Thursday, December 14, 2006
Anyway, last, but not least is Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco.
This is another unusual Christmas tale because the main character, Welcome Comfort, is a foster child who is befriended by the school janitor. I don't want to spoil any suprises but I love Polocco's idea of who Santa Claus really is.
Even the end papers are amazing
It's fun to look for illustrations by some of your favorite illustrators like this one by Ian Falconer.
Since the proceeds are going to such a great cause, you have a good excuse to add it to your collection!
The Twelve Days of Christmas
The Night Before Christmas
The Christmas Alphabet
And his newest book, Christmas, which is actually a small book designed to be a stocking stuffer. It uses some of the Christmas Alphabet pop-ups to spell Christmas.
Patricia Polocco has several holiday books, and this is certainly not the most popular, but it's my favorite. There aren't many picture books out there that involve both Christmas and Hannukah and this one combines them so beautifully.
I'm borrowing the publisher's description:
TRISHA LOVES THE eight days of Hanukkah, when her mother stays home from work, her Babushka makes delicious potato latkes, and her Grampa carves wonderful animals out of wood as gifts for Trisha and her brother. In the middle of her family's preparation for the festival of lights, Trisha visits her closest neighbors, expecting to find them decorating their house for Christmas. Instead they are all bedridden with scarlet fever. Trisha's family is one of the few who has been spared from the epidemic. It is difficult for them to enjoy their Hanukkah feast when they know that their neighbors won't be able to celebrate their holiday. Then Grampa has an inspiration: they will cut down trees, decorate them, and secretly deliver them to the neighbors. "But what can we decorate them with?" Babushka asks. Although it is a sacrifice, Trisha realizes that Grampa's carved animals are the perfect answer. Soon her living room is filled with trees-but that is only the first miracle of many during an incredible holiday season.
Based on a long cherished childhood memory, this story celebrates the miracle of true friendship.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Mr. Merriweather begins his holidays season with his usual strand of lights and wreath on the door, but after being goaded by a neighbor he becomes determined to put together an amazing Christmas Extravaganza. It gathers so much attention that is makes the neighbors anger and Mr. Merriweather is so caught up in decorating that he doesn't have time left for his family.
The books manages to be a good reminder to us all without getting too sentimental. It also ends on a humorous note that kids will enjoy.
Monday, December 11, 2006
The six Herdman children have the reputation of being the worst kids in town so church members shudder when the Herdmans show up to be in the Christmas Pageant after hearing the cast gets free cake. I know this is a Christmas classic that most of you are familiar with, but I've been surprised the number of people that I've recently met who have not read this book. It's hilarious and heartwarming. This is a great book for those who wail that Christmas has become too commercial and want a reminder of what it's areally all about.
One of my best friends' family reads this together every Christmas because it one of the few Chrismtas books that appeals to both the young and old.
Friday, December 08, 2006
I love receiving holiday treats from my friends and neighbors, but Larry and I are not the best bakers so instead of spending time in the kitchen we tend to alternate gifting forced bulbs or paperback Christmas books. This year, since so many of our neighbors have little ones, I selected Santa Claus The World's Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee so that's the first book that I'm going to highlight. If you you don't have a copy of this book in your collection it's a great one to pick up (or maybe you'll be getting one from me).
The book begins:
Then it goes on to cover how Santa carefully prepares for Christmas and has some hilarious illustrations of Santa testing the toys. My favorite line is, "He gives the exact right toy to the exact right kid, 99.9% of the time . . . no one is perfect. Not even Santa Claus." I can picture many a parent referring to this picture book when a child is upset that Santa didn't bring them what they wanted.
The illustrations are simple with a lot of white space and the text is short so it's a great book to read with a toddler, but older kids will enjoy it too because it's really quite funny and of course Marla Frazee's Santa is very endearing.
- Classic authors (like Beatrix Potter)
- Cybils finalists
- Westward progression or settlement of the West
- Ohio/Columbus authors
- New works by past favorites
- Historical fiction
- Favorite picture books
- Robert McCloskey
- Science fiction
- Mother/daughter or mother/son stories (coming to terms)
Monday, December 04, 2006
The Book Thief by Markus Zusack
The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Monday, November 20, 2006
First the DON'Ts:
- Don't innundate an editor with calls and letters and emails once you've submitted something. Wait patiently then followup gently with an email or postcard. She said she likes it when an author follows up with a letter and includes a postcard with postage paid that has boxes that she can check off to let them know where she is with their manuscript i.e. I'm not interested, this manuscript is still in consideration, I did not receive this manuscript please send it.
