Thursday, August 30, 2007

Things Hoped For - by Andrew Clements

So we all know that Andrew Clements can right for fifth and sixth graders, and he does it well. Who doesn’t enjoy a little Frindle now and then? I was totally surprised when I picked up a copy of Things Hoped For ( the sequel to Things Not Seen) in the library, and it was aimed at kids a little bit older. I found myself wondering if Clements can write something most ninth graders would enjoy. I had to pick up the book and find out.

Truthfully, the whole book is a conundrum to me. In the beginning it starts out as your average middle grade fiction Gwen lives with her grandfather in New York where she is preparing for a Julliard Audition. Then her grandfather disappears and only leaves her a mysterious phone message telling her not to worry and I find myself thinking, “ok, so it’s a mystery.” After that she meets Robert and the romance part of the novel begins. It’s a lot to fit in a novel, right? So I was totally thrown when Robert confides in Gwen that one morning he woke up and he was invisible. He was invisible for a whole month and now even though he’s visible again, other dangerous invisible people are following him trying to find out the secret of how he became visible again. WHAT? I did not expect the book to go there. Suddenly halfway through the novel Clements got all Sci-fi on us! But wait there’s more! It turns into a bit of a horror novel when Gwen discovers what really happened to her grandfather. Oh, and did I mention that Gwen and Robert manage to solve a major crime that doesn’t involve any of the main characters in the meantime? As you might imagine trying to fit all that into a novel made things seem a little bit disjointed and added up to an ending that wasn’t completely satisfactory. I do have to say that it made things unpredictable at times. Maybe it all would have fit together a bit more if I had read Things not Seen, but then again, maybe not.

I'm still a huge fan of Andrew Clements's books aimed at slightly younger readers. I just picked up his newest, No Talking, and I can't wait to dive into it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

American Born Chinese - by Gene Yang

Normally Printz Award winners tend to be a bit too ronchy and edgy for my taste, but my curiosity was peaked when American Born Chinese, a graphic novel by Gene Yang, won the award. A graphic novel winning a major children’s literature award is unheard of. As the genre grows, so does the variety and quality. I’m a huge fan of the Babymouse graphic novels for younger kids so I had to check out American Born Chinese, and I was well rewarded for my curiosity.

I heart American Born Chinese! It begins by alternating chapters between three different storylines (they are probably not called chapters, but I’m not up on my graphic novel lingo). There’s the story of the Monkey King who wishes to be accepted and respected by the other Gods, the story of Jin Wang the only Chinese American in his class who is soon joined by another Chinese American student who is unashamed of his strong accent and black hair, and the story of All American Danny who is embarrassed by visits from his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee, a portrayal of the racist stereotypes of Chinese Americans.

At first I didn’t see the parallel between the three stories, but they come together in such a beautiful intricate way in the end unified in telling the story of the struggle to overcome the want to fit in, in order to become comfortable with who you are. The perfect graphic novel to share with those who think graphic novels have no literary value.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Picture book Spotlight

I haven't highlighted any pictures books here in a long time (ok, I haven't highlighted anything here lately, but my goal of the month is to get back on track). This month I'm highlighting a few new picture books that are guaranteed to make parents chuckle.

First comes Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. If you didn't have a chance to read this one during Reba's picture book month you must pick it up because it's hilarious. Ok, technically this one is not new, it came out last year, but I had to mention this title before I highlight it's sequel, Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend. Scaredy Squirrel's plans continue to go awry in this sequel that's even more hilarious than the first book.

I discovered Antoinette Portis's Not a Box awhile ago, but just got around to picking up my copy. This book is delightfully simple in design and text. The book begins with a black and white line drawing of a rabbit playing with a box. Every time the rabbit is asked about its box, it proclaims that its NOT a box, and we're presented with a black and white line drawing of the rabbit and the box with a red sketch over it illustrating all the things the rabbit imagines the box to be. So simple and yet entertaining. A great illustration of what an imagination can do.
I also fell in love with The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers this month. This book is clever and quirky. It's about Henry who loves to devour books (literally, not figuratively live). As he digests them, he absorbs all of their information and become incredibly intelligent, until he eats too many and they get jumbled up inside him and he feels sick. When doctors tell him he must stop eating books he is stricken until he picks up a book and leafs through its pages longingly and starts to read it. He discovers he loves to read books! As a book lover myself, you know I couldn't resist this picture book, but it's Oliver Jeffers illustrations that really make is great. School Library Journal's review says that, "The simple cartoon illustrations twinkle with humor and feeling." I wholeheartedly agree that this book will charm its audience.

And how could I post about picture books this month without mentioning the release of Diary Of a Fly, Harry Bliss and Doreen Cronin's followup to the Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider? This book looks into the life of a fly who dreams of being a superhero. Bugs and superheros, what kid wouldn't like this one?

And now if your little one loves these books, you can buy the finger puppets to they can act out the stories on their own.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

September - Sharon Creech

Since we've had so many new members over the years, we've decided to do a few throw backs and redo a couple of our favorite previous topics. The first repeat will be a Sharon Creech author study, because if you haven't read her books, you must! And if you have read them, you know you can't wait to read them again. Since we're all having a busy summer, we only picked a few:

Walk Two Moons

Love That Dog

Chasing Redbird

If you finish those and want to read more there's quite a long list, Absolutley Normal Chaos, Bloomability, Heartbeat, The Wanderer, Ruby Holler, Replay, Granny Torelli Makes Soup, Pleasing the Ghost, and The Castle Corna is scheduled to be released October 1st!

Sharon Creech also has a few picture books: Fine, Fine School; Who's That Baby, and Fishing in the Air

August - New books by Authors We've Previously Enjoyed

Here's the August Reading List:

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt