The Magicians of Caprona Audio Book Review–Fantasy!

Looking for something to listen to on the family car trip to Grandma’s?  Try one of these!

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The Magicians of Caprona, by Diana Wynne Jonesmagicians-of-caprona-2
Narrated by Gerard Doyle
7 CDs, 8 hours

The Montanas and the Petrocchis are the two most famous spell-casting families in the great city of Caprona.  The crests of the Montana winged horse and the Petrocchi leopard top the best spells and  grace all the magical (and non-magical) buildings and bridges across the city, and have for hundreds of years.  It’s unfortunate that the families have been at war for generations.  The Montana children are warned away from the Petrocchis starting practically at birth.  When the two families are forced to work together on a project, like mending the New Bridge that has started losing it’s magic, they stay as far away from each other as possible.

magicians-of-capronaTonino Montana looks at all the enchantments surrounding him, and wishes he was  better at magic.  But he doesn’t seem to be able to learn spells as quickly as his older brother Paolo, or even his dashing cousin Rinaldo.  Of course,  Tonino can talk to Benvenuto and all the other Montana cats;  Old Niccolo, the head of the Casa Montana,is the only other person who can do that.  But it takes Tonino forever to memorize a spell, and although it works, nothing spectacular ever happens.  At least he’s not like Angelica, the littlest Petrocci girl, who is said to have no control over her magic, and even turned her father bright green.  Tonino would much rather be reading a book than making a spell.

magicians-of-caprona-1But something is not right in Caprona.  The magic is disappearing, and both families blame each other for causing it.  When the Duke of Caprona brings two delegations to the Palace to talk about it, Tonino and Paolo are drafted to be part of it.  Across the room, they see Angelica and her sister Renata as part of the Petrocci delegation–the first Petroccis they have ever seen!  The girls look normal though, not like the monsters the Petroccis are supposed to be.  The boys’ attention is pulled away from the girls when both families are tasked  to find the true words to The Angel of Caprona, a powerful spell that should save their city.  But no one knows quite where to look.  Even the famous enchanter Chrestomanci, called from England to help, cannot fathom where the words might be.

magicians-of-caprona-originalWhen Tonino and Angelica are kidnapped to force the Montanas and the Petroccis to stop using spells, it seems like someone must think someone at one of the Casas is close to a solution. That doesn’t help Tonino and Angelica though, who find themselves stuck in a spell with only each other to rely on.   Can they work together to escape and get back home?

At the two Casas, even with the missing children, the Montanas and Petroccis won’t work together; blaming each other for their missing child.  They’re having a hard time not working spells too.   Paolo and Renata are determined to find their siblings.

As the countdown continues, the youngest members of the Montana and Petrocci families find themselves relying on each other.  Can they work together to find The Angel of Caprona and rescue their city?

magicians-of-caprona-3I love Diana Wynne Jones, and I’ve always loved The Magicians of Caprona.  (It’s also a bit of an Old Favorite.)  In this parallel world, Caprona is one of the city states that make up Italy.  Most of the cities are at war with each other, trying to take over the country.  Florence and Venice want Caprona and it’s spells for themselves.   The Magicians of Caprona originally came out in 1980, and is one of the Chrestomanci books.  The nine-lived enchanter Chrestomanci has a very brief appearance in this one though, although his sense of style and his demeanor make as much of a splash as they usually do.

Gerald Doyle narrates this title; he does most of the Diana Wynne Jones books.  I love his voice, it’s very smooth, and his accent is quite enjoyable.  He does a wonderful job making characters sound different, without changing his voice too much.  I would recommend any of the books he narrates–I’ve never been disappointed with his performances.

I would highly recommend The Magicians of Caprona, both as a book to read and an audio book for kids ages 8 and up.  With it’s subtle humor and intriguing setting, it would be as accessible for adults  listening in the car on a family trip as well as kids and teens.

Fun Summer Read #6

A mystery series, for any observant kids!

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Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, by Donald J. Sobolencyclopedia brown 1

Mr. and Mrs. Brown had one child, they called him Leroy.  To everyone else in Idaville, he’s known as Encyclopedia.  Why Encyclopedia?  Because this unassuming boy has more knowledge in his head than a whole set of encyclopedias!  But Encyclopedia Brown uses this knowledge for good; for solving crimes and figuring out mysteries.

Encyclopedia’s father is the Chief of Police in Idaville, and because of his ten year old son, no criminal has escaped arrest, nor has there has been a single boy or girl who’s gotten away with breaking a single law in their town.  Some of the crimes come to his attention from other kids in the neighborhood, some of them Chief Brown brings to the dinner table.  Encyclopedia doesn’t do it all on his own.  His best friend Sally is his muscle, and lots of other kids in town like to help, if they can.

See if you’re as smart as Encyclopedia Brown!  Each mysterious crime is presented with all the clues that encyclopedia brown seriesthe boy detective uses to solve the case.  Can you figure them out along with Encyclopedia Brown?

A fun series that will challenge your skills of observation and your ability to read carefully for clues!  Read with a parent, sibling or friend, and see who figures out the mystery first…before you turn to the back to look at the solution.  With 29 books (the list goes up to 28, but there’s a 15 1/2) with at least 8  chapters in each, you will have plenty of chances!

Happy Reading!

::Kelly::

 

Old Favorite: Annie

With the release of the new Annie DVD this month, it seems like the perfect time to talk about the book Annie!  Usually my old favorites are stories that started as books, not as comic strips, or Broadway shows, or any other kind of media, but let’s make an exception in this case.

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AnnieEleven year old Annie is an orphan, living in the New York City Municipal Orphanage, Girls’ Annex under the care of Miss Hannigan.  She’s the only girl in the orphanage with parents.  True, they left her there, but they also left a note that they were coming back to get her.  So Annie waits.  And deals with Miss Hannigan.

The other girls are sometimes kind, sometimes mean, but they all stick together when it comes to Miss Hannigan.  For some reason though, Annie seems to be the girl she picks on the most, with extra chores, less food, and more punishments.  And one day, Annie has had enough.  She is not going to wait until she’s sixteen to be released, she’s going to run away and take her life into her own hands.  So she does.

Annie 2Even though she has nothing but a raggedy sweater in the New York winter cold, Annie still thinks she’s better off on the streets.  She finds a place to stay in the warm basement of a restaurant in exchange for washing windows and cleaning.  When she finds a dog and ends up in Hooverville, she still thinks she’s doing okay.  But then she’s caught and brought back to the orphanage, just in time to catch her first really big break.  She’s waiting to be punished when Grace Farrell, the representative of millionaire Oliver Warbucks, shows up to take in an orphan and improve his public image.  For some reason, Miss Farrell and Annie connect, and the elegant woman brings Annie (and her dog) to Mr. Warbucks’ mansion.

Can Annie convince Oliver Warbucks that a girl orphan is just as good as a boy orphan?  Can she find a home with Mr. Warbucks and his staff?  Or will the dream of finding her real parents win out over the new life she’s living?

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Of course, you probably know the ending.  Unless you’ve been living without a TV or DVD player for all your life, you’ve most likely seen it in one version or another.  Annie started this incarnation as a Broadway musical in 1977, starring Andrea McArdle, Reid Shelton and Dorothy Loudon.  It played to sold-out audiences, and everyone was humming the songs.  (And oh, I wish they had made a video recording, not just a soundtrack, available with the original cast!)  In 1982, Annie was made into a movie musical, starring Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney and Carol Burnett.  In 1999, the Disney Channel made an Annie movie starring Alicia Morton, Victor Garber and Kathy Bates.  (Just FYI, this is my favorite version.) Just last year, the newest version of Annie came out starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.  That’s a lot of Annies!

Thomas Meehan wrote the script for the original Broadway musical Annie.  After the success of the musical, he adapted his script into a novel for young readers.  Annie, the book, is a fun take on the Little Orphan Annie story.   In the forward to the book, he tells of how he started working on the story for the musical in 1972, and went to the source for inspiration.  The Little Orphan Annie comic strip ran in newspapers from 1924 to 1968, and was at the height of its popularity during and right after the Great Depression.  The story of a irrepressible and plucky orphan who wouldn’t let circumstances defeat her obviously drew a lot of admirers in a time where things were not always happy.

When Mr. Meehan finished researching, he realized that he basically had some great characters, but no story.  So he wrote his own story for Annie, including many elements from the comics and from the time period, added a little bit of Dickens and a mystery to be solved.  However, when he finished his script, it would have taken almost four hours to perform!  So he had to pare it down to a two hour show.

Luckily for readers, in 1980, he decided to take all the extra story elements that had been cut from the performance, weave it back into the storyline of the musical, and publish Annie: A novel based on the beloved musical.  And he won a Tony Award for the Best Book of a Musical.

So if you like the musical Annie, and you’d like to see a little more background for Annie, her friends, her family and her…Miss Hannigan, then you’ll enjoy this book.  It was reissued in 2013, but for some reason, we were the only Minuteman Library to buy it!  I do miss the illustrations from the 1980 original, but I do love the added introduction.  And now, I think I’ll go sing (to myself!) Tomorrow

Enjoy!  And if you read Annie, let me know if you liked it.

::Kelly::

Old Favorite: Hangin’ Out with Cici

It’s the return of Old Favorites!  This time, with a book for teens.  Or mothers.  Or people who were teenagers in the 70s.  Or the 70s.  Or all of the above!

Do people say that you look–or act, or behave–just like your mother? Do you get tired of being compared to her?  Have you ever wished you could have met your mother as a kid and figure out if when she says “Well, when I was a kid, we did it THIS way!” it was actually true?   Told her that she should be easier on her kids when she has them? Seen what kind of parents your grandparents were?  Meet people you’ve heard of, but who were gone before you were born?

If you’ve ever felt that way, you’ll really like Hangin’ Out with Cici, by Francine Pascal.

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hanging out with cici 3It’s been a long time since Victoria got along with her mother. When she was twelve, things were mostly  fine.  But now that she’s in eighth grade, her mother seems to criticize everything about her, from her messy room to the clothes she wears to her choice in friends.  And she’s SO overprotective!  Victoria feels like she can’t do anything her classmates are allowed to do.   So to retaliate, she picks fights.  She complains.  She even gets caught smoking at school. She causes problems problems that make her mother despair at her behavior, and to ask Victoria if she actually hates her.

hangin out with cici 2Victoria’s grandmother often steps in and tells her that her mother has a difficult job, and that Victoria  should make it easier.  That Victoria’s mother caused her own share of troubles when she was young, so she does understand. That her mother loves her, even if Victoria thinks that all she does is pick at her.  Victoria thinks her grandmother is cool, and that she has to be exaggerating about her mother causing trouble.  Her mother, after all, must have been a perfect kid.  As if to prove her coolness, her grandmother even makes peace between them after the smoking incident, and convinces Victoria’s mother to relax her grounding long enough to let Victoria take the train into the city, where she had plans to go to her older cousin’s party.

Hanging out with cici 1But even that goes wrong, and after a big fight with her sister, Victoria’s mother is already pretty angry with her when she leaves on the train.  But at the party, Victoria gets caught doing something horrible (that she really didn’t do), and her aunt calls her mother.  Victoria’s mother is absolutely furious, after everything, this is the final straw.  Even though Victoria tries to explain, she is told to leave immediately and come home; her mother even mentions boarding school.  Thinking over all the events of the day and everything over the last couple years that led up to the fights with her mother and her bad behavior, Victoria is genuinely regretful.  All she wants is for her mother to like her again. Getting on the train to go home, she wishes she could fix what she did.  She wishes that she could go back in time and change all the things that put her in this place, to change all the behavior that put her at odds with her mother, to go back in time and…   There’s a sharp turn by the train, a pain in Victoria’s neck, and things go black.

hanging out with cic 4She opens her eyes, and she looks at the people around her, who seem to have a very bad sense of style.  The train seems noiser and more crowded.  The station looks cleaner.  When she gets off the train, the conductor calls her “Smiley” and tells her that things can’t be as bad as she thinks–just as he did when she got on the train.  But it can’t be the same man; he’s at least  fifty years younger than the conductor who greeted her when she got on the train.  Maybe they’re father and son?

Victoria soon has bigger problems though.  At first she thinks that everyone in the neighborhood is dressed funny for some big event, then she thinks that she’s in the middle of filming a movie, then she thinks that she’s going bananas.  She grabs on to the first person who looks familiar–a girl about her own age who says her name is Cici.  Cici invites her to join her  and Victoria accepts.  As they spend the afternoon getting into trouble around New York City, Victoria realizes that Cici is just as much a troublemaker as she is.  A kindred spirit!  But Victoria knows that she doesn’t know Cici.  So why does she look so strangely familiar..?  By the time Victoria meets Cici’s mother…a younger version of her own grandmother…it’s obvious that somehow, Victoria has gone back in time.  This new teenage mother is fun, but how can Victoria get back to her own time and her own mother to apologize?

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Hangin’ Out with Cici was published in 1977, and was a hugely popular book at the time.  (At least, in my school it was!)   Francine Pascal, the author, went on to great success as the author of the Sweet Valley High series, followed by Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley University, the Francine Series and the Fearless trilogy.  Hangin’ Out with Cici was her first book, and it was followed by two other books about Victoria–My First Love & Other Disasters and Love & Betrayal & Hold the Mayo.  Neither sequel was quite as popular as the first book, but they would also rank up there as “old favorites” with many people.  Hangin’ Out with Cici was so popular, it was made into an Afterschool Special called My Mother was Never a Kid.

In Hangin’ Out with Cici, Victoria is 14 in 1977; Cici was 14 in 1944.  Going in back in time puts Victoria right in the middle of  World War II, hanging out with her teenage mother dealing with rationing, blackouts, friends and families with fathers and brothers and grandfathers away at war, relatives that are missing or overseas in the middle of the battles (or worse) and everything else that WWII entailed.  Victoria knew that her mother grew up in a time where life was difficult, but the difference between seeing something happen and hearing about something thirty years later is huge. Because of the things she observes and talks to Cici about, Victoria starts to understand more about where her mother is coming from–why she worries and where her strengths originate.  Even though her mother is also a bit of a troublemaker who worries her own mother, she doesn’t mean any harm.  Victoria starts to understand how she’s hurting her mother with her actions. She also has a couple heart-to-hearts with Cici, which reveal some surprising truths about both girls.

As a teenager, reading the book in the 70s, and knowing that my mother had grown up around the same time, it was a real eye opener.  Today’s teens might not have that same awareness, as they’d have to go back an extra generation (or maybe even two!) to find a teenage relative in the midst of World War II.  Still, reading this book might remind today’s teen that  your mother was a kid once, and is still that same kid underneath.  Just with several years of life experience since that time.

The book is out of print, and Weston Library is the only Minuteman Library that still owns a copy of Hangin’ Out with Cici.  (Even so, ours has a terrible binding, and is a little fragile.)   Our copy was in the Juvenile collection, but after re-reading it, I am moving it to the Teen collection.  Some of Victoria’s choices are rather troublesome, so it’s best for sixth through ninth graders.  It’s pretty short–only 152 pages–so it’s a quick read.  It’s a lot of fun though, and would be a perfect choice for a book discussion group for mothers and daughters.

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If you do read and enjoy Hangin’ Out with Cici, stop by and let me know what you thought!

::Kelly::

 

 

 

October Display: Witches and Old Favorites!

Witches seem to be making a comeback in Children’s books this fall!  Two old favorite titles and one author have all come back into print…after a couple decades of only being able to find them by scouring library book sales, family yard sales and used book stores.  So exciting!

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little witchLittle Witch, by Anna Elizabeth Bennett was featured as an Old Favorite in this blog way back in our very first year!  The book has now come out with a 60th anniversary edition, and it has lost none of it’s charm in all those years.  Any reader who loves The Rainbow Fairies will enjoy this tale of Minikin Snickasnee, the daughter of a witch who wants only to make some friends.  Of course, when friendship leads to testing out her mother’s potions, things get dangerous…fast!

Little Witch is consistently one of the top books on the “most in demand” annual list of out of print books.  It’s wonderful that after thirty years, it’s back!

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little leftover witchThe Little Leftover Witch, by Florence Laughlin is another charming tale, back in print after over 40 years.  Felina is a little witch who broke her broom on Halloween night, which left her stranded in a tree outside Lucinda Doon’s window.  Lucinda manages to convince the little witch to come in and meet her parents,  When Felina tells them that she cannot return  to her witch world until the next Halloween, the Doons decide to give her and her cat Ichabody a home.  But an untamed little witch does not make for a good house guest!  Soon the Doons are helping Felina with everything from brushing her hair to learning not to curse…in the spell-casting kind of way.  What happens over the course of that year will change Felina, Lucinda and the Doons forever.

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And then there’s Ruth Chew, an author I adored when I was in elementary school.  Her books have been out of print for a couple decades, and have been sought by the kids who read them since them.  Not many survived, since they were mostly paperbacks, and the paper quality wasn’t the best.  So I was extremely happy to hear that Random House is bringing back all her books, releasing two to three each season until her whole catalog is out again.

They’re starting with two favorites: What the Witch Left and No Such Thing as a Witch.

What the Witch LeftIn What the Witch Left, Katy and Louse find a key which opens the forbidden bottom drawer of a dresser.  The drawer was locked years ago when Katy’s Aunt Martha left some valuables there.  The girls aren’t impressed with the “junk” they find in the drawer, until Katie tries on what looks like an old robe…and vanishes!  It’s an invisibility cloak!  As the girls find out what each item does, their adventures take them all around the world.  Who knew that aunt Martha was a witch!

no such thing as a witchIn No Such Thing as a Witch, Nora and her brother Tad have always been a little uneasy about their neighbor, Maggie Brown.  The old lady seems nice, but strange things seem to happen around her house. Things like squirrels reading newspapers and talking dogs.  It all seems to be connected to the fudge Maggie makes.  Nora discovers that one piece makes you love animals; after two pieces you will be able to understand animal languages. Three pieces make people act like an animal, and four pieces..?  You’re in trouble!

The next two titles will be released in the spring of 2014.  I don’t know what they are yet, but I hope one of them will be The Wednesday Witch, which was my absolute favorite of all Chew’s titles.  There are still a few libraries that own the original title.  It’s definitely worth requesting from another Minuteman Library if you are a new Ruth Chew fan.

Even though they’re older books, the stories (especially Little Witch and The Little Leftover Witch) are timeless.  I would say that they’re a solid third grade reading level, but are accessible to kids in second through fourth grades.  They’re also fun to read-aloud, especially at this time of year.  If you check our catalog (as I did this evening) you’ll find that the books are already checked out!  So it might be best to put in a request if you want to read any of them.

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Because I was so excited about the return of these four titles, I made a witch display at the library to feature them!   If you’re looking for one of these books, or any other tales featuring witches, come check it out.  If you’d like to try a witchy recipe or craft, or see a booklist about witches, check out our first October Newsletter, featuring…witches, of course!  And here it is:

monthly newsletter oct13 witches

(If you do happen to visit us at the library, check out Bella’s costume.  She’s very proud of it.)

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Happy Halloween!

::Kelly::

Old Favorite: Romeo and Juliet Together (and alive!) At Last

It’s the rare book that will make a variety of readers unexpectedly laugh out loud.  But when you do find one, it’s a book to treasure.  The Vicar of Nibbleswicke and The BFG always make me laugh, (especially the chapter called Frobscotters and Whizzpoppers in The BFG I challenge anyone to read that aloud without completely cracking up.)  Actually, most Roald Dahl books have a few LOL chapters!  There are moments with Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins that make me chuckle, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Fudge-a-Mania always make me grin foolishly.  But nothing has ever caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud (in my dentist’s office, no less!) than Romeo and Juliet Together (and alive!) At Last, by Avi.

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romeo and juliet together and alivePeter Saltz likes Anabell Stackpoole. It’s a new thing (only two days old, in fact) but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s in love.  Ed Sitrow has been Peter’s best friend for forever, and when Peter confesses his love to Ed, Ed knows he has to do something to get them together.  The idea hits him in English class, where they’re studying Shakespeare.

Have Peter and Anabell act out the greatest love story of all time: Romeo and Juliet.

romeo and juliet together and alive 2Ed gets together his friends Hays, Radosh and Lucy, then asks Priscilla Black to join them because she’s Anabell’s best friend. Hamilton, the kind of obnoxious kid every class has, overhears their “secret meeting” and manages to butt his way into the group.  Together, Ed and his friends decide that the best way to get Saltz and Stackpoole together is to put on a play of Romeo and Juliet, with Peter and Anabell in the starring roles. It will be a lot of work, but for Saltz, they’re willing to do it.  They figure they can get costumes, build some sets, write an abridged script and have enough after school rehearsals in to present a polished performance in, well…two weeks.  Their teachers seem a little doubtful that they can pull it off, but the kids know they can do it. Of course, they still have to talk Peter and Anabell into the lead roles.  And come up with the costumes.  And the script and sets.  And find time for rehearsals.

romeo and juliet together and alive 3Easy, peasy!  Er…maybe?

Between sets that feature ice-covered log cabins, fight scenes between mortal (for middle school, anyway) enemies, wobbly balconies and extremely shy lead actors (who know they’ll have to, eventually, kiss) the production is soon underway.  Nobody quite knows what is going to happen, but it will definitely be THE most memorable production of Romeo and Juliet ever put on by an eighth grade class!

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Romeo and Juliet Together (and alive!) At Last is the sequel to S.O.R. Losers, which is also about Ed and Peter…and their not-so-winning soccer team.  You don’t need to read that book to enjoy this one, but  S.O.R. Losers is another Old Favorite  which is definitely worth reading.

I loved Romeo and Juliet Together (and alive!) At Last when I first read it (and laughed in the dentist’s office) and each and every time I’ve read it again since then.  Avi has the voice of his eighth-grade characters down pat, as well as their well-meant but bumbling efforts as matchmakers, playwrights, actors and stuntmen.  If you know Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, it adds an extra element of fun to the book, but it’s not necessary.  I guarantee you’ll laugh out loud at least one time, and probably throughout the whole performance of the play.

When I read this book, it made me wish that I had friends like Ed and Lucy and even Hamilton when I was in middle school.  Even if their efforts didn’t produce exactly the result they were intending, they certainly made an impression on everyone involved.

I often wish Avi had written a few more books featuring the kids at the S.O.R Middle School, but instead he went on to win several notable children’s literature prizes with other books instead, like Newbery Honors for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth, as well as a Newbery Medal for Crispin: The Cross of Lead.  I guess he can’t be faulted for that!  Still, if he’d like to revisit Saltz, Sitrow, Stackpoole and the other kids of S.O.R. Middle School, I’d be cheering!

Romeo and Juliet Together (and alive!) At Last is a short book…only 123 pages. It features eighth graders, but the story is accessible to kids in fifth grade and up. And anyone who has ever loved Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet seriously owes it to themselves to read this book.

(and let me know if you laughed out loud too.)

::Kelly::

LOL!

Old Favorite: Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Okay, for this week’s “Old Favorite” I’m cheating.  Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys isn’t really that old (2005) but…it’s so perfect for this week that I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather write about.  And it definitely is a favorite.  So…Here we go.  Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys, by Kate Brian.

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Megan Meades Guide to the McGowan BoysMegan Meade is happy at Fort Hood.  Her parents have finally stopped their lifetime of traveling from army base to army base and settled down for good.  Megan has spent three consecutive years at Fort Hood, a record in her wandering life.  She’s making good grades, she’s on the state championship soccer team, she has her learner’s permit, she has a best friend named Tracey and she’s finally worked up the courage to talk to Ben, the guy she’d love to date, right before the start of her junior year.  She’s *happy*!

