Friday, December 31, 2010

Forget Me Not by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Willa Havisham's summers are never uneventful and this one is no different. She plans a wedding on her own. Willa and her boyfriend Joey must say goodbye for a whole month (drat baseball camp!). And her best friend Tina is spending more and more time with Ruby, Willa's number one frenemy.

What I thought: Watching Willa grow up is a pleasure. I've liked Willa ever since I first met her in The Wedding Planner's Daughter. Willa continues to love reading and is great at thinking on her feet. She may not be the most enduring character, but I know there's an audience just for her. You've seen them--the bookish girls who perhaps aren't always as quiet as the stereotype dictates. I loved Willa's reading list for the summer. I was glad to see the inclusion of several verse novels. I look forward to reading more about Willa's adventures. In fact, I can't wait after that cliffhanger ending.

(Scholastic, 2009)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reading Resolutions 2011

It's that time of year again. With only one more day left in 2010, it is definitely time to think ahead to the coming year and What Will Bridget Be Reading?

It's been a big year for me and the blog. I've finally found the perfect position. I'm the Youth Services Librarian for a Regional Library in North Carolina that serves four libraries. I love my work.

As for the blog, it celebrated its second anniversary in September. I've finally written a review policy and an "About Me" page (which now that I think about it, needs updated!). I've had three Reading Projects this year, Ramona, Harry Potter, and Beatrix Potter. The Potters aren't quite finished yet.

And now for my reading resolutions. I personally want to read more YA historical fiction and more middle grade fiction. To that end, I've decided to participate in 4 Reading Challenges in 2011. I have yet to participate in one and am excited about them.

Bridget's 2011 Reading Challenges:
2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge: I plan to concentrate on children's and YA books that I've seen the movies for, but haven't read the book. At the moment, I'm only committing to the challenge minimum of 5, but I'll probably read more.

Full Steampunk Ahead Challenge: This will be the most time consuming as the minimum reading level is 10 books. I've read some steampunk and enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to exploring the genre more fully.

Edgar Awards Reading Challenge: I love mysteries, but I don't seem to read a lot of Middle Grade or YA titles in the genre. This challenge is the perfect way to correct that oversight. I'm concentrating on the categories of Best Juvenile and Best Young Adult. I may read the winners or the nominees. I don't plan on reading anything published before 2000. I'm only committing to the Patrolman Level (1-3 books)

YA Historical Fiction Challenge 2011: I came to the realization earlier this year that most of the historical fiction I read is middle grade. This challenge seemed like the perfect way to rectify the lapse. I'm committing to the Inquisitive Level (1-3 books), but I'll likely read more.

Note: All challenges begin January 1, 2011 and end December 31, 2011.

None of the challenges require book lists, but I'm a planner. In the next few weeks, I'll have individual posts for each of the challenges with my tentative reading lists.

In addition to these 4 challenges, I will also be participating in the newly formed SurLaLune Book Club. The reading selections for the first three months of 2011 are already available. I'm looking forward to reading them.
January: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
February: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer
March: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

2011 is going to be a busy and bookish year. Happy New Year to all readers! Happy Reading in the New Year!

The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse by Beatrix Potter

First published 1918
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

An unexpected visit to town confirms for country mouse Timmy Willie that the country is the place to be. Likewise, a planned sojourn in the country in the country proves to Johnny Town-Mouse that town is the only place to be.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 243-244):
Johnny Town-Mouse's history is scant. It is, of course, Beatrix Potter's version of Aesop's "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse." This latest offering by Beatrix was well received by both reviewers and the public.

My thoughts: A nice version of a familiar story. Beatrix's charming illustrations make all the difference. I agree with the reviews Linder mentioned--I much prefer Timmy Willie to Johnny Town-Mouse. He's such an appealing character. Likely because he's chubby and cuddly.

Favorite Illustrations: Timmy Willie at home (32), Timmy Willie in garden (35), Timmy Willie outside his burrow (44), Timmy Willie & Johnny Town-Mouse with wheat (55), Timmy Willie waving goodbye to Johnny Town-Mouse

I'm having a hard time thinking of any that I haven't already suggested for the other books. How about a field trip? One to the country and one to the city. Decide like our characters which one you like better. Read City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems.

Favorite Words: clattering, exclamation, insignificant, rumbling, middling

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse. I'll be skipping Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes until I can locate a copy. Next week, I'll be exploring The Tale of Little Pig Robinson. Until then, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lola Loves Stories by Anna McQuinn

Lola loves the books she checks out at the library with her dad. Along with a love of stories, Lola also has a lovely imagination. When they read about a princess, Lola is princess for a day. Lola can be anything she reads about. With her imagination, the adventure in the story never ends.

What I thought: An absolutely delightful story. Lola is an adorable character. What librarian wouldn't like a kid who receives so much enjoyment from books? I love her pretending. The only book I recognized was the last one (Where the Wild Things Are). I also like the illustrations--colorful yet soft. I can't wait to read the other Lola book: Lola at the Library.

Story Time Themes: Imagination, Libraries, Books

(Illus. Rosalind Beardshaw. Charlesbridge, 2010)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bears! Bears! Bears! by Bob Barner

In this deceptively simple book, we are introduced to eight different bears of the world. We discover where they live, what they eat, and much more.

What I thought: I loved it. The text is simple enough for preschoolers to comprehend. The illustrations are great. I love Barner's paper collage style. The bold colors are visually appealing. My favorite illustration is the sloth bears two-page spread. I met several different bears I didn't know. I especially like the spectacled bear. This would be a fun book to use for story time.

Story Time Themes: Bears, Babies

(Chronicle, 2010)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

Christmas is coming, Llama Llama is sure, but when? The shopping, the making, the baking, the wrapping--it's almost too much for one little llama llama to bear. Until, that is, Mama Llama reminds young Llama Llama what Christmas is really about.

What I thought: A charming book. It's the first Llama Llama book that I've read and I really liked it. The illustrations are first rate--bright and colorful. Young readers/listeners will empathize with Llama Llama's lack of patience. I love how Dewdney reinforces what Christmas is about. This will pair well with Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas.

Story Time Theme: Christmas

(Viking, 2010)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hugless Douglas by David Melling

One morning, Douglas wakes up in need of a hug. As he searches, he hugs the most unusual things--a boulder, a tree, a bush, some sheep, an owl, and a rabbit. But none of them are quite right. They were missing the key ingredient--love!

What I thought: What a great book! I loved the story and the illustrations. They're colorful and appealing. The sheep and the rabbit are my favorite characters besides Douglas. This will be a story time favorite. I really like the illustrated hug index at the end of the book. Kids will like practicing the different kinds of hugs. My favorite is "Unrequited Hug."

Story Time Themes: Bears, Hugs, Valentine's Day

(Tiger Tales, 2010)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes by Beatrix Potter

First Published 1917
37 pages, 15 color illustrations

Move over, Mother Goose! Here are some delightfully original rhymes from one of the most beloved children's authors, Beatrix Potter.

The Rhymes: Appley Dapply, Cottontail, Mr. Prickle Pin, Old Woman in Shoe, Diggory Diggory Delvet, Gravy, Guinea Pig

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 225-239):
When F. Warne and Company first published Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter was eager to publish a book of nursery rhymes. Much planning and preparation went on in the next few years. The original Appley Dapply was to be in a larger format than Peter Rabbit and friends. Beatrix Potter's original 1905 manuscript contained 30 rhymes, 21 of which Norman Warne approved. As you know, Norman Warne died in 1905. His death devastated Beatrix. Appley Dapply fell to the wayside once again. It wasn't until 1917 that Beatrix Potter's thoughts turned again to nursery rhymes. Not feeling up to undertaking a whole new book, she offered her publishers Appley Dapply on a Miss Moppet size. The 1917 Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes contains only 7 of the original 30 rhymes.

My thoughts: A charming book. I love the new rhymes. I can tell that the illustrations were executed earlier in Beatrix Potter's career. They're soft and colorful, very reminiscent of Peter Rabbit. My favorite Rhymes are Mr. Pricklepin, the woman in the shoe, and Diggory Diggory Delvet.

Favorite Illustrations: Little black rabbit (21), Mr. Pricklepin (23), Old Woman in Shoe (24), Diggory Diggory Delvet (29), Guinea Pig Brushing Hair (33), Rabbits in snow (frontispiece)

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes. I wish you all a very happy Christmas! I'll be back next week to discuss The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roslyn Rutabaga & the Biggest Hole on Earth by Marie Louise Gay

One morning, Roslyn Rutabaga decides to dig the biggest hole on earth. She's hoping to make it to the South Pole and meet a few penguins. Delayed by an affronted worm, a grouchy mole, and a territorial Rosalyn doesn't quite make it to the Pole by lunch. However, she's not discouraged.

What I thought: A cute book. I like Roslyn's determination and her dad's support of her imaginative efforts. This book encourages creative play. I would pair it with Henke's My Garden for an imaginative story time. The illustrations are nice. I like the collage effect. My favorite is of Roslyn and her dad having lunch in her hole.

Story Time Theme: Imagination

(Groundwood Books, 2010)

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm the Best by Lucy Cousins

Dog knows he's the best. He can run faster than Mole. He can dig better holes than Goose. He's bigger than Ladybug. And he can swim better than Donkey. But...

Mole can dig holes better than Dog. Goose can swim faster than Dog. Donkey's bigger than Dog. And Ladybug can fly higher than Dog. Nevertheless, Dog is the best at being their best friend and he has fluffy ears. Ergo, he's obviously the best.

What I thought: Ego much, Dog? I liked the book. It shows that everyone is special in their own way. The bold, bright illustrations and the simple story are perfect for the smallest children.

Story Time Theme: Friendship

(Candlewick, 2010)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Scare a Bear by Kathy-jo Wargin

How exactly do you scare a bear? You're about to find out. But what if your bear is un-scare-able? Well, we'll talk about that, too.

What I thought: Another hit from Wargin. I loved her last book Moose on the Loose and I'm not disappointed with this new one. The situations that the kids and bear find themselves in are laughable. This format Wargin uses is just as effective as Numeroff's circular stories (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Moose a Muffin, etc.) The illustrations are lovely--soft colors and so well drawn. I can't wait to see what Wargin comes up with next.

Story Time Theme: Bears

(Illus. John Bendall-Brunello. Sleeping Bear Press, 2010)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Tale of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter

First published 1913
84 pages, 16 color illustrations, 37 black & white illustrations

Sent to market with his brother Alexander, Pigling Bland doesn't find it an easy trip. First, his brother is send home due to lack of papers. Secondly, he gets lost. And finally, Pigling Bland gets stolen. He finds his luck isn't so bad when he meets his captor's other prisoner, a pretty black girl pig named Pig-wig.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 213-217):
Beatrix Potter raised pigs on Hilltop Farm and The Tale of Pigling Bland grew out of her adventures with her own pigs. It is interesting to note that both Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit appear in the illustrations (see p. 23 and p. 84). Again, Beatrix Potter only published one book in 1913. She had some difficulty in finishing Pigling Bland. First, she was ill and then there were preparations for her marriage. (Beatrix Potter married William Heelis on October 14, 1913.) Pigling Bland has much the same structure as Mr. Tod although the story seems shorter (at least, to this reader!).

My thoughts: Oh, I liked this one. Despite the length, it reads easily and quickly. I can definitely see this appealing to children. There's a lovely illustration of chickens in the story. I wonder why Beatrix Potter never wrote a chicken story?

Favorite Illustrations: Beatrix Potter & Alexander (23, B&W), Pigling Bland in the chicken coop (41, color), Pigling Bland meets Pig-wig (56, color), Pig-wig (61, color), Pig-wig dancing (71, color), Pigling Bland and Pig-wig running (81, color), Pigling Bland & Pig-wig dancing for rabbits (84, B&W)

Activity: The Tale of Pigling Bland is such an adventure story. I think it would translate well into a board game. Players could be the other pigs, even Beatrix Potter and the policeman. What fun there is to be had in designing it.

I hope you've enjoyed my exploration of The Tale of Pigling Bland. I'll be back next week to discuss Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Great Monster Hunt by Norbert Landa

When Duck hears a noise coming from underneath her bed, she's sure it can't be good. She asks Pig for help. Pig asks Bear for help and Bear asks Wolf for help. Then, Wolf asks Owl for help. Each time the story (of Duck's noise under the bed) is repeated, it gets longer and louder. Owl is sure they're dealing with a monster. And off they go on a monster hunt...only to find a mouse!

What I thought: What a funny book. The friends exaggerate and even the reader doesn't know what's under the bed. Reminds me of a game we used to play when we were kids: pass it on. This formation of friends reminds me of Pooh and company in Milne's book when they're hunting heffalumps and woozles. I love the illustrations. Soft colors and the animals look realistic with a hint of well drawn cartoon. I'll definitely be using this book for my next monster story time.

Story Time Theme: Monsters

(Illus. Tim Warnes. Good Books, 2010)

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Bedtime for Bear by Bonny Becker

That lovable pair, Bear and Mouse, return in this nighttime tale. Bear is a particular sleeper--everything has to be just so and very quiet. When Mouse comes to spend the night, Bear finds his bedtime peace disturbed. Only after having a monster hunt can he sleep. Mouse sleeps quite contentedly...after he puts on earmuffs. Bear snores, you see.

What I Thought: Bear and Mouse as characters just keep improving. This story is great. I love how Bear is the "fraidy cat" and not Mouse. Becker doesn't follow the normal stereotypes. Denton's illustrations are as beautiful and detailed as ever. look for the apple core and Bear's hat collection. My favorite illustration is (scared) Bear wrapped up in his blanket after he wakes Mouse up.

Story Time Themes: Bears, Mice, Bedtime, Friendship

(Illus. Kady MacDonald Denton. Candlewick, 2010)

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na

One day, elephant finds something he doesn't know and neither do his friends. The thingamabob isn't good for much until it starts raining. Do you know what elephant's thingamabob is?

What I thought: What a great idea for a book. I can just hear my story time kids shouting "umbrella" at poor elephant. The illustrations are great. I've liked Na's style since I read A Book of Sleep. I think kids will really like identifying all of elephant's animals friends.

Story Time Themes: Rain/Umbrellas (Pair with Prelutsky's Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and The Umbrella Queen by Bridges.)

(Knopf, 2010)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Tale of Mr. Tod by Beatrix Potter

First published 1912
84 pages, 16 color illustrations, 41 small black & white illustrations

This is the tale of two villains--Mr. Tod (the fox) and Tommy Brock (the badger). Interestingly, our two villains don't care for each other. Thankfully, their animosity results in the restoration of Benjamin and Flopsy Bunny's offspring.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 210-212):
The Tale of Mr. Tod was one that Beatrix Potter had thought up some time before the actual publication. It's length is longer than any of her other books to date. The color illustrations are few. (This I have found from reading Linda Lear's biography is due to her failing eyesight and stiff hands.) The tale is the fourth that features the beloved Peter Rabbit and company. The story is dedicated to a cousin's son, newly born. The illustration style resembles that of The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan (i.e., more black and white than color illustrations).

My thoughts: Too long by far! The few color illustrations are less charming than her previous work. I can see with my own eyes that Miss Potter was aging and her chosen profession wasn't aging with her. The black and white illustrations are uncommonly good despite their small size.

Favorite Illustrations: Tommy Brock & Old Benjamin Bouncer (17, color), Peter & Benjamin conversing (27, B&W), Peter & Benjamin dashing into the tunnel (44, B&W), Rabbits at diner (84, B&W)

Activity: Tommy Brock Tag/Chase

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Mr. Tod. Next week, I'll be talking about The Tale of Pigling Bland. Until then, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Working in her mother's garden, a little girl can't help but imagine a garden of her own. What a garden she plans! Seashells, chocolate rabbits. color changing flowers...

What I thought: I loved this book. Over the past year or so, I've read quite a few picture books about imagination, but I think this is my favorite. The illustrations are classic Henkes. My favorite is the chocolate rabbits. I can't wait to use this book for story time.

Story Time Themes: Gardens/Flowers, Imagination

(Greenwillow, 2010)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't Spill the Beans! by Ian Schoenherr

Bear has a secret and he tells all his friends. Everyone except you. What could this secret be? Why wouldn't he tell you? Could it be...a surprise for you?

What I thought: How nice to see all the animals from Read It, Don't Eat It! again. This book is a delight from the illustrations to the surprise. The colors are just right and Schoenherr once again makes good use of white space. I love the use of synonyms and cliches. This would be a good book for teaching elementary students about those concepts. I refuse to give the surprise away. You'll just have to wonder.

Story Time Theme: Birthday

(Greenwillow, 2010)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Other by Karen Kincy

Gwen lives in a world where vampires, werewolves, water sprites, dryads, pookas, centaurs, and many more "Others" live openly among humans. Tolerated, but not accepted, Gwen keeps the fact that she's a pooka to herself. Even her human boyfriend doesn't know. This isn't the only dilemma Gwen faces. When Others are murdered, Gwen finds herself embroiled in a mystery. With the help of her new Other friend, Tavian, Gwen sets out to find the killer before he/she finds her.

What I thought: This book has a most interesting premise. I liked all the different types of "Others" that people the book. It's a nice change from the standard vampires and werewolves. I liked the fact that Gwen is pooka. It reminds me fondly of the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey. Gwen's struggle with having a human boyfriend reminded me a little of Vivian in Annette Curtis Klause's Blood and Chocolate. Ultimately, they both find it won't work.

Tavian is a most interesting character. As is his relationship with Gwen. (I learned about fox spirits in the Japanese History class I took in college. It's kind of nice to have them turn up here.) The mystery was well done. I didn't have a clue until it was all revealed. On the whole I enjoyed Other.

However, I don't feel this would be a honest review unless I mention a couple of things I object to personally. Kincy's portrayal of Christians in the book seemed a bit skewed. While I acknowledge that such fanatics do exist, there is another side of Christianity that's not touched on at all. I also found the language some of the characters used to be a bit excessive.

I don't mention these objections to deter you from reading Other. Despite my objections, I did like the book and find it a promising start to a new paranormal series.

For information on Other and the sequels, visit Karen Kincy's website.

(Flux, 2010. Review copy provided by publisher.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes by Beatrix Potter

First published 1911
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

Storing up nuts for the winter is more than Timmy Tiptoes the squirrel bargained for. Luckily, he makes a good friend in Chippy Hackee the chipmunk.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 208-209):
1911 marked the 2nd year Beatrix Potter only published one little book. The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes was the 17th of her tales. Ergo, her fame continued to grow and even crossed the ocean to America. Some believe Timmy Tiptoes was written for American fans as it's inhabited with American animals- grey squirrels, chipmunks, and bears.

My thoughts: Timmy Tiptoes didn't really do much for me. As far as squirrel stories go, I much prefer Squirrel Nutkin. I did like the wives in the story. They added some humor. And as always, the illustrations were charming.

Favorite Illustrations: Timmy (cover), Timmy on a limb (8), Timmy & Goody putting nuts in the tree (16), Goody looking got Timmy (31), Goody & Mrs. Chippy (38), Timmy Kissing Goody (44), Timmy & Goody under the umbrella (47), The bear (52), Goody with babies (57)

-Squirrel Chase/Tag
-Nut Relay

Favorite Words: prudent, quantities, commotion, anxious

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes. Next week, I'll be discussing The Tale of Mr. Tod. Until then, happy reading!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shadows of the Redwood by Gillian Summers

Keelie Heartwood finds her skills as a tree shepherd sorely tested when she journeys to California's Redwood Forest with her grandmother. The Redwoods' tree shepherd has disappeared and it's up to Keelie to solve the mystery. The Redwood Forest is unlike any Keelie has ever encountered. Something dark lingers there. Can Keelie find the forest's tree shepherd before it's too late?

What I thought: A solid book that will please current fans and garner more. The mystery and darkness will intrigue readers and keep them guessing. I read and enjoyed The Tree Shepherd's Daughter, but haven't read the other two books, Into the Wildewood and The Dread Forest. This didn't affect my enjoyment of The Shadows of the Redwood. In fact, reading this book peaked my interest to go back and read the two books I missed. This series shares many of the elements readers enjoy in paranormal romances like Twilight and Shiver, but with a slightly different twist.

For more information of both trilogies, visit Gillian Summers' website.

[Scions of the Shadow Trilogy Book 1--A continuation of the Faire Folk Trilogy]
(Flux, 2010. Review copy provided by publisher.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Brand-New Baby Blues by Kathi Appelt

Being the one and only was great. Now that there's a baby brother, too, a little girl is sure she has the brand-new baby blues. This new brother doesn't do much except use her stuff and take up her parents' time. But she reaches a very grown-up decision--once the baby's not a baby and just a brother, she'll like him fine.

What I thought: A great book about new babies and sibling rivalry. This book definitely fills a need. The story was lyrical. You could almost sing it. I especially liked the chorus/refrain that was repeated throughout. It really made the story feel like a blues song. The illustrations are good--colorful yet soft (hardly any lines).

Story Time Themes: Siblings, Babies

(Illus. Kelly Murphy. Harper, 2010)

Friday, November 26, 2010

No by Claudia Rueda

Winter is coming, but Little Bear doesn't want to hibernate. He tells his mother so with a resounding "No!" For every objection, he has a ready answer. Even when he gives in to winter and hibernation, he makes it his idea, not his mother's.

What I thought: What a cute book! Little Bear could give some kids competition. Have you ever met a kid like him? Well, I have. Rueda has captured children's attitudes exactly. This will be a fun book to share in story time. I'll ask the kids what they would say to their mothers! The illustrations aer just beautiful. I love the uncomplicated color scheme and the softness of the illustrations. My favorite illustration is Little Bear building a snowman.

Story Time Themes: Bears, Winter, Mothers

(Groundwood, 2009, Trans. 2010)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my faithful readers! I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, fun, and food. (How's that for alliteration?)

As today is a holiday, there won't be a Beatrix Potter Reading Project Post. I'll be back on Thursday, December 2 discussing The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes. You'll find an update on the project here.

I'm going to share my favorite Thanksgiving Book with you. It's Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr (Illustrated by Laura Rader, Walker Books, 2007). This is a great story time book because the kids can help you say "Run, turkey, run!" I also like the optimistic ending. The turkey's still running. We don't know if he gets caught, but I like to think he doesn't.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fluffy & Baron by Laura Rankin

Fluffy is a duck. Baron is a German Shepherd. Despite the difference in their species, these two are fast friends until the day some wild ducks land in the pond. Baron is quite despondent when Fluffy deserts him for several days. He's soon happy again when Fluffy presents him with nine new ducklings to befriend.

What I thought: What a charming story about friendship. Baron and Fluffy are unlikely friends, but the bonds of friendship often know no bounds. The illustrations are wonderful. I especially like seeing the seasons change.

Story Time Themes: Friendship, Dogs, Ducks

(Dial, 2006)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Littlest Owl by Caroline Pitcher

Four owls are born in a willow tree. The fourth is the smallest of all. He doesn't grow as fast as the others or fly as soon. But when he must, he finds that he can, indeed, fly.

What I thought: I can't resist a book about owls and this was a good one. I'm an underdog champion and Four is definitely the underdog in this story. I like his determination despite his handicaps. The illustrations are lovely--the owls look so soft and fluffy that I almost petted the page.

Story Time Theme: Owls

(Illus. Tina MacNaughton. Scholastic, 2008)

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez

When Fox steals a hen one morning, Bear, Rabbit, and Rooster expect the worst. They chase that sly fox across the ocean only to find they were mistaken in his intentions.

What I Thought: What a wonderful book. The illustrations are so detailed that you don't miss words. The pictures tell the story quite clearly. I can't wait to use this with some of my smaller story time groups and hear the kids tell the story. I have quite a few favorite illustrations: Fox running off with Hen, Fox and Hen playing chess, Hen in shades, and finally, Fox and Hen bidding farewell to their friends. This unlikely love story will pair well with Woof: A Love Story by Weeks. The Chicken Thief is unexpected Valentine fare.

Story Time Themes: Love, Valentine's Day

(Enchanted Lion Books, 2010)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse by Beatrix Potter

First published 1910
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse (you might recall her from The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies) keeps a very tidy house. She's quite proud of the fact. But one day, even the tidiest of mice can't keep a house clean with a multitude of visitors parading through.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 205-207):
The other creatures that appear in The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse were quite familiar to Beatrix Potter. She'd been drawing bugs, beetles, toads, and the like since she was in her teens. The story of Mrs. Tittlemouse was a gift for Harold Warne's daughter Nellie. The published book is dedicated to Nellie. As always, Beatrix took meticulous care with the text and the small changes she executed made all the difference. Beatrix felt The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse would appeal to girls.

My thoughts: Such a neat little mouse certainly does appeal as a character. Little girls who often pick up brooms and dusters to "help" mother will find a kindred spirit in Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse. The story is quaint and charming as are the illustrations.

Favorite Illustrations: Mrs. Tittlemouse (8), Mrs. Tittlemouse tossing a spider out the window (20), Miss Butterfly (44), Mouse party (57)

-Mrs. T's House Mouse Relay (have the kids run a relay in which they sweep, dust, pick up, etc.)
-I'm drawing a blank this week. Readers, do you have any suggestions?

Favorite Words: bundled, ponderously

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse. Next Thursday, I'll be discussing The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes. If you've missed any of the posts, you can find them indexed here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

Melkora is not your average teenage girl. She's a princess of medieval Ireland. Fleeing from Vikings, Melkora's life changes drastically. Disguises as peasants, she and her sister Brigid are kidnapped by slavers. On the slave ship, Melkora finds she doesn't have anything left but her silence. Her self imposed muteness give her some power. She isn't as abused as the others. Can Melkora survive enslavement? Will she ever find her way back home?

What I Thought: I'm a huge fan of Napoli's fairy tale retellings. With Hush, she's done something completely, utterly different. She hasn't used a traditional, well known fairy tale, but the mere mention of a woman in a folk saga. As much as I like fairy tale retellings, I'm glad Napoli used a new (to me & I'm sure others) tale, This book was riveting. I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting. I was completely engrosses in the story, anxious to know Melkora's fate. I've always appreciated that Napoli's retellings don't gloss over the harsher elements in the original tales. Melkora could never be a Disney Princess. Her story is not one of happily ever after, but resignation and making the best of a situation. And I loved it. I only hope that fans of the Disney Princesses will grow up to appreciate stories like Melkora's.

(Atheneum, 2007)

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

Twelve year old Isabel wants to travel more than anything. As she's never been out of Oregon, she envies her Aunt Christy who is a flight attendant. While Isabel dreams of traveling, her mother is opening a cupcake shop. Before she knows it, baking presents Isabel with the chance to travel. But can she survive summer--the opening of the shop, her mom's up and down moods, her best friend away at camp?

