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January 23, 2008 > Good reads to start 2008

Good reads to start 2008

"Slugs in Love" by Susan Pearson, illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Cavendish hardback, $16.99. (2006)

MaryLou loves Herbie - he's just the slug for her! She lets him know by leaving him a poem. When Herbie reads it he is enchanted though he doesn't know who MaryLou is! In return, he decides to leaves a poem on the bottom of a hoe asking her to meet him. Unfortunately the gardener moves the hoe, and MaryLou never sees it. Oh no! MaryLou, still hopeful, leaves another poem for Herbie. Will these two ever meet?

I have to admit I never thought of slugs as romantic, but this funny book has definitely changed my mind. The illustrations are charming and the text engaging. As you read the poems don't be surprised if you find yourself rooting for the two lonely hearts without thinking about what they are.

Recommended for 1st grade especially for Valentine's Day. Reviewed by dh.

Click, by Scholastic, Inc., Scholastic hardback, $16.99. (2007)

This is a series of short stories, written by various talented authors, all linked together by the fact that Grandpa Gee has died. He traveled the world as a photographer, and met all sorts of people on every continent. He left two items to his grandchildren. To Jason, he left an amazing set of sports photographs, all signed to Jason from famous athletes, some taken before Jason was even born. To Maggie, he left a funny little set of seven drawers, each with a seashell and a letter, along with a note: 'Throw them all back.' In order to understand their inheritance and make peace with Grandpa Gee's past, his two grandchildren will travel the world. Their stories are here for you to revel through.

With talents like David Almond ("Skellig"), Eoin Colfer ("Artemis Fowl"), Linda Sue Park ("Single Shard") and Nick Hornby ("Slam"), it was no surprise that this book was a joy to read. The stories are sometimes about Maggie and Jason, at other times about the people Grandpa Gee met in his travels. A wonderful book for children and adults alike.

Recommended for junior high. Reviewed by dh.

"Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life" by Steve Martin, Scribner hardback, $25.00; Simon Schuster unabridged cd's, $29.95. (2007)

Most young adults know Steve Martin from his movies - some good, some bad. For baby boomers, he is that "wild and crazy guy" in the white three-piece suit doing stand-up comedy and "Saturday Night Live" when it was really funny. Steve Martin is also a playwright ("Picasso at the Lapin Agile") , novelist ("Shopgirl") and children's book author ("The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z!"). In this surprisingly humble autobiography, the reader finds that Martin was not born funny. Certainly, his middle- class family life was not a source of material. Interaction with his family, including a particularly his hard-to-please father, is non-existent. He describes a 50's Southern California that had its restrictions but was less complicated and more innocent. As a boy, he even bicycled to work at the magic shop in Disneyland.

Starting in the Knott's Berry Farm theater, he meticulously works and revamps his material. Then he develops his unique style in small comedy clubs until one day he is a lone man on stage in front of huge stadium-sized audiences. His act took ten years to develop. After four years at the pinnacle, Martin walks away from live performances without regrets.

"Born Standing Up" is not your typical celebrity biography - he doesn't overdo name-dropping and he is too discreet to trash anyone. You get the feeling that writing an autobiography was a revelation to him. It's always painful to re-live moments of fear, loneliness and rejection. This balances well with stories about his ultimate success.

The book is a fun read. However, the audio book read by him is terrific because there is that hint of awkwardness when talking about himself and true feeling when describing his need to reach out to his father.

Recommended for teens and adults. Reviewed by jp.

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