Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gruffen by Chris D'Lacey

For those of you acquainted with Chris D'Lacey's Last Dragon Chronicles (The Fire Within, Icefire, Fire Star, The Fire Eternal, Dark Fire), Gruffen will be an absolute delight. Herein, we have Gruffen's story. You remember him--the guard dragon? Prior to David's introduction to the Pennykettle household, we discover why Liz created Gruffen and why he has his quirks.

What I thought: A quick read that will introduce younger readers to the Pennykettles and their dragons. The illustrations add charm to the story. A treat for fans of D'Lacey's other series as well.

(Illus. Adam Stower. New York: Orchard, 2009)

Monday, December 28, 2009

I Want a Dog by Helen Bansch

More than anything, Lisa wants a dog. She lets her parents know numerous times. Their answer is always the same--their apartment is too small for a dog. Lisa is not one to give up. After some thought, she advertises and gets a dog friend named Rollo.

What I thought: Lisa is quite a creative girl. I never would have thought of borrowing a dog. The illustrations are great, especially the different dog breeds.

(New York: NorthSouth, 2009)

Friday, December 25, 2009

My Unwilling Witch Goes to Ballet School by Hiawyn Oram

(Book 1 in Rumplewick's Diary series)

Haggy Aggy makes a terrible witch much t the shame of her familiar Rumplewick. She refuses to dress in black, ride on a broomstick, or frighten children. Instead, she prefers to wear pink, drive her (pink) car, and take up normal girl hobbies like shopping and ballet. The problem is this: if Haggy Aggy doesn't act like a witch Rumplewick will find himself boiled in oil and back in the lowest grade at familiar school. Can Rumplewick convince Haggy Aggy to act like a witch and save his skin?

What I thought: A hilarious, quick read muck like Kinney's diary of a Wimpy Kid books or Bruel's Bad Kitty chapter books. Rumplewick as narrator is very fitting. Who better to describe a witch than her familiar? Perhaps you recall Salem's popularity on the TV show and cartoon series Sabrina? Rumplewick's distress at Haggy Aggy's un-witch-like behavior is sincere and thus all the more funny. The illustrations are great. They add to the story (like when Rumplewick imagines himself ballet dancing , we see him complete with tutu).

(Illus. Sarah Warburton. New York: Little, Brown, & Company, 2009, c2007)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School by Herman Parrish

Amelia Bedelia is a familiar face and name to many young readers. In this new book, we get to meet the young Amelia Bedelia. We can see that she's doesn't change much (in looks or actions) when she grows up.

What I thought: delightful! I read the Amelia Bedelia books when I was in elementary school. I'd forgotten how much fun she was. While some might think her odd, I find her logic very logical. She takes people at their word. Can't wait to see the next book in this young Amelia series.

(Illus. Lynne Avril. New York: Greenwillow, 2009)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Penguin and the Cupcake by Ashley Spires

One day, Penguin gets tired of eating fish so he goes in search of cupcakes. He finds new friends as well as a new diet.

What I thought: A fun book! The story is great. I like the intrusive characters (Walrus & Polar Bear) and the editorial notes that address environmental problems. The illustrations suit the story. I was glad to see the use of purple (Walrus) in the story.

(Vancouver, CA: Simply Read Books, 2008)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Princess Rose and her eleven sisters are cursed. Her mother made a bargain with King Understone to conceive. On her death, her daughters take her place. Every third night (no exceptions!), Rose and her sisters must dance until dawn with the king's sons in his underground kingdom. Dancing while ill almost kills the girls. Their father is desperate to help them. HE enlists the help of eligible princes. They fail--they can't discover where the girls go every night. Enter Galen, a mere under-gardener and a former soldier. His affection for Rose spurs him to learn where the princesses go and attempt to break the curse they're under.

What I thought: This was a fantastic retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" (or "The Slippers that were Danced to Pieces"). Where the original is simple and even mundane, George's retelling is vivid and complex. she uses her imagination well to flesh out the original. I couldn't put this book down. I liked that all the sisters had flower names. FYI, here they are: Rose, Lily, Jonquil, Lilac, Poppy, Hyacinth, Violet, Iris, Daisy, Orchid, Pansy, and Petunia. Also, if you like the original fairy tale you might also want to read The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn. Read my review here.

(New York: Bloomsbury, 2009)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Everafter War by Michael Buckley

(Book 7 in the Sisters Grimm series)

After a two year long magic-induced sleep, Henry and Veronica Grimm are finally united with their daughters Sabrina and Daphne. Henry is less than pleased to find himself back in Ferryport Landing with his estranged family. He doesn't have long to be affronted. War between the Everafters looms. Those loyal to the dreaded Scarlet Hand are eager to fight and promise to take no prisoners. The Grimm family seeks refuge with Prince Charming in his rebel camp. The rebels have little success against the Scarlet Hand. Their camp hides a spy. The war rages on and leads the Sisters Grimm closer and closer to the mastermind behind the Scarlet Hand.

What I thought: Another rousing installment in a great series. Lots of surprises. An evil cliffhanger. (A word to the wise: don't be so trusting!) Everybody from Uncle Jake to Puck is dealing with problems in this book. Can't wait to read the final book (The Inside Story) set to be published in May 2010.

(New York: Amulet, 2009)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Princess Pig by Eileen Spinelli

When the wind blows a princess sash her way, Pig thinks she's a princess. She become prissy and not at all like a pig. However, she soon realizes that she'd rather be a pg than a princess.

What I thought: A cute book with lovely illustrations. The subject of the book (being yourself) is an important one. Pig has a great personality. I wouldn't mind seeing more books about her.

Story time idea: Use for a preschool pig themed story time.

(Illus. Tim Bowers. New York: Knopf, 2009)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sky Sweeper by Phillis Gershator

As a young boy, Takeboki seeks and finds a job. He becomes the flower keeper at the temple. Despite the urgings of his friends and family to find a better job, Takeboki keeps on keeping (and sweeping) the flowers. He knows his own importance. AS an old man, he becomes the sky sweeper.

What I thought: A lovely story with beautiful illustrations. Meade really captured the Japanese setting with her collages. The Umbrella Queen by Shirin Bridges and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo would be a good book to pair with Sky Sweeper.

(Illus. Holly Meade. New York: Melanie Kroupa, 2007)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pieces: A Year in Poems by Anna Grossnickle Hines

With beautiful poems and quilts, the author takes us through the four seasons.

What I thought: The poems are lyrical, thoughtful, and at times, surprising. The quilts are intricate, fantastic, and just right for the poems. My favorite poems are "In March," "Misplaced," "To Each His Own," "Pageantry," and "Silhouettes."

See also Winter Lights: A Season in Poems and Quilts (2005) where Hines celebrates winter and all its holidays. My favorite poem in that collection is "Fireplace."

(New York: Greenwillow, 2001)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Heave Ho! by Heinz Janisch

In twelve sentences, a dog, a cat and three mice work together to open the refrigerator. What a feast they have!

What I thought: This book is hilarious. I love how the author structures his sentences ("In the first sentence" and so on). The structure is humorous, but it also makes readers aware of the sentences in the book. The illustrationd suit the story perfectly.

(Illus. Carola Holland. New York: NorthSouth, 2005)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Giveaway @ A Patchwork of Books

Amanda of A Patchwork of Books is sponsoring a great holiday giveaway. Deadline for entering is Monday, December 7 at 11:59 EST. Check it out! The winner gets 7, count them 7, books. Thanks to Amanda for sponsoring this giveaway.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Camel's Lament illustrated by Charles Santore

Santore's delightful illustrations grace Charles Edward Carryl's classic nonsensical poem.

What I thought: The poem is great, but the illustrations make this book. They are bright, colorful, and realistic. This would be a great read aloud for story time.

(New York: Random House, 2004)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Larabee by Kevin Luthardt

Larabee is the mail man's dog. He loves to help deliver the mail. Larabee would love to get some mail of his own, but dogs don't get mail. One day, Larabee's friend Lacey sends him a letter and makes him one happy puppy.

What I thought: A lovely book. Mail is one of my favorite things. I'm glad Larabee received some. The illustrations are bright and colorful. They are almost reminiscent of a cartoon.

(Atlanta: Peachtree, 2004)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Panda and Polar Bear by Matthew Baek

Baek, Matthew J. Panda and Polar Bear. New York: Dial, 2009

Panda lives where its sunny and warm. Polar bear lives where it’s cold and snowy. The difference in their climates prevents them from meeting. But one day, Polar bear gets curious. He leaves his snowy world and makes a new friend.

What I thought: What a neat idea. I’d never thought about zoo animals wanting to visit one another. I love Baek’s illustrations. They are soft colored and just right for the story.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bridget Fidget and the Most Perfect Pet by Joe Berger

Berger, Joe. Bridget Fidget and the Most Perfect Pet. New York: Dial, 2008.

Bridget Fidget wants a pet more than anything. She wants a particular kind of pet—a unicorn. She will name it Thunderhooves. When a large box is delivered, Bridget is ecstatic. Surely it is her unicorn. The large box contains a multitude of packing peanuts and a small box. Bridget adjusts her idea of the perfect pet to a mouse. But is a mouse really in the box?

What I thought: Absolutely delightful. I couldn’t resist reading a book in which the main character shares my name. Bridget is just want a little girl ought to be—impetuous and mischievous (without realizing she’s either). Berger’s illustrations remind me of pictures books from years ago. The colors are simple and the lines bold. Very pleasing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Garcia, Kami and Margaret Stohl. Beautiful Creatures. New York: Little, Brown and Company, December 2009. ARC Provided by Baker & Taylor.

Ethan Wate is counting the days until he can leave Gatlin, SC. Since his mom’s death, small town life has been unbearable. So people won’t think he’s odd, he hides his love of reading under his bed.

Lena Duchannes is counting the days until her sixteenth birthday. The numbers are on her hand. As the niece of the local recluse, Lena doesn’t exactly fit in around Gatlin.