What I thought: This was an okay book. I liked the idea of the story, but I wasn't thrilled with Isabel's mom's drama. It's sad when a twelve year old knows how to deal with her mom's moods (and she has a lot of them). Isabel and Sophie have a great relationship. I also liked all the other supporting characters. They added an eclectic realism to the book. The cover hints at a fun, frothy confection of a book suitable for older Fancy Nancy/Pinkalicious fans. While that holds true for the most part, I still have reservation about Isabel's mom. It's Raining Cupcakes is worth reading, but it's not one of my favorites.

(Scholastic, 2010)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Welcome to the Zoo by Alison Jay

Follow one family as they tour the zoo. Look closely to see all the animals and their antics. Start all over again to make sure you don't miss a minute of the day out at the zoo.

What I thought: A wordless picture book about a visit to the zoo--I love it! The illustrations are so detailed and appealing. I had to go through several times to catch all the action. This would be a good book for story time. The kids can help me "read" it. Welcome to the Zoo is also a great book to use one-on-one. It takes time to see all the action.

Story Time Themes: Zoo, Animal emphasis Baby Sit & Sign

(Dial, 2008)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gobble Gobble Crash by Julie Stiegemeyer

It was a quiet night on the farm until some wild turkeys gobbled and crashed their way into every animal on the place. When the farmer wakes, he promises himself a turkey dinner. Oh no! As noisy and clumsy as the turkeys are, the farm animals don't want them eaten. They hide those turkeys right. Farmer can't believe his eyes. Not a turkey in sight.

What I thought: Such a funny book! I laughed all the way through it. The turkeys' antics and the other animals' responses are wonderful. This book paired with one of Doreen Cronin's would make a guaranteed hilarious fun story time. The counting will keep kids engaged in the story. The illustrations were good. They set the perfect mood for the story. My favorite character is Mrs. Maggie Mouse.

Story Time Themes: Farm Animals, Turkeys/Thanksgiving, Numbers

(Subtitle: A Barnyard Counting Bash. Illus. Valeri Gorbachev. Dutton, 2008)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ladybug Girl & Bumblebee Boy by David Soman & Jacky Davis

Lulu (AKA Ladybug Girl) is headed to the playground. Once there, her friend Sam disagrees about what they should play. Finally, Sam becomes Bubmblebee Boy and together he and Ladybug Girl conquer the villains of the playground.

What I thought: What a charming book! I can't believe I missed the first book. Lulu is such a great little girl. I love her imagination and inventiveness. The exaggeration (e.g., "cracks [...] as big as canyons") she adds to the story is great. I loved the illustrations. Lulu, Sam, and Bingo are wonderfully drawn. (I've always wanted a Basset Hound. Bingo is a great name for one.) My favorite illustrations are the squirrel, Lulu, and Sam with Bingo after saving him and Bingo with wings. I love the issues this book addresses--disagreements, compromise, friendship, and imagination. I can't wait to read the other Ladybug Girl books.

Story Time Themes: Friendship, Imagination

(Dial, 2009)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sergio Makes a Splash! by Edel Rodriguez

Sergio loves water--puddles, rain, baths, name it and Sergio loves it. Except, that is, the ocean. You see, Sergio can't swim. Can he learn and be an unconditional water lover?

What I thought: A cute book. The story is good--most kids will enjoy the tale of a penguin who loves water but can't swim. This would be a good book for those kids just learning to swim. They might have the same fears as Sergio. The illustrations were very nice. I liked the limited color palette. The blue and yellow/orange really pop when paired with black and white.

Story Time Themes: Penguins, Swimming

(Little, Brown, & Co., 2008)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter

First published 1909
60 pages, 28 color illustrations

Benjamin Bunny and Flopsy Rabbit marry and have quite a family of six little bunnies. Their children are known as the Flopsy Bunnies. One day in Mr. McGregor's garden, the bunnies find themselves in quite a predictament.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 195-196):
The history of the creation of The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies is scant. It is, of course, a sequel to Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. Beatrix Potter likely wrote it as she knew it would appeal to her readers to hear again about familiar characters. The illustrations are set in Wales. It is interesting to note that the illustrations for Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, and Flopsy Bunnies were all set in different locales.

Miniature Letters (Linder 85-86):
Mrs. Flopsy Bunny to Miss Moller (a reader)
Benjamin Bunny to Miss Moller
[the Flopsy Bunnies Christmas Greetings...]
Mrs. Flopsy Bunny to Master John Hough
1st Flopsy Bunny to Master John Hough
2nd Flopsy Bunny to Master John Hough
3rd (Miss)Flopsy Bunny to Master John Hough
4th (Miss)Flopsy Bunny to Master John Hough
scribbles & kisses from 5th (Miss) Flopsy Bunny and the same from 6th Master Flopsy Bunny

My thoughts: A cute tale. I liked meeting old and new characters in this story. I hope to see Thomasina Tittlemouse again. Flopsy and Benjamin have a fine family. Will we see them again, I wonder?

Favorite Illustrations: Flopsy Bunnies (8), Mr. McGregor putting bunnies in bag (31), Bunnies at the window (48), Mrs. Tittlemouse in her Christmas cloak (58)

-Sleeping Bunnies Game (several children pretend to be sleeping bunnies. One child attempts to wake them up. Whoever wakes up is the next waker-upper)
-Sack Race

Favorite Words:

I hope you have enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. Next week, I'll be skipping Ginger and Pickles as I'm still trying to locate a copy. We'll move on to The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Roly Poly Pangolin by Anna Dewdney

Roly Poly the Pangolin doesn't like new things. In fact, they frighten him easily. However, once he has a friend, Roly Poly finds that the world is not so scary, after all.

What I thought: What a cute book. The illustrations are wonderful--soft and so realistic. My favorite is of the two pangolins and the monkey dancing. The story is a good one for small children (who can also be timid). The rhyme and rhythm of the words will enchant and engage all listeners. I enjoyed meeting a new animal I'd never heard of. Pangolins sure are cute. The note about them makes me want to know more. Roly Poly reminded me of A. A. Milne's Piglet.

Story Time Themes: Endangered Animals, Friendship

(Viking, 2010)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Year 7 at Hogwarts
First published 2007
759 pages, 36 chapters + epilogue
# on Top 100 YA Novels Poll (Adele of Persnickety Snark)

Harry's last year at Hogwarts really isn't. He, Ron, & Hermione set off to find and destroy the last of Voldemort's horcruxes in an attempt to render Voldemort powerless and mortal.

Memorable Moments: the wedding, Kreacher's change of attitude, the epilogue

Scenes for the movie: Well, I'm hoping all the scenes I liked make the movie, but I'll have to wait and see.

Reading Reflection: This book was tough to read. Not only is it the last book in the series, but there are difficult situations all the way through it. I liked the ending. Like most fans, I was seriously expecting Rowling to kill Harry off. It seemed like the only way to overcome Voldemort permanently. The Epilogue is nice. I can't wait to see what they do with it in the movie. Three years after reading the last book for the first time, I am still looking for the next Harry Potter. Nothing has quite lived up to the world Rowling created.

Just a reminder that Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 premieres in theaters on Friday, November 19.

I hope you've enjoyed my reflection on the last book in the Harry Potter series. My Harry Potter Reading Project isn't quite complete. I still plan to read and discuss Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts, and Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Purple Kangaroo by Michael Ian Black

The narrator of this book (that's a monkey to you) is a mind reader. Using his extraordinary powers, he just knows you're thinking about a purple kangaroo. You aren't? Are you sure? You see, he's lost his best friend, a chinchilla named Sir Ernesto de Pantalones...

What I thought: Michael Ian Black doesn't disappoint with his second book for children. The Purple Kangaroo is as entertaining as Chicken Cheeks. Older children (ages 6-8) will like that the monkey addresses them personally. All readers will enjoy naming their purple kangaroos (Mine is called Bob, in case you were wondering.) I love the purple kangaroo's highly improbable adventures and his sidekick Sir Ernesto. (For those of you don't know, pantalones means pants in English,so the chinchilla's English name would Ernest of the Pants.) The illustrations are bright colored and visually appealing. I like the color scheme Brown uses. The three main characters in the story (Kangaroo, Monkey, & Ernesto) are particularly fine.

Story Time Themes: Friendship, Imagination, Animals

(Illus. Peter Brown. Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker

Bear doesn't like visitors. He has a sign: No Visitors Allowed. But one day even his sign doesn't deter a small, gray mouse. He pops up in the most unusual places--the cupboard, the bread drawer, the fridge, the teakettle. Will the mouse ever leave or will Bear finally decide he does like some visitors?

What I thought: How did I miss this book? I love it. Such a humorous story. I can't decide who to side with, Bear or Mouse. They're both so appealing. The repetition in the story makes It a fun read aloud for both reader and listener. The illustrations are charming. I like the detail (e.g., the contents of the fridge) and the soft colors. Denton (and Becker!) has created two very memorable characters in Bear and Mouse. They have distinct personalities--it's great! I can't wait to read the other Bear and Mouse Books.

