Author Archives: Morgan B.

December 3, 2009

Holiday Book Review: Main Street: ‘Tis the Season

Posted by at 8:39 am in Reads | Permalink

Mainstreet3 There’s something old-timey about Ann M. Martin’s Main Street series, and as I read book 3, ‘Tis the Season (you can listen to an excerpt here!), I struggled to put my finger on it. Maybe because it’s set in a small, almost retro-feeling town called Camden Falls; maybe because no one seems to use cell phones or even computers. Or maybe it’s because the challenges the characters face feel timeless — as if the series could be set in the early 1900′s rather than here and now.

Flora and Ruby are the two main characters of Main Street. They are orphan sisters who in book 1 moved into their grandmother Min’s house in the idyllic Camden Falls (idyllic only if you enjoy small towns where everyone knows everyone else!). They’re supported by a large cast of characters, both young and old, and we readers are given ample glimpses into almost everyone’s minds.

In ‘Tis the Season, Flora and Ruby are excited about the holiday season and all the magic that Camden Falls has to offer, yet their excitement is tinged with sadness too. It’s their first holiday season without their parents, and everything is different; plus, their aunt is coming to town, and she doesn’t seem to like spending much time with the girls.
Meanwhile, there are lots of events and parties happening at Needle & Thread, Min’s sewing shop in the center of town, so Flora and Ruby (along with their best friends, Olivia and Nikki) are busy helping out.

Both Olivia and Nikki are dealing with their own struggles in ‘Tis the Season as well. Olivia’s parents, who have both been out of work, are considering moving the family out of Camden Falls, while Nikki’s father (though he’s not much of one) has left town with a promise to send money back. He doesn’t, though, and Nikki is worried about their family’s finances, whether her mother will be able to support them, and perhaps most of all, whether she can help make her little sister Mae’s Christmas dreams come true. (Her friends, and the town of Camden Falls, come to the rescue!)

If this sounds like a lot for one book to cover, it is! I was impressed with how much action was included in this title. Each chapter is jam-packed with events that help move the story forward. But there are some incredibly touching (yet subtle) moments, too — when Ruby wakes up to the hushed, gray light of the first snowfall of the season; when the girls tag along with their neighbor to visit the elder-care home his sick wife will soon be moving into; and when Min, at the end of the book, reflects back on how her now-bustling house used to be so quiet. Instead, now it’s full of life, noise, and energy.

Any Main Street fans out there? What do you think of book 3 ‘Tis the Season?

— Morgan, Scholastic staffer

November 12, 2009

My Favorite Fictional School Dances

School_dances_130 My first official school dance was the 5th grade Square Dance. (Yes, you read that right. No, I'm not from a farming community.) For weeks in advance, we learned some two-steps during gym class and shyly practiced do-si-do-ing during recess. On the big night, clad in denim skirts, my friends and I French-braided our hair and reapplied our lip gloss in the girls’ bathroom before we braved the dance floor. Despite our nerves, the dance turned out to be pretty awesome. There were specific steps to follow and partners to choose, so everyone felt the same level of moderate humiliation and immense relief. We were in it together.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, school dances are part of life. And whether you’re Team Yay or Team Nay (or Team I’m-Way-Too-Busy-With-Homework-and-Sports-To-Care-About-School-Dances-Anyway), lots of books feature them, and it’s fun to compare the reality versus what authors dream up!

For instance, my Square Dance simply cannot compare to the awesomely magical Yule Ball that Harry Potter and friends get to attend in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (Come to think of it, not even my fancy senior prom could compare to the show that Hogwarts puts on!) But there are less elaborate, though equally exciting, school dances found in other books, like the Halloween dance that the Baby-sitter’s Club members get to dress up for in Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, or the annual winter dance Addie and friends attend in Wish Upon a Star (How I Survived Middle School #11).

So what do you all think about school dances — love 'em or hate 'em? And have you ever read about a fictional school dance you wish you could attend?

— Morgan, Scholastic staffer

October 22, 2009

My Imaginary Baby-Sitter’s Club Movie Cast

Posted by at 11:17 am in Reads | Permalink

Bsc_130 When the news broke that in 2012 Hollywood will be releasing a feature film version of Sweet Valley High, I thought, HOLD UP. Wait a minute!

I liked Sweet Valley High. Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield reminded me of my twin sister and me, only we were brunettes growing up in New Jersey, not blondes in California, and there was no Unicorn Club at my school (despite my best efforts to start one). But when it comes to my favorite book series, it's no secret where my loyalties have always remained: I am firmly on Team BSC. And yes, if it were up to me, there'd be a big screen version coming soon to theaters near you!

BSC (or The Baby-sitter's Club for you newbies) is Ann M. Martin's best-selling series about a group of middle school girls who, well, baby-sit. A lot. Like, a LOT. And even though I myself wasn't big on baby-sitting, there's just something about the characters that keeps me going back to them. Even now, at my ripe old age, I still pull out my favorite BSC titles when I have a half an hour to kill and need some comfort food. (For the record, I always go back to: Boy-Crazy Stacey, The Ghost at Dawn's House, BSC Super Special #7: Snowbound! and my favorite of all, BSC Super Special #2: Baby-sitters' Summer Vacation.)

So as the movie and book industries talk about who should be cast in the Sweet Valley High movie, here on Ink Splot 26 we're going to do a little casting of our own. Here are my picks for the theoretical BSC movie, if it were to be filmed today. Agree or disagree? Cast your own picks in the comments!

Kristy Thomas:
MirandaCosgrove_cropped
Miranda Cosgrove(iCarly)

Mary Anne Spier:
Emma_Roberts_100
Emma Roberts (Unfabulous; Nancy Drew)

Claudia Kishi: Hayley Kiyoko (Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins; singer)

Stacey McGill: AJ Michalka (The Lovely Bones; singer)

Dawn Schaefer: Dakota Fanning (Coraline, Twilight: New Moon)

Mallory Pike: Emily Osment (Hannah Montana)

Jessi Ramsey:
Keke_100
Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP)

Logan Bruno: Sterling Knight (Sonny With a Chance)

And just for fun, Karen Brewer: Kiernan Shipka (Sally from Mad Men)

Cast away!

— Morgan, Scholastic staffer

Emma Roberts photo courtesy of Gerri Miller
Keke Palmer photo courtesy of Nickelodeon

October 18, 2009

Book Review: Daughters of the Sea #1: Hannah

Posted by at 8:26 am in Reads | Permalink

Daughterofthesea_130 Gather 'round, readers, and let me tell you a story.

There once was a young orphan girl named Hannah who, upon turning 15, was assigned to work on a farm in Kansas. As she traveled from the Boston orphanage to the wide pastures of the farmland, the strangest things began happening: she began shedding her skin like a snake, leaving behind crystalline rocks of salt in her wake. The condition was so perplexing that she was sent back to Boston.

It was the turn of the 20th century, and Hannah was then assigned to suitable employment as a scullery maid at one of the grandest houses in Boston. She tried to fit in, to disappear, as her job duties required. But she felt a longing for something greater, a longing she couldn't name except when she caught a rare glimpse of the ocean. Through the drudgery of the day-to-day work, through tiptoeing around the issues of the house's eldest daughter (not to mention her strange, sinister cat), through the unexpected connection with a famous painter employed by the master of the house, Hannah felt the sea calling to her. And soon, after she and the servant staff were sent to a remote island in Maine for the summer season, she began answering its calls, and the life-changing secret of her existence was revealed.

Daughters of the Sea: Hannah, by Kathryn Lasky, is a gorgeously written and completely captivating book for ages 12 and up. From its beautiful cover to its intriguing premise (“The tide is turning,” warns the back cover), I was immediately taken with Hannah's journey and found myself anxiously flipping through the pages to discover what would happen. While I guessed the truth about Hannah fairly early in the book (I won't ruin it here!), I had to keep reading to find out how the painter, the cat, and the rich eldest daughter all tied into the premise. And I'm glad I did; the book really picks up in pace once Hannah relocates to the cottage in Maine, and the descriptions of the island and the sea made me long for a turn-of-the-century New England summer of my own.

So tell me, commenters, does Daughters of the Sea: Hannah sound like something you’d like to read? Let me know in the comments!

—Morgan, Scholastic Staffer

September 30, 2009

Face-Off: Candy Apple and How I Survived Middle School

Candyapplevshisms

This morning I tied a bright pink scarf around my neck to brace against the autumn weather that's (sort of) descended upon New York City. When I got to work and glanced at the towering stacks of books that are slowly taking over my office, I realized something: my scarf is the same exact shade of pink as the Candy Apple logo.

Fate? Maybe. I was, after all, about to write this very blog post about how much I love tween books like Life, Starring Me! and Accidentally Famous and, of course, the entire How I Survived Middle School (HISMS) series. And then as I took off my scarf (it's kind of warm in here in the mornings) I got to thinking, wow, the Candy Apple and HISMS books are similar in a lot of ways, with characters I can relate to, school problems I totally remember, and plot lines that make me stay up late reading. And THEN, readers, I decided to compare the two series in a one-on-one competition.

I've narrowed down the choices in this first ever face-off between these two favorite series. Take a look, and let me know in the comments which ones get your vote!

Funniest Title:


Secretsanta
vs.
MiddleSchool1

Candy Apple's Confessions of a Bitter Secret Santa

  HISMS #1: Can You Get an F in Lunch?

Most Eye-Catching Cover Art:


MissPopularityGoesCamping
vs.
CaughtInTheWeb

Candy Apple's Miss Popularity Goes Camping

  HISMS #9: Caught in the Web

Coolest Character:


Makingwaves
vs.
HISMS5

Aubrey from Candy Apple's Making Waves

  Jenny McAfee from HISMS

Juiciest Plot Line:


Candyapple9
vs.
10_IntoTheWoods

Candy Apple's Callie for President

  HISMS #10: Into the Woods

Best Secret Identity:


Candyapple11

vs.
F2591_howisurvived_4cc
Andie and Caitlin in Candy Apple's The Sister Switch   Madame X in HISMS #3: I Heard a Rumor

As for me, it's a toss-up. I can't decide! Luckily, there's enough intrigue, drama, hilarity and homework in all of them!

— Morgan, Scholastic staffer

September 21, 2009

Grab Bag: When Old Books Become New

Posted by at 8:11 am in Reads | Permalink

Thumb I've always loved the look and feel of really old books – you know, the ones with frayed canvas covers, precarious binding, and decades of smudges and memories. The first old book I purchased was a collection of poetry, and it sat on my shelf, surrounded by its younger (and some would argue, prettier) peers, for a few years. Until one day I found another special old book, and another after that. And then, a collection began to take hold.

So you can imagine my thrill when, just a few weeks ago, I scored BIG at a random garage sale I passed. The first thing I look for in any store or sale is the book section, so obviously I scanned the junk to see what bookish treasures lurked there. Soon my arms were full, but I didn't even know which specific titles I was scooping up – all I needed to see was that little “Nancy Drew” lettering on the binding.

DSCN0549

Here's the thing about Nancy: she's an icon. She's always in style, she's had movies made about her, and everyone knows her name. But here's my confession: I haven't really read any Nancy Drew books.

So I thank you, garage-sale-proprietors, for charging me a mere $5 for a collection of antique books that I will now read and, hopefully, finally appreciate. (And, sorry to break it to you, but I think you seriously undercharged me.) Because now, these old (very, very old – 1942! 1937!) books have become new again.

Any readers out there who've scored some new-old books? Did you find them at yard sales, or maybe hidden deep inside your parents' or grandparents' attics? Leave a comment and let us know what they were!

— Morgan, Scholastic staffer

September 2, 2009

Guess the Book Trivia Answers Revealed!

Posted by at 7:17 am in Trivia | Permalink

Qmark_130You readers are no slouches, you know that? I issued what I thought was some pretty tough book trivia, and soooo many of you got soooo many answers correct. Congratulations! I hereby award each of you a “Smarty Pants” ribbon to hang around your neck. (It’s invisible. Wear it well.)

But there was only one commenter who could be first: an extra special shout-out to BLUECOOKIEDOUGH for being the first commenter to respond with the correct answers to all five questions!

Still jonesing for the answers? Here you go:

1. “The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that) but Sunset Towers faced East. Strange!” My all-time favorite book: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

2. “Mrs. Gorf had a long tongue and pointed ears.” A classic: Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

3. “I have been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.” A hilarious read: Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

4. “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” A must-read (and a great movie!): Holes by Louis Sachar

5. “Five minutes before she died, Grace Cahill changed her will.” With 10 books, trading cards, and an online game, you’ll be hooked: The 39 Clues book #1 The Maze of Bones

Good work, all! Until next time!

— Morgan, Scholastic staffer

August 29, 2009

Cool Books About Back-to-School

Posted by at 1:10 pm in Reads | Permalink

BackToSchoolCool Books About Back-to-School

There’s no denying it, folks. If you haven’t started school yet, you might still have a few days left of sleeping in, staying up late, and spending all those hours in between at the beach or the park or camp (or even inside reading your favorite books or commenting on this blog!), but let’s all just admit that summer is coming to a close.

But have no fear, because back-to-school is actually a really fun time of year. Think about it: school supplies! Shiny new sneakers! Lockers that will hopefully open! It’s a time for new beginnings, and to celebrate, here are my top five favorite books about the first day of school (in order of younger readers to older!):

Ameliabedeliafirstdayofschool 1. Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School by Herman Parish
This gem of a book marks the first time readers got to see how crazy Amelia was as a kid. Is it any surprise that she’s just as wacky and hilarious as the adult Amelia?

Ramonathepest 2. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the restless is more like it! It’s the first day of kindergarten, and Ramona is off to school just like her big sister Beezus. Too bad it’s not quite what she expected.

Judymoody 3. Judy Moody Was in a Mood. Not a Good Mood. A Bad Mood by Megan McDonald
Third grade is not for wimps, and Judy Moody is more than a bit wary about what the new school year will bring. Turns out, it brings a whole new perspective after her teacher assigns a “Me” collage and Judy discovers more about herself than she imagined.

Thefashiondisasterthatchangedmylife 4. The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life by Lauren Myracle
It’s the beginning of middle school, and Allison unknowingly arrives with the most embarrassing accessory clinging to her pant leg. The day doesn’t get any easier, but Allison learns to trust herself.

Reluctantlyalice 5. Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Alice can’t understand what’s so special about the first day of seventh grade, except maybe that school ends a whole half hour earlier. She vows to make it a year to remember, though,  which proves harder than she imagined.

Any of these back-to-school stories ring true for you? Leave a Comment about your favorite back-to-school books!

–Morgan, Scholastic Staffer

August 23, 2009

Trivia: Guess the Book!

Posted by at 9:22 am in Reads, Trivia | Permalink

Qmark_130 I would argue that the opening line of any book is the most important one. From it, you can usually tell what kind of story it’s going to be (outlandish? hilarious? weird? somber?), and there are several books whose opening lines stand out as being perfectly exact in foreshadowing the adventure that lies ahead.

So, readers, I issue you a challenge: I’ve pulled some of my all-time favorite opening lines. Can you name the books?

1. “The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that) but Sunset Towers faced East. Strange!”

2. “Mrs. Gorf had a long tongue and pointed ears.”

3. “I have been accused of being anal retentive, an overachiever and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.”

4. “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.”

5. “Five minutes before she died, Grace Cahill changed her will.” 

Leave your guesses in the comments. Good luck!

— Morgan, Scholastic staffer