The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Book Info
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
©2006 Atria Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0743298858

Plot Summary
Books have always been important to 12-year-old David, but as he mourns the death of his mother, they have mostly become his only company. His father soon remarries and moves David to the country to live with his new step mom, where he is given a room filled with books. David is angry that his mother was replaced so easily by this new woman and the baby on the way, but becomes distracted by his books whispering to him and strange figures in his room. One day while he is in the garden, he sees a German bomber falling towards the garden and with few options, jumps through a crack in the garden wall. At once, he is transported to a bizarre world with all kinds of creatures and monsters, complete with an eccentric King. David must find the King and his mysterious “Book of Lost Things” in order to finally get back home.

Reader’s Annotation
As he mourns his mother’s death, 12 year-old David finds comfort in books. But when he is thrust into a magical fantasy world where fairy tales are more like reality, he must embark on an odyssey to find the King and his “Book of Lost Things” to finally get home.

Critical Evaluation
Connolly does an impressive job of weaving fairy tale and major life issues such as death, grief and recovery in this story of a young boy dealing with the loss of his mother. Through escapism, a young boy copes with the death of his mother and grows emotionally and mentally while struggling to find his way through a strange, violent and dangerous world. In the beginning the book seems like many other children’s books, but as the story progresses it evolves into a very adult dark fantasy. Connolly takes classic fairy tales and puts his own complex, and sometimes dark and twisted, spins on them. These fairy tales are spun into the back story of the larger plot at play. This concept of reinterpretation is not a new model, but Connolly does a good job of fitting it into his story and reinventing with his own unique touch.

Information about the Author
John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute.

His first novel, Every Dead Thing, was published in 1999, and introduced the character of Charlie Parker, a former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. Dark Hollow followed in 2000. The third Parker novel, The Killing Kind, was published in 2001, with The White Road following in 2002. In 2003, John published his fifth novel—and first stand-alone book—Bad Men. In 2004, Nocturnes, a collection of novellas and short stories, was added to the list, and 2005 marked the publication of the fifth Charlie Parker novel, The Black Angel. John’s seventh novel, The Book of Lost Things, a story about fairy stories and the power that books have to shape our world and our imaginations, was published in September 2006, followed by the next Parker novel, The Unquiet, in 2007, The Reapers, in 2008 The Lovers, in 2009, and The Whisperers, the ninth Charlie Parker novel, in 2010.

John Connolly is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States, where each of his novels has been set.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Fantasy, Dark Fantasy

Curriculum Ties
English, History

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss escapism, and aside from books, what are some examples of other modes of escape?

Discuss David’s evolution throughout the book.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
12+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
A friend recommended this book and it sounded like something I would enjoy reading and something that would be interesting for older teens.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Book Info
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
©2008 Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0060530921

Plot Summary
When Bod was a toddler, his entire family was murdered. Being too young to understand what happened, Bod crawled out of his crib and wound up in the graveyard near his house. It was then that he became the only living resident of the graveyard, to be raised by the ghosts, werewolves, and other occupants of the cemetery. When he is 14, it is discovered that the murderer is looking to find Bod and finish off the family he had set out to obliterate so many years before. Bod must use his courage, strength and the skills he’s learned from his ghostly teachers to face the terrors of both the living and the dead.

Reader’s Annotation
Orphaned as a toddler, Bod’s childhood was less than conventional, being raised as the only living resident of a cemetery by the ghosts, werewolves and other graveyard occupants. Now 14, Bod learns that the man who murdered his entire family wants to finish the job. Bod must use his courage, strength and the skills he’s learned from his ghostly teachers to face the terrors of both the living and the dead.

Critical Evaluation
Mostly specializing in adult literature and a love for the macabre, Gaiman has only taken a few forays into children’s and young adult literature. The Graveyard Book is one of his more recent contributions and probably the most well executed. The book is a dark coming of age tale of an orphaned boy who is raised by ghosts and other inhabitants of a cemetery. Through Bod’s somewhat morbid tale is a story that is rich in power and profundity with underlying lessons to be gleaned. I thoroughly enjoyed The Graveyard Book and found Gaiman’s writing to be impeccable. He combines the perfect mix of fantasy and magic, with vivid descriptions and valuable lessons and morals to be learned.

Information about the Author
Neil Gaiman is an English author, though he now calls the United States home. As a child, he was a voracious reader which paved the way to a career in writing. In his early 20s, he pursued journalism by conducting interviews and writing book reviews as a means of taking steps towards eventually getting published. His first published books were a couple of biographies before journeying into the world of comics and graphic novels. Starting in the early 90’s Gaiman began writing more novels and prose for adults, children and young adults.

Gaiman currently resides in Minnesota in close proximity to his first wife and their three children. Gaiman recently married Amanda Palmer of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, and is also well known for his ongoing friendship with singer/songwriter Tori Amos, who has mentioned him in a number of songs, and been written into a few of his stories. Gaiman is also very active and interactive with his fans through the mediums of Twitter and his blog.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Fantasy, Dark Fantasy

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss Bod’s graveyard family. Is it as unconventional as it may seem?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
10+

Challenge Issues

  • Violence
  • Murder

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
It is a magical and exceptional story that everyone should read. This was another book that I couldn’t imagine not including in the blog project.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Book Info
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
©2009 Simon & Schuster, New York, NY
ISBN 978-1416984481

Plot Summary
Since the death of his parents, Will Henry has worked as the assistant to Dr. Pelinore Warthrop. Dr. Warthrop is not a doctor of the medical sense, but a doctor of monstrumology – the study of monsters. While Will’s job is mostly that of a gofer, running errands and being at the doctor’s beck and call, he has been witness to monstrosities he never imagined could exist in real life. Late one night, a man arrives at their door with a particularly frightening find, which just may be the most dangerous that they have encountered to date. This event launches Will into the beginning of his career and undertakings as a junior monstrumologist.

Reader’s Annotation
The first book in a new horror series by Rick Yancey, The Monstrumologist follows the orphaned Will Henry on his terrifying adventures as the assistant to Pelinore Warthrop, a doctor of monstrumology – the study of monsters. Join them as the encounter the things nightmares are made of, that will surely make your skin crawl.

Critical Evaluation
Yancey developed an intriguing premise with The Monstrumologist and tells the story with no holds barred against the gruesome and horrific. The sheer blood and gore present in this book would make it unsuitable for most younger readers, and even a good many older teen and adult readers. One colleague mentioned that this book wound up being too scary for them and that they couldn’t even finish reading it, which set the stage for my need to experience this book myself. Yancey did not disappoint, telling a brilliant tale while making my skin crawl and my blood curdle. At over 400 pages, the book is a slightly challenging read and it certainly can be very dry at times, but I would tell any potential reader to stick with it and they won’t be disappointed.

Information about the Author
Since he was quite young, Rick knew he wanted to be a writer. After earning a degree in English from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Rick returned to his native Florida to pursue a career in the arts. While teaching part time and dabbling in the theater, he decided to take a job with the Internal Revenue Service, where he served as a revenue officer for over ten years. He continued to pursue his lifelong dream of being a full-time writer, however, finally leaving the IRS in 2004 upon the publication of his critically acclaimed memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector. To date he has published six novels in addition to his memoir. Confessions of a Tax Collector, was  named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five best books on taxes ever written.  His Alfred Kropp trilogy for young adults has been published in seventeen countries and was nominated for the prestigious Carnegie Medal, as well as garnering numerous awards since its inception in 2005. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Teddy Ruzak mystery series for adults. In the fall of 2009, Simon & Schuster will launch his newest YA series, The Monstrumologist.

Rick is the proud father of three sons. He lives in Florida with his wife, Sandy.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Fantasy, Horror, Dark Fantasy

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Describe the kind of monster you might want to battle as a monstrumologist. (draw a picture)

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Gruesome violence

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I wanted to include some horror, and this seemed like a great up and coming horror series. I can’t wait for more to be released.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Book Info
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
©1999 Harper Teen, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0061689246

Plot Summary
Stardust is the story of a young man named Tristran Thorn who lives in the village of Wall. The town is named after the high stone wall on the edge of town that acts as the border between the known world and the realm of Faerie, with only one small and heavily guarded gap in the wall. Tristran falls in love with the beautiful Victoria Forester and to prove his love and win her heart, he ventures through the gap in the wall to bring her a falling star and embarks on the most exciting adventure of his life to eventually lead him to his Heart’s Desire.

Reader’s Annotation
In an attempt to prove his love for the beautiful Victoria Forestor, Tristran Thorn literally chases after a falling star. His quest takes him to the realm of Faerie, and ends up being the most exciting adventure of his life.

Critical Evaluation
Stardust was written as a sort of fairy tale for adults. Gaiman includes aspects of violence and sex that can sometimes be quite graphic and surely would not be found in your typical children’s fairytale, yet still maintains elements of fantastical whimsy. Though I saw the movie prior to reading the book and found them to be very different despite sharing basic plot elements and characters, I still found the book to be a rather enjoyable read. That said, it might not appeal as well to those who are not already fans of Gaiman’s work. Some also may argue that the book tries to be too adult, but I felt that Gaiman was justified in his writing and created a beautiful work of art.

