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.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Fire Within by Chris d'Lacey

D'Lacey, Chris. The Fire Within. New York: Scholastic, 2001.

Wanted: One Tenant. Must love Dragons.

David Rain marks that peculiar request as simple eccentricity on the part of the advertiser. The rent suits him, so he moves in with Liz Pennykettle and her daughter Lucy. Liz is a potter and makes clay dragons. As a house-warming present, Liz presents David with his own dragon. David's dragon, whom he names Gadzooks, is a story writing dragon. Although David enjoys life in the Pennykettle home, he begins to wonder about the dragons. The house is always warm, but there are no radiators. Liz doesn't have a kiln in her studio. Could the dragons be real? As Gadzooks help David write a story for Lucy, he can't help but wonder that very same thing.

What I thought: I have 4 words for you: I want a dragon. What a delightful book! The way Liz and Lucy let David know just enough about the dragons to keep him from being overtly curious kept me as a reader wanted to know more about the dragons. The author is British. The book itself is set in Massachusetts and yet the book has a distinctly British flavor (word choice, expressions, etc.). I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pizza, Pigs, & Poetry by Jack Prelutsky

Prelutsky, Jack. Pizza, Pigs, & Poetry: How to Write a Poem. New York: Greenwillow, 2008.

In this charmingly hilarious book, the Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky, reminisces and shares both writing tips and examples of his poems with young poets. Always carry a notebook and few pens (just in case you kill one), make lists, write about what you know, and embrace rewriting as a fact. While Prelutsky is adamant that this is not a book about poetic form, he does share a few terms with readers including scansion, poetic license, and voice. Though he himself enjoys a good rhyme, Prelutsky does not think they are always necessary. Write a haiku instead.

What I thought: If you can't tell from my effusive summary of the book, I really liked this book. It's definitely a great resource to use with kids. With National Poetry Month coming up in April, I'm glad I read this book. It makes me want to write. If nothing else, I need to find the prefect notebook to carry with me. Off to the stationery store!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Diary of a Would-Be Princess by Jessica Green

Green, Jessica. Diary of a Would-Be Princess. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2005.

Jillian doesn't exactly fit in at her school. At the beginning of the year, she thought she wanted to be a Princess (AKA a popular girl). Nigel insists on being her friend though she doesn't relish his company. Her teacher Mrs. Bright makes them keep diaries. The reader follows Jillian during her 5th grade year as she struggles to fit in, deal with her siblings, and find friends.

What I thought: What a great book! Jillian doesn't mince words in her entries. She's brutally honest which often gets her in trouble with Mrs. Bright. This book brought home the sad reality that kids this young struggle with cliques just as much as high schoolers do. That Jillian is an Aussie brings added interest to the book. The author kindly includes a glossary of Australian terms. I now have a new word for a marker or highlighter (and possibly Sharpies)--texta.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer

Schaefer, Laura. The Teashop Girls. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Convincing her grandmother to let her work in the teashop, The Steeping Leaf, was the easy part. Annie's always loved the teashop. She and her two best friends were "The Teashop Girls" growing up. Now, she's working there as a barista. The Leaf is in trouble. Business is slow and the bills are piling up. Annie's grandmother is served an eviction notice. Can Annie and the Teashop Girls save the Leaf?

What I thought: I loved, loved, loved this book. Any girl or woman who has close friends will appreciate this tale of friendship. The teashop setting is a bonus. I've been a tea drinker since I was Annie's age. I never went to a teashop or held tea parties, but I appreciate the warmth and relaxation that is a cup of tea (preferably herbal). I enjoyed Annie's enterprising crusade to save The Steeping Leaf. I think this book would make a great selection for a mother-daughter book club. I love that the book includes recipes. It makes it easier to plan your tea for the book discussion.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Berry, Lynne. Duck Dunks. Illus. Hiroe Nakata. New York: Henry Holt, 2008.

Five little ducks spend a day at the seashore. They swim, picnic, fly a kite, and play games. At the end of the day, they take their damp feathers home.

What I thought: What a lovely book. I loved the rhythm of the words. The illustrations added to my enjoyment. A perfect book to read on a summer day. A plug for Tennessee authors--Lynne Berry lives in Nashville.

Wilson, Sarah. The Day We Danced in Underpants. Illus. Catherine Stock. Berkley: Tricycle Press, 2008.

An invitation from the king to a royal party. New clothes are bought and some are too tight. The ladies put on their finest finery in heaping mounds. The day is hot hot. The guest sweat and wilt. Papa's too tight pants split open. The King declares we will enjoy the rest of the day in our underthings.

What I thought: What a fun party! I think this will leave readers wanting to know more about French customs. The illustrations are very colorful and suit the historical period of the book perfectly.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

George, Jessica Day. Dragon Slippers. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Creel is expendable. She can't work on the farm like her brother Hagan. She's not beautiful and thus has no expectations for a wealthy marriage. She doesn't even have a dowry. These reasons are why her feather-brained aunt decides to sacrifice her to a the village dragon. She thinks Creel will marry her rescuer and said rescuer will look after Creel's extended family. The plan has a hitch. The dragon doesn't want her. Neither does he want to fight over her. Creel has her own plans. She means to go to the King's City and get a job in a dressmaker's shop. She bargains with the dragon. She'll leave him alone if he lets her have 1 thing from his hoard. He agrees. Much to Creel's surprise, the dragon doesn't collect gold, but shoes. He is reluctant to give her the shoes she chooses, but he eventually honors his agreement. Creel sets off in her dragon slippers for the King's City. Her slippers are both a help and a hindrance.

What I thought: What a wonderful story! It reminded me a lot of Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I look forward to anything else the author writes.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs

Childs, Tera Lynn. Oh. My. Gods. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Phoebe has her life planned. She'll get a track scholarship to USC and live happily-ever-after. Then her mother gets married and they move to a small island off the coast of Greece. If that weren't bad enough, the school on the island is for the descendants of the Greek gods. Zeus, Aphrodite, you get the picture. These teens not only have attitude they have powers. Surviving high school takes on a whole new meaning for Phoebe.

What I thought: What a fun book! I think Phoebe deals well with her new situation. I especially liked the twist at the end of the book that I won't give away here. This book will appeal to a variety of readers from Greek mythogogy buffs to girls to guys.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lionclaw by Nancy Springer

Springer, Nancy. Lionclaw: A Tale of Rowan Hood. New York: Philomel, 2002.

In this sequel to Rowan Hood, we find out more about the feminine minstrel Lionel who is part of Rowan's band. He deals with a father who hates him and his own insecurities.

What I thought: This book certainly puts the medieval era in perspective. Lionel's father disowned him and even goes so far to put a price on his son's head. Why? Lionel, though he is big and strong, would rather play his harp than learn to sword fight. Rowan and her friends certainly turn stereotypes on their heads. Rowan would rather be an outlaw. Effie prefers to forget that she's a princess.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rowan Hood By Nancy Springer

Springer, Nancy. Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. New York: Philomel, 2001.

When Rosemary's mother is murdered because they believed she was a witch, Rosemary renounces her femininity. She becomes Rowan and sets out to find someone she's never met before--her father. Rowan's father is none other than infamous outlaw Robin Hood. Sherwood Forest is fraught with much peril. Rowan rescues a princess from a unhappy marital fate and befriends a minstrel. She, like her father before her, becomes an outlaw.

What I thought: I love the idea of giving favorite stories a fresh face with new characters and plots. Rowan's story is heartwarming. Her mother dies, she goes to find a father she's never met. He doesn't even know he had a daughter. Talk about harsh. Rowan just wants to belong. Overall, I liked the book. If you like the idea of Robin Hood with a daughter you might watch Princess of Thieves. The 2002 Walt Disney film gives Robin Hood a grown daughter.