- Don't tell an editor, "This still needs work, but that's what you are for." You better be sending your very best work and consider hiring a freelance editor before submitting if you need help with spelling, grammar, etc.
- In a picture book every word better matter.
- When you're writing a query don't be a robot, be a person and let your personality shine through.
- Don't be afraid to cut before you send a manuscript to an editor.
- Don't depend on secondary sources, talk to experts and view the primary sources yourself.
Now the DO's:
- Create a loveable, memorable character.
- If you're getting specific feedback from an editor keep sumitting your future work as your writing improves.
- Remember non-fiction shelf life is longer than most fiction.
- Know what's going on in schools and how your writing might support current curriculum
- Find a fresh way to approach your topic.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Fans of Ella Enchanted will be so happy to learn that Gail Carson Levine has published her own version of Snow White and it has numerous connections to Ella Enchanted. Ella’s best friend was Areida, a girl from the kingdom of Ayortha. Fairest takes place in Ayortha and the main character is Aza, a 15 year-old girl who was adopted by Areida’s family after she was abandoned at the inn they run when Aza was only one month old.
Aza has always assumed that she was abandoned because she is so ugly and out of place in a kingdom that highly values beauty. She is larger and wider than everyone else and her pale skin and black hair seem strange among the other Ayorthaians. She spends her time helping at the inn trying to avoid the guests who can’t help but gawp at her, but Aza is not without her charms. The Ayorthaians also value singing voices and she was born singing arias instead of crying. One day while cleaning a room she discovers she has the ability to throw her voice in a magical way which she calls illusing.
One of the inn’s frequent guests is a duchess who becomes fond of Aza because Aza cares for her pet. When her traveling companion becomes ill she chooses Aza to attend the King’s wedding with her. Aza is terrified at the prospect, but upon arriving at the castle she meets the Queen-to-be and after she discovers Aza’s illusing powers, they become quick friends. At first when the queen asks Aza to be her Lady-in-waiting, she doesn’t suspect ulterior motives, but they soon become clear and Aza is stuck working for the Fairest of them All.
I found this book a little heavier than Ella Enchanted; maybe because there’s so much negative focus on Aza’s appearance or maybe because there isn’t as much humor in it. I love figuring out the elements of Snow White that the author decided to keep and the connection to Ella Enchanted (another gift from the fairy Lucinda is causing trouble in this novel too). I really enjoyed Gail Carson Levine’s unusual twists that make Fairest so much more than just a Snow White story.
I was a little bothered with how passive Aza was, but I guess that’s just the nature of Snow White. I’d still highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good fairytale.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
*Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
*The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
*Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
*The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
*Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
-Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
*The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
*Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Mitten by Jan Brett
*Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
*Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
*Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
*Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
*Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
*Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss
*Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
*Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
*Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
*The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
*How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
*The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
*Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
*Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne (I've read some, but not all)
*The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I was totally addicted to this series in third and fourth grade)
*Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
*Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
*Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
*Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
*The BFG by Roald Dahl
*The Giver by Lois Lowry
*If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
*James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
*Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
*The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
*The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner (this was a school assignment and I don't remember a thing about it other than the fact that I had to read it)
*Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
-Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien (I was terrified by the cartoon)
*Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
-The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
*Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
*The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
*Corduroy by Don Freeman
*Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
*Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
*Matilda by Roald Dahl
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
*Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
*Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
*The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
*Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (only the first, so I'm not sure that I can count it)
*Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
*One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
*The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
*The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
*The Napping House by Audrey Wood
*Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
*The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
*Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
* The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
-Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (You've already heard the explanation so please don't hate me!)
*Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
Basil of Baker Street, by Eve Titus
*The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
*The Cay by Theodore Taylor (another school assignment I couldn't tell you about)
*Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
*Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
*Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
*Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
*Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
*The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
*Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
*Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
*Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
*A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
*Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Stuart Little by E. B. White
*Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
*The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
*The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
*Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
*Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwel
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
*Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
*The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
*The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
You can see how Fuse #8 did here
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Read Street, 459 Orange Point Drive, Suite A, Lewis Center, OH 43035 (800) 557-7323
Thurs, 12/7/2006 - Fri, 12/22/2006
Dec. 7th 10 AM - 7 PM
Dec. 8th and 9th 9 AM - 5 PM
Dec. 11th - 14th 10 AM - 7 PM
Dec. 15th - 22nd 9 AM - 5 PM
For those you you who haven't been to a sale, the Scholastic Warehouse Sales are a great place to build up your book collection because everything is at least 50% off the Scholastic price. As usual, this sale is really designed to reward teachers and volunteers for their help selling books, but in the past they didn't seem to mind that I'm not a teacher. They do count homeschoolers as educators so some of you that teach pre-school at home probably qualify that way. You can go to their site for more information or to register early. When you register online they usually give you a coupon too.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Rules by Cynthia Lord is one of those books that I didn’t want to pick up because I thought it was going to be totally driven by its message. Instead it was one of those books that I read late into the night that left me unable to sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Rules is about 12 year-old Catherine who writes rules for her autistic younger brother, David, to help him behave. She reasons that David doesn’t understand things they way most people do, he has to have people explain everything to him, thus the rules are necessary to help him learn things other people would naturally know such as, it’s fine to hug mom, but not ok to hug the clerk at the store.
Catherine is full of anticipation when she learns a girl her age will be moving in next door. She’s determined that they’ll become best friends, but a little worried that David will get in the way. Meanwhile she begins to make another new friend, Jason, as she waits for David during his occupational therapy sessions. Jason is paraplegic and can’t speak so he uses a book of words that he points to in order to communicate.
See, it sounds like a book trying to drill its message into your brain doesn’t it? But it doesn’t come off that way at all. The author carefully balances Catherine’s desire to be normal and her frustration with David with her love for David and the need every twelve-year-old has to be accepted. By the end of the book she learns the difference between rules and excuses.
As much as I enjoyed reading about Catherine’s relationship with her brother and her friends, it was her relationship with her parents that really got to me. Most preteens will be able to really relate to Catherine’s intense need for her parents attention when her parents are focused on other important things. Catherine could have easily come off as mean or selfish during certain points of the book, but Cynthia Lord does a wonderful job letting the reader understand her actions in order to balance things out, and I really appreciated that Catherine was a realistic kid, not a saint. I wasn’t surprised at all to learn that Cynthia is the mother to children, one of which is autistic, because I found myself often wondering how she could be so insightful about the familial relationships in this book.
-And for those of you that have read this book, I didn’t things Arnold Lobel’s Frog & Toad could be nearer and dearer to my heart, but after reading Rules it is.
Friday, November 03, 2006
You might think I have a demented sense of humor for saying this, but Wolves is one of my favorite picture books of the year! Wolves begins with a rabbit going to the library to check out a book about wolves.
As rabbit begins to read the book and is drawn into it, the illustrations of the pages that rabbit is viewing in the book get larger and the reader's apprehension over what's going to happen grows until it looks like this (which sort of reminds me of how the illustrations in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are grow as the story progresses and Max becomes wild).
The text on this page says, "Wolves eat mainly meat. They hunt large prey such as deer, bison and moose. They also enjoy smaller mammals, like beavers, voles and . . . "
You guessed it, "rabbits." I love this illustration because it's not too scary, but it clearly communicates what happened to rabbit.
At this point I know some of you are thinking, "What? This is a children's picture book?" and that is probably why the author included this note on the next page, "The author would like to point out that no rabbits were eaten during the making of this book. It it a work of fiction. And so, for more sensitive readers, here is an alternative ending." After which, we see this illustration with an explanation that this wolf was a vegetarian who shared lunch with rabbit and they became best friends.
Of course, readers who closely examine the next spread will not buy the alternative ending as it shows rabbit's doormat cover with mail that includes a notice for rabbit's overdue copy of Wolves.
I think most kids will find this book very funny. I thought it was rather clever, but the element of the book that I fell in love with was its design. The text of the book doesn't stand alone, it's the pictures that develop it further, as they should in every good picture book. And they make such wonderful use of white space (or cream space in this case) which is rare in the overstimulating picture books we often see these days. The book designer paid attention to every possible detail, even the publication information was formatted to look like a part of rabbit's story. The critical praise on the back cover is all made up to tie in with the story and rabbit puns abound, for example, "'A rip-roaring tail.' - The Hareold"
It's too bad that the author/illustrator is British because I think this book would have been a big contender for the Caldecott Medal, which tends to reward books that challenge the normal format of picture books and have engaging illustrations.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
They have two sessions so hopefully you can make one of them.
Tuesday, November 14th from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Thursday November 16th from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
As with her other novels, Hale continues to address the issues of classes, war, and prejudice in a way that’s not too threatening to her young audience. Underdogs will relate to Razo and root for him to succeed on his mission and succeed in love.
The romance wasn't as appealling to me as the relationships between Finn and Enna and Isi and Geric, but I think Hale got in right because Razo isn't as mature as the other characters and isn't ready for too much in the romance department.
I’m already wondering when the next book in the series will be released. I can’t wait!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I also had to share this quote that I think explains a lot of Van Allsburg's work.
"Lucky are the children who know there is a jolly fat man in a red suit who pilots a flying sleigh. We should envy them. And we should envy the people who are so certain martians will land in their back yard that they keep a loaded Polaroid camera by the back door. The inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it's really a gift. A world that might have Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster in clearly superior to one that definitely does not."
- Chris Van Allsburg
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I’ve been meaning review this book for awhile, but don’t think for a moment that I put off reviewing it because it’s not great. This book was spectacular.
The novel is based on the true story of Jennifer Roy’s aunt Syvia who was one of twelve children who survived the Holocaust in the Lodz Ghetto. It beings in 1939 with 4 ½ year-old Syvia describing the yellow star sewn onto her coat. It follows Syvia and her family as they are forced into the Lodz Ghetto and continues to describe their life until the end of WWII.
Holocaust books for middle grades can be very difficult because they shouldn’t hide the truth, but they shouldn’t be overly graphic and gruesome. Yellow Star walks the fine line perfectly because it’s told from the point of view of a young girl who didn’t always understand the truth and her parents and older sister protected her as much as they could. To support Syvia’s story and prevent any confusion, her story is interspersed with a few brief historical descriptions of the war and the novel contains a detailed timeline at the back of the book.
There are plenty of sad moments, but a few joyful moments too. Since the book begins with the statement that Syvia is one of the children who survived, the readers are spared some anxiety.
Yellow Star is also a good example of one of the few books with a story that is strengthened thru being told in verse. The simplicity of prose matches the descriptions young Syvia lends credit to her perspective as a child.
At the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, Jennifer Roy said her generation was told to “always remember”, but they weren’t told what to remember. In the foreword she said he father was also a Holocaust survivor, but he never talked about it and when he died, his history was lost. I’m certainly glad she was able to preserve Syvia’s experience before it grew too late. Her beautiful story will help children relate to an event that seems so inexplicable to us all.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Read all about the rules here on Big A Little a.
I get to be on the nomination committee for middle grade fiction, which is headed by Fuse #8. I can't wait for discussion to begin!
If you'd like to be a part of things it's not too late. There are still some committee positions open!
From the Publisher
Dylan Hughes is the only lad living in his tiny Welsh town. He helps out in his family’s failing garage, managing the petrol log and keeping track of every single vehicle -- including the mysterious convoy of lorries that trundles up the misty mountainside one day. Local gossip soon sniffs out that the slate mines are being used to harbour a valuable collection of artwork, but Dylans more interested in Renaissance inspired Ninja Turtles than the real thing.... But then Dad leaves home, leaving Dylan man of the house and boss of the struggling business. A masterpiece worth a mint might be just what his family needs.
Wow! Just wow! Can I leave it at that? No? Ok, I’m dying to talk to someone about this book anyway. I have finished several books that I need to review, but as soon as I finished this one last night, I knew it had to take priority.
In Framed, Boyce explores how art affects people much like he explored how money changes people in Millions and the result is magnificent. Both books have fictional premises related to real events that make them seen plausible. In Framed, the National Gallery moves all of its painting to be stored in an abandoned mine to protect them after flooding in London makes them hard to insure in the city. The plot might sound crazy until you learn that during WWII the paintings from the National Gallery actually were packed up and stored in a quarry by a very small town. When Boyce learned about the evacuation, he found himself wondering how the world-famous art might have affected the townspeople and thus Framed was born. Dylan’s town, Manod, actually is so far behind the times one might think the book takes place during WWII if it wasn’t for a few modern references here and there like the Ninja Turtles, the movie The Italian Job, and text messaging.
