30 September, 2011

And Tango Makes Three - Banned Book Review

And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell & Henry Cole (illustrator)
Publication date: 26 April 2005 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 10/13: 0689878451 | 9780689878459

Category: Children's Fiction
Format: Hardcover, paperback
Keywords: Diversity, animals, love, family, adoption

From Goodreads:

In the zoo there are all kinds of animal families. But Tango's family is not like any of the others. This illustrated children's book fictionalizes the true story of two male penguins who became partners and raised a penguin chick in the Central Park Zoo.

Thuy’s review:

I had never heard of this book until I started looking up books to read for Banned Book Week. When I saw that a children’s picture book was one of the most challenged books on the list, I was intrigued.

And Tango Makes Three is the true and incredibly sweet story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who live in New York’s Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo are always together, neither of them having taken a female mate. Roy and Silo try to imitate the other penguins by sitting on a rock, hoping that it will hatch into a baby penguin. One day, a zoo worker gives them an egg that needs to be taken care of. Roy and Silo love it and nurture it and then Tango is born.

This is a lovely little read for people of all ages. I found this true story to be incredibly touching and the penguins are adorable. The illustrations are well done and compliment the story. It’s a quick read that kids will find cute and entertaining.

This book has been banned for having themes of homosexuality. Well yes, the story is about two male penguins raising a child but it’s also about love and family. It shows that a family can be many things, be it two fathers, a single mother, a grandparent, or adoptive parents. For children who do not have a “traditional” family structure, Tango allows them to be represented in literature and shows that there is a more than one way to define family.

Will reading the book prompt children to ask their parents about homosexuality? Maybe--maybe not. The book is subtle and I think young children will see it as a cute animal story more than anything else. But what if they do ask questions? That isn’t a bad thing. Speaking openly with our children and exposing them to diversity early on will help them grow into more open minded, well rounded, and accepting individuals.

I really enjoyed this book and its message that love comes in all shapes in sizes. I would not hesitate to recommend it to my friends and their children.

Find out more about Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell at simonandschuster.com

25 September, 2011

Twenty Boy Summer - Banned Book Review

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Publication Date: 1 June 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN 10/13: 0316051594 | 9780316051590

Category: Young Adult Contemporary
Keywords: Contemporary, romance, death
Format: Hardcover (also available in paperback and eBook)

Alethea's note: The synopsis at the beginning seems to give away major plot points, but it really doesn't--you'll find the same info in the jacket copy :) So don't fret!

Thuy's Synopsis: 

Anna, Frankie and Matt have been best friends forever. She and Frankie are like sisters and Matt (Frankie's brother) is her best-friend-that's-a-boy. On her fifteenth birthday, Anna's deepest desire comes true when Matt kisses her. Matt convinces Anna not to tell Frankie about their relationship just yet. He wants to tell her in a few weeks during their annual family vacation to California. 

Anna doesn't like keeping secrets from Frankie but she agrees, believing that Matt knows what's best for his sister. They spend the next month meeting secretly at night and stealing moments with each other when they can. Then the unthinkable happens. Matt dies, leaving Anna and his family grief-stricken. Anna decides never to tell Frankie about what happened between her and Matt. 

A year later, Frankie's parents decide to make the trip back out to California and invite Anna along. Frankie decides to make this the Twenty Boy Summer, but how can Anna think about meeting boys when the only one she ever cared about is gone? 

Thuy's Review: 

Contemporary YA fiction isn't usually my favorite but I couldn't put this book down. Twenty Boy Summer is a beautifully written and emotionally intense account of love, friendship, loss and finding the strength to move on. My own heart felt like it was breaking at times and I teared up more than once (which I never do). 

Both Anna and Frankie are really great characters. They are emotionally complex and are dealing with their loss in different ways. Anna is the strong one, always looking out for Frankie and putting her own feelings away. Instead, she writes in her journal and pens heartfelt letters to Matt that he'll never see. 

A sweet new summer romance throws Anna into a new maelstrom of emotions. I really understood what Anna was feeling--the conflict and guilt she feels as well as the overwhelming loss of what might have been. Frankie is a fascinating character. It's obvious that the wounds from Matt's death are still raw. She's dealing with it in her own way, becoming a boy crazy super-shopper almost overnight. I admit that I was often annoyed by her, as she seemed oblivious to Anna's feelings most of the time. However, by the end of the book, I started to understand Frankie a little more and she began to grow on me.