Against the odds and their friends’ and families’ wishes, Ethan and Lena become friends. The strength of their friendship causes Lena to reveal the importance of her sixteenth birthday. Lena is caster (think witch, but don’t say it. It’s such a cliché.) Her family was cursed during the Civil War. On her birthday, Lean will be claimed by either good (Light) or evil (Dark). She has no choice. She fears becoming dark.

Lena and Ethan begin a quest to break the curse. They become more than friends. As Lena’s powers develop, the town ostracizes her. Can they break the curse in time? Will Lena be Light or Dark?

What I thought: I couldn’t put this book down. The plot is unique. It’s a lengthy book (600 plus pages), but every word was chosen with care. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. The Southern setting (and hence atmosphere) is inspired. For some reason, (I would hazard all our superstitions), paranormal stuff works better in the South. I liked that Ethan was the narrator. The authors captured him perfectly. His voice as brought out by their writing style reminded me of Tyler in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted. I won’t give away the ending, but I’m hoping for a sequel. In summary, a fantastic book.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kiki’s Blankie by Janie Bynum

Bynum, Janie. Kiki’s Blankie. New York: Sterling, 2009

Kiki and her blankie are inseparable. They go everywhere together and have great adventures. When Kiki looses her blankie, she risks life and limb to retrieve it.

What I Thought: What a cute book. The subject will be near and dear to many hearts. I especially liked the part where Kiki’s blanket got a bath. Little ones are loath to give up there blankets to the washing machine. Seeing that Kiki does without qualm may make it easier for them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash by Milam McGraw Propst

Propst, Milam McGraw. The Further Adventures of Ociee Nash. Memphis, TN: Belle Bridge Books, September 2009. (ARC provided by Publisher) Book 3 in The Adventures of Ociee Nash series

Ociee is enjoying her visit in Abbeville, MS when her father surprises her. She won’t be returning to Asheville, NC. The whole Nash family (Papa, Ben, and Ociee) will be moving to Memphis, TN to be closer to brother Fred and his new wife. Anything that involves Ociee is never uneventful. The title of this book is quite correct—Ociee has many adventures. She saves the day on the way to Memphis. She endears herself to a reclusive neighbor lady.

What I thought: I continue to be delighted with the character of Ociee Nash. She is wonderfully spunky and adventurous. In many ways, she reminds me of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi. Ociee is the South’s answer to a classic juvenile heroine. I especially like the fact that the author bases Ociee’s adventures on her real relatives. That gives the book something extra—historical flavor and truth. I eagerly await the next installment in her adventures.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trollbridge by Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple

Yolen, Jane and Adam Stemple. Trollbridge: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale. New York: Starscape, 2006.

Moira doesn’t want to be a Dairy Princess. She’d much rather play her harp. But her mother thinks being one of the twelve dairy princesses will increase her notoriety. Moira grits her teeth and bears the photo shoots and appearances until the day the princesses have a photo session on the Trollholm Bridge. The troll king kidnaps the girls. They will be wives for his sons. Only Moira escapes being drugged into a deep sleep. With the help of a mysterious fox, she hopes to free the other girls and return home.

Meanwhile, the Griffson Brothers (Galen, Erik, and Jakob) are on vacation from their life as teen pop singers. They find themselves in troll world as well. Not as wives, but as dinner. Jakob escapes his captors to join Moira in her plan to rescue the other girls and now his brothers. Will they succeed?

What I thought: I like the use of familiar fairy tales (Three Billy Goats Gruff and Twelve Dancing Princesses). However, Yolen and Stemple make their own original fairy tale with this book. For some reason, the Griffson Brother reminded me of the Jonas Brother. Moira and Jakob are likeable, creative characters. As always, the songs are great.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Me and You by Janet Holmes

Holmes, Janet A. Me and You. Illus. Judith Russell. New York: NorthSouth, 2008

Rabbit likes a lot about being himself. He likes that he can hop, build sand castles, and blow up balloons. But most of all, he likes that he can be with his friend Mouse.

What I thought: Short, sweet text. I love the juxtaposition of activities (e.g., “romp in the sun” or “rest in the shade”). The illustrations are soft (colored) and whimsical.

Story Time Idea: Use for a friendship theme.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Moon Rise by Marilee Brothers

Brothers, Marilee. Moon Rise. Memphis, TN: Bell Bridge Books, July 2009. (ARC provide by Publisher) Book 2 in the Unbidden Magic series.

When we last saw Allie, she’s triumphed over the evil Trimarks, keeping the moonstone safe and preventing further harm to friends and family.

It’s now Halloween night. The Trimarks are keeping a low profile. But Allie is still recovering from her last encounter with them. She has nightmares and her powers have deserted her. She needs a miracle, but what she gets is Beck Bradford, the gorgeous half demon boy who can heal her. (By the way, Junior went to Mexico and Allie hasn’t heard from him yet.)

As Allie regains her powers, she discovers the untapped capabilities of the moonstone. No wonder the Trimarks want it. Will these newly discovered facets be enough to thwart another attempt to steal the moonstone?

What I thought: Brothers drops you right into the action. Allie, despite her paranormal powers, is a typical angsty teenager. I liked the mysteries this book revealed. (Who was Allie’s maternal grandmother? Did she have powers?) These will keep readers wanting more. I can’t wait to read book 3. I want to know what happens with Beck. He definitely has the Edward Appeal. (Question—Are demons more dangerous than vampires?) I was a bit perplexed by Junior’s extended trip to Mexico and the introduction of Beck into the story. Allie (unintentionally) seems to be boy-hopping.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pay the Piper by Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple

Yolen, Jane and Adam Stemple. Pay the Piper: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale. New York: Starscape, 2005.

When Callie sees the lead singer of Brass Rat making rats dance, she knows she’s stumbled onto more than the eccentricities of the music world. She’s found the Pied Piper of Hamelin. That’s right—the guy who steals children.

The pied pier is actually an exiled Faerie prince who must pay a debt every seven year to remain immortal. This year, he doesn’t have the silver and gold, so it must be souls.

When the neighborhood children, including her younger brother Nick, disappear, it’s up to Callie to rescue the children and break the curse on the faerie prince.

What I thought: This book was a slow start for me. I found the narrative a bit disjointed (two story lines—Callie’s and the Piper’s). But I’ll chalk that up to my unfamiliarity with the original Pied Piper story. Once I got into the story, I loved it. Callie is a true heroine. Love the songs (poems?) in the book. They’re so lyrical that just reading them makes me her music in my head.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beatrix Potter by Jeanette Winter

Winter, Jeanette. Beatrix Potter. New York: Frances Foster, 2003.

In this short biography of the woman who wrote Peter Rabbit, Jeanette Winter draws from Potter’s own letter and journals to construct the tales (as it were) of the author.

What I thought: Utterly charming and quite perfect for a Beatrix Potter’s many small fans. I liked that Winter did not try to mimic Potter’s illustration style. Her illustrations suit the biography perfectly.

Story Time Idea: Beatrix Potter program- read this biography along with some of Potter’s tales.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Moonstone by Marilee Brothers

Brothers, Marilee. Moonstone. Memphis, TN: Bell Bridge Books, 2008. (ARC provide by Publisher)

Allie has enough problems dealing with her mom (and her imagined illness) and trying to survive high school. She didn’t want or need paranormal powers. But she’s got them along with a hippie of a spirit guide and a necklace that evil people covet. With unlikely help from Junior Martinez (reformed gang member) Allie tries to protect herself, the necklace, and her friend and family.

What I thought: This was a quick, enjoyable read. Fans of Twilight should definitely check out the Unbidden Magic series. Allie and Junior are the reverse of Bella and Edward. Allie has the powers and Junior is perfectly normal. I liked the fast pace of the narrative and that the book was plot driven.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer by Kate Klimo

Klimo, Kate. The Dragon in the Sock Drawer. New York: Random House, 2008.

Jesse gets more that he bargained for when he finds a thunder egg on the mountain. Usually, thunder eggs contain beautiful crystals. But Jesse’s thunder egg is different. For one thing, it talks. It also refuses (three saw blades sacrifice themselves) to be cut open. What Jesse’s really found is a dragon egg. When it hatches, he and his cousin Daisy do their best to care their new friend Emmy (short for Emerald) and protect her from the evil St. George.

What I thought: A fantastic story with great character. The magic is just part of the story. The fantasy is not so fantastic that it’s unbelievable. I like that the book has both male and female protagonists. I think this broadens the appeal. The Dragon in the Sock Drawer reminds me of Janet Taylor Lisle’s The Gold Dust Letters (first in her Investigators of the Unknown series). I eagerly await the next installment in the Dragon Keepers series.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hello, Day! by Anita Lobel

Lobel, Anita. Hello, Day! New York: Green Willow, 2008.

How do animals greet a new day? Anita Lobel shows us in this charming book.

What I thought: I love the brevity of the text. Also, the illustrations have a wonderful Impressionistic quality.

Story Time Ideas: Use for Baby Sit & Sign (sings for the animals) or a farm theme for preschoolers.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pete and Pickles by Berkley Breathed

Breathed, Berkley. Pete and Pickles. New York; Philomel, 2008.

Pete the pig is perfectly satisfied with his life. It's predictable and uncomplicated. Until the night a runaway circus elephant named Pickles chooses his house as a refuge. Pete's life is never the same. Pickles has plans for adventures with Pete as co-adventurer. Pete hates this new unpredictable, complicated life. Its' time for Pickles to leave. But enduring a near death experience brings Pete and Pickles closer together. They're friends!

What I thought: Absolutely delightful! Pete and Pickles are an animal Odd Couple. I love Pickles joie de vivre and Pete's reticence. I was delighted by the process through which an idea (the author's daughter's sketch and her explanation that the pig was sad but didn't know) became a book. I hope there will be more Pete and Pickles books.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicken and Cat Clean Up by Sara Varon

Varon, Sara. Chicken and Cat Clean Up. New York: Scholastic, 2009.

In this wordless picture book., readers will delight in the antics of Chicken and Cat. They are an animal Odd Couple.