A few parts of the book did seem a bit odd to me, but with Boyce I’ve come to expect a bit of unexplained quirkiness. The beauty in the book is the inventive characters Boyce creates. There’s not a boring person in the book, and I wouldn’t in a million years have guessed the wonderful ways different paintings would change the characters.
I think most people will love this book, but art enthusiasts will especially appreciate Boyce’s illustrations of the power that a few paintings can have when a handful of people have a chance to connect to them.
I think we need to nominate Frank Cottrell Boyce to Fuse #8's Hot Men of Children's Literature series. Some people probably thought Millions was just a fluke and Boyce is a movie man, not a real children's book author, but after reading Framed I don't think anyone can deny Boyce has established himself as an author, and I hope there is much mor to come from him.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Matteo Alacran was not Born; He was Harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium -- a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt's first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster -- except for El Patron. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself. As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patron's power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect.
For those of you that missed out discussion at book club, I wanted to share my thoughts on this one. As I was halfway through the book, my friend Katherine remarked to me that she felt the same way reading this book as she felt reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card because she felt sorry for the main character who was picked on and disliked by almost everyone around him. I didn’t think much about it until I finished the book and looking back I’m surprised by all of the similarities between The House of the Scorpion and Ender’s Game. On the surface both books seem to have such different plots, but they both boil down to so many of the same main elements. Ender and Matt both stand out as different from everyone around them, but neither of them fully understands why everyone treats them differently. Both are being raised to fulfill important futures that no one bothers to explain to them. Both are relatively uncared for and have potential for evil, but they are each saved by a young girl who loves them and wants them to turn out to be good. After Ender is sent off to school and Matt is sent to a work camp they are both tortured by the other boys, but they earn loyal followers after they prove their bravery and strength. With the help of their new friends, both boys are able to alter the future of the world and accomplish almost impossible tasks.
For all of their similarities, I still felt like Scorpion was an original works the sci-fi fans will love.
Can you think of another book that would fit in with these two? I can’t.
Friday, October 13, 2006
From the Publisher: It's1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and baseball. But nothing's that easy in Penny's family. For starters, she can't go swimming because her mother's afraid she'll catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her Nonny cries every time her father's name is mentioned. And the two sides of her family aren't speaking to each other!
EVERYONE seems to love this book. There are glowing reviews everywhere and if you pick up this book, you will probably love it too so I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I did not love Penny From Heaven. Here’s where the confession gets even more shocking; I think it’s because it sort of reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, which I also did not enjoy (pause for gasps). Ok, let me explain; I know Anne is beloved by many, but I just cringe thinking about all of the crazy situations a “good” kid got herself into. Reading her story I constantly wanted to yell at her to stop what she was doing because I loved her, and I couldn’t stand the anticipation of the trouble she was going to get into. My relationship with Penny was much the same. The story, like’s Anne’s, wasn’t really plot driven, it was more of a slice of her life. Penny kept doing things that I knew would not end well, and I wanted to stop reading to avoid getting to the trouble that I knew was coming. Oh Penny why do you always have to go along with Frankie’s crazy plans?
It didn’t help that I was listening to Penny From Heaven in my car over the same few days that I was reading the Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman at home and since they were set during the same time period and about girls the same age, I kept comparing the two and I related to Francine a lot more. I also felt like I picked up a lot more knowledge about the time period from The Loud Silence of Francine Green so readers wanting to pick up more of a sense of how kids might have been affected by what was going on at the time, might prefer The Loud Silence (although they will learn from Penny From Heaven that some Italian Americans were imprisoned during WWII because some Americans thought of them and the enemy).
And even though I haven’t seen it in anyone else’s review, the prominent stereotypes of Italian Americans in Penny From Heaven bother me quite a bit. Of course Penny’s Italian grandmother has lived in the United States for ages, but hasn’t picked up much English and spends all her time cooking and takes joy in trying to fatten her family up. She’s extremely emotional and always fighting with her daughter-in-law or crying when someone mentions Penny’s father. The character that really bothered me was Penny’s cousin Frankie, and Italian American kid whose dad was in prison who just wanted to grow up to be a gangster and spent all his time reading about them and scheming up plans for his own crimes. Really, did the book have to go there? Do you know a lot of kids who want to grow up to become a famous criminal?
All of that aside, Penny's complicated family relationships are truly touching and I put down the book feeling happy in the end as I suspect many of you will too.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Best Shorts, Selected by AVI
Newbery Medal-winning author Avi has selected short stories from the past and present in this entertaining collection for young readers. And whether you begin by reading alone or reading aloud, these stories are some of the very best to share. Featuring loyal pets, rogue waves, ghosts who use cell phones, and young people caught up in events beyond their control, these stories are written by some of the most entertaining and esteemed authors of children"s literature. They will have you savoring a quiet moment by yourself, talking during dinnertime with your family, and laughing in class with your friends. Though it may take only a few minutes to read, a terrific short story can take you on a long journey. Are you ready for the trip?
Unreal!: Eight Surprising Stories, by Paul Jennings
Two weird, chilling, and wacky story collections from the inimitable Paul Jennings. "Jennings has found the perfect formula for the scary and supernatural sprinkled with just the right touch of humor. . . . Don't miss out on the fun here".--School Library Journal, starred review. (If you can’t get a copy of this, or it’s companion book, Uncanny, try to read any other of his short stories for children.)
Here are my thoughts. I originally started this blog a year and a half ago to keep my fellow children’s literature book clubbers updated about book club. Eventually, I started posting my personal book reviews here instead of my personal blog because I figured the book club members were interested in them and any of my family and friends that were interested could easily read them here too. I am thrilled that other people have started reading this blog, but I still primarily review books here simply to let my friends know what I think about them. If a book I recently read came up during a book club meeting, I wouldn’t feel bad about saying that I didn’t like it, and why should that change on this blog?
Hopefully everyone reading this blog knows that I strongly believe every reader connects to a book differently because they bring different experiences and knowledge with them so each person has a unique interaction with each book they read. I’m always so excited to go to book club and hear that someone else had a completely different reaction to a book than I did because I often learn so much from their explanation of why they felt the way they did about it.
While I hate negative reviews that basically say something to the gist of, “I think this books sucks. Don’t read it.” I find negative reviews that explain the reasons for the reviewer’s dislike so interesting. In fact, a good friend recently told me that she’s never liked the book Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, which happens to be one of my favorite books and I immediately wanted to know more; I wanted to hear why, and I was glad I listened and learned, even if I didn’t agree.
Sometimes I read a negative review and think, “Yikes, I already know this is a book I won’t like. Thanks for the warning.” Other times I read a negative review, and think I might actually like a book for the same reasons a reviewer hated it. I recently heard from two friends who read a review I wrote about a book that I didn’t particularly like and they both went right out and picked the book up because the review made them interested in it, and I think that’s the way it should be.
I wish there was a book God out there that would send me a message every time I finished a book to let me know which book I should pick up next because I will absolutely fall in love with it, but there isn’t. Instead I’ll have to browse on my own and use my good judgment along with a little help from some reviewers and friends whose opinions I’ve grown to respect and appreciate.
Besides, I need to pick up some books I don’t like once in awhile or at least read about them because they make me appreciate other books all that much more.
Friday, September 08, 2006
We discussed Twilight at book club last night and it was killing me not to say anything about New Moon because it answers so many of the questions book club members had about Twilight. I flew through this book just as quickly as Twilight (although I did miss Edward in the middle). Since you’re only reading this if you’ve read Twilight, I’m not writing a summary, I’m just going to dive right in. I really wondered how Meyer, a Mormon author, would continue Bella and Edward’s love story while keeping it relatively clean. As much as I missed Edward in most of this book, keeping him away from Bella for most of the book was definitely a good solution.
I have to say that I loved the comparison/contrast of Bella and Edward to Romeo and Juliet and how they developed to be more than infatuated teenagers. The comparison also fed right into the way Bella felt when Edward left her. It explained why she became so reckless. Meyer did a wonderful job of describing Bella’s depression. The chapter heading of the names of months with blank pages was brilliant.
I was so happy to learn more about Jacob. Stephenie Meyer posted outtakes from New Moon on her Web site and one of them is from Meyer’s first draft of New Moon in which Bella never finds out from Jacob that he’s a werewolf. As much as I missed Edward during this part of the book, when I read the outtake I realized I wouldn’t change the final version. Bella’s struggle over whether or not to give in and become romantically involved with Jacob is so interesting. If your true love was gone from your life forever would you settle for someone that you really cared about, but didn’t love if you knew it would make them happy and keep you from losing your best friend? And by the way, WEREWOLVES!?!?!?!? First I have to admit that I really enjoyed a teenage vampire romance novel, and now I have to admit that I like a teenage werewolf/vampire romance novel. Try explaining that to someone and still get them interested in reading the book, but the beauty of Stephenie Meyer’s writing is that it’s so vivid and it draws you into the story so that by the time you get to the werewolves, you absolutely can’t put the book down because you’re already hooked.
