Book Review: Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo

February 26, 2010

The kisses in Lips Touch, Three Times are not the absent-minded pecks on the cheek, expressions of friendship kinds of kisses. The kisses in these stories are sometimes shy, but also passionate, desperate, and full of longing and expectation. They celebrate life, and they herald death. They are not for the weak of spirit.

Lips Touch, Three Times is written and illustrated by the husband and wife team, Laini Taylor and Jim Di Bartolo. Each of the three stories creates a rich fantasy world that pulls you in so completely you may have difficulty re-entering reality when you put it down.

The stories build in length and complexity. The first, “Goblin Fruit,” is a short piece about Kizzy, a girl who so longs to be kissed, she becomes prey for the goblins. Can the spirit of her grandmother and stories of girls lost before her save Kizzy from the goblin’s kiss?

“Spicy Little Curses Such as These” takes the reader to India, where Estella, an Englishwoman, enters the realm of the dead every day to bargain with a demon for the souls of dead children. The deals she strikes promises an exchange of one soul of a corrupted adult for each child’s soul returned to the land of the living. When an earthquake claims the lives of many children, Estella is able to strike a deal that brings them all back. The price she must pay is to put a curse on a newborn baby girl named Anamique, a curse that will keep her silent or condemn those around her to death. When Anamique grows up, the love of a soldier tests her ability to maintain her silence and protect the life of her love as well as that of her family.

“Hatchling” is the most elaborate and inventive tale of all, creating a world of immortals, the Druj, who long for something they can almost remember having in their now forgotten past. To while away their time they keep girls as pets, casting them off when they grow to be women. Esme and her mother Mab have escaped from Mab’s cage and lived in hiding for fourteen years when Esme’s brown eye turns blue and their entire world turns upside down. With the help of Mihai, a Druj outcast, they hope to rid themselves of the Druj queen forever.

In each story, Di Bartolo’s color illustrations beautifully enhance Taylor’s evocative words to help the tales come alive. Even non-fantasy lovers should find the stories compelling. Topics to discuss include the nature of longing, maintaining self-respect while falling in love, and having the courage to create the life you want to live. Lips Touch is a 2009 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls in high school and all readers over 14.

Book Review: The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater

January 19, 2009


The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater is a treat for mystery lovers, magic lovers and just general book lovers. Daphna and her twin Dexter are as different as twins can be. Daphna loves books and volunteers reading at the local retirement home. Dex skips school and doesn’t want to be anywhere near a bookstore. This puts Dex at odds with his father too, who finds and sells rare books.

But both twins are put out by their dad’s (Milton) latest scouting trip, which kept him away from home for six weeks in the summer. Their mother died when they were young, and they are cared for by her best friend. The mystery really starts when the dad returns home the day before the twins’ 13th birthday, and Daphna takes him to see the labrynthine bookstore she has discovered over the summer. Milton hopes to sell a strange book he has discovered, and when Milton shows his book to the old man who owns the store, Daphna hides behind a stack of books to watch what happens. She is surprised to see that her dad doesn’t negotiate at all. In fact, he gives the book away after agreeing that Daphna herself will show up the next day to work as the old man’s assistant.

Why did her father give away a book he wanted to sell? Why did he agree for her to work as an assistant, starting on her birthday? What is the significance of this book of nonsense that her father found?

Readers will follow the twins as they overcome their differences and work to solve the mystery, which leads back to their mother’s past and threatens their future. My daughter Catherine picked this book up the day it came in and didn’t put it down until she finished it. The mystery kept her turning the pages. And while there is some violence towards the end of the story, it should be appropriate for readers aged 10 and above.