Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Best of 2011

Several of the many items [old and new] enjoyed and recommended by Burbank Public Library staff during 2011 for your consideration:

How do you Hug a Porcupine? by Laurie Isop

Despite the trend towards snark and sarcasm in picture books this year (anyone who has read Klassen’s very funny but more adult-skewing I Want My Hat Back will know what I mean) there are still some very sweet picture books out there that champion caring for others without drifting too far into saccharine-sweet territory. One such story is How do you Hug a Porcupine? From its silly rhymes on how to hug all kinds of animals to the charming, pastel illustrations, this lovely tale is perfect for sharing with little ones or even early readers who will no doubt enjoy the short, simple sentences as they build to the delightful finale--how to hug a porcupine. This is definitely a new Storytime favorite!

Small Persons with Wings (they hate to be called fairies), by Ellen Booraem
Perfect for tweens who have grown out of their Rainbow Fairies stage, Booraem’s main character, 13-year-old Mellie, is a wholly unique character struggling through her own issues as her family discovers they are next in line as guardians of a fairy colony secretly housed in her grandfather’s inn. The fairies, who put on the airs of French aristocrats, are hilarious, particularly in their interactions with logical, down-to-earth Mellie. Perhaps most refreshing, Mellie’s parents are not dead, missing, awful, or cartoonish, but nice people who try to do their best to support and love their daughter even at her most frustrating (she is 13 after all). Despite the seemingly fantastic premise, the characters feel real and the story goes along at an entertaining pace to a satisfying conclusion. I recommend this to fans of the Fablehaven series.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick


A chilling look into the lives of six North Koreans, and particularly relevant with the recent passing of Kim Jung Il, Demick portrays everyday life within one of the most secretive countries in the world. The mass psychology of North Koreans has been dealt with many times before (State of Mind is an excellent documentary on the subject), but never before had I read such poignant personal stories of life growing up under the cult of personality of Kim Il Sung and then his son, Kim Jung Il. The six people Demick portrays represent all walks of life in North Korean society, and they talk of horrific daily struggles with extreme poverty and starvation, the absurdity of the cult of personality that grips the nation, lost love and finally, the moment they decided to make the dangerous journey to flee the only home they had ever known. This was my favorite book of 2011 and I highly recommend it to those interested in world politics, history, or psychology.

Reviewed by Carey V.

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