Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More "Wonder" Love: A Teen Guest Blog

We've already told everyone how much we love R.J. Palacio's fantastic book Wonder and now we are here to show our readers how much teens are loving this amazing debut. 14-year-old Warwick's blogger Maggie perfectly describes her love for the novel here:
If I could only use one word to describe Wonder, I would call it, well, a wonder. There are so many reasons why, from the characters to the plot to the style to the fact that it was the first book I would hide behind my binders just so I could read it during class without getting into trouble.  
I picked up this book, expecting a standard, tried-and-true plot about an underdog rising above expectations, conquering his fears, and living happily ever after. However, after the first couple of pages, it was clear this was not the case. August Pullman, the fifth-grade protagonist with severe facial deformities, and the stories behind him were intriguing and enthralling, not at all the softy stuff found in most books. Author Palacio’s style of short, choppy chapters kept me from growing bored and although the plot lacked spice, it was a strong portrayal of day-to-day life from the eyes of those we commonly dismiss as the disabled and handicapped.
 Overall, Wonder is a wonderful book that I connected to on so many levels. It made me smile, laugh, and cry all in a span of a few pages. Reading the final words on the last page left me with a lingering sense of satisfaction and I can’t wait for a sequel of August’s adventures or even another novel from this amazing new author.
 Maggie, the Warwick's staff couldn't agree with you more!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Extraordinary Tale of Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is one of those remarkable books that manages to utterly captivate; it makes you grin, it makes you cry, and it, at times makes you a little angry (righteous anger to be sure, but anger none the less). A simple story about a boy with an extraordinary face, getting through his first year in a real school, Wonder is anything but ordinary.

Told in multiple narratives, readers get a glimpse into the life of a ten-year-old Auggie, disfigured from birth with extreme facial abnormalities, as he tries to maneuver his way through the harsh world that is middle school. Readers hear from Auggie, his family, and friends as they all struggle to deal with the everyday ups and downs of existence, while also dealing with the sometimes cruel realities of life for someone who is anything, but ordinary. In a time where more and more of the novels for kids and teens deal with dysfunctional families, teen angst, and substance abuse, Wonder is a breath a fresh air. The family, despite dealing with such a heart wrenching issue, is shockingly ordinary. The parents are married (to each other), they care about their children and actually spend quality time with them. The kids have the same issues as most kids do—fighting with friends, struggling through homework and school, dealing with the changes of getting older. This is an average family just doing their best to be happy. I love that for once, I can pick up a book that features a group of people put into one of the most extraordinary circumstances, and instead of imploding and turning on one another, they actually support each other and work together. It sounds sappy and Walton-esq, but it isn’t. They still have their problems, serious ones at that, it’s just the handling of it is a bit more real and relatable to the average reader.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. A book for all ages, Wonder is astonishing in its ability to capture so much in such a simple way. For such an unpretentious book it packs a lasting punch. It’s charming, funny, moving, and everything else you could ask for in a novel. A truly worthy read.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Teen Guest Blogger Reviews Jenny Valentine's "Double"

Double is an amazing story about a 16 year old boy named Chap, who’s life changes when he decides to take on a life that’s not his own. He takes the place of a boy who was believed missing for two years and expects Cassiel - the boy he’s replacing – to have the perfect friends and family he’s always dreamed of. While Chap is living Cassiel’s life to the fullest (or so he thinks) he starts to learn things about Cassiel’s actual disappearance & finds something horrifyingly shocking about it.

I thought this book was interesting from beginning to end. I couldn’t put it down; it was like watching a mystery unravel itself right in front of you. So detailed and specific. So good that if they made a movie out of this book you would be pretty mad if it wasn’t as good as when you read this book. I thought that how the story was letting you learn about Chap’s past while knowing what was going on at the moment, was like if you were learning more about Chap as you kept reading. I honestly have to say that this is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. I love the story considering that it ended the way a movie would have. The ending was unexpected which is what you look for in a book when you’re reading.

This book was reviewed by Esmeralda, a young student at Audubon K-8.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heather Reviews Debut Novel "Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea"

In a departure from my current list of mysteries, dystopics, and paranormal fantasies, I took a breather and picked up Morgan Callan Rogers’ Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea, a smartly told coming of age story set in 1960’s Maine. The story follows young Florine Gilham as she comes to terms with the sudden disappearance of her mother and her own burgeoning womanhood. Told in Florine’s crisp Yankee dialect, the reader is given an intimate look at Florine’s internal struggles—from coping with the mysterious loss of her mother, to her father’s sudden relationship with another woman, to her efforts to understand the changes in her own body as she moves from a playful eleven-year-old girl to a headstrong eighteen-year-old woman.

This was one of those books that really captivates. It’s not so much the story, as there are many holes that are left unfilled and some scattered MacGuffins that almost detract from the ultimate point of the novel (Florine’s coming-of-age), but the character of Florine whose voice is so remarkably honest and fresh, that draws readers in. Florine is brilliant, flaws and all, as she maneuvers her way through the unexpected emotional hardships of her teen years. She’s blunt, yet also prone to sentimental and beautiful imaginings of her lost mother, as she tries to make sense of her changing world. In some ways Florine reminds me of characters from Southern fiction writers like Rebecca Welles, Beth Hoffman, and Fannie Flagg, in that while the voice maintains its Yankee-ness, the language of place and character takes on the spin and beauty similar to that of what is thought of as Southern Fiction. The small town feel and quirky characters almost feel as though they are hushed away in a small Georgia town just slightly on the wrong side of the tracks. Of course, that image lasts only in snippets as the lobster fisherman and dialect take you right back to Coastal Maine. It’s this sense of place and character that really wins readers over more so than the plot itself.

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is a good novel, a nice snippet of life in a small northern coastal town, and a candidly told narrative of growing up and moving on. It was an enchanting rainy day read and a delight to sink into.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Warwick's Teen Blogger Reviews "The Sweetest Thing"

Jeremiah, a teen blogger for Warwick's, takes a look at debut author Christina Mandelski's novel
The Sweetest Thing, a story about Sheridan, a cake decorating teen learning to deal with family drama and boy-trouble.

The Sweetest Thing wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. My first thoughts on this book were cheesy and unrealistic; as I continued to read the book, however, I started liking it. The Sweetest Thing was much deeper: divorce, change, counting on people, moving forward with life, and knowing you hurt someone precious to you. Those are the things that made this book feel real. I loved the way Mandelski wrote the novel. It was sarcastic, showed what was going on in the chapters, and it helped me understand the protagonist’s feelings and thoughts.

I do have to admit to having a few issues with the main character, Sheridan. I felt she was too easy to predict and a little annoying. IShe acted like a little brat because she couldn’t accept that her mom left. Her dad says,”….There isn’t a minute that goes by that I don’t think about what she put you through and what I can do to make up for it.” His voice shakes and his eyes are glassy. The anger in me is now oozing out of every pore. My chin is up. My eyes are set, my voice even. “….You are wrong about her.” She doesn’t even have the conscience to pity her own dad and admit he is right. I also felt her to be stubborn; when people tried helping her understand she had much more talent than she knew, she would not believe in it or more specifically in herself. “….Thankfully, we don’t become exactly what our parents are; we have gifts of our own to develop and explore.” Father Crowley kindly told her this; however, she took this as an insult to her mom, which I found to be immature, but realize it was used to show her later growth as a character.

Despite my eventual enjoyment of the book it was not without flaw.  I thought there were too many problems for the Sheridan to deal with, from finding her mom, to having a boyfriend, or her dad not giving her the time of day. It was a lttile too much drama for one book. I also found the general concept to be typical, considering Sheridan was the “not very social, stay at home” kind of girl, her guy best friend liked her, and the popular guy suddenly becomes interested in her, but those flaws could be overlooked when seeing the creativity of the author.

Not to spoil the plot, but I liked the ending of the book because it teaches readers to forgive and move forward towards the future. At the end, she wrote: “I give the cake another look, not sure I should trust what I’ve just heard. But I look around the room, at my friends and family, and I know the cake is perfect just the way it is. So I let go. Finally.” The ending had me at no surprise (which is why I will quote from it here), yet I felt like a happy ending and a new adventure sufficed for the closure of this particular book. It was a “sweet” ending.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jim Takes a Look at the Newbery Award

Before joining Warwick's I was an administrator at La Jolla Country Day and The Gillispie School. During that time, one of my favorite discoveries was the list of Newbery Award winners for best writing of children’s books. I have read many of those titles and most often they were a really good stories. Award-winners cover a range of styles and tales. The American Library Association’s gold imprint is placed on the top books, and silver for the honor books.

The 2012 medal winner is Jack Gantos’ Dead End In Norvelt, a semi-autobiographical tale of a boy’s extraordinary summer. Sometimes crazy and funny, but other times there are bits of history, all written to appeal to young readers.

Some of my many Newbery favorites include The Graveyard Book by Neal Gaiman, Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins Forbes, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and Louis Sachar’s Holes. We carry these and many more in the children’s section. A list of winners since 1922 is at

Readers who enjoy different genres, dipping into some of these titles can be entertaining.

Jim is a bookseller at Warwick's

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reading Fairy Tales

Fairy Tales are “in”. If you don’t know that fact you must be living in a dark, dank tunnel with blinders and earmuffs on. With dueling Snow White movies about to start showing, a 3-D reissue of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a Jack in the Beanstalk in the works, a 2013 Hansel and Gretel film; and that’s not even mentioning the two television shows with fairy tale ties—Grimm, the fairy tale cop show and Once Upon a Time (my personal favorite), the sprawling epic from the writers of Lost. It seems as though Hollywood has found it’s current muse in the realm of fairy tales and not surprisingly, so has the book world.

Actually, I should change my wording on this one—the book world has never forgotten this magical realm—there have always been new editions of Grimm’s, Hans Christian Anderson stories, and so forth; there have also been some great retellings, although it’s more typical to find them in the children’s section of your local bookstore, than with the classics or fiction—it’s just that as usual Hollywood takes the credit (at least in the eyes of the non-readers). In reality, Hollywood is running a half second behind publishing, taking its cues from what’s hot in books (as an example: Hunger Games, The Descendants, Hugo, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), so it’s really no surprise that there are a few really good retellings of classic tales out right now in book form.

I have long been a fan of fables. Starting with my old Read-Along versions (cassette of course) of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and Aesop’s Fables, to the Leslie Anne Warren version of Cinderella (which I have on dvd), to the old Fairy Tale Theater with Shelly Duvall, and graduating to my hardbound edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (all 700 pages of it), I have never outgrown, and can never quite get enough of the fairy tale world. Since I’ve always had a free flowing access to books, thanks in first to my Book Buyer grandmother, and then to my own employment, I have been fortunate enough to have an unusual amount of opportunities to read these retold fairy tales—and there are more of them than any of us could possibly count. So, in light of the renewed fairy tale craze, I thought I might mention a few worth visiting.

Brand new, and the start of what is to be a quadrilogy, is Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, a fascinating reimagining of the Cinderella tale (made popular by both the Brother’s Grimm and Charles Perrault), taking place in a rather bleak future, where our heroin is a cyborg with an unusual and rather special past. I know, “cyborg’ probably turned many of you off, it did me too, but having promised to read it, I was surprised to find myself completely captivated by the characters and the rather fantastic tale. Cinder holds that undercurrent of darkness from the original tale, actually, there is more death in this book than you might imagine, and it unwinds itself just enough to pull you in as a reader, and then dump you off into an abyss of endless possibilities at the end when it makes you wait for the next in the series. This one is highly imaginative, and perfect for those readers who like a bit of that sci-fi, dystopic edge to their fantasy tales. Now, I understand that the word dystopic is overused and is now turning many a book buyer to drink, so if that’s not your cuppa, I suggest an older retelling of the Cinderella story, Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This is a slightly more feminist version, gritty, grounded more in reality, without the traditional magic, or in the case of Cinder, science. Just Ella is a quick read, but it is unforgettable and wonderfully told; a perfect way to revisit an old favorite.

Diane Zahler is also a wonderful author who reworks lesser-known tales very well. In February 2012 she has a great new book based loosely on Grimm’s The Six Swans, called Princess of the Wild Swans, and in 2011 she released another novel The Thirteenth Princess that retells the more well know story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Both books are aimed at a younger audience than the two mentioned above, but hold enough of the magic of the original tales to charm more mature readers.

If, like me, you want a taste of the original to go with the new, there are some beautifully made editions of these fairy tale collections put out by Dover Publications, currently available; English Fairy Tales retold by Flora Annie Steel, Grimm’s Fairy Tales with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales retold by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, and Norton’s edition of The Annotated Hans Christian Anderson. Each of these is a beautiful addition to your bookshelf, but more importantly they are filled with wonderful stories capable of transporting you to other lands and times, if only for as brief moment.

Fairy tales aren’t going anywhere. They will continue to exist and expand into whole new concepts. These stories offer us the baselines to so many of our favorite forms of entertainment. So why not take a moment to revisit these tales of old—whether in their more original form, or in one of the retellings available out there, you are sure to find a nugget of brilliance, or at least a moment of enjoyment.