What I thought: Varon's pictures are so detailed, I didn't miss the words at all. This book would be perfect for a preschool story time as the children could tell the story based on the pictures.

Monday, October 26, 2009

House of Tailors by Patricia Reilly Giff

Giff, Patricia Reilly. House of Tailors. New York: Wendy Lamb, 2004.

Dina Kirk's impetuous nature (She just had to have that French hat patten!) causes trouble with the local soldiers. She goes to America in her sister's place. America has always been her dream. There she can escape the endless monotony of her mother's sewing business.

Her dreams of America are dashed when uncle shows her his sewing machine. He expects Dina to earn her keep by sewing. Dina's new dream is to return to Germany. She works hard so she will have enough money for the return passage. Life, however, keeps interfering with her goal.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this book. I thought it well written. I empathized with Dina (the mark of a good character. I wouldn't mind seeing another book about her. Giff realistically captured what life was like for immigrants in the tenements. It was almost painful to read.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

Subtitle: Creating Stories that Fly

~Practical Advice from a Published Author~

In 161 pages and 30 short chapters, Levine offers frank advice on every topic and dilemma a writer can and will encounter. She addresses starting a story, dialogue, endings, writer's block, revision, and much more. Each chapter ends with a writing prompt. Read this book with pen (or keyboard) in hand.

What I thought: Absolutely fantastic! Levine has such an engaging style hat I read this book quickly and with true enjoyment. Her admission of struggle (9 years before her 1st book was published) endeared her to me (a poet/writer when I have the time) and will doubtless endear her to many other writers. Her prompts are unique and her advice worth taking. I particularly liked the character questionnaire she shared and the chapter on rewriting fairy tales. This book is a must read for any aspiring writer, young or old.

(Collins, 2006)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Animal Antics A to Z by Anita Lobel

Lobel, Anita. Animal Antics A to Z. New York: Greenwillow, 2005.

Lobel uses alliterating adjectives to describe animals from alligators to zebras.

What I thought: I love alphabet books and this one is no different. The illustrations are charming and the adjectives fitting.

Story Time Idea: Baby Sit & Sign ABCs emphasis

Monday, October 19, 2009

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Wilson, Budge. Before Green Gables. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2008.

When we first meet Anne in Anne of Green Gables (AOGG), she is precocious, talkative, starved for affection, imaginative, and thrilled to be on Prince Edward Island.

Beyond a few brief mentions in AOGG and subsequent books, we know little of Anne's life before she came to Green Gables. What we do know causes us to support Anne's imagined life ("Call me Cordelia.") in favor of her actual life. Did you ever pause to wonder about the years she spent with Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Hammond? I haven't once in the twelve years I've been enjoying the Anne series.

Luckily for Anne fans, Budge Wilson did. In her Before Green Gables, she gives us Anne's story from right before her conception up until she leaves the train at Bright River to wait on Matthew. Budge's story explains perfectly why Anne is the way she is when we first meet her at the train station. Her history reveals every one of her foibles.

What I thought: I couldn't put this book down. The story Budge has constructed makes so much sense. It fits in perfectly with the rest of the series. After reading it, I had to buy my own copy. Like the other Anne books, I'll be reading it again and again.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Thorndike, Maine: Center Point, 2008.

In the aftermath of World War II, author Juliet Ashton receives an intriguing letter from Dawsey Adams who lives on the island of Guernsey off the British coast. They meet (on paper) by pure chance. Dawsey had in his possession a book that once belonged to Juliet.

They begin to exchange letters and Juliet learns about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. She thinks the society would make a good book. Her letters to Dawsey continue, and she begins to correspond with other members of the society. Juliet's interest in Guernsey and its inhabitants grows until she decides she has to visit the island. Juliet has found more than the idea for her next book. She has found friends, a home, and love.

What I thought: I've been meaning to read this book for quite some time. I wasn't disappointed. The book deals with a period (aftermath of WWII) about which I've read little. The characters are all unique with individual personalities. The intimacy achieved through this collection of letters is astounding. I never knew letters could be so revealing. I've been a fan of epistolary novels ever since I read Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (8th grade) and Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith (college junior). This book is another gem in the category.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Hide! by Candace Fleming

Fleming, Candace. Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Hide! Illus. G. Brian Karas. New York: Ginee Seo, 2007.

Mr. McGreeley is all settled in for winter. What he hasn't planned on is three industrious bunny rabbits who continually break into his house to escape the ferocious winter weather. Every time they get in , Mr. McGreeley boars up, bricks up, or stops up that entrance. Finally, Mr. McGreeley is free from bunny rabbits. But when spring arrives, he finds that he has trapped himself inside his house.

What I thought: Hilarious! I love the sounds Fleming uses when the bunnies sneak in. This would be a great read aloud wither for the classroom or story time, The illustrations were wonderful. I found myself pausing over them as I read the story.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Vacation by Polly Horvath

Horvath, Polly. The Vacation. New York: FSG, 2005.

When Henry's mom unexpectedly decides to become a missionary, his parents travel to Africa leaving him in the care of his aunts Magnolia and Pigg. The aunts don't like children so they spend a large part of their time ignoring Henry. This is fine with him. He endures their stay from the comfort of his closet until the aunts decide to redecorate the house. Even his closet isn't safe from their design schemes. After Magnolia's illness, the three set off on a vacation.And what a vacation it is. With no destination in mind, they simply go where they want when they want. In the meantime, Henry's mom gets lost in Africa ans his dad contracts malaria. To say the very least, it is an eventful summer.

What I Thought: Horvath does not disappoint. I expected to be amused and I was. I liked this book because it was from Henry's point-of-view. All Horvath's other books either revolve around a female protagonist or a family. The Vacation was a pleasant change. I was also glad to see whatever the aunts' faults, they did keep Henry in books.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Hale, Shannon. Austenland. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Jane Hayes has a somewhat unhealthy obsession wit the film version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth. She's basically ruined herself for other, ordinary men. Her great aunt leaves her an all expenses paid Regency vacation in her will. Jane doesn't quite know what to do. But as the trip is nonrefundable, she goes. Will three weeks pretending she's an Austen heroine finally break her obsession or make it stronger?

What I thought: A great book--I had no idea that Hale had written an adult novel. The subject of this novel (Jane Austen) will be near and dear to the hearts of many readers. Jane's time in Austenland forces her to take stock of her life and ultimately discern reality from make-believe. This book reminded me greatly of the 2009 film Lost in Austen.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin

Cronin, Doreen. Diary of a Spider. Illus. Harry Bliss. New York: Joanna Colter, 2005.

Have you ever wondered what spiders think about all day, what they do to fill the hours? Diary of a Spider answers all these questions and more. We learn that spiders are just as scared of us as we are of them.

What I thought: Hooray for another diary book! The text was highly entertaining and the illustrations wonderful. Dare I hope for another book in this series? Perhaps Diary of a Fly.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Intertwined by Gena Showalter

Showalter, Gena. Intertwined. Harlequin Teen. September 2009. (ARC provided by B&T)

This was a decent book. I liked the multiple story lines (2 couples). I normally don't like the complication, but it worked. You have Aden who has 4 souls living in his head. He can also raise the dead and enter others' bodies. Then there's Mary Ann. She calms everyone down. When Aden's around her, the voices in his head shut up. When Aden and Mary Ann first meet, they cause a power surge that brings out all sorts of creatures. Witches, goblins, demons, fairies, vampires, werewolves—they all come to call. Not good in your average mortal town. Aden's love interest is Victoria, a vampire princess. Mary Ann's is Riley, Victoria's werewolf protector. The ending was a bit abrupt, but I'm hoping for a sequel. Best way to describe the book: Think The Silver Kiss meets Blood and Chocolate.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sundays at Tiffany's

Patterson, James and Gabrielle Charbonnet. Sundays at Tiffany's. New York: Little, Brown, & Company, 2008.

Jane's life isn't perfect. At eight, she has an uninterested mother who is always trying to perfect her and an absent father who occasionally remembers her birthday and other major holidays.

But Jane has Michael. He is exactly what a friend, a mother, a father ought to be. He listens and understands. Michael is also imaginary. Only Jane can see him.

The time comes when Michael must leave Jane. She no longer needs him. Her never forgets her. She never forgets him. (Though by the dictates of imaginary friends, she should.) Years later, Jane and Michael find each other again. He's still perfect though growing more and more human as the days go by.

What I thought: What an engrossing book about the power of love! It's beautifully written and the concept is new ( at least I think it is). It reminded me of the old movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir starring Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney which was based on the novel with the same title by R. A. Dick.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Bauer, Joan. Backwater. New York: Puffin, 1999.

Ivy Breedlove doesn’t want to be a lawyer. She knows from genealogical research that not every Breedlove has been a lawyer. She wants to be a historian. To complete the Breedlove family history, Ivy seeks her reclusive Aunt Josephine. Her search for Josephine is also Ivy’s searching for her own identity. Her trek to Aunt Jo’s Backwater defines who Ivy is.

What I thought: As a family history buff, I loved all the quirky historical facts Ivy threw out during the narrative. Here dedication to researching and writing her family history brought home the adage to know yourself, you first have to know those who came before you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Good Day

Henkes, Kevin. A Good Day. New York: Greenwillow, 2007.

A bird, a dog, a fox, and a squirrel are all having a bad day for various reasons. Their circumstances change and the day turns out to be good after all.

What I Thought: This story is lovely in its simplicity. The illustrations are just what I expect from Henkes. I enjoyed the surprise at the end. (That's all I'm saying here about that. Go read the book.)

Story Time Idea: The brevity of text makes this book perfect for a preschool story time. Henkes' birthday is in November. Why not have a birthday celebration and read several of his books?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You Might Be a Librarian If...

...when you hear someone is ill, injured, etc., your mind immediately wanders to books. Will they (the injured or ill party) have enough books to keep them occupied during their recovery? What will interest them? Should I sent books posthaste?

