Friday, January 29, 2010

Spells by Emily Gravett

Frog isn't thrilled to find an old book of spells. He'd much rather it be about pirates or castles. Then, he realizes he can use the book to turn himself into a prince. After several attempts (owing to the book's disheveled state from his imaginings), Frog gets the spell right. Unfortunately, the much coveted kiss of a princess reverses the spell and he's a frog again.

What I thought: The idea of the story is great and it reads well. I liked the darker illustrations. They really make the frog stand out. What I didn't like was the cut pages in the section where frog is tyring the spells. They were awkward to maneuver and would likely be more so during a story time. I understand why they're like that, but they just didn't work for me. I plan to give the book another read through soon. I think this book would be better for one on one readings (e.g., mom & kid) as opposed to story time use. Spells has been popular at my library. I don't think I've seen it since I returned it.

(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis

In riddles (or poems), J. Patrick Lewis offers a review or synopsis of 13 children's books.
Some are old classics. Some are beloved favorites. Can you guess the book in each riddle?

What I thought: What a book of books! I look that Lewis mixes classics with newer books. I wonder how he chose the 13 titles he did. Munsinger's illustrations are great. I love the 2 detectives and their canine cohort. I hope we'll see a sequel to Spot the Plot.

Story Time Ideas: The possibilities are endless. A fairy tale theme is possible as Lewis mentions two. Children's classics is another theme (using Peter Rabbit, Madeline, and Ferdinand). New favorites is yet another them (Tacky and Click, Clack, Moo). With older children, they can write riddles for their favorite books.

(Illus. Lynn Munsinger. San Fransisco: Chronicle Books, 2009)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise

Ignatius B. Grumply gets more than he bargained for when he rents a house in Ghastly, IL for the summer. Grumply wants peace and quiet so he can write the next book in his Ghosthunter's series. What he gets is 11-year-old Seymour Hope, his cat Shadow, and the ghost of the former owner Olive C. Spence. Grumply hates children and cats. He doesn't believe in ghosts. It's going to be a long summer.

What I thought: I loved this book. I can't believe I've never read anything by Kate Klise before. This book was highly entertaining from start to finish. I like that the book is comprised of letters, notes, and manuscript pages. Such a collection will certainly appeal to Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans. Klise's humor reminds me of Polly Horvath's books. M. Sarah Klise's illustrations were great. I look forward to the next book in the 43 old Cemetery Road series, Over My Dead Body (2009).

(Illus. M. Sarah Klise. Boston: Harcourt, 2009)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pet Shop Lullaby by Mary Ann Fraser

The problems one little hamster can cause in a pet shop! Hamsters are nocturnal. That means they stay up all night and sleep all day. (Like owls.) Most of the other animals in the pet shop (cat, dog, mouse, rabbit, guinea pig) are diurnal. They are like you and me--they sleep at night. These animals put their heads together and put the hamster to sleep. They go through several bedtime rituals (teeth brushing, story reading). Finally, the hamster is asleep!

What I thought: Lovely! The story is great. It's a simple way to introduce the concept of nocturnal animals. The minimal text makes this book perfect for preschool story time. The illustrations are colorful and lifelike.

Story Time Ideas: This would be a great book to use for a pajama story time. You could pair it with other bedtime books. You could also use it for a nocturnal animal story time. Pair with Good-Night, Owl! by Pat Hutchins.

(Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mill Press, 2009)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lulu's Pajamas by Lucie Papineau

Lulu loves her favorite pajamas so much that she resolves to wear them all the time. School wreaks havoc on her pajamas. Now they are paint splattered, food stained, and just plain dirty. Ergo, Lulu resolves to never ear them again. This causes a problem because her parents only read stories and ding songs to little mice who wear pajamas. Lulu reaches the perfect compromise. She will wear here pajamas sometimes.

