address any of the issues in any comprehensive way.  Librarians and volunteers decided it might be wise to take a before-school start inventory and then compare it to an end of the year count to see how many library materials are lost over the year thanks to this bone-head move -er, excuse me, administrative budgetary decision. (Lynn writing here)

Anyway, in the process, we kept running across fabulous looking books that we had never read!  Now, in our defense, we were totally concentrating on YA books until about 4 years ago when we took on the Booklist assignment.  Unfortunately we have a LOT of books stacked up right now – just trying to keep up with current books is challenge enough.  So help us out here!  Here are some that look awesome.  Have any of our faithful readers read any of these?  Should we add them to our towering stacks?  We’re listing them below with the CIP annotations or publisher annotation in quotations.  HELP! Which ones should we take the time to read now?

Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon (Harcourt 2008)

“Nurk, a sort-of brave shrew, packs up a few pairs of clean socks and sails off on an accidental adventure, guided by wisdom found in the journal of his famously brave and fierce grandmother.” This was the book that spurred this idea to ask for your opinions. Both of us are attracted to cute animals, especially on adventures, and especially heroes who are only “somewhat” brave. Add a grandmother’s journal and you had Cindy at hello. Turns out this is also available on Full Cast Audio. Hmm….

Freddy’s Final Quest by Dietlof Reiche (Scholastic 2007)

“The final installment in Freddy’s internationally acclaimed saga is his most adventurous yet–filled with time travel, Crusaders, first love, and a shocking surprise! Freddy–hamster extraordinaire–shuts down his computer when he is called upon to embark on a journey through time in order to save a young boy’s life. Accompanied by Sir William the wise tomcat, Enrico and Caruso the guinea pig poets, and Tjark the robot hamster, the quintet find themselves in a dangerous land filled with Crusaders and wild hamsters (Has Freddy found the Promised Land?)! But when the Crusaders capture Enrico and Caruso and plan to eat them, the entire mission is put in jeopardy. With time running out, can the team accomplish their mission? Will this be Freddy’s final quest?” Book FIVE? We have a lot of catching up to do if you guys chime in positively on this series.

Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy (Greenwillow 2007)

“Although Aunt Arlene tries to interest her in clothing and growing up, ten-year-old Mildred is entirely focused on growing a pumpkin big enough to win the annual Circleville, Ohio, contest, as her mother dreamed of doing before she died.” A deceased mother and an obsessive large pumpkin grower….Mildred reminds us of a young Ellie from Squashed, one of our favorite YA novels by Joan Bauer.

Younuncle Comes to Town by Vandana Singh (Viking 2006)

“In a small town in northern India, three siblings await their father’s youngest brother. They have heard many stories about Young uncle, so when he arrives, nine-year-old Sarita, seven-year-old Ravi, and the baby know their lives will be changed. From feeding a tiger spinach-paneer to charming an angry tree ghost,Young uncle’s adventures are as humorous and unusual as he is.” This sounds like a good companion book for Nancy Farmer’s Do You Know Me (Uncle Zeke comes from Mozambique to live with his niece and family in Zimbabwe and makes life interesting).

Minn and Jake by Janet S. Wong (Farrar/Frances Foster 2003)

“Fifth-grader Minn, the tallest girl in school, begins a rocky friendship with Jake, a new student who is not only very short, but is also afraid of the worms and lizards that Minn likes to collect.” This verse novel looks like a quick read, and there is a sequel…

Violet Bing and the Grand House by Jennifer Paros (Viking 2007)

“In the tradition of literary classics like The Secret Garden comes this irresistible story about a girl who doesn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. Violet Bing has even said no to the family vacation, so she is sent to stay with her great-aunt Astrid instead. As usual, Violet is determined to dislike everything about her stay. But with the help of a stray dog, a new friend, and an old diary, Violet discovers that even for her fun is hard to avoid at The Grand House.”