My mom had a minor accident at work today. She won't be able to work for several days. I'm six hours away, but that doesn't stop me plotting ways and means to get books into her hands. I think perhaps my brother-in-law would make a good delivery boy. To the library, man!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Two for the Zoo

Smith, Danna. Two for the Zoo: A Counting Book. Illus. Valeria Petrone. New York: Clarion, 2009.

One day, a boy takes his grandpa to the zoo. They see many animals engaged in their various habits.

What I thought: What a delightful book! The rhyming is subtle, but really draws the reader into the story. The illustrations are lovely--so bright and colorful. I want to read more by this author.

Story Time Idea: On July 1, the 1st zoo in the US opened. This book would be perfect to use in a story time celebrating that anniversary.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Bauer, Joan. Sticks. New York: Speak, 1996.

Mickey Vernon has a goal—to be a pool champ like his dad. The Junior Nine-Ball Championship is coming up soon and Mickey’s training hard to beat his competition. Buck Pender is older, intimidating and a good pool player. With the help of his dad’s best friend, Mickey trains to be the best. In a pre-championship game against Buck, Mickey injures his hand. Can he play in the championship? Will all his hard work pay off?

What I thought: I’m delighted with this first “boy book” from Joan Bauer. I read Stand Tall some months back. Unlike it, Sticks features a first person protagonist like Bauer’s young adult “girl books.” I grew up watching my parents play so I can appreciate Mickey’s fascination with the game. Sticks is a great book about pool, friends, and proving yourself.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Freckleface Strawberry

Moore, Julianne. Freckleface Stawberry. Illus. LeUyen Pham. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

A charming little girl tries valiantly to get rid of her freckles. She tries to bleach them away. She tries to disguise them with markers. Finally, she goes into hiding. Meeting a baby who thinks freckles are hilarious helps Freckleface Strawberry accept her freckles. In accepting them, she discovers that she does have friends. Her freckles don't make her different.

What I Thought: I keep reading books about unique little girls. Freckleface Strawberry brings to mind Pennypacker's Clementine, Cleary's Ramona, Lindgren's Pippi, and even Montgomery's Anne. Freckleface Strawberry has an endearing quality. As my best friend is a freckled red-head, I can sympathize with this little girl's efforts to rid herself of her freckles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You Might Be a [Children's] Librarian If...

...chatting with patrons leads to impromptu booktalks and the like.

Case in point...

Me: I read lots of picture books.

Little Boy: Why?

Me: Because I'm the children's librarian. I want to know what children like to read/hear so I can plan story time.

Little Boy: Can you do story time now?

Me: [slight pause] Of course.

And I proceed to read him two of the books I was shelving (Good-Night, Owl! by Pat Hutchins and The Giant Hug by Sandra Horning). The little boy was four-years-old. He enjoyed the first book, but lost interest in the second (it was a bit long). I love being a children's librarian. There's no routine, only spontaneity.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Diary of a Worm

Cronin, Doreen. Diary of a Worm. Illus. Harry Bliss. New York: Joanna Colter, 2003.

Have you ever wondered what worms do all day besides crawl around in the dirt? Here's the answer, In Diary of a Worm, we discover that worms aren't that different from us. They have families, friends, and go to work and school.

What I thought: An ingenious book that will appeal to a variety of readers (boys especially). I like Cronin's idea behind the book--what would a worm write about in his diary. The result is the hilarious book I read. Such a book would be a possibility for any creature. Dare I hope that there will be more Diary of books from Cronin? Bliss' illustrations added to the story. I was glad to see the different illustrations. A book of nothing but two page spreads wouldn't have expressed Worm so well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book of a Thousand Days

Hale, Shannon. Book of a Thousand Days. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Dashti’s elation at being Lady Saren’s new maid soon fades when she finds herself locked in a tower with said lady. Saren refuses to marry Lord Khasar because she loves Khan Tegus. Her disobedience merits exile in the tower for seven years. Dashti records their days in a journal. She has much to contend with—Lady Saren’s melancholy and rats that eat their precious food supplies. Khan Tegus visits them at the tower. Saren makes Dashti pretend to be her. Dashti is much taken with the khan.

After several disasters—Lord Khasar’s torture, the disappearance of their cat who kept the rats at bay, and the end of their food supplies—the girls emerge from the tower after 932 days. They find Saren’s home and family destroyed. They journey to Khan Tegus’ land. What will they find there?

What I thought: This was a riveting read. I couldn’t put it down. I like the diary format. After I finished reading the book, I turned to the original fairy tale “Maid Maleen” in my trusty Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The more fairy tale retellings that I read, the more I prefer them to the original tales. In “Maid Maleen,” the lady’s maid didn’t have a name and wasn’t important to the narrative. I suppose Hale recognized that a lady’s maid would be indispensible to a lady of quality. Just as some choose to tell the story of the stepsisters or the evil queen, Hale chose to tell the story of the unnamed maid. I find her novel to be vibrant, lush, and teeming with cultural detail. I love the Asian setting Hale gave the story.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Wells, Rosemary. Yoko. New York: Hyperion, 1998.

Yoko is Japanese. The kids in her class make fun of the sushi she brings for lunch. Through an ingenious plot by her teacher, the kids have to try various foods before making judgments. Yoko doesn't get teased anymore and makes a new friend.

What I thought: I love the message of this book--don't judge people just because they're different. I like that acceptance in the book is conditional. I think this is the way kids work. They have have to know that [blank] isn't weird before they accept it. This book reminded me of Kevin Henkes' Chrysanthemum.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You Might be a [Children's] Librarian if... find yourself saving all sorts of strange things because they could be used for story time crafts. Examples of said strange things are toilet paper rolls, plastic applesauce containers, and cereal boxes.

Yes, I save these things. I have a bag designated for just such items. When it's full, it will go to the craft room.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The One and Only Marigold

Heide, Florence, Parry. The One and Only Marigold. Illus. Jill McElmurry. New York: Schwartz, 2009.

Marigold is a very particular little monkey. She likes what she likes (her old coat, herself) with no qualms. Marigold is also thoughtful. She makes lists and plots how to annoy her friend Maxine.

What I thought: A delightful story with lovely illustrations. The author captures the hilarity and audacity of one little monkey. Marigold's adventures could be any girl's adventures--from her love affair with her favorite coat to her uneasy friendship with Maxine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

You Might Be A Librarian If... have to bring an extra tote bag with you to work so you can cart all the books you check out home.

Yes, I'm definitely a librarian. I can't help but gather up a stack of books for me during the day. Shelving goes something like this: one book back on the shelve, one book pulled to take home with me. (One for the shelf, one fir me!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause

Klause, Annette Curtis. The Silver Kiss. New York: Laurel-Leaf, 1990.

Before Bella and Edward there was Zoe and Simon. Simon is a centuries old vampire who seeks to avenge his mother’s death. Zoe is just a girl, a girl with a dying mother. As Simon has already lost his mother, he can comfort Zoe as she faces the loss of hers. Likewise, she can help him find, trap, and kill his mother’s murderer.

What I thought: I admire the sensitivity and sensuality of Klause’s first novel. The Silver Kiss has depth and is blessed with brevity. The novel is short compared to Twilight, but I find it a much more engrossing read. I like Twilight, but I think Meyer could have said more with less. Fans of Twilight need to read The Silver Kiss and Hahn’s Look for Me By Moonlight to grasp the scope of vampire fiction.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stella, Unleashed by Linda Ashman

Ashman, Linda. Stella, Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse. Illus. Paul Meisel. New York: Sterling, 2008.

Have you ever wondered what your canine companion thinks about during the day? What she would say if she could talk? In her own words, Stella relates her thoughts and opinions. She’s eloquent, articulate, and at times a little naughty.

What I thought: How I admire Stella’s eloquence and poetic language! Ashman delights readers with 29 poems from Stella’s point-of-view. My favorites are “The Drama Queen” and “Tea Time.” I also enjoyed “Someone for Each of Us” which reminds me of Pongo’s search for the perfect mate (for himself and Roger) in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. Meisel’s illustrations perfectly fit Ashman’s poems.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Belle by Cameron Dokey

Dokey, Cameron. Belle. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008.

Belle thinks her name is a misnomer. Belle means beauty and she’s certainly not, especially when compared to her gorgeous sisters Celeste and April. Belle withdraws from society. Content to be a recluse, she finds solace in her wood carving. Her talent with a knife leads to adventure in the heart of the forest. There resides a Beast who wants to be freed.

What I thought: The changes Dokey made to the original fairy tale are inspired. A beauty who doesn’t think she is. Belle’s reclusive nature is quite intriguing. I also love that Dokey gave her a talent. Belle is not the typical fairy tale heroine. She has a depth of thought and feeling that is absent from the original tale.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? by Jane Yolen

Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? Illus. Mark Teague. New York: Scholastic, 2003.

Just how does a dinosaur learn to read? Yolen explores this question with delightful speculation and ultimately teaches you what you should and shouldn’t do while reading.

What I thought: I love Yolen’s Dinosaur series, but as a librarian, I am especially fond of this title. Yolen’s lyrical prose is wonderful. The book is almost a song. Teague’s illustrations are deliciously realistic. These are not cartoon dinosaurs, but real dinosaurs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Night Dance by Suzanne Weyn

Weyn, Suzanne. The Night Dance. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005.

Rowena is the youngest of twelve sisters. Since her mother’s disappearance when she was just a baby, her father Sir Ethan has confined his daughters to their manor house grounds.

One day, Rowena finds a crack in the garden wall. Her adventures beyond the wall lead to her true love, night dances with her sisters, the rescuing of her mother, and the restoration of happiness to her entire family.

Bedivere has been charged by his late King Arthur to return Excalibur to the lady of the lake. His quest leads him to Rowena.

What I thought: A lovely retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales (The Twelve Dancing Princesses or The Slippers that Were Danced to Pieces). I love how Weyn blends the fairy tale with Arthurian legends to give the reader a wholly unique tale.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff

Numeroff, Laura. If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. Illus. Felicia Bond. New York: Laura Geringer, 2008.

