DCF Nominees for 2011-2012

For the last few years, I’ve wanted to read all the nominated books for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher award. I’ve pooped out each time but I’m trying it again!  Have you read any of these books? One of my nephews read the Origami Yoda book. I can’t wait to read that one! Here are this year’s nominees:

Angleberger, Tom The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
Balliett, Blue The Danger Box
Conly, Jane Murder Afloat
Couloumbis, Audrey Jake
Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Mind
Erskine, Kathryn Mockingbird  June 5, 2011
Falls, Kat Dark Life
Gibbs, Stuart Belly Up
Henson, Heather Dream of Night
Holm, Jennifer Turtle in Paradise
Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt June 14, 2011
Klass, David Stuck on Earth
Klise, Kate Grounded
Levy, Debbie The Year of Goodbyes
Lord, Cynthia Touch Blue
Lupica, Mike Hero
McMullan, Margaret Sources of Light
Messner, Kate Sugar and Ice July 28, 2011
Mitchell, Don Driven: A Photobiography of Henry Ford
Montgomery, Sy Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest
O’Connor, Barbara The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester
Oppel, Kenneth Half Brother
Resau, Laura Star in the Forest
Rhodes, Jewell Parker Ninth Ward
Shulman, Polly The Grimm Legacy August 8, 2011
Silberberg, Alan Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze June 21, 2011
Sonnenblick, Jordan After Ever After
Telgemeier, Raina Smile
Williams-Garcia, Rita One Crazy Summer July 19, 2011
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz The Prince of Mist July 5, 2011


Nan’s Notes: Refresh, Refresh

I found this book during my visit to the library on my first day of summer vacation. I wandered by the Green Mountain Book Award table and decided to pick it up.

Refresh, Refresh is the story of 3 boys whose fathers have gone to fight the war in Iraq, told in a graphic novel. The boys fill their days practicing fighting by boxing with each other, hunting, and hitting refresh on their computers to see if their fathers have sent them e-mails. I read this book in one sitting. But, I’m really stuck on how to write about my thoughts. I think this is one of those books that will rattle around in my head for quite awhile, and then I will know how I feel about it. Overall, the book was sad. I really felt for the boys who were dealing with a anger, fear, and loneliness while also trying to grow and find their own place in the world. The violence that the boys kept surrounding themselves with was an outward expression of the mixture of emotions. There was sadness mixed with anger throughout the book, but the ending was also sad, leaving me with a feeling of hopelessness. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the book, it’s just a hard book to write about.

One problem I had with the book was I had trouble knowing which character was which. When one of the father of one of the boys died, I wasn’t sure which boy it was. This may have been my fault for reading the book too fast. I tend to do that with graphic novels, especially when I read them in bed before going to sleep. Have you read this book and if so, did you have the same problem? I am thinking of doing a reread of it before returning it to the library to see if I can follow them better.

You can see some  examples of the artwork in the book by visiting the artist’s website: Danica Novgorodoff.

I know this is a short review… I read the book over a week ago and I need to return the book to the library in a couple of days.

Nan’s Notes: Story of a Girl

by Sara Zarr

  • Pub. Date: January 2007
  • young adult/realistic fiction
  • 192 pages


  • 2007 National Book Award Finalist
  • American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults
  • ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
  • International Reading Association Honor Book
  • International Reading Association Choices Book
  • New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
  • Capitol Choices Pick
  • TX Tayshas Pick
  • Utah Book Award Finalist

Deanna, the narrator, was caught by her father having sex with her brother’s  best friend. The stigma of this stays with her over the next few years at school with Deanna and the rest of the school having trouble moving on from the incident. The relationship with her father was also damaged and continues to cause problems at home.

I really wanted to love this story. The synopsis on the back of the book intrigued me and I saw all the awards and honors it had won. But I felt detached throughout most of the book. Detached is how many of the characters felt with each other, so maybe that is what the author wanted me to feel… but I don’t think so. The other problem I had with the story is that the ending was very predictable.

I thought the author did a good job of conveying Deanna’s feeling of isolation and loneliness. I felt Deanna’s frustration with herself when she was angry that she kept doing or saying the wrong thing with those around her. I think everyone has had time or two when everything you said and did came out wrong. You can appear  mad at those around you, when you are really angry with  yourself.

There are a couple of characters I really liked. Deanna’s best friend Jason and her boss Michael stood out to me.  I enjoyed the conversations that Deanna and Michael had together. But one thing is for certain… I don’t think I ever would eat at that pizza place!

This is my first book of 2010! Woo hoo!

This copy of the book was borrowed from a friend.


Nan’s Notes: Dork Diaries – Tales from a Not-So Fabulous Life

dork diaries

  • by Rachel Renee Rusell
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
  • Pub. Date: June 2009
  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • 282 pages
I won this book through a giveaway on Goodreads.com.

The first thing I noticed when I got the book Dork Diaries:  Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life, is that it is packaged very similarly to Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney:

  • The book is written in diary format.
  • There are cartoon illustrations throughout the entries.
  • It’s about a middle schooler who is trying to find a place to fit in.

The main difference in packaging is that Dork Diaries is pink, with the target audience being girls.

I read Diary of a Wimpy Kid in November of last year, so the story if very hazy. What I do remember was laughing all through the book. I did not laugh my way through Dork Diaries. There were some funny parts, but not “laugh out loud” funny.

Dork Diaries, is the diary of Nikki J. Maxwell. Nikki is able to go to a private school because her dad is the exterminator there. Nikki is embarrassed by her dad and wants to fit in with the cool kids in the school, known as the CCP (Cute, Cool, and Popular). The leader of the CCP is Nikki’s archenemy, MacKenzie.

Nikki writes many entries about the trials and tribulations of junior high. She ends up becoming good friends with 2 other girls who work at the library with her. And, the boy that MacKenzie likes has a crush on Nikki. Nikki develops her artistic talent throughout the book and enters the school art show.

My favorite character in Dork Diaries was the Grandmother. She showed up two times in the book and both times I laughed. This Grandma takes hip hop dance classes from Krump Daddy, she is writing a book called The Price is Right for Morons (a how-to type book to help contestants on the show), and she gives out sage advice to Nikki, the main character of the book.

The book was a fast, easy read. I think it would be a fast, easy read for kids too. The cartoons are cute and add to the story. But, I just didn’t laugh out loud very often. I also found many of the characters, including Nikki, not very likable. I do wish the Grandmother was in it more often! She was a hoot!

Rating: 2/5 – I have changed this from a 2.5 originally to a 2.


Nan’s Notes: Catching Fire

catching fire

  • by Suzanne Collins
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Pub. Date: September 2009
  • ISBN-13: 9780439023498
  • 391 pp
  • Series: Hunger Games Series, #2
This review contains a spoiler part way through. The spoiler is labeled and you will need to highlight the text in order to read it.

I read The Hunger Games this summer after seeing it on so many blogs. I loved it and couldn’t wait for the sequel, Catching Fire, to come out. I was too busy the week it came out to get to the bookstore, but a colleague at school bought a couple of copies and let people borrow them.  🙂  (I’ve already returned the book to my coworker. It’s hard for me to write a review without the book in front of me… I’ll do the best I can!)

I didn’t know what to expect with the story line in Catching Fire. I had read several reviews of it already, carefully avoiding reading any spoilers. I loved Amanda’s review over at The Zen Leaf. Amanda reads books through the lens of a writer. I think that is why she notices things that I would miss. That got me thinking about how I often read books, not as a writer, but as a teacher of the reading process. More about that on another post. 🙂

Anyway …  back on track here…  Amanda mentioned that both books in this series were written in first person present tense. I hadn’t even noticed that in the first one! But after reading her review, I became very aware of it as I read Catching Fire and I did notice a couple of awkward parts. If I hadn’t read Amanda’s review, I probably would have thought I was a bit tired when I was reading and assumed that the awkwardness was on my part.

This next part contains a spoiler…

As I mentioned above, I didn’t know what to expect with the sequel. I was as shocked as Katniss when she found out that she would be heading back to the arena as a tribute in the Quarter Quell Hunger Games. I was dreading it for her again and I was thinking how tired I was going to be after reading about the battles again! Those battles in the arena just wore me out.  I don’t mean they wore me out in a bad way. I would get so stressed out for Katniss that I was exhausted by the time I got to the end. These parts were also what made it impossible for me to put down both books. I just had to find out what would happen next.
End of spoiler…

The book kept me hooked just as the last one did. Good proof of this is that Catching Fire is the first book I have finished since school began. The beginning of the school year is so busy and I’m so tired in the evenings, that reading is tough for me. But, this book kept me turning page after page. I think it was exactly the type of book I needed for this time of year. A book filled with characters I already know and care about, tons of action and suspense. I hopped on and enjoyed the ride that this book offered.

My biggest problem with the book was the ending. The ending felt a bit abrupt to me. I know there is another book coming, but I still would have like a bit more of a conclusion. Now I have to wait for the next one to come out…

If you have read The Hunger Games, you will read this book. (If you haven’t read The Hunger Games yet, what are you waiting for?) Catching Fire is a quick read that answers some questions (what happens when the victors return home) and then leaves you with more which I won’t ask here because I don’t want to add any more spoilers! 🙂

Rating: 4/5


The Old Willis Place: a Ghost Story

the old willis placeby Mary Downing Hahn

  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Pub. Date: July 2007
  • Age Range: 9 to 12
  • 208pp

This is a book I received in a multicultural children’s lit class last year but we never got around to reading it. I think it’s time it was read!

Synopsis (from www.bn.com)

Diana and her little brother Georgie have been living in the woods behind the old Willis place, a decaying Victorian mansion, for what already seems like forever. They aren’t allowed to leave the property or show themselves to anyone. But when a new caretaker comes to live there with his young daughter, Lissa, Diana is tempted to break the mysterious rules they live by and reveal herself so she can finally have a friend. Somehow, Diana must get Lissa’s help if she and Georgie ever hope to release themselves from the secret that has bound them to the old Willis place for so long.
Mary Downing Hahn has written a chilling ghost story in the tradition of her most successful spine-tingling novels. The intriguing characters, frightening secrets, and plot twists will delight her many fans.