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.