Remember Cat from Pig’s party? (If You Give a Pig a Party, 2005) Well, he’s got his own story now. Cat has a fondness for cupcakes that leads to all sorts of adventures. He goes to the beach, the gym, the museum, the park, and the lake. There’s even a merry-go-round in the story.

What I thought: What a great summer read from Numeroff! Cat is quite an active feline. Kids will love reading about Cat’s escapades and recreating them. Summer is the perfect time to visit the beach, the park, the gym, the lake, and the museum. Bond’s illustrations are wonderful as usual. Cat’s friend Mouse is even in a few of them though I missed him the first time around.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey

Dokey, Cameron. Beauty Sleep. New York: Simon Pulse, 2002.

Cursed when she’s but a few months old to die when she turns sixteen. The lovely Aurore enjoys a happy of restricted childhood. She and her father’s hair Oswald have a love hate relationship. When she turns sixteen, strange things start to happen—plagues, if you will. For the sake of her family and kingdom, Aurore leaves and enters the forest—a magical, cursed place that she’s been warned against. Can Aurore escape the curse and return to rule as queens?

What I thought: This story was masterful in its narrative. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll get lost (literally) in the story. I liked that this was a first-person account and Aurore was determined to set her story straight. She wants the reader to remember more than the fairy tale.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff

Numeroff, Laura. If You Give a Pig a Party. Illus. Felicia Bond. New York: Laura Geringer, 2005.

Pig, of If You Give a Pig a Pancake fame, is back. This time around she’s having a party and wants all her friends to be there. Bumper cars, pillow fights, and balloons makes fun for all!

What I thought: Another wonderful circular story from Numeroff. I was delighted to meet all if Pig’s friend. Some I knew (Mouse and Moose) and some I didn’t (Cat, Dog, Rabbit, Fox, and Snake). Numeroff’s newest book is about Cat (If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, 2009). I hope to see stories about the others soon. Shall we speculate on titles?

If You Give a Dog a Donut
If You Give a Rabbit a Radish
If You Give a Fox a Fig
If You Give a Snake a Smoothie

Please leave your title ideas in the comments.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Displays

I've had the privilege to put together two book displays for Tellico Plains Public Library. One display (Past Newbery Award Winners & Honor Books) is for juveniles. The other display (Fairy Tales Retold) is for young adults. The Fairy Tale display took some work. I made the props by wrapping books from the sale table in colored paper. I made the summary scrolls using Word. I printed them on colored cardstock and taped craft sticks (Popsicle sticks) to the back.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguie

Viguie, Debbie. Scarlet Moon. New York: Simon Pulse, 2004.

A wolf attacked Ruth as a child. Scared, she remains fearfully of the woods whenever she visits her grandmother Giselle. Necessity demands that Ruth take up her father’s trade of blacksmithing. The lady blacksmith meets and falls in love with William, the Duke. William’s family was cursed long ago. Every full moon, he must assume the shape of a wolf. Ruth must reconcile her fear of wolves and her love of William to save him.

What I thought: I liked this story because it redeems the wolf. I’ve always felt that he gets a bad rap in so many fairy tales. This retelling explores other options. He is not a remorseless killer. He is a man cursed who cannot overcome his animal instincts. I also liked the time period—the Crusades.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

Numeroff, Laura. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies. Illus. Felicia Bond. New York: Laura Geringer, 2000.

It’s Christmastime and Mouse is going to the movies. Popcorn inspires him to make a chain and that leads to the purchase of a Christmas tree, lots of snow play, and the making of other decorations.

What I thought: A Christmas story from Numeroff—what fun! I love the illustrations. They give me so many ideas for a story time program. I can see children making ornaments just like Mouse does. I have to wonder if the other animals are jealous of Mouse. Not only does he get cookies, he gets to go places. In 2000, he went to the movies. In 2002, he went to school. Where should the other animals get to go?

If You Take a Moose to the Mayor’s Office
If You Take a Pig to the Post Office
If You Take a Cat to the Carwash
If You Take a Dog to the Dentist
If You Take a Fox to the Firehouse
If You Take a Rabbit to the Racetrack
If You Take a Snake to the Salon

Note: Readers will meet most of these animals in If You Give a Pig a Party (2005)

Please leave your guesses in the comments!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

Kindl, Patrice. Goose Chase. New York: Puffin, 2001.

Alexandria Aurora Fortnato has been cursed. She’s as beautiful as the dawn. Her hair sheds gold dust. She weeps diamonds. These may not seem like curses, but they resulted in her being locked in a tower for six months and forced to choose between King Claudio the Cruel and Prince Edmund of Dorloo (a bumbling fool). Before she was cursed, Alexandria was just a simple Goose Girl. She minded her own business and tended her 12 geese. Though her geese rescue her from the tower, she’s not out of danger. The king and prince might still be pursuing her. She lands in a den of ogresses. The bumbling prince becomes her traveling companion. They are captured by the king’s soldiers. A marriage is in the offing. Can her geese save her now? Or will it be a crown, a ring, and a necklace that deliver her from marriage to the king?

What I thought: A delightful tale fraught with misadventure. This book was truly a pleasure to read. Alexandria has such great character and voice. I love how the ending is not quite complete. Patrice, if you’re reading this, I’d love to see a sequel.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

Bruel, Nick. Bad Kitty. New Milford, CT: Neal Porter, 2005.

Kitty isn’t really bad. She’s only bad when forced to eat healthy food like eggplant and water cress. Then she does bad things. She “endangered the goldfish” and “yowled all night” for a start/ However, her behavior always improves when her humans stock up on the food she enjoys such as goose goulash and whale waffles. After such a scrumptious feast, Kitty must make amends. She “kissed the goldfish” and “sang opera all night.”

What I thought: Nick Bruel is a genius. This delightful book takes readers on a romp through the alphabet four times. When I first saw Bad Kitty on, I knew I had to have my very own copy. Thank you, Mr. Bruel, for hours of entertainment as I read the book repeatedly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blood & Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Klause, Annette Curtis. Blood and Chocolate. New York: Laurel Leaf, 1997.

Vivian Gandillon is a werewolf. Part human, part wolf. Her interest in Aidan, a sensitive, poetic human, makes it difficult for her to reconcile the two halves of herself. Gabriel, the young, handsome new leader of the pack, offers her a new perspective on her dilemma. Who will she choose?

What I thought: Sexy and complicated are the best ways to describe this book. Readers can relate to Vivian’s identity struggle. Yes, she’s a werewolf, but she’s also a teen girl. They question who they are, who they want to be. It’s the natural process of growing up. For those of you who have seen the movie, the book is SO much better. I don’t know why they bothered to make a movie when they changed every aspect of the book.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff

Numeroff, Laura. If You Take a Mouse to School. Illus. Felicia Bond. New York: Laura Gereinger, 2002.

Have you ever wanted to take your pet to school. In this story, a boy takes his pet mouse to school and they have many adventures. The mouse dabbles in all the scholastic arts and makes great messes.

What I thought: I’m glad Numeroff wrote another book about Mouse. He’s a great character. Bond outdid herself with the illustrations. There’s so much to look at on each page.

Read All Numeroff’s Circular Stories:
If You Give a Mouse A Cookie (1985)
If You Give a Mouse a Muffin (1991)
If You Give a Pig a Pancake (1998)
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies (2000)
If You Take a Mouse to School (2002)
If You Give a Pig a Party (2006)
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake (2009)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Squashed by Joan Bauer

Bauer, Joan. Squashed. New York: Speak, 1992.

Max and Ellie both have weight problems. Max needs to gain a few hundred. Ellie wants to lose twenty. Did I mention Max is the giant pumpkin Ellie’s growing for a local competition? Their journey to weigh-in day is fraught with pumpkin thieves, guard dogs, and frost threats.

What I thought: Bauer is one of my favorite authors. This book, one of her first, is refreshing in the midst of other newer young adult novels. I would even call the book timeless. It’s 17 years old, but the issues Ellie deals with are the same issues girls are still dealing with today. Ellie is such a likeable character. The book is one of struggles. Girl against nature. Girls against self. Girl against others.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff

Numeroff, Laura. If You Give a Moose a Muffin. Illus. Felicia Bond. New York: Laura Gereinger, 1991.

One boy’s adventures with a moose—it all started with a muffin. (And ended with one, too.)

What I thought: Numeroff’s forays into the realm of “what if” continue to delight me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Water Song by Suzanne Weyn

Weyn, Suzanne. Water Song. New York: Simon Pulse, 2006.

The war has trapped Emma Winthrop on her family estate in Belgium. She rescues Jack from her well. He’s been injured by chlorine gas. No sooner than she saves him than German troops commandeer her home. To protect herself and Jack (an American fighting for the British), Emma tells the Germans that they are married. Jack and Emma have an uneasy relationship. She’s disgusted by his disfigured looks and looks down on him. He’s enchanted by her beauty and just wants a kiss. The precarious nature of their situation draws them closer. They both want to aid the Allied cause and escape their confinement. Jack’s special, you might even say magical, way with water is a great help.

What I thought: What depth Weyn gives to the classic fairy tale “The Frog Prince.” Emma is more than a silly princess. Jack is certainly not a frog though Emma thinks he looks like one when he’s injured. The World War I setting is wonderful. This book is a fairy tale, a fantasy, and historical fiction all at the same time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Numeroff, Laura. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Illus. Felicia Bond. New York: Laura Gereinger, 1985.

Did you know that cookies and milk could inspire adventures? Well, they can. Just ask the mouse.

What I thought: This book is a classic. Numeroff has really hit on something with her circular stories. If find myself wanting to read them again and again. Bond’s whimsical illustrations add to my enjoyment.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey

Dokey, Cameron. Before Midnight. New York: Simon Pulse, 2007.

Her mother wishes that Old Mathilde will love her daughter. Her father wishes never to see his daughter again. Such are the beginnings of the girl called Cendrillon. When her father remarries, changes come to the estate. In Chatal de Saint Andres and her daughters Anastasia and Amelie, Cendrillon finds a family.

What I thought: I never imagined there could be a version of Cinderella where the stepmother isn’t wicked, but here it is. The wicked one is Cendrillon’s father. I like the way Dokey uses pumpkins in the story. They use their pumpkin harvest to get them to down and the carriage the boys procure to take the ladies to the ball is shaped like a pumpkin. The story is even more appealing because all the girls have a love interest, not just Cendrillon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff

Numeroff, Laura. If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Illus. Felicia Bond. New York: Laura Gereinger, 1998.

Do you know what happens if you give a pig a pancake? Well, here’s one theory.

What I thought: A delightful circular story! I love where Numeroff’s “what if” takes readers. Bond’s illustrations add even more charm to the book.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snow by Tracy Lynn

Lynn, Tracy. Snow. New York: Simon Pulse, 2003.

Jessica, the daughter of a Welsh duke, is driven from her home by a vindictive stepmother. She journeys to London where she meets the Lonely Ones. Half animal and half human, they become her friends. She keeps house for Cat, Raven, Sparrow, Mouser, and Chauncery. She is not safe for long. The threat of her beauty causes her stepmother to pursue and curse her.

What I thought: This is why I love fairy tales. Writers can take the basic elements (in this case, a beautiful girl, an evil stepmother, and some odd friends) and create a novel. Lynn gives the classic story of Snow White new life with a definitive setting (Victorian Wales and England) and fully developed characters. Jessica is so much more than a pretty face.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children by Jane Yolen

Yolen, Jane. Snow, Snow: Winter Poems for Children. Photographs by Jason Stemple. Honesdale, PA: Wordson/Boyd's Mill Press, 1998.

As you might have guessed from the title, this collection of poetry is all about snow and winter. Yolen's poems are paired with breathtaking photographs of wintry landscapes.

What I thought: In this collection I most enjoyed Yolen's use of imagery. In "Snow on the Trees," she uses painting imagery and numerous similes. In "River in Winter," the snow is fur on the water. A delightful collection!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different

Tubb, Kristin O'Donnell. Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different. New York: Delacorte, 2008.

Autumn lives in Cades Cove, Tennessee during the Depression. She can't wait to leave the Cove for Knoxville. She longs for city living. Her grandfather's failing health ties her family to the Cove a little longer. Autumn acquires a sidekick in Cody, a boy from Knoxville staying with relatives in the Cove. She spies on Gramps as he promotes the National Park (when he thinks it will protect and enrich the Cove) and as he opposes it (when he discovers the Park will include the Cove).

What I thought: Autumn is a wonderful character. I'm glad she is the narrator and I heard her voice so clearly. Autumn is just the age my Grandma was during the Depression. Having a personal connection to the time further endears the story to me. As a native East Tennessean, I'm familiar with Cades Cove. I've visited there twice, once as a child and once in college. As a child, I remember being greatly disturbed when my dad told me the government took people's land to make the park. Now that I'm older, I'm still disturbed, but more so since I discovered that Cades Cove was quite a modern community, but all signs of modernity were destroyed to give the Cove the right feel for visitors. Thank you, Mrs. Tubb, for writing this story. It needed to be written.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Cold Winter's Good Knight

Thomas, Shelley Moore. A Cold Winter's Good Knight. Illus. Jennifer Plecas. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Good Knight's three little dragon friends are very cold. As he is a good knight, he takes them to the castle so they'll be warm. However, he cautions them to mind their manners because there's a ball happening at the castle. They agree. The only problem is that the little dragons don't know what manners are. They get into quite a few scrapes before Good Knight realizes the problem. Once educated, the little dragons are mannered and polite.

What I thought: Good Knight and his little dragon friends are such great characters. I look forward to reading about them for many years to come. I like how Thomas uses a repetitive style that is similar to Dr. Seuss. It gives the book a certain rhythm. Repetition also makes this book perfect for children to read for themselves. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and immensely appealing. The latest installment in the series is as good as the others previous. Brava, Ms. Thomas!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bird Watch by Jane Yolen

Yolen, Jane. Bird Watch. Illus. Ted Lewin. New York: Philomel, 1990.

Birds and observations are the subject of this collection. Yolen's verse are paired with beautiful watercolor illustrations.

What I thought: I'm something of a birdwatcher so I enjoyed Yolen's verses about winged creatures. Lewin's illustrations were a perfect match. My favorite poems are "Winter Choosing," "Swan," "The Cardinal," "Winter Finch," and "Song/Birds." The dichotomy Yolen presents in "Swan" was genius. A swan is beautiful above the water, but a working girl underneath. This poem would be a great way to teach the old saying "appearances can be deceiving."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Northern Light

Donnelly, Jennifer. A Northern Light. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003.

Mattie has a dream: she wants to leave the family farm to attend college in New York City. She wants to be a writer. She spouts off words like other girls do recipes. Leaving is not an easy decision. She promised her mother to look after her sisters. Her brother has already deserted the family. Then, there's Royal Loomis. He's handsome and interested in Mattie. How can she resist?

A tragedy unconnected to Mattie makes her reevaluate her life. A girl, just a bit older than Mattie, drowns in the Lake. She was staying at the hotel Mattie is working at during the summer. Grace, the drowned girl, entrusted some love letters to Mattie. She made Mattie promise to burn them. After Grace's mysterious death, Mattie can't help, but read the letters. What she finds there makes her break her promises to her mother and Grace.

What I thought: This was an absorbing book. I couldn't put it down. I related to Mattie in terms of ambition. I have always wanted to be a writer. Mattie and I are also both pioneers. She left her family to pursue her dreams. I was the first person in my family to attend college. The story has two narratives: Mattie's present (summer at the hotel) and the near past (four months prior). The narratives eventually converge. I found this technique (flashbacks) to be interesting, but not confusing. I was so proud of Mattie when she broke her engagement to Royal and left. She was destined for better things than being a farmer's wife with a baby every year. I love that this book is based on a real murder. This is historical fiction at its best. Dreiser's An American Tragedy is now on my reading list. I also look forward to reading more books by Donnelly. I find her to be an exceptional writer.

Thanks to Abby (the) Librarian for recommending the book on her blog.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wild About Books

Sierra, Judy. Wild About Books. Illus. Marc Brown. New York: Knopf, 2004.

One day, the library's bookmobile makes an unplanned stop at the local zoo. Molly the librarian finds that the animals love reading. They devour books (sometimes literally). Their love of reading encourages a love of writing. Soon every animal at the zoo is an author. The animals' voracious love of books necessitates the building of a zoobrary.

What I thought: What a delightful book! The language is pleasing and the pictures are colorful. This is an imaginative way to introduce children to the delights of reading. Sierra and Brown dedicate the book to Dr. Seuss. I can hear him in the language of the book and see him in the illustrations. A fitting tribute and a great book. Every librarian should have a copy. This one's going on my to buy list.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Water Music by Jane Yolen

Yolen, Jane. Water Music. Photographs by Jason Stemple. Honesdale, PA: Wodsong/Boyd's Mill Press, 1995.

In this collection of poetry, Yolen treats water in all its forms--indoor, outdoor, liquid, frozen, lakes, rivers, falls, oceans, rain showers, and water flora.

What I thought: A delightful collection. Stemple's photographs are magnificent. I wonder which came first, the poems or the photographs? I'm especially fond of the imagery Yolen uses in these poems. My favorites are "Water Jewels," Embroidery," "Observation," and "Tangle." I will definitely be reading more of Jane Yolen's poetry.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My One Hundred Adventures

Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures. New York: Schwartz, 2008.

Jane decides to pray for one hundred adventures. Little does she know what a risky thing adventures can be. Her summer is filled with adventure, though not perhaps the kind she wanted. She drops Bibles from hot air balloons and ends up blackmailed into babysitting the Gourd children.

What I thought: This has all the wit and humor of the other books Horvath has written. It is perhaps a bit more serious in nature than her others (Everything on a Waffle, When the Circus Came to Town, An Occasional Cow, The Trolls). Jane seems more mature than precocious. I guess this is what comes of being the eldest of four with no father and a poet for a mother. An enjoyable read with plenty of humor. When you want to laugh, read something by Horvath.

For a full bibliography of Horvath's books, visit her website.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Batter Up Wombat

Lester, Helen. Batter Up Wombat. Illus. Lynn Munsinger. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

Their baseball team's name was a misnomer. The Champs weren't champions. They became more hopeful when the new kid from Australia joins their team. The Champs misunderstand his name. He's a wombat, but they hear Whambat. They explain baseball to him, but Wombat doesn't understand their American expressions and slang. He may be big and strong, but Wombat is a horrible baseball player. Wombat saves the day when a tornado comes to town. Using his digging skills, he digs a tunnel to keep all the players safe.

What I Thought: What a fun book about America's favorite pastime. I love wombat's character. His misunderstanding of American slang and his own Australian expressions give children exposure to another culture in a fun way. A great read for the summer!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Great Frog Race and Other Poems by Kristine O'Connell George

George, Kristine O'Connell. The Great Frog Race and Other Poems. Illus. Kate Kiesler. New York: Clarion, 1997.

In this collection of poetry, George captures the wonder and simplicity of childhood. Things a child would see and do become the subjects of poems. From frog racing to monkey wrenches, George describes them with a freshness and voice that is unique.

What I thought: What a great collection! As it won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, I know I'm not the only person who thinks so. Some of my favorite poems in the collection offer the reader a new perspective on an object. "Evening Rain" uses sewing imagery. Raindrops as stitches is so plausible I found myself wondering why I hadn't considered it before. Describing a common insect's wings as window panes and cellophane in "Dragonfly" is genius. That's exactly what their wings look like. As I read the poems, I found myself remembering my own childhood. If I were to write poems about my childhood, I can only hope that they would have the same magic as George's. I freely admit my subject matter would be different. Think mud pies, rain dancing, and puddle jumping.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Edward Tulane

DiCamillo, Kate. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Illus. Bagram Ibatoulline. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2006.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit. He thinks quite a lot of himself. He has fine silk clothes, a pocket watch, and a bed. Edward belongs to 10 year old Abilene Tulane. Abilene treats Edward as a real person instead of a china rabbit. Abilene loves Edward, but Edward doesn't understand love. Edward becomes separated from Abilene and becomes someone different to various people. To Lawrence the fisherman and his wife Nellie, Edward is transformed into Susanna. To the hobo Bull and his dog Lucy, Edward is Malone. To an old woman with a garden, Edward is Clyde, scarecrow extraordinaire. To Bryce and his sick sister Sarah Ruth, Edward is transformed into Jangles, the dancing rabbit. On these adventures, Edward learns about love and how painful it can be. He is accidentally broken and lives contentedly in a toy shop. He doesn't want to be bought. He's had enough of love, but one day, a little girl comes to the shop with her mother. Maggie recognizes Edward as Edward Tulane. Abilene is her mother. Edward has returned to his first loving owner. He's willing to love again.

What I Thought: This was an endearing story. The books reads quickly: it only took me 30 minutes to read. The pictures are lovely and so detailed. Edward's story reminded me of Rachel Field's Hitty, Her First Hundred Years (the 1930 Newberry Award Winner). Field chronicles the adventure and misadventures of Hitty, a wooden doll. For children who enjoy Edward Tulane, they might also like to read Hitty's story.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Delightful Casson Family Returns!

McKay, Hilary. Indigo's Star. New York: McElderry, 2003.
McKay, Hilary. Permanent Rose. New York: McElderry, 2005.
McKay, Hilary. Caddy Ever After. New York: McElderry, 2006.
McKay, Hilary. Forever Rose. New York: McElderry, 2008.

You will remember the Casson Family (Caddy, Saffy, Indigo, and Rose) from Saffy's Angel. Their hilarious adventures continue in four more novels.

In Indigo's Star, Indigo returns to school after a lengthy illness. He dreads school because he's being tormented by a gang of bullies. His family unites to help him with his problem. Saffy almost snatches the gang leader bald. Rose volunteers to help in any way she can. Indigo and Rose make a new friend in Tom, an American boy staying with his Grandmother.

In Permanent Rose, Rose endures a hot, never-ending summer. She's taken up shoplifting as a new hobby. She misses Tom who returned to America. She's worried that Caddy will jilt darling Michael. The family collects a new friend: David, reformed gang member. Without meaning to,m Rose ends up on a train to London and talks herself into accompanying her father to America.

In Caddy Ever After, the Casson family is just as crazy as ever. Indigo tries to get everyone to attend the Valentine's dance. Saffy has a new boyfriend. Caddy has dumped Michael and engaged herself to Alex, the brother of Saffy's boyfriend. Rose doesn't know what to do, but she does know that Caddy shouldn't marry Alex. She must stop the wedding.

In Forever Rose, Rose is now 11 years old and her family has (unintentionally) abandoned her. Saffy and her friend Sarah are always gone. Indigo has a job. Caddy went in search pf Michael and promptly disappeared. Her father's still in London. Her mother's still in the shed. Christmas is coming and no one seems to care.

What I Thought: From the moment I read Saffy's Angel, I've loved the Casson family. They're so quirky. What I enjoy most about the books is that they don't really focus on one character, they're more concerned with the family as a whole. Indigo's Star and Permanent Rose were similar to Saffy's Angel in that they had third person narration. Caddy Ever After was quite different because the chapters presented a different family member's point-of-view. We hear from all four of the siblings. Forever Rose is told from Rose's point-of-view. To accurately portray her loneliness and sense of abandonment, no other point-of-view would work as well. I was sad when I read Forever Rose because it's the last book about the Casson family. Hilary, if you're reading this, please wrote more about this delightful family.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cricket Never Does by Myra Cohn Livingston

Livingston, Myra Cohn. Cricket Never Does: A Collection of Haiku and Tanka. New York: McElderry, 1997.

Livingston divides her collection of 67 haiku and tanka into the four seasons. Her poetry makes the reader look at nature with new eyes as she presents images in innovative ways. Bougainvillea becomes a mask for graffiti. Trees become castles and havens (as Anne Shirley would want them to be). Fall floras watch over streets. Leaves huddle and the moon is a canoe.

What I thought: Haiku is meant to capture moments in time. These certainly do. I find haiku to be a challenging form from a writer's perspective. The brevity alone is difficult to achieve. From a reader's perspective, haiku is wonderful. Just a few words call up an image. That is power, a power that Livingston has.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fortunes of Indigo Skye

Caletti, Deb. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Indigo Skye is content with her life. She's about to graduate high school, she has a great boyfriend, and she honestly enjoys being a waitress. Life is good, simple. Until the day Indigo gives advice to one of her customers. She recommends that he change his life if he's not happy with it. Good advice to be sure. Her advice bears fruit that she never dreamed of. The guy gives her two and a half million dollars. Yeah, you read right--millions. Indigo's first instinct is to give the money back. With her dad's help, she tracks him down and they discuss his gift. He truly wants her to have the money. He gives her some advice: "Let it make you bigger, not smaller" (158).

Indigo wants to give her family luxuries. Her mom refuses. Her boyfriend wants Indigo to help fix up his car and fund his ideas. Everyone seems to want something from Indigo, even if they don't want money. Her boss resents her for having the money. One day, Indigo's had enough. She quits her job and goes with a friend to California. Being rich isn't all it's cracked up to be. She let the money make her smaller, but she can change that Indigo makes plans for her money and won't let anyone stand in her way. She helps her family and friends. Indigo is bigger than the money. She knows that now.

What I thought: This book was a good read, if a bit long (2 pages shy of 300). At times I felt like the book was never going to end. The book reminded me of a couple of things. The movie It Could Happen to You and Joan Bauer's Hope was Here. The movie heroine gets a big tip like Indigo. Both Hope and Indigo are waitresses. Indigo is a great character and a universal truth underlies the book: Money can't buy happiness. But Indigo finds that it can be used to improve lives.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sisters of the Sword

Snow, Maya. Sisters of the Sword. New York: Harper Collins, 2008.

In feudal Japan, Kimi and Hana, girls of noble blood, must renounce their family to preserve it. Their uncle's greed and jealousy lead him to kill their father and two older brothers. He planned to kill the whole family, but Kimi, Hana, their mother, and younger brother escaped. The girls are separated from their mother. To protect themselves they become boys and take refuge at Master Goku's dojo as servants. They hone their skills with weapons and vow to avenge their family.

What I thought: As I've studied Japanese history, the historical setting of this book was appealing to me. While girls disguising themselves as boys as been done for centuries (Viola in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for instance), Snow's take on it is quite original. I don't recall ever reading a story where girls wanted to be samurai. The book reads quickly as you are eager to find out what happens to Kimi and Hana. My only complaint is that the book is the first in a series, yet there's no indication of that until you reach the end. The ending is an unresolved one. The girls have hope because their mother is safe, but their story is not done. A little heads up about this would be nice as I felt dissatisfied with the book when I came to the ending. However, I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the other books in the series.

Sisters of the Sword 2: Chasing the Secret (January 2009)
Sisters of the Sword 3: Journey through Fire (June 2009)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Loose Threads by Loria Ann Grover

Grover, Lorie Ann. Loose Threads. New York: McElderry, 2002.

Kay is a normal seventh grader until her grandma finds a lump on her breast. Her life, her mother's, her grandmas, and her great-grandma's all change with these simple words "I found a lump / in my breast" (1). Poems chronicle Kay's struggle to deal with the changes in her life. To understand cancer. To understand herself. To understand her friends. To accept the frailty of life.

What I thought: This book was incredibly moving because it deals with a subject every woman fears: breast cancer. The poignancy of the story increased when I realized the author was writing from her personal experience. Her own grandmother had breast cancer. I've never had anyone close to me die a lingering death, but I can understand it through this book. As Kay cried, I cried. My favorite poem in the book is "Friends." It describes perfectly what this book gives readers.

I read
in the empty time.
I read at doctors' offices.
I read after nightmares.
I read when I hide out in the bathroom
and rest my head against the toilet paper roll.
I turn page after page,
in book after book.
Other kids
suffer in novels.
I'm not the only one.
My stuff
could be worse.
I hold the open book to my face
and breathe deep.
The ink paper smell
fills me up.
Each author
is a friend saying,
"There's hope.
Look." (110-11)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Geek High

Banks, Piper. Geek High. New York: NAL Jam, 2007.

Miranda's life has been controlled by her intellect. She can do complicated math in her head. Her (unwanted) nickname is the human calculator. Miranda has plans to change that this school year. Her plans are more than a bit upset when her mother moves to London and leaves Miranda with her dad, stepmother, and stepsister. Through no fault of her own, she becomes responsible for revamping her school's Snowflake Gala. The principal also blackmails her into rejoining the math club. Miranda wanted to join Ampersand, the school's literary magazine. Miranda is intent on finding her passion, but everyone seems to thwart her efforts.

What I thought: I've noticed a trend in chick lit--a focus on the geeks as opposed to the popular people. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for this trend. I find it interesting that publishers have somehow realized that their teen readers may relate more to the geeks than the popular kids. That being said, this was an enjoyable read. I liked that Miranda refused to let her ability to solve equations in her head define her as a person. Her search for a passion is to be commended. Don't we all want to find or passion? I liked that Miranda aspired to be a writer. I would have liked a bit more description about her writing, but I can't have it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. New York: Hyperion, 2008.

In the summer months, Frankie goes from geek to chic. Gone is the fuzzy hair and the nonexistent chest. Frankie has the body of a woman; things are looking up for her sophomore year at Alabaster Academy. On her first day, she becomes the girlfriend of one of the most popular boys on campus. This should make Frankie happy, but it doesn't. Matthew is always ditching her for his friend Alpha. He also underestimates her--he basically tells her she's a pretty face, a cute body, and not much else. One night, Frankie follows Matthew and stumbles on a meeting of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, Alabaster's secret, all male society. Frankie knows a little about the Bassets because her dad was one. It becomes her mission to get noticed. She discovers the lost history of the order and sets out to return them to their former glory. Will Alabaster survive Frankie's escapades? Will Frankie?