Story Time Themes: Mice, Bears, Friendship

(Illus. Kady MacDonald Denton. Candlewick, 2008)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Roly Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter

or The Tale of Samuel Whiskers
First published 1908
18 color illustrations, 36 black & white illustrations

Hiding from his mother to avoid being shut up in a cupboard isn't the best idea. Tom Kitten finds himself at the mercy of Samuel Whiskers (a rat!) and his wife Anna Maria. They are putting Tom into a roly-poly pudding when John Joiner (a dog!) rescues Tom.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 191-194):
Beatrix Potter wrote The Roly Poly Pudding in 1906. It was composed at a time when rats overrun Hilltop Farm. Though Beatrix did have a pet rat to whom the book is dedicated, Sammy Rat was not the model for the character of Samuel Whiskers. Miss Potter is mentioned in the story and visible in one of the illustrations (when Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria run away with the wheelbarrow). This story, like The Pie and the Patty Pan, was originally published in a larger format.

Miniature Letters (Linder 82-83):
Farmer Potatoes to Whiskers (Eviction Notice)
Samuel Whiskers to Farmer Potatoes (Won't Go!)
Samuel Whiskers to Obediah Rat (A New Home)

Samuel and family are evicted from the barn they took refuge in when thrown out of Hilltop Farm. They go to live with a cousin.

My thoughts: While I like the story, I don't think it's one of my favorites. The illustrations (a mix of color and black & white) are similar to those in The Pie and the Patty Pan. I do like seeing and hearing about Miss Potter in the story.

Favorite Illustrations: Tabitha putting the kittens in the cupboard (B &W), Ribby and Tabitha poking at the attic floor (B & W), Samuel Whisker's taking the butter (color), John Joiner (B & W), Samuel Whiskers and Anna Maria rolling Tom in the dumpling (color), Samuel & Anna Maria running away with Miss Potter's wheelbarrow (color)

-Tom Kitten Scavenger Hunt
-Rat Race

Favorite Words: anxious, mischief, enormous

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Roly Poly Pudding. I'll be back next week talking about The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. In it, we discover what happened to Benjamin Bunny when he grew up.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wild Things by Clay Carmichael

Zoe Royster has learned to take care of herself. Her mentally ill mother often left her alone or at the mercy of one of her boyfriends. But after her mother dies, Zoe finds herself in a situation that she doesn't know how to deal with. Taken in by her Uncle Henry, Zoe learns about family and friends. Her chosen friends are not the usual ones an eleven-year-old girl has-- a feral cat and a wild boy.

What I thought: I couldn't put this book down. Zoe has such an authentic, compelling voice. I liked her right away. She's an interesting character. I don't know that I've ever read a story like hers before. The cat's perspective added so much to the mystery. I really helped build the climax. I've heard before that cats are all seeing and all knowing creatures. after meeting this one, I would have to agree. This is a great first book from Clay Carmichael. I look forward to reading what she writes next.

(Front Street, 2009)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

All Ida Mae wants to do is fly. She's secretly saving money to obtain her pilot's license. When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the whole country is thrown into turmoil. The formation of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) presents Ida Mae with an opportunity to help her country and support her brother who is overseas fighting. However, she has two problems: She's doesn't have a pilot's license and she's African American.. The United States Armed Forces are still segregated. WASP doesn't accept black women. Luckily, Ida's skin is light enough to pass for white. In doing so, she endangers herself and her family. She is on the way to achieving her dream, but at what cost?

What I thought: Wow! What an interesting books. Most of the WWII books I've read have dealt with the home front not the actual fighting. Ida Mae's journey was truly perilous and thus an engaging read. I wonder if any one guessed that Ida was passing. She certainly proved herself as a pilot regardless of her race. Ida Mae's story makes me want to know more about the service women of WWII. I know Sherri Smith is probably done with Ida as a character, but I would love to see how she reconciles her two identities--a WASP and a black girl who wants to fly like her daddy. Though the story is fictional, it is thoroughly researched and undoubtedly historically accurate so history teachers even on the college level would find a wealth of material to discuss.

(Putnam, 2009)

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley

Who is Kat that her adopted mother Grace keeps her secluded in a small village and her red hair hidden. Kat knows only her sewing and her sister Anne. After Grace's death. Kat journey's to court to discover her true identity. She looks like Queen Elizabeth I. How are they connected? Kat's search for the truth may do more harm than good. Court is a dangerous place for a naive country girl who looks like the queen.

What I thought: A riveting story. I do love a good mystery especially when it's based on true events. I loved the two story lines that intertwined slowly to reveal who Kat really was. This book was rich with historical characters and details. I've always enjoyed reading about this period. The author's note best describes Crowley's reason for writing the book: "The real Mary Seymour disappeared from history on the eve of her second birthday. It is interesting to ask, if she died as a child, as most historians believe, why wasn't the death of a queen's child noted somewhere? Perhaps it was, but is lost to us in history, or perhaps, perhaps..." (406).

A quick history lesson (and a few spoilers):

Henry VIII of England had six wives.
1. Katherine of Aragon (mother of Bloody Mary)
2. Anne Boleyn (mother of Elizabeth I)
3. Jane Seymour (mother of Edward VI)
4. Anne of Cleves
5. Katherine Howard
6. Katherine Parr (later married Thomas Seymour. They had a daughter, Mary Seymour. Thomas Seymour dallied with both Elizabeth I and a maid. Kat is the daughter of Elizabeth I's stepmother and Anne is the daughter of Thomas Seymour and the maid.)

(Greenwillow, 2009)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter

First published 1906
60 pages, 20 color illustrations

Intent on laying and hatching her own eggs, Jemima finds a co-conspirator in a polite gentleman with a bushy tail. Will her eggs be safe with such a vulpine gentleman?

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 188-190):
Two characters in The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck are real--Jemima and Kep. Beatrix Potter wrote the story at hilltop Farm and used scenery both there and of surrounding locales for the illustrations. The wife of Beatrix's farm manager and their two children also appear in the illustrations.

What I thought: The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck is another familiar story. When you mention Beatrix Potter, you'll often get responses that mention Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, or Jemima Puddle-duck. I like the story and the illustrations. I felt a little sad for Jemima--so trusting and it all back-fired. I wish the story could have another ending.

Favorite Illustrations: Jemima in flight (20), the cottage (28), Jemima with her ducklings (58)

-Perfect spot scavenger hunt
-Jemima's Egg hunt
-Dog, Fox Tag

Favorite Words: desperate, determined. alighted, superfluous, conscientious, hospitable, suspicious

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. Next week, Tom Kitten returns in The Roly-Poly Pudding, or The Tale of Samuel Whiskers. Until then, happy reading!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

The summer of 1899 is hot, really hot. Calpurnia Virginia Tate (you can call her Callie Vee) finds ways unbeknownst to her mother to fight the summer heat. Callie's interest in nature and all things thereof leads to her tuition by a grumpy grandfather. Callie begins to question not only the natural world but the norms of society. Why must girls learn to cook and sew? Is marriage the only future for a girl?

What I thought: I've been meaning to read this book for ages. Everyone has been raving about it since before its publication. After reading it, I can see why it received a Newbery Honor. Callie is one of those immortal characters much in the way of Jo March or Anne Shirley. Like Jo and Anne, Callie has a unique voice. Callie is a character I want to know more about. Does he defy her mother and become something other than a debutante?

(Henry Holt, 2009)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

Year 6 at Hogwarts
First published 2005
652 pages, 30 chapters
#29 on Adele of Persnickety Snark's Top 100 YA Novels

With Sirius dead and Voldemort at large, the mood isn't very cheery at Hogwarts for Harry. Dumbledore takes him in hand to teach him more about Voldemort. He discovers the book of someone calling him or herself the "Half-Blood Prince." Harry's next to final year at Hogwarts is filled with change and mysteries.

Memorable Moments: Harry's jealousy over Ginny's other boyfriends

Scenes I wish had made the movie: More of Dumbledore and Harry's travels into Voldemort's past

Reflection: Half-Blood Prince was the only Harry Potter book that I stood in line for. My best friend Vicky and I went to Wal-mart at midnight to get our copies. When they brought the pallet of books out, Vicky went to get ours. I watched her literally get swallowed by the crowd. I read this one in two days. If I hadn't had to work the following day, I would have stayed up to read it. This book was sad for more than one reason. Yes, Dumbledore died, but more than that the series is almost over. Will Harry live or die? What happens to the readers when the series is complete. I'll admit right now that I have yet to find anything to surpass Harry Potter.

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'll be back next week to talk about the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sorcery & Cecilia by Praticia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

[or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot]

Cousins Kate Talgarth and Cecelia Rushton have been separated. While Kate enjoys the Season in London, Cecelia stays in the country. The cousins don't enjoy the separation, but they keep in touch via letters. Both are soon in the midst of a magical plot. It all started with a chocolate pot. Kate finds herself betrothed to Thomas, Marquis of Schofield and Cecy is sneaking around the countryside trying to find out what her neighbor James Tarleton is up to. Their connections with these gentlemen put Kate and Cecy in danger, but these young ladies are more than up to the task.