I was completely surprised by the ending. I think it’s very out of Bella’s character to not jump at the chance to marry Edward when she wants to be with him forever and she doesn’t even like him to leave her side. I think maybe that was a little poor character development because it could have been clearer earlier in the story that because of her experience with her parents’ divorce she was anti-marriage. Instead Bella seems pretty happy that her mom was remarried and happy.
I was also surprised that Meyer covered as much time as she did in this book. It started several months after the first book and went through most of her senior year and Meyer has already said this will be an ongoing series, not just a trilogy. A lot of authors would want to keep Bella in high school as long as possible, but Meyer seems to have no fear of moving on and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
For those of you in Ohio or Utah, Meyer will be touring in the area soon. Check out her tour schedule here.
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
The House of Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach
Since we had such a hard time narrowing the list down, we will be reading a few of the other suggested books in January under the theme of books about thieves.
New Moon was just released so it will be hard to get a copy. Reserve a copy at the library ASAP and if you own a copy or get a copy from the library, please pass it around to the rest of the group.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
I was surprised that it took quite some time for Holly to realize that Khandi was using her and trying to turn her into a superstar too. Although Holly is witty at times, I wanted more emotion from her character. She never lets her mom have the honest criticism she deserves, and I don’t know many teenage girls who would handle things that way. The most interesting part of the book is Holly and Khandi’s relationship and the author spends a lot more time focusing the posh life than the real issues at hand. Although Holly doesn’t become a mini-Khandi in the end, she also doesn’t do much to improve her relationship with her mother. Maybe that means there’s a sequel in the works.
I was a little bored at times, but some pre-teens may enjoy reading about Holly’s disdain for the life of the rich and famous.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I know, it sounds like another one of those morbid books, but it’s not. Dulcie and her family have a great sense of humor that kept me entertained. The beauty of the book is in the details. Dulcie stops at a lot of interesting sites on her cross-country trip like the fainting goat farm in Wakeeney, Kansas and The Great American Museum of Custodial Safety in Missouri, and the Maria Stein shrine of holy Relics in Ohio (which is a real place, who knew?). I guess I connected so much because she reminded me a little of myself, I would totally stop at random sites while traveling cross country and I even have a grandfather whose wife has passed away, but still lives on in his home as shown by the pink wallpaper and pink toilet and tub she left behind.
This book was particularly interesting to me after recently reading The Janitor's Boy by Andrew Clement because the main character in The Janitor's Boy is completely embarassed that his dad is a janitor at his school. Dulcie's lack of embarassment was refreshing, she never seemed to mind that her father and grandfather were janitors and even worked as a janitor part-time herself. I thought it was interesting that both kids used their dad’s keys to sneak around the school and both of them were surprised to discover their dad's were secretly helping other kids in need.
Dulcie was a vivid character, and I loved growing along with her in this novel. I think that you will too.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Harry’s at a school for wizards so why shouldn’t there be a school for princesses someone out there too? Princess Alicia heads for a summer of learning to be a proper princess at Camp Princess, where arts and crafts involve real jewels and there’s a different required outfit for every activity, including swimming tiaras for lessons in the moat.
The premise is kind of silly, but I would have still been entertained if the main characters weren’t so flat, and the main mystery wasn’t really just a sidenote to frame all of the funny details of camp.
All in all, it was fluff, but it was fairly entertaining fluff that some preteens girls will still enjoy. It reminded me a little of One Over-Caffeinated Mom’s post about planning Camp Pickalicious for her daughter and friends. How many girls do you know that would love to have their own Princess Camp?
Twin sisters and authors, Julia DeVillers and Jennifer Roy, will visit Cover to Cover on Tuesday, August 15th from 6:00 until 7:30. This year, Julia's How My Personal Private Journal Became a Bestseller premiered as the Disney Channel Original Movie "Read It and Weep". Jennifer's historical novel Yellow Star was recognized with a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award for Excellence in Children's Literature. Please join us as we welcome two very talented writers.