What I thought: I could not put this book down. It was a riveting read. The narration threw me for an instant. I expected first person and got limited omniscient. But it worked for the book. I liked the narrator. It's someone I wish I knew better. Throughout this book, I kept thinking of the Dead Poets Society. This book is very like it. Without the suicide. With more girls. I support Frankie in all her schemes. Should make those boys think twice about dismissing her as a silly girl again. A great book, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dear Mother, Dear Daughter by Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple

Yolen, Jane and Heidi E. Y. Stemple. Dear Mother, Dear Daughter. Illus. Gil Ashby. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong- Boyd's Mill Press, 2001.

This collection of poems, authored by a mother and daughter, is a conversation batten a daughter and a mother. The topics are familiar ones for those who are daughters and mothers. Homework, body image, cleaning your room, crushes, death, hobbies, extending bedtime, boredom, growing up, talking on the phone, PE, and money.

What I thought: These poems are brilliant. Heidi E. Y. Stemple writes with great insight as does Jane Yolen. These women have been both daughters and mothers and those experiences are evident in the poems. I recall having conversations on similar topics with my own mother. I don't have children of my own, but when I do, I plan to give my daughter a copy of this book so we can understand each other better. Thank you ladies for creating such a legacy for women to give their daughters.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Emmaline and the Bunny

Hanniagan, Katherine. Emmaline and the Bunny. New York: Greenwillow, 2009

Emmaline wants a bunny more than anything, but bunnies are banned in the town of Neatasapin. Bunnies are not neat, just ask the mayor. Emmaline's quest for a bunny to hop and scoot-skedaddle with transforms the town into a friendlier place. (Just ask the animals).

What I thought: The book is delightful. I love Hannigan's word choices. The story reads like poetry. Her illustrations are great. I love the soft colors and the contrast between Emmaline and the other "neat" children. I believe Emmaline and the Bunny will be as popular and beloved as Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing)

Lenhard, Elizabeth. Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing). New York: Speak, 2005.

Scottie's having a hard time dealing with her aunt's death. Amanda's worried someone will find out about her learning disability. Bella is the school's resident hippie, all smiles, peasant skirts, and wheat grass juice. Tay is one of guys, resident tomboy. Problem is she's also crushing on one of the guys. Knitting brings these four girls together. They become knitters and friends.

What I thought: This book was a quick read and gives a new meaning to chick lit. Although I'm not a knitter (I crochet!), I know enough to easily join the chicks with sticks in their journey. I liked that the author made the girls individuals. I'd like to see a book about friends who crochet, but I'm not the one to write it. I applaud Lenhard for taking an old hobby and giving it new life. I can't wait to read the other books in the series.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Boy Proof

Castellucci, Cecil. Boy Proof. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2005.

Who is Egg? A fan of the Sci-Fi flick Terminal Earth. (Can't you tell? She's renounced her given name and adopted the heroine's name as her own). She's the daughter of a small-time actress and a big-time "mask-maker, animatronic freak, monster and alien specialist, special-effects makeup wizard" (22-23). She draws. She's a photographer. She sometimes has better ideas than her dad. She's boy proof (just as her mom) and okay with it.

Egg knows who she is. Until Max enters the picture. He makes Egg question her identity.

What I thought: This was a brilliant book. Egg's voice is edgy and real. Even though I'm not much for Sci-Fi in any of its manifestations, the details were interesting and I could relate because I have some Egg-like friends. The theme of identity is strong and readers will relate. Every teen questions their identity at some point. Egg's no different. Neither am I. Or you (you know who you are).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Review: Willa by Heart

Paratore, Coleen Murtagh. Willa by Heart. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Willa thought life couldn't get any better. Her crush Joey is now her boyfriend. She saved the town library. She enjoys her life at the Bramblebriar Inn, run by her mother and stepfather. She plans on calling Sam "Dad" on Father's Day. Then she discovers a mysterious girl (who is also beautiful) who has a connection to Joey. Her mother announces she's pregnant. She doesn't get the role she wanted in the play. But you know Willa--she's willful. She overcomes these problems and continues to enjoy great books and saltwater taffy.

What I thought: As the third installment in the Wedding Planner's Daughter series, I was not disappointed. Willa hasn't changed even though she has a boyfriend now. She's still an avid reader and very civic minded. "Willa's Pix" (her personal book recommendations) are great as always. I think this series would be great to use for a mother-daughter book club. Clubs could easily use "Willa's Pix" to make future selections.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Animal Fare by Jane Yolen

Yolen, Jane. Animal Fare. Illus. Jane Street. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1994.

In this collection of 16 humorous animal poems, Yolen plays with words (animal names to be specific) and enjoys herself thoroughly. She turns giraffes into girafts, a hippopotamus into a hippopotanoose, and rabbits into raggits.

What I thought: What a fun collection of poems! I thought A. A. Milne was creative when he thought up heffalumps and woozles. He's got nothing on Jane Yolen. I laughed and laughed while I read these poems.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Revisiting Old Favorites

I picked up Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren on a whim. I enjoyed all the Pippi books when I was a child. I guess I wanted to recapture the magic. After re-reading the 1st book, I know why I liked them so much--Pippi is outrageous, hilarious, and audacious. The humor of Lindgren's books remind me a lot of Polly Horvath's books. I do like a book that makes you laugh out loud while reading it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halprin Wayland

Wayland, April Halprin. Girl Coming in for a Landing: A Novel in Poems. Illus. Elaine Clayton. New York: Knopf, 2002.

The nameless narrator takes us through a year in her life: Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. She reveals all--classes and crushes. Midnight thoughts and family.

What I thought: What a brilliant book! It reads very fast. I found myself drawn to the narrator. She, a poet, reminds me of myself as a teen. All the poems are great, but I especially like the meta-poetry. My favorite poems are "Writing Poetry," "Poetry Is My Underwear," Writer: Creator," "Waiting for Waffles," "I Have to Write," "Published!" and "Reviews." Another favorite is "Pooh" though it's not meta-poetry. I also like the author's afterward where she shares her thoughts on writing poetry. She gives 8 commonsensical tips for writing and getting published.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Celebrate National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month. Celebrate by reading or writing some poetry this month. I'm currently reading my way through Emily Dickinson's complete poems.

Verse Novels (also known as novels in verse or novems) are an exciting new take on poetry. Some of my favorites are:

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill.

I'm looking forward to reading Hate that Cat by Creech and Birds on a Wire: A Renga 'Round Town by J. Patrick Lewis and Paul B. Janeczko.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Donaldson, Julia. The Fish who Cried Wolf. Illus. Axel Scheffler. New York: Levine Books, 2007.
Tiddler, a very small fish, is almost always late to school. He always has some fantastic tale to explain his absence. His adventures with seahorses, stingrays, dolphins, mermaids, and squids all explain his tardiness. One day, while thinking up a new story (penguins this time), Tiddler is caught in a fishing net. He eventually makes it to school. Surprisingly, no one believes his tale, though for once Tiddler is telling the truth.
What I thought: This story puts a neat twist on the old tale "The boy who cried wolf." Using animals will interest children more readily in the story. I like that the story is open-ended. Tiddler doesn't receive any censure for telling tales, but readers are sure to recognize that there could be consequences for such behavior. The vibrant illustrations add to the story. The illustrator gives each fish in the story a personality.

Fox, Mem. A Particular Cow. Illus. Terry Denton. Orlando: Harcourt, 2006.
Cow likes to take a walk every Saturday. Normally, her walks are uneventful. But one particular Saturday, she runs afoul of a pair of bloomers. With her sight obstructed, Cow gets into quite a mess. She knocks over the mailman, runs into a pack of dogs and a group of children, busts up a wedding, and upsets some sailors. After all that mess, Cow's walk continues in the usual uneventful fashion.
What I Thought: What a delightful story. Cow's escapades are amusing and constructed in a pleasing fashion. I particular like the speech bubbles the illustrator gives the characters. It adds another dimension to the story.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Church, Caroline Jayne. Ping Pong Pig. New York: Holiday house, 2008.

Ping Pong Pig wants more than anything to fly. He practices constantly. The other farm animals are always hard at work on their chores. Ping Pong Pig doesn't do any chores. In fact he makes more for the other animals. In his attempts to fly, he destroys the orchard, the barns new pint job, the bee hives, and the hayricks. The other animals decide something must me done. They give Ping Pong Pig a trampoline and tell him to stay out of their way. To their surprise, he uses their gift to fix all the things he broke.

What I thought: What a cute book! Ping Pong Pig reminds me of a small incorrigible boy. This would be a great book to use to introduce kids to the concepts of responsibility and consequences. I like the simplicity of the animal drawings.

DiCamillo, Kate. Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken. Illus. Harry Bliss. New York: Joanna Colter, 2008.

Louise gets bored staying on the farm laying eggs. She longs for adventure. Her longings lead her to act. She leaves the farm to party with pirates, cavort with clowns, and browse a bazaar. In the end, Louise realizes there's nothing wrong with farm life. She is content to dream about adventures.

What I thought: What a wonderful idea--a bored chicken who sets off to have adventures. DiCamillo's book shows that there's some true to the old adage, "The grass is always greener..." The illustrations are just right. They are colorful and show Louise's adventures to the reader in great detail.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Marchetta, Melina. Jellicoe Road. New York: HarperTeen, 2006.

Taylor Markham assumes the leadership of her school in their yearly battle for territory with the Townies and the Cadets. Her dealings with these 2 groups bring her back into contact with her past. Through her friend's novel manuscript, Taylor discovers the story of 5 teens on Jellicoe Road 18 years ago. The past meets the present as Taylor finds out who she is.

What I thought: This was an intense, intriguing book. I admit that I almost didn't finish it as I was confused for the 1st 30 pages or so. After I sorted out the 2 separate yet connected story lines, I was able to read with more ease. Even now, I'm not sure I understand all that happened in the book.