What I thought: A charming book with delightful illustrations. Lulu could be any little girl who only wants to wear her favorite thing. (Reminds me of The One and Only Marigold by Florence Parry Heide.) I like that her parents let her work through her dilemma on her own. She learns for herself when is the best time to wear pajamas. The similes in the book (e.g., "as good as a pink dream") are great. In fact, this would be a good book to use when teaching children about similes.

(Trans. Marie-Louise Gray. Illus. Stephanie Jorisch. New York: Kids Can Press, 2009)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Little Women retold by Deanna McFadden

Published in 1868, Little Women was a classic from the first. Girls adored it which lead to the publication of a second volume in 1869 (Originally tittled Good Wives, it has since been incorporated into Little Women as Part II.) Little Women is a lengthy novel . I first read it when I was 12. Part I in my dogeared and bedraggled copy has 217 pages.

The Little Women from Sterling's Classic Starts series retells Part I of Little Women in 144 pages. 23 chapters are reduced to 17. The language e is updated and simplified. This is a story for younger readers (i.e., ages 7 and up)

What I thought: Though I am a librarian, I don't oppose abridged classics for children. I received my first taste of Little Women when I received the Great Illustrated Classics version for my ninth birthday. I was fascinated with the story of the March sisters. Three years later, I read the original. I have re-read Little Women every year since.

The advantage of abridged classics is that they can introduce younger readers to books that are above their reading level. The original Little Women, as lovely as it is, is lengthy with old-fashioned language. I can't see and eight- or nine-year-old reading it with much enjoyment.

But with the Classic Starts series, young readers can experience the essence of the original story. The pickled limes, Jo's burnt frocks. and Laurie's antics are all there. My only complaint (and bear in mind that I am a veteran reader of Little Women) is that some of the more memorable phrases are changed. For example, "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents" becomes "Christmas won't be the same without presents" (1). Overall, I am prepared to like the Classic Starts series. I think they accomplish their goal--introducing younger readers to classic books.
(Illus. Lucy Corvino. New York: Sterling, 2005)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau

Calico Bear, Fuzzy Bear, Yellow Bear, and Floppy Bear each have a chair to themselves. They are perfectly content with their chairs until Big Brown Bear comes along. There's no chair for such a BIG bear. The bears work together to find room for Big Brown Bear.

What I Thought: Where was this book when I did teddy bear story time? It's perfect for the preschool crowd. The illustrations are cute. There's no other word for them. They are soft and pastel-colored. I like that this book teaches a lesson about teamwork and sharing.

Story Time Themes: teddy bears, friendship, sharing

(Illus. David Walker. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2009)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snow! Snow! Snow! by Lee Harper

In simple text and lovely illustrations, the author chronicles one (dog) family's snow day sledding adventure.

What I thought: This book is exuberant. The topic is perfect. I haven't met a child yet who doesn't enjoy snow days and they activities they bring (sledding!). The illustrations were great--the dogs are colorful. But it's the winter landscape that caught my eye. Snow is so much more than white and Harper did an excellent job of capturing that.

Story Time Idea: Winter themed story time. Pair with Millions of Snowflakes by Mary McKenna Siddals, Oh by Kevin Henkes, Jingle-Jingle by Nicola Smee, and Snow by Uri Shulevitz.

(New York: Paula Wiseman, 2009)

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Dragon in the Driveway by Kate Klimo

Jesse, Daisy, and their dragon Emmy mare back in this new book in the Dragon Keepers series. Emmy has a hard time remembering to be an English sheepdog. A disguise is necessary to protect her from the evil St. George. Speaking of, he's keeping a low profile. Jesse and Daisy haven't seen him in days. They decided to check up on him. He's apparently abandoned his ruse as a college professor. Discovering what St. George is up to leads the Dragon Keepers and their dragon on an adventure. They meet dryads and hobgoblins and discover their neighbor is magic. Can they stop St. George from completing whatever dastardly deed he has planned and keep Emmy safe?

What I thought: A fast paced magical read. I continue to enjoy the characters Klimo has created. I especially like the hobgoblin queen and her rhymes. (Reminