Shanea Goldizen

Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

There are six things very wrong with my life:

  1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
     
  2. It is on my nose.
     
  3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
     
  4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic “teachers."
     
  5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.
     
  6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

And so begins Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. It is the diary of Georgia, a British fourteen-year-old whose wit and dry humor will keep you laughing out loud and receiving annoyed looks from your sister who’s “trying to do her homework.”

Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer

Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer

New York Times-bestselling author and illustrator Ian Falconer wrote the first book in the Olivia series after being inspired by his little niece. Since that first book, he has written a handful more starring that mischievous little pig using his signature minimalist style in black and white with a splash of red here and there.

Everyone’s favorite black and white pig is back in Olivia Goes to Venice. It’s vacation time, and Olivia is going to Venice with her family. Even before they depart, Olivia shows her fabulous flare and tendency for drama while she’s packing her suitcase with flippers and water skis, “Mother, apparently the city is often under water and –”, and even going through airport security, “As they went through the airport, Olivia was searched for weapons. She was very pleased.”

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

On her wedding night, Cordelia Grey catches the last train to leave Union, Ohio. With her is her slight but talented friend Letty Haubstadt. Their destination is the end of the line: fabulous, roarin’ New York City. Both girls are escaping their boring, unhappy lives in Ohio and fleeing to New York where they hope to find what they are looking for. Cordelia seeks her father, whom she believes to be the infamous bootlegger Darius Grey. Letty wants nothing more than a microphone before her, a dazzling dress to wear and an enraptured audience to sing to.  Set in New York City in the final year of the Roaring Twenties, Anna Godbersen’s Bright Young Things focuses on three young women who, like the rest of the United States, are on the verge of a terrible encounter with reality.

Jumpy Jack and Googily by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall

Jumpy Jack and Googily

Jumpy Jack and Googily, by Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall, is about the very special friendship of Jumpy Jack the snail and his pal, Googily. Jumpy Jack thinks there could be a monster behind every nook and cranny. Good thing he’s got Googily, who bravely investigates Jumpy Jack’s every fearful suspicion and reassures his friend that no monster could be lurking near. The humor in this sweet account of the exchange between two friends is that Googily himself is a monster, matching the exact description Jumpy Jack provides when he expresses the frightful possibilities his wild imagination creates.

The Centurion’s Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

The Centurion's Wife, by Bunn and Oke

The first time I read one of Janette Oke’s books I was around twelve years old, and since then, whenever I pick up a book written or co-written by her, I know I am in for a captivating story that has a good plot, romance, and an uplifting message. The Centurion’s Wife, which Oke co-wrote with Davis Bunn, is no exception.

The story takes place in Jerusalem and in the surrounding Judean provinces immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and during its controversial aftermath: his burial, resurrection, and appearances before his disciples. The reader experiences all this through the perspectives of two people: Leah and Alban.

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined, by Heather Dixon

Entwined, by Heather Dixon, is a new take on the fairytale of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The twelve sisters live in the kingdom of Eathesbury where their father the king rules with a firm and practical hand. Their mother loves to dance, and her joy and optimism are passed down to her eldest daughter, Azalea. On the eve of her death, their mother makes Azalea promise upon a silver handkerchief that she will take care of her sisters; and Azalea does just that, with the fulfillment of her promise being enforced by the magic of the silver handkerchief.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez

How the Garcial Girls Lost Their Accents

In a reverse chronological sequence of events, Julia Alvarez takes her readers through the immigration experience of the four Garcia sisters: Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Leaving behind a life of privilege surrounded by their large extended family, the four girls move with their Papi and Mami to New York City, and begin the long, never-ending process of assimilating into American culture. The story is as much a coming of age tale as it is a feminist, Latino perspective on American culture, beautifully conveyed with a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary here and there.

The sisters are adults at the beginning of the book, and going back in time, the reader experiences their divorces, marriages, college years, teenage angst and confusion, and efforts to learn English while attending American public schools. Their father’s involvement in a plot against the dictator, the subsequent investigations by the authorities, and the escape with the help of friends and family are all experienced by the reader alongside Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia. Alvarez did a good job of keeping me hooked. The why’s and the how’s unfold further and further the closer the reader gets to the end of the book--which is actually the beginning of the story. 

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

In Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, Pinkalicious is a little girl who is obsessed with pink and cupcakes. On a rainy day, she makes pink cupcakes with her mom. And she can’t stop eating them! She eats so many, in fact, that she turns a bright shade of pink. Pinkalicious is delighted. How perfect that from the top of her head all the way down to the tip of her toes she is the prettiest bubblegum shade of pink!

Even after a bath, Pinkalicious’s dad cannot make the pink go away. Her parents take her to the doctor who prescribes a strict diet of green vegetables and no more pink. No more pink cupcakes?! No more cotton candy?! Not even watermelon?!

This I Believe, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman

 “This I Believe offers a simple, if difficult invitation: write a few hundred words expressing the core principles that guide your life - your personal credo. We issue that invitation to politicians, nurses, artists, construction workers, athletes, parents, students, the famous, and the unknown, everyone. All the essayists in this book accepted invitations.” –Jay Allison

From 1951-1955, The CBS Radio Network aired This I Believe, a five-minute program in which people from all walks of life, the famous and not-so-famous, read their responses to the question “What do you believe?”. From 2005-2009, NPR revived the idea with a similar broadcast, and subsequently published two volumes of "This I Believe" essays. In August of this year, my professor for English 307: The Writing Process gave us an assignment to write a This I Believe essay. We were given copies of the book’s Appendix B: “How to write your own This I Believe essay” and sample essays to read and give us an idea of the format, tone and length. It was a mind-opening assignment, let me tell you. 

Pretty Little Liars

Seventh graders Emily, Spencer, Aria and Hanna worship Alison in Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars. Alison’s the prettiest, most popular girl at Rosewood Day School. When the five girls are thrown together at their school’s charity drive, they quickly become friends. Over a year later, the girls are still friends, but the power Ali wields over them all has them feeling uncomfortable. She knows all of their deep, dark secrets: secrets that could ruin their lives if anyone else found out. When Ali disappears, the four girls are shaken, but also…relieved.

Three years later the girls start getting strange text messages, emails and notes from someone: someone who seems to know all of those secrets that they thought were safe since the disappearance of Ali. The messages get more and more threatening and the girls can’t help but wonder: Is Ali sending the messages? If not, then who?