Award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt will speak and autograph at Cover to Cover on Saturday, September 23, from 11:00 until 12:30. Her most recent work, Part of Me: Stories of a Louisiana Family, traces five generations during their adolescent years as they face struggles, sorrows, and triumphs. An earlier title, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, recieved a National Book Award.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Here's a new book meme that Kelly from Big A little a has passed along. I'm going to make a rule that you can only answer with children's/young adult books.
- One book that changed your life? I don't know about a book that's changed my life, but Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin really made me think.
- One book you have read more than once? Growing up I read Little Women over and over again
- One book you would want on a desert island? How could I possibly choose one book? It probably wouldn't be something beloved, it would probably non-fiction about surviving in that region or how to escape a desert island.
- One book that made you laugh? Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher
- One book that made you cry? The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. You have to read it if you haven't!
- One book you wish had been written? I wish all of the Twilight series was already written so I wouldn't have to wait for them.
- One book you wish had never been written? Ugh, gee, let's think about this one. I know a million people love the book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, but I CAN"T STAND IT! Yes, it makes moms everywhere cry, but come on, an elderly mother breaking into her adult son's house to hold him while he's sleeping and chant, "love you forever"? Creepy!
- One book you are currently reading? Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng. I've never been interested in reading this book, but it was one of very few book on tape options at the library and I'm liking it a lot more than I thought that I would.
- One book you have been meaning to read? Uglies by Scott Westerfeld or The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman
- Now tag five people: All the Chld lit bloggers have already been challenge so how about my book club members? If you don't have your own blog, you can post it in the comments here.
Friday, August 04, 2006
I’m not sure how she manages it, but somehow Stauffacher makes Franklin seems funny instead of a pitiful kid with OCD. I think the author managed to create a main character that kids will be able to relate despite the fact that he’s incredibly quirky. The relationship between Sarah and Franklin reminded me a little of Freak The Mighty, because Franklin seems unsure of why Sarah befriends him in the first place, but he warms up to her and is anxious to help her achieve her dreams.
A few things that I loved about this book: first, that Franklin’s mom is a great single mom (although I’m not sure how she can financially support her family and still have so much time off and I also wonder whether a lot of the intended audience will know about artificial insemination), and second, I love the message that there are kind, wonderful people out there helping people they barely know achieve their dreams. Then add the beautiful ending and you’ll know why I finished this book feeling so happy about life.
I agree with Fuse #8 that I’m not really sure what the author is trying to say about kids who don’t like sport and about fighting, but I found the book highly entertaining. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the release of Donutheart in the fall. In the meantime, I will have to keep checking Sue’s blog on Amazon.
In this book a new pig named Bubbles copies everything Opal does, and not only does she suceed in not getting into trouble for it, she becomes the teacher's pet because the teacher doesn't realize that Bubbles is stealing all her great ideas from Opal. Opal listens to Toot's advice and remains patient and kind towards Bubbles and it pays off in the end.
I loved the Illustrations, and I was especially struck by this one. Opal decided to dress up like a monster for Halloween and of course Bubbles does the same. Any kiddie lit fan will immediately notice that Bubbles is also copying another famous picture book pig, Ian Falconer's Olivia. She's wearing hte EXACT SAME costume Olivia wears to scare her brother. I thought it was very clever of Holly Hobbie to Copy Ian Falconer in a book that's all about copying!
One other illustration that made me giggle was this one. I love Holly Hobbie's pig version of the painting American Gothic. Another clever copycat move!
I hate to admit this, but until today I didn't realize that Holly Hobbie is the very same Holly Hobbie that did the American Greeting cards of the little prairie girl with a bonnet (who is actually called Holly Hobbie so it shouldn't have taken me so long to put two and two together). It seems that Holly Hobbie (the character not the author) has been ressurected and can be seen in a new movie on Nick Jr. You can see more of her here.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
I'm on my way out of the office to see if I can find a copy of Mo Willem's new book, Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Princess Academy - Shannon Hale
While attending a strict academy for potential princesses with the other girls from her mountain village, fourteen-year-old Miri discovers unexpected talents and connections to her homeland.
Weedflower - Cynthia Kadohata
After twelve-year-old Sumiko and her Japanese-American family are relocated from their flower farm in southern California to an internment camp on a Mojave Indian reservation in Arizona, she helps her family and neighbors, becomes friends with a local Indian boy, and tries to hold on to her dream of owning a flower shop.
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
When seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not wholly human.