What I thought: I don't know how I missed this book. I love Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. This book was just as fun. I loved the format--letters. My fondness for epistolary novels is one of longstanding. This is only the second one I've read where the letters are answered. The first being The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. Kate and Cecy, or should I say Caroline and Pat, have a talent for writing letters. Their uncanny ability to relate incidents keeps the reader from missing any of the action. Adding magic to Jane Austen's England was ingenious. (And it's been done again with Marissa Doyle's Bewitching Season and Betraying Season.) Kate and Cecy are so well written that they might be some of Austen's heroines.

I love that the girls' relationships with their respective gentlemen are uneasy. They don't quite know how much to trust each other. The tension works well throughout the novel. The ending (not quite happily ever after, but close) was satisfactory and left me wanting to read more about Kate and Cecy's adventures. I'm glad the series continues with two more books: 2) The Grand Tour and 3) The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After.

A quick note about the authors' afterward: The letter game seems a novel idea (no pun intended!). It makes me want to find a writing friend and set to. Why haven't more books been born out of this game?

(Harcourt, 2003)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs

After Meg's triumph against princes and parents in The Runaway Princess, she's settled down to palace life with a few improvements. She enjoys magic and sword lessons, but still has to suffer through royal etiquette classes. Her desire to go on a quest is expediated where her dragon Laddy runs away. With the faithful help of her friends Dilly, Nort, and Lex, Meg sets off to find her dragon. An enchanted forest separates the friends, but that doesn't stop Meg. She has a dragon to rescue.

What I thought: Another rousing installment in Princess Meg's adventures. I liked everything about this book--the new characters (Spinach, anyone?), the twist at the end, and the reappearance of the irresistible Bain. I love the interaction that takes place between Meg, Dilly, Nort, and Lex. They are true friend. I also enjoyed Kate's note about fairy tales. The only tale I picked up on was Rapunzel. Excuse me while I go read the others she mentioned. My view of fairy tales just keeps growing. One of these days, I'm going to write my own.

Highly recommended for fairy tale fans. In other words, if you like Simon Pulse's Once Upon a Time series and Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series, chances are you'll like The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon.

(FSG, 2009. Copy won in giveaway on Kate Coombs' blog Book Aunt. Thanks, Kate!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter

First published 1907
60 pages, 28 color illustrations

Keeping clean and dressed for a tea party is more that Tom Kitten and his sisters Mittens and Moppet can manage. Playing soon rids them of their clothes. The clothes are adopted by three puddle-ducks: Jemima, Rebeccah, and Drake. Needless to say, their mother isn't pleased with them.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 185-187):
Beatrix Potter began planning The Tale of Tom Kitten in the summer of 1906 when she was overhauling the garden at Hilltop Farm. The garden illustrations in the book feature Hilltop Farm's garden. Beatrix Potter did not have a pet cat named Tom so she borrowed one to sketch. Interestingly, the ducks were sketched in London. A cousin owned some and Beatrix went to visit and sketch them.

Miniature Letters (Linder 83-84):
Sally Henny Penny to Tom Kitten
Tom Kitten to Sally Henny Penny
Sally Henny Penny to Puddle-duck family
Puddle-ducks to Sally Henny Penny
Rebeccah Puddle-duck to Ribby
Ribby to Rebeccah

All about a party and a sore throat.

My thoughts: I think Tom Kitten is going to be one of my favorites. I was glad to see some familiar faces and names: Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit from The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan and Sally Henny Penny from The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. I wonder if Tom's sister Moppet is the same as Miss Moppet from The Story of Miss Moppet? The illustrations are beautiful especially the garden ones. I think Tom, Mittens, and Moppet will really appeal to children--they get up to the same mischief.

Favorite Illustrations: Tabitha washing Moppet's face )12), Tom in his too little suit (20), Playing the garden, or Tom with butterfly (24), the ducks in the kittens' clothes (44), the ducks looking for the clothes

-Pin the coat on Tom
-Button Hunt
-Kitten, Kitten, Puddle-duck

Favorite Words: pinafore, tuckers, difficulties, affronted, dignity, repose

I hope you've enjoyed this week's post. I'll be back next Thursday to discuss The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs

"Once upon a time", she said, "there was a princess who knew she was meant for more that twirling her tresses and swooning" (279).

Princess Meg refuses to be married off to the prince who defeats the local witch, dragon, and bandits. Her disobedience lands her in a locked tower Rapunzel style, but that doesn't stop her for long. With the help of her friends, she foils the princes' attempts to win her hand and aids the witch, dragon, and bandits.

What I thought: I've been waiting for years to find a book that lives up to Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Meg could certainly compete with Cimorene. A fast paced, adventure filled book. I look forward to reading the sequel, The Runaway Dragon.

(FSG, 2006)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Thirteen is always an important birthday. You're officially a teenager, one step closer to being an adult. For Mibs Beaumont, turning thirteen means something more. In her family, you receive your savvy on your thirteenth birthday. A savvy is a special power. Her brother Rocket can harness/control electricity. Her brother Fish can control wind and water. When her dad is injured days before her thirteenth birthday, Mibs is certain her what her savvy will be--she will heal her dad. When her savvy comes and ink starts speaking to her, she doesn't give up. She knows she can help her dad no matter what her savvy is. On the madcap journey to reach her dad, Mibs learns just how important her savvy is.

What I thought: I couldn't put this book down. The story is so fascinating. The idea of a savvy is unique and believable. I loved learning about the Beaumont family. Despite their savvies, they are a typical family. I can't wait to read the sequel, Scrumble.

(Dial, 2008)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman

Come join me as we visit a pond through lyrical poems, informative sidebars and illustrations to match.

What I thought: Another great collection from Sidman. I love the research and thought she puts into her books. She doesn't just write a poem about a duck. She researches the animal so she can write knowledgeably about it and then share what she learned. I've never observes a pond, but this collection makes me want to. I has no idea of the minutia of the ecosystem. I loved the illustrations. Woodblock is so classy.

My favorite poems are "Listen for Me" (such a judicious use of repetition) and "A Small Green Riddle" (I can't resist riddle poems and I didn't know the answer!).

(Illus. Beckie Prange. Houghton Mifflin, 2005)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Story of Miss Moppet by Beatrix Potter

First published December 1906
38 pages, 16 color illustrations

A tale of wits--who will best who, Miss Moppet or the mouse?

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 183-184):
The Story of Miss Moppet is the second of three books that Beatrix Potter wrote for younger children. Incidentally, the third story, The Sly Old Cat, was never published. Like The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, The Story of Miss Moppet was originally published in panoramic format, but later changed to match the other books.

My thoughts: Miss Moppet is quite a humorous tale. It strikes me as a precursor to the cartoon Tom & Jerry as the mouse always triumphs over the cat.

Favorite Illustrations: Mouse looking down (18), Miss Moppet peeping at the moues through the duster (26), No mouse (35), Mouse dancing a jig (36)

-Catch the mouse (tag)
-Mouse Toss (add a mouse sticker or picture to a ball and toss it around a circle)

Favorite Words: cupboard, duster, bell pull, jig

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Story of Miss Moppet. I'll be back next week to talk about The Tale of Tom Kitten.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Butterfly Eyes & Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joce Sidman

Have you ever observed a meadow or an open field? What did you see there? In this collection of poems, Joyce Sidman explores what you would see in a meadow, both flora and fauna.

What I thought: What a beautiful collection. All the poems have the quiet murmur that meadows do. I loved the scratchboard illustrations. They reminds me of old-fashioned woodcuts. Sidman's wonderful language slips off the tongue in the most lilting manner. The collection reminds me of Disney's Bambi which was based on the book by Felix Salten. I also liked how the poems are riddles. There were some I couldn't solve. I enjoyed the extra facts Sidman included. They really brought the [poems to life.

My favorite poems were "In the Almost Light," "Shh! They Are Sleeping," "Ultraviolet," "Always Together," and "The Gray Ones."

(Illus. Beth Krommes. Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling

Year 5 at Hogwarts
First published 2003
896 pages, 38 chapters
#45 on the Top 100 YA Novels poll conducted by Adele of Persnickety Snark

Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts is different from the previous four. Voldemort has returned and is more determined than ever to kill Harry. Dumbledore has re-founded the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society intent on defeating the Dark Lord. After seeing Voldemort return, kill Cedric, and attempt to kill him, Harry is angry about most things as this year starts. As the Minister of Magic refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned, the Order has hard going to convince anyone else.

Scenes I wish had made the movie: Harry at the Dursleys hoping for news, St. Mungo's

The Food: Fever Fudge, Nosebleed Nougats, Puking Pastilles (courtesy of Fred and George)

Reflection: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a much anticipated book. It has the longest gap between the books. Three years passed after the publication of Goblet of Fire before The Order of the Phoenix was released. I still maintain this book marks a decided change in the series. We see a whole new side to Harry, he's angry and rebellious, and feels totally deserted by Dumbledore. The loss of the one person who loves him at the end of the book does not do anything to improve Harry's disposition. This book is the one where Harry begins to doubt himself and worry that Voldemort may triumph over him.

Sorry that this post was a week late. The series just gets better from here. I can't believe we only have 2 more books (plus Beasts, Quidditch, and Beedle) to discuss. See you next Tuesday as I discuss Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to all who entered my blogiversary ARC giveaway. And the winners are....

Jackie H. of Ready. Set. Read! is the winner of Set #1. (Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins, Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin, and The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood)

Kathy of I Am a Reader, Not a Writer is the winner of Set #2. (A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tacy, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, and The Little Known by Janice Daughtery)

HoldenJ of Fertile Plots is the winner of Set #3. (Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback, Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors, and The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan)

Rubynreba is the winner of Set #4. (A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole, Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman, and The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin)

Congratulations to all the winners who have been notified by email.

Thanks to all my readers who helped me celebrate by second blogiversary. I appreciate you all.

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin

Do you like to wiggle? Good. So do I. Let's wiggle together.

What I thought: A great book. The unnamed dog is a great character. Menchin did a great job with him. The simplicity of the text makes this book perfect for preschoolers. Though, I think older children will enjoy it, too. This book and the others (Bounce and Stretch) are great ways to incorporate movement into story time.

Story Time Theme: Dogs

(Illus. Scott Menchin. Atheneum, 2005)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Seymour & Henry by Kim Lewis

Two little ducklings, Seymour and Henry, don't want to stop playing. They run from their mother, playing as they go. When the rain comes, they hurry back to their mother. Safe with their mother, they are tucked up and warm.

What I thought: Delightful. The story is great. Kids will identify with Seymour and Henry. After all, who wants to stop playing? The onomatopoeia was good--it will make this a story time favorite. I loved the illustrations--soft and colorful. What a great idea to make the ducklings look like stuffed toys. It's very reminiscent of E. H. Shepard's illustrations for the Pooh books.

Story Time Themes: Spring, Easter

(Candlewick, 2009)

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

First published in December 1906
15 color illustrations*

If you're a fierce bad rabbit. you might just lose your tail and whiskers.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 183-184):
The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit was the first of three stories Beatrix Potter planned for younger children. The story was written for Norman Warne's niece Louie who complained that Peter Rabbit was too good. She wanted a story about a bad rabbit. The book was published in panoramic form that folded up into a wallet. This format was highly unpopular with booksellers as they unrolled easily and were troublesome to roll back up. In 1916, The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit was changed to the small bound format that all Potter's other books had taken.

My thoughts: The simplicity of this story is deceiving--it shows cause and effect and consequences without being didactic. Beatrix Potter definitely understood her intended audience--young children. The illustrations show exactly what the text says.

Favorite Illustrations: the nice rabbit with his carrot, the fierce bad rabbit taking the carrot, what happens, the fierce bad rabbit without tail or whiskers

-Pin the Tail on the Rabbit
-Rabbit, Rabbit, where's your carrot? (like doggy and the bone)

Favorite Words: savage, creeps, peeps

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit. I'll be back next Thursday to explore The Story of Miss Moppet. Until then, happy reading!

(*This title was reviewed from A Giant Treasury of Beatrix Potter, published by Derrydale Books in 1984.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

Henry has a crush on the prettiest girl at school. By chance, they end up sitting next to each other in class. Henry gives Chloe his blueberry muffin. The rest is history.

What I thought: A charming book. The story is simple and sweet. The illustrations are great--soft and monochromatic. I love how the color pops off the page. The different animals in class remind me of Rosemary Wells' Yoko though the two books have very different illustration styles.

Story Time Theme: Valentine's Day

(Balzer & Bray, 2010)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Looking for Luna by Tim Myers

We're looking for a cat, Dad & me. Not that one or that one. We're looking for our cat--she's gray and has tiger stripes. Have you seen her?

What I thought: Great book. The story has real rhythm without being overdone. I love the word choice (e.g., fog-gray). The illustrations are nice. The cats are particularly well drawn.

Story Time Theme: Cats

(Illus. Mike Reed. Marshal Cavendish, 2009)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

After eighty years, the gang (Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Tigger, Kanga, Roo, and Eeyore) have some new adventures. They have a spelling bee, learn to play cricket, make a new friend, and generally have a wonderful time in the Hundred Acre Wood.

What I thought: This book was enchanting and delightful. I'm only sorry to say that it took eighty years to have a new Pooh book. Benedictus did such a good job with the stories. I wouldn't mind seeing another Pooh book by him. The illustrations were quite good. My copies of the original Pooh books have black and white illustrations, so the color was very nice. My one complaint is that Roo looked more like a squirrel than a baby kangaroo. I checked the illustrations in the original books and apparently he looked like that then, too. I don't know how I missed it. I loved Lottie. She's such a sassy girl. My favorite illustration is of Eeyore with all the rabbits on his back. I got tickled when the gang ate cucumber sandwiches. Yum! I have two favorite chapters: Chapter 4 (In Which It Stops Raining For Ever and Something Slinky Comes Out of the River) and Chapter 8 (In Which We Are Introduced to the Game of Cricket).

(Illus. Mark Burgess. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2009)

Blogiversary & ARC Giveaway

Today marks the two year blogiversary of my blog. What is Bridget Reading? started out as a simple way to share all the booktalks I was writing during grad school. Over the past two years, it's grown into so much more. I'm reviewing all sorts of books for children and teens. I have several reading projects either completed (Ramona Quimby) or in the works (Beatrix Potter, Harry Potter). I can't wait to see where the next year will take my blog. In honor of my blogiversary, I have 4 sets of ARCs to give away. They've been cluttering up my bookshelves and I've decided to share the wealth. The books are: Set #1 Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood Set #2 A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tacy Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine The Little Known by Janice Daughtery Set #3 Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan Set #4 A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin Open to US entrants only! Giveaway ends October 1 at 11:59pm. Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment on this post with your email. Additional Entries: -Follow What Is Bridget Reading? (Leave a separate comment for following) +2 entries -Tweet about the giveaway. (Leave a separate comment with a link to your tweet. If possible mention me: @bridgetrwilson. Can only tweet once.) +1 entry Winners will be drawn randomly after the giveaway ends. Winners will be notified by email.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter

First published July 1906
60 pages, 28 color illustrations

Mr. Jeremy Fisher sets out to catch a minnow, but instead gets caught himself by a trout.

The History Behind the Tale:
The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher as a picture letter to Eric Moore in 1893. The same year Beatrix Potter sold nine frog drawings to Nister (a publishing company) and they turned them into a story. In 1906, Jeremy Fisher was publisher by F. Warne & Co.

My Thoughts: A delightful story! I love that Jeremy is a gentleman frog. He dresses so nicely. This is definitely a boy book. All my fishing fans will enjoy this one. I liked meeting Jeremy's friends, Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise. I hope we'll see them again.

Miniature Letters (Linder 79-81):
Sir Isaac Newton to Drew Fayle (a real little boy)
Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise to Drew Fayle
Jeremy Fisher to Drew Fayle
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle to Drew Fayle
Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise to Jeremy Fisher (dinner invitation)
Jeremy Fisher to Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise
Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise to Sir Isaac Newton (dinner invitation)
Sir Isaac Newton to Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise

All about Jeremy Fisher needing a wife and another dinner party for the three friends.

Favorite Illustrations: Jeremy Fisher looking out the door (12), Jeremy Fisher eating lunch (27), Jeremy Fisher & Sir Isaac Newton (55), The Three Friends (57)

-Fish, fish, frog (like Duck, Duck, Goose)
-Fish/frog tag

Favorite Words: larder, macintosh, goloshes, bobbit

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. I'll be back next Thursday discussing The Tale of a Fierce Bad Rabbit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors

The Puddings are goat farmers. They live in the country with their goats and collies. They have no use for the City. So says Mr. Pudding, but his twelve year old son homer has to disagree. Homer knows he's meant for something more than the small town drudgery of a goat farm. He wants to be a treasure hunter like his Uncle Drake. Homer likes nothing more than poring over maps looking for hidden clues.

When his beloved treasure hunting uncle dies suddenly and tragically, Homer is devastated. However, he doesn't have long to grieve. His uncle left him something. That something is a dog, a Basset Hound that can't smell but has the uncanny ability to find lost things. Dog's collar is another clue--gold with the letters L.O.S.T. on it.

Homer knows there's something Uncle Drake wanted him to uncover. He sets out to find a treasure and instead captures his uncle's murderer. Smells Like Dog is a humorous tale of adventure and intrigue.

What I thought: Smells Like Dog is a unique story with an unlikely hero. Homer Pudding isn't much good at anything except reading maps and daydreaming. The adventure his uncle's death starts brings homer into his own. He learns to think on his feet and be resourceful. Dog is a great character. I've always liked Basset Hounds. Smells like Dog is a family story with Homer's sister Gwen and his new friend Lorelei. There's more than enough to appeal to boys as well as girls in this book.