Abracadabra! Magic with Mouse and Mole by Wong Herbert Yee (Houghton 2007)

“Mole is mad about magic until he takes his friend Mouse to a show that turns out to be all tricks, but then Mouse conjures up a special night program to show him the enchantment found in nature.” There were at least four Mouse and Mole books and they all looked fun, but exploring the magic in nature grabbed our attention.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst (Atheneum 2010)

“Lulu’s parents refuse to give in when she demands a brontosaurus for her birthday and so she sets out to find her own, but while the brontosaurus she finally meets approves of pets, he does not intend to be Lulu’s.” We heard about this book when it published, but never got our hands on it. With Viorst’s storytelling prowess and Lane Smith’s illustrations it sounds like a winner…yea or nay?

And, last, but not least…

The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson (Delacorte 2005)

“Ten-year-old Dolphin is determined to stay with her family, no matter what, but when her sister goes to live with her newly-discovered father, sending their mother further into manic-depression, Dolphin’s life takes a turn for the worse.” The illustrated mum refers to the many tattoos of the mother, Marigold. She gets a new one each birthday. The copy we found on the shelf was a 1999 Doubleday edition with a tattooed mom in a tank top front and center (used on the audio cover shown here). With so many of our students living in unstable homes with unpredictable parents, this might be a good one to booktalk. Has anyone read it?

Sooo…Bookends readers. Tell us. Do we add any of these to the towering stacks of 2012 publications, or just move on?




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

9 Comments on "Inventory Finds: Should We Read These?"

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  1.' Mary Ann says:

    Bone-Headed is absolutely right! Who’s recommending books in these libraries and helping kids check books out?

    I have particular fondness for LULU. She’s one stubborn, feisty little girl who learns that things don’t always go your way. I think your testers/grandsons might like the humor and absurdity.

    I’m looking forward to LULU WALKS THE DOG, coming out this fall:

  2.' sdn says:

    Well, I have a special fondness for YOUNGUNCLE because, well, it’s one of mine — and yes, I compared it to DO YOU KNOW ME when I acquired it. I will add that teachers/librarians have told me that sharing it with their school’s Indian kids and their parents really helped make a connection.

  3.' Laura says:

    I see that the last commenter recommended Younguncle, but I was going to suggest passing on that one. I read a great review of it when it came out and hoped to recommend it to some of my library’s many Indian patrons, but I found the stories to be kind of flat and had to slog through some of them. I don’t think I ever did recommend it.

  4.' Brenda Kahn says:

    Lulu the Brontosaurus is worth a go through. Fun, quick.

    I read The Illustrated Mum when it released and through the oh, 2000 books I’ve read since, certain scenes flew immediately into my mind when I contemplated your list. I read it before I started blogging, so I have no notes to review. I remember feeling that it was one of the most realistic descriptions of mental illness from the POV of a child made especially heartbreaking since the child was trying to parent the parent. That said, I couldn’t get too many students interested in reading it. It looks lighter than it is.


  5.' Kirsten says:

    I thought _Nurk_ was incredibly sweet when I read it a few years ago. My review is here:

    It’s a good children’s adventure — Nurk is likeable and funny, there’s a good adventure, and the illustrations are awesome. It’s not earthshatteringly good, but it’s quality.

  6.' Jenne says:

    I absolutely recommend Nurk!
    We loved it. (But then we are big fans of Ursula Vernon, since her Digger webcomic…)

  7.' Meg says:

    Freddy’s Final Quest by Dietlof Reiche. Yes you should read the series. Freddy’s antics are very reminiscent of our first hamster’s. Though she did not keep a written journal of her adventures, she could have been Freddy!

    Enjoy the adventure!

  8.' Boni Ashburn says:

    I loved both Violet Bing and Me And The Pumpkin Queen. I don’t think either title got enough attention.

  9.' Maya says:

    I love Jacqueline Wilson’s books — The Illustrated Mum was the first one I read and I have been a fan ever since. She is so fierce and honest and doesn’t give her protagonists easy breaks while at the same time keeping a sense of humor. Also, have you seen a picture of her? So punk rock.

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