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!