And then her parents sit her down and announce that her Dad has earned another transfer. To South Korea. For two  whole years.

Megan, for the first time in her life, puts her foot down.  She refuses to go. She even has a bit of a temper tantrum, something that she’s never done before.  Her parents offer a compromise; she can to go Boston and stay with her father’s med school roommate, John McGowan, and his family.  Megan still will be changing schools and locations, but she’ll still able to join a championship soccer team, and she can live in one place for the two years and finish high school in the U.S.

The drawback?  John McGowan has sons.  Lots of sons. And Megan doesn’t exactly have the best memories from their previous meetings. When they were kids, the boys were one unidentifiable group, who had sticky faces and missing teeth. They lassoed her to a tree, hung her upside down, had worms in their pockets and pulled her hair.  Megan at sixteen is barely able to talk to boys, but now she’s supposed to live with seven of them?  Still, soccer. And living stateside. And high school!

When she meets them again, Megan finds that the McGowan boys have grown up a lot since she last saw them. They’re…gorgeous.  There’s Evan, who once blew snot bubbles at her and hit her over the head with a wiffle bat but who now looks like an Olympic god.  There’s Finn, who’s in her class, also a Greek god, and an artist.  There’s Sean, the mysterious brooder who works on bikes and is in a band.  Doug, who looks like the second coming of Eminem. Miller, the sports fan. And Ian and Caleb, the two youngest, the only ones who won’t be in the high school with Megan and the older brothers. The seem to be a little more like the boys she remembers, but they’re still cute.  Maybe it won’t be that bad?

But real life drops Megan right in the middle of boy chaos, and she finds that the McGowans haven’t grown up enough.  Megan’s first morning with includes dropping her bathroom supplies in front of the older boys and getting teased,  finding all her t-shirts defaced with anatomical drawings and having her bra stolen by the younger boys.  Megan revises her opinion; the McGowans are monsters!

Megan’s e-mails to her friend Tracey start to include observations on the McGowans.  It’s the only way to keep her sanity!

When Megan starts the school year, she does find out that there are advantages and disadvantages to having seven ready-made brothers. From soccer to assignments to parties and friends, the McGowans are everywhere she turns, in the house and outside of it. Only Megan discovers that she really doesn’t want to think of them as brothers, because any way you look at it, those McGowan boys are hot.  So she makes her observations to Tracy and learns everything there is to know about boys.  Or so she thinks…

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Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys is funny and touching, and exasperating and full of truths.  It’s a great read about boys and girls and the differences between them, about brothers and about what makes a good boy friend.  Or maybe, a good boyfriend.  Also soccer and girl friends and sisters and friendship.  (And if you’re a girl who doesn’t  have brothers, this is a “must-read”.)

Kate Brian is the author of the Private series and the Privilege series.  She’s written several other books that are popular, among them Sweet 16, The V Club, and Lucky T.  Her newest book, Shadowlands, about two sisters who have to go into the Witness Protection program, just came out in January.  Kate Brian is a pseudonym, and under her real name, Kieran Scott has written several other titles, including the I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader trilogy and She’s So Dead to Us series.

There’s not much history to Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys, since it’s not even ten years old.  There’s only one cover, even!  When we did our most popular teen checkouts for the past ten years, it came out in the top 75, right before A Wrinkle in Time.  That may be because our staff recommends it frequently, but it might also be because most of the teens who read it recommend it to friends. It’s has huge word-of-mouth popularity.

There is some frank (and funny) discussion between Megan and Tracey about the motivations behind boys’ behavior.  There’s also several scenes on the consequences of “hooking up” at a high school party, and a bit of drinking, but nothing graphic.  Still, for those reasons, this is probably more appropriate for upper middle school and high school readers.

So if we’re snowed in again this winter, or if you want a fun Valentine’s Day read, grab Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys. See if you like it as much as we all do.

::Kelly::