Despite the heavy subject, this book was surprisingly funny. Anna and Frankie's conversations sound like what I imagine real 16-year-olds sound like. Frankie especially with her strange vocabulary mishaps made me laugh. I also loved the descriptions of the California coast. Ockler's depiction of a summer beach vacation was spot on and it made me want to run out to the boardwalk for an ice cream cone and walk along the shore.

Though this book would be great at any time, I recommend reading it outside, at the beach or park if possible. Then settle yourself in for a few hours and let this book transport you to the coast and into an incredibly touching story that will stay with you long after summer is over.


Twenty Boy Summer was banned earlier this year in the district of Republic, Missouri library system. In an excerpt from this article (taken from Sarah Ockler's site), quotes Superintendent Vern Minor:
Minor said feedback [from the committee] for “Twenty Boy Summer,” available in the library, focused on “sensationalizing sexual promiscuity.” He said questionable language, drunkenness, lying to parents and a lack of remorse by the characters led to the recommendation. 
“I just don’t think it’s a good book. I don’t think it’s consistent with these standards and the kind of message that we want to send,” he said. “…If the book had ended on a different note, I might have thought differently.”
Now I am not sure what he means about "sensationalizing sexual promiscuity." Yes, there is sex in the book. One character has sex with another character that she cares about. It's done tastefully and respectfully. Is it the fact that the character doesn't regret her actions that make them inconsistent with the school's standards of behavior?

Not every teen regrets staying out late or getting drunk or lying to their parents. Banning the book and pretending this behavior doesn't exist does not make it so. And just because a teen reads about a character doing something in a book, it doesn't mean that they're going to do the same thing. If parents want their children to make good choices, I think it's up to them to be aware of what their children are reading and watching and to talk to them about it.

To me, it comes down to choice. People should be free to choose what they read. Censorship takes that choice away. I would much rather read a book and not agree with it than not be given the choice to read it at all.

say "twee!"

Visit the author at www.sarahockler.com and follow @sarahockler on Twitter.

For more of Thuy's reviews, check out the adult book reviews at RNSL Nite Lite, friend her on Goodreads, and follow @fishgirl182 on Twitter.

24 September, 2011

Banned Books Week Hop - Giveaway

Thanks so much to Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not a Writer and Jen of I Read Banned Books for hosting this blog hop.

My co-bloggers Thuy (RNSL Nite Lite) and Kimberly (The Windy Pages) and I all agree -- book banning is the pits! While we understand and respect parents' concerns about what their kids encounter in their lives, we believe in everyone's "freadom" to read and enjoy whatever they want.

Speaking for just myself (my co-bloggers will chime in throughout the week) reading about "objectionable" things doesn't necessarily mean the reader becomes a bad person. There's a lot of nature and nurture that shapes a person's thoughts and actions, so I think laying the blame on "bad" books is a poor job of scapegoating. I believe reading expands the mind and helps to show us perspectives about our crazy world that we might not have discovered on our own. I also believe that reading is a safe way to help people form a mental scale for right vs. wrong and good vs. evil without putting themselves in the peril that books' heroes and heroines often find themselves facing. Most of all, I believe in the reader's right to choose what to read and what not to read--and that with some guidance, kids can learn to make the reading choices that are best for themselves.

follow @frootjoos on Twitter


To celebrate Banned Books Week, we will be posting themed reviews and articles throughout the week and giving away a banned juvenile book to a lucky reader in the US or Canada! See the Rafflecopter widget below for the details. Please DO NOT leave personal info in the comments section--the Rafflecopter widget will collect your contact info so we can tell you if you have won.

The winner gets to choose their book prize (within the guidelines stated below) and will be notified by email through Rafflecopter. Our sister-site Nite Lite will be doing the same (but you can win an adult book instead).

Here are some banned book reading suggestions from the RNSL team. Clicking on the book cover will take you to the Goodreads page for each book.

Alethea recommends:

The Marbury Lens
by Andrew Smith
by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Giver
by Lois Lowry

Thuy recommends:

Twenty Boy Summer
by Sarah Ockler
by Natasha Friend
The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Here are a couple more links to banned book resources and articles.

Don't forget to visit the other blogs on this blog hop!

23 September, 2011

Breadcrumbs - Review

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Publication date: 27 September, 2011 by Walden Pond Press
ISBN 10/13: 0062015052 | 9780062015051

Category: Middle Grade Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, also to be released in eBook/Kindle format (received ARC for review)
Keywords: Fantasy, Bookworm, Literary Allusions, Friendship, Diversity, Bullying

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. 