Information about the Author
Neil Gaiman is an English author, though he now calls the United States home. As a child, he was a voracious reader which paved the way to a career in writing. In his early 20s, he pursued journalism by conducting interviews and writing book reviews as a means of taking steps towards eventually getting published. His first published books were a couple of biographies before journeying into the world of comics and graphic novels. Starting in the early 90’s Gaiman began writing more novels and prose for adults, children and young adults.

Gaiman currently resides in Minnesota in close proximity to his first wife and their three children. Gaiman recently married Amanda Palmer of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, and is also well known for his ongoing friendship with singer/songwriter Tori Amos, who has mentioned him in a number of songs, and been written into a few of his stories. Gaiman is also very active and interactive with his fans through the mediums of Twitter and his blog.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Dark Fantasy

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Compare and contrast the movie and book.

Discuss Tristran’s character development throughout the story.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues

  • Sexuality
  • Violence

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I had seen the movie adaptation of this book and had read and enjoyed other books by Gaiman and decided to use this project as an excuse to finally read another one of his lauded and loved works.

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Book Info
Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith
© 2007 Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA,
ISBN 978-0763627911

Plot Summary
At the age of 14, Quincie Morris of Austin, Tx. was left orphaned and placed in the care of her uncle Davidson, barely ten years her senior and still very much a child himself. Luckily, Quincie also had Kieren, a werewolf hybrid, her best friend and secret love interest who was always there for her. A few years later as a high school senior, Quincie her uncle were moving forward in the reinvention her mother’s Italian restaurant by adopting a vampire theme, and she eagerly looked forward to her 21st birthday when she would fully inherit the restaurant to run on her own. But when family friend and long-time head chef Vaggio is murdered, things turn a bit upside down. Uncle Davidson finds Henry Johnson to replace Vaggio as the restaurant’s head chef, who is impressive in the kitchen but will Quincie be able to transform him into the mysterious vampire chef that was to be the restaurant’s main attraction? Or will the new chef be try to overpower Quincie’s love for Kieren and win her for himself?  More disappearances occur after Vaggio’s death, and rumor has it that they are wolf attacks. Is it possible that Kieren or other werewolves were behind them all? Or maybe the vampires are real…

Reader’s Annotation
Tantalize may be classed as “Dark Fantasy” akin to Twilight, but Quincie Morris is a ray of sunshine next to Bella Swan. Come to Austin, Texas and follow Quincie through laughs, romance and nail-biting suspense in this new take on vampires and werewolves!

Critical Evaluation
I listened to this as an audiobook and found myself picking up on certain words, phrases or descriptors that I felt may have been overused such as “nada.” Unless it is a major theme or plot element, I didn’t think something like that should stick out so much to the reader/listener. I also occasionally found myself confused and trying to make sense of the various characters and plot elements, such as keeping straight all of the minor characters like Kieren’s other were-friends, and how Henry Johnson primarily became known as “Bradley” which confused me when I forgot about “Henry Johnson.” Other than that, Leitich-Smith was very well written and descriptive. I could almost taste the dishes she described, and though I’ve never been to Austin, I found it very easy to visualize through her words. I also enjoyed how the vampire themed restaurant was brought to life down to the smallest clever little details such as the lack or mirrors – since vampires don’t have reflections of course.

Information about the Author
Cynthia has worked as a popcorn popper and cashier in a movie theater, a waitress (in a Mexican chain restaurant, and at a country club restaurant and pool), an attendant at a gas station, a receptionist at a law firm, a telephone operator at a bank, a law clerk (for a legal aid, for a small firm, for a government agency, and for a federal appeals judge), and an English tutor for students of migrant farm families. She has also worked as a reporter (for small-town and big city newspapers) and in public relations (for a non-profit agency, for a greeting card company, and for an oil company). In addition, Cynthia has taught legal writing and writing for children and young adults.

Cynthia was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Her previous states of residence are: Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma. She is a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Today, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her four cats and her husband, award-winning children’s book author Greg Leitich Smith.

From the author’s website

Genre
Dark Fantasy

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Quincie seems very eager to grow up and be considered an adult and be taken seriously as an integral part of the restaurant. Do her actions, such as underage drinking, make her seem more adult, or only serve to highlight her immaturity?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Paranormal elements of vampires, werewolves and other shape-shifters.
  • Underage drinking.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • What motivates Quincie’s drinking? How can the treatment of werewolves and vampires parallel real aspects of our society involving prejudice and racism?

Why Included?
Tantalize is included because it was assigned for my LIBR 265 course. Previously, the only vampire novels I had read were The Vampire Diaries when I was in Middle School, and more recently Twilight. It was nice to get another take on vampire mythology.