(Little, Brown & co, May 2010. ARC won in giveaway at Reading to Know)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay

After Sara Crewe is rescued from her dismal life of servitude, what happens to her and the other girls at Miss Minchin's Seminary? These are questions countless generations of readers have asked since Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess was first published. (Note: A Little Princess was published in 1904. It is an expanded version of a serialized novel, Sara Crewe: or, What happened at Miss Minchin's boarding school, that Burnett published in 1888.)

Hilary McKay, a British author like Burnett, also wondered what happened when the book ended. So did her daughter. Out of that wondering, Wishing for Tomorrow was born. Now, we know what happened to Ermentrude, Lottie, Lavinia, and the rest of the girls at Miss Minchin's after Sara left.

What I thought: I was very excited to hear that this book was being published. Of Burnett's three famous works (I've only read A Little Princess and The Secret Garden), I prefer A Little Princess. I still have the copy I bought myself for a dollar. The pages are wrinkled where I dropped it in the bathtub when I was in high school. This book wasn't quite what I expected from a sequel. I assumed the sequel would follow Sara. How wrong I was. The action is at the school. The girls' adventures after Sara leaves are fun and endearing. I like that Ermentrude is forced into a central role. Her letters to Sara are great. I like them even more knowing that she doesn't mail them. They're for her. I liked this book and I'm happy to say that I think Hilary McKay wrote a fabulous book that both pays homage to a literary classic and stands on its own.

(Sequel to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Illus. Nick Maland. New York: Margaret K. McElderry, 2009)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Alchemy & Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

Meggy Swann is used to being unwanted. Born with crooked legs, her mother couldn't or wouldn't love her. She turned Meggy's care over to her mother, Meggy's grandmother. Granny's death meant change for Meggy. Her mother sends her to the father she's never known, an alchemist in London. Armed with only her walking sticks and her best friend Louise the goose, Meggy finds that she adapts rather well to her new situation. She discovers new strength and inventiveness as she struggles to show her father how useful she can be and ultimately save him from ruin. Meggy finds new friends in Roger, her father's former apprentice, a group of players, the cooper, and the printer.

What I thought: I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Karen Cushman's historical novels. She puts such life into her books. The descriptions were so vivid I felt like I was in Elizabethan England. I became Meggy Swann wincing with every step. The setting was so distinct and well researched. Cushman introduces such wonderful characters--Meggy, Roger, Mistress Grimm and her children (Violet Velvet, Ivory Silk, Silver Damask, and Russet Wool). I loved this book. What I liked most was Meggy coming into who she really is, getting past her crooked legs to her real strength.

(Clarion, April 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan by Beatrix Potter

First published October 1905
60 pages, 11 color illustrations, 20 black & white illustrations

An invitation to tea turns into much more when Duchess the (Pomeranian) dog fears eating mouse at her friend Ribby the cat's house. An attempt to change the mouse pie with a ham and veal one is thwarted. Duchess didn't realize Ribby had a double oven! After eating what she thought was her ham & veal pie, Duchess is afraid she's swallowed the patty-pan she used to hold up the crust.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 168-172) :
Like Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan was a story Beatrix Potter developed long before it was published. The backgrounds in the illustrations feature cottages and other locales in Sawrey where Beatrix had visited and by 1905 was living part-time at Hilltop Farm. The book was published in a larger format (about twice the size of Peter Rabbit) with plain end papers under the title The Pie and the Patty-pan. In 1930, the book was changed to the smaller size and retitled The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan to match the other books.

Miniature Letters (Linder 81-82):
Ribby to Duchess
Ribby to Tabitha Twitchit
Tabitha Twitchit to Ribby
Duchess to Ribby

All about scheduling another tea party after the events in The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan.

My thoughts: The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan is a charming story. The illustrations are quite different from the other books. The book only has 11 color illustrations including the cover. They resemble the illustrations in The Tailor of Gloucester as they are framed by a thin black line. The color illustrations in The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan are larger than those in The Tailor of Gloucester and have captions. I liked meeting Dr. Maggotty in this book. You will remember him from the Squirrel Nutkin Miniature Letters. The 20 black & white illustrations are particularly well done. So far, I think The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan is the most humorous tale Beatrix has written.

Favorite Illustrations: "The Invitation" (13, color), Duchess brushing her coat (29, black & white), "Duchess in the Porch" (35, color), and "Dr. Maggotty's Mixture" (49, color)

-Find the patty pan (hide a patty pan and various other tea time articles. Whoever finds the patty pan wins.)
-"Duchess, Duchess, where's the pie?" game (like doggy and the bone)
-Party planning activity including writing invitations

Favorite Words: ornamental, genteel, marmalade, tippet

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan. Do read the book for yourself. I guarantee you'll have a nice laugh. Next Thursday, I'll be discussing The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. I hope you'll stop by.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole

Subtitle: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home

A Nest for Celeste is a story about friendship. Celeste, a mouse, has two ill-favored friends in the rats Illianna and Trixie. They taunt and abuse Celeste. Luckily, a cat catches Illianna, and Trixie disappears. The incident with the cat leaves Celeste homeless. She ventures upstairs and befriends Joseph, young assistant to the painter John James Audubon.

Celeste doesn't like the way Audubon gets his pictures (killing and posing the birds with wire). She encourages first Cornelius (a wood thrush) and then Lafayette (an osprey) to pose beautifully for Joseph and Audubon. Thus, she saves their lives.

The cat necessitates yet another move for Celeste. This time she ventures into the attic and discovers the perfect house for a mouse--a dollhouse. Joseph and Audubon leave. Cornelius flies south for the winter, but he sends Celeste a new friend, Violet (a wren). Celeste and Violet settle down to endure the winter companionable in the dollhouse.

What I thought: A delightful story with charming illustrations. A Nest for Celeste may only be a story about a mouse, but it's a first class adventure story. Villains, storms, and friends all combine to make it a quick read. I read the book with great enjoyment. The illustrations are just lovely. So reminiscent of Garth Williams (Charlotte's Web and the Little House books). The soft pencil of the illustrations set just the right tone for the book.

Favorite Illustrations: Celeste with Cornelius in cage (chapter 16), Celeste and toad (chapter 17), Lafayette and Celeste (chapter 20), Lafayette with Celeste in gondola (chapter 23), Parrots (chapter 23), Cornelius and Celeste (chapter 25), Celeste and Violet (chapter 37)

After learning about Audubon's methods, I am very thankful we have (digital) photography today. While I understand what Audubon wanted to achieve, I can't help but cringe at his methods. Those poor birds!

Favorite quote: "She thought of Cornelius and Lafayette; and as she offered a berry to Violet, she thought how good it was to have friends" (last page).

(New York: Katherine Tegan, March 2010. ARC provided by Publisher.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Year 4: ...the Goblet of Fire
First published July 2000, illustrations by Mary GrandPré
734 pages, 37 chapters

Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts is to a bang. He attends the Quidditch World Cup with the Wealeys and Hermione. At Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find that they can't settle down as usual. This year, Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament and thus students from the two other wizard school,s, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Harry's name (even though he's too young to enter) is mysteriously added to the Goblet of Fire and he is chosen as a champion. He doesn't know what to do. Clearly, someone doesn't wish him well.

Memorable Moments: S.P.E.W., Dudley with a ton tongue, Neville as a canary

Favorite Illustration: Winky drunk on butterbeer (chapter 28)

The Food (courtesy of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes) : Ton Tongue Toffee, Canary Creams

A scene I wish had made the movie: the time at the Burrow before the Quidditch World Cup

Favorite Quote: "As Hagrid had said, what would come, would come...and he would have to meet it when it did" (last line).

Reading Reflection: Aside from Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire is my favorite book. There's so much going on, so many subplots. The movie was okay, but they left out so much--like Hermione's obsession with the house-elves. This book is the pivotal one in the series. Voldemort has regained his body. He's back and what does that mean for all our favorite characters? Harry, Ron, and Hermione were only babies when he disappeared the last time. Adults talk about him in hushed tones. They don't even say his name. Harry doesn't triumph this time fully. Yes, he escaped the graveyard with his life, but Voldemort is back and perhaps stronger than ever. The world as Harry knows it is about to change in a big way. And if you remember, Rowling left us hanging for 3 years before we find out what happens next.

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'll be back in two weeks to discuss book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

He avoids school to watch people in the square. He's quiet, thoughtful, and observant. His name is Sherlock Holmes. In 1867, he is thirteen. A brutal murder and a chance meeting with the accused spurs Sherlock to action. He believes Mohammad didn't kill the woman. He just has to prove it.

What I thought: Brilliant! If anyone has ever wondered why Sherlock Homes is the way he is, they need to read this series. His childhood makes his adult years comprehensible. His misanthropic ways were born in his youth. I look forward to reading the other books in the series. The Boy Sherlock Holmes series will pair well with the original Sherlock Holmes books by Conan Doyle, Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series, and Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series.

Teen Sherlock fans should also check out the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes.

The Boy Sherlock Holmes series
1. Eye of the Crow
2. Death in the Air
3. Vanishing Girl
4. The Secret Fiend

(Boy Sherlock Holmes Book 1. New York: Tundra, 2007.)