Alethea's review:

I had really high hopes for this book, and that may be why I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. There were many very entertaining passages in this novel, and of course my heart did a little tap-dance whenever I got a literary reference to something else. Ursu refers to kid lit favorites like the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as sports and Star Wars. The main character, Hazel, is the odd girl out at school and looks to books and her best friend, Jack, for a sense of belonging.

When Jack is summarily excised from her life, she loses her way--the behavioral and social problems she is already having at school escalate and she gets in even deeper trouble. This is where the story started to fall apart for me. I couldn't quite feel the bits of "real world" issues that were falling into Hazel's magical Minnesota. The pervasive sadness and frustration Hazel experiences trying to get Jack back became a bit overwhelming towards the end, and I began to wonder if I was supposed to be enjoying this book at all!

I really liked Adelaide, the girl Hazel somewhat reluctantly befriends, but she didn't figure enough into the story for me to be able to stifle my dislike of the wandering narrative. I did like that Ursu touches on the topics of adoption, separation/divorce, and bullying. Jack's guy friends take his abandonment of Hazel to mean she's free game for their childish torture, and the author's treatment of this situation was surprisingly satisfying and not clich├ęd. (Phew!) However, I felt like touching on the issues barely brushed the surface and I would have appreciated a little more depth in this area.

Well-read kids will recognize bits of their favorite books sprinkled through out this imaginative tale, but more demanding readers will be left a little empty--the intertwining themes of friendship, coping behaviors, and fairytale don't quite stick together. Might do very well for a family read-aloud over several bedtimes; but I couldn't stay up past curfew for this one.

If nothing else, I'd buy it just for the cover--the artwork is stunningly beautiful.

Visit the author online at www.anneursu.com and follow @AnneUrsu on Twitter. She is also the author of The Cronus Chronicles.

For more from Walden Pond Press, visit http://www.walden.com/books, Like them on Facebook, follow @WaldenPondPress on Twitter, and don't forget to check out my review of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander.

15 September, 2011

Tower of Parlen Min - Review

Tower of Parlen Min by Matt Xell

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Keywords: Self Published, Adventure
Kindle/Amazon.com digital

Kimberly's review:

I was asked by the author to write an honest review for this self-published book.

Ves Asirin, an orphan with a memory loss disorder, wins a trip to the Tower of Parlen Min where he will get to meet a wealthy inventor. But this awesome trip isn’t all it’s cut out to be. Secrets lurk at the tower, and Ves is the only one who can help!

The author has some really wonderful ideas. The setting is fun and Ves is such a different character. His memory loss certainly hinders him at times, but it doesn’t disable him. He is a very clear character, strong in mind and uses many tricks in order to make up for his condition. The story is full of potential.

That said, I couldn’t get through the book.

While the ideas were there, I didn’t feel like it was properly executed. The writing was disjointed at times and I had problems following the plot. There was a lot going on. Twenty kids were introduced at once and they were all described by their first and last names along with their physical attributes. This became two pages of a list of strangers, many of them not appearing in the story for a very long time after that. By that time, I had forgotten they were even there. And these characters were mostly flat and uninteresting. Then again, Ves is SO interesting, maybe he makes up for it.

However, there is a ton of action in this book. It’s geared towards boys around 10-14, Ves himself is 11 years old, but Ves didn’t really act or think like an 11 year old. Not a bad thing, but I did think he should have at least been older than the other kids there.

Matt Xell has an active imagination and I look forward to seeing how this author grows.

Visit the author online at http://mattxell.blogspot.com.

01 September, 2011

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Hop by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Buried in Books

Win 1 of kimberlybuggie's Diversity in YA fiction books! Visit her new blog, The Windy Pages, for another diversity giveaway.

One winner in the US or Canada can choose 1 of the following books:

Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai (hardcover)
Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle (hardcover)
Bird in a Box by Andrea Pinkney (hardcover)
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang, Illustrated by Thien Pham (paperback)
Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif (paperback)
Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Maria McCall (pre-order)
Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera (hardcover)
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon (paperback)

To enter, please comment on Kimberly's Diversify Your Reading Challenge Essay, or any of the Diversity in YA posts on Read Now Sleep Later!

There are some optional entries as well for more chances to win!

Don't forget to visit the rest of the blogs on the Hop! Thanks to Kathy and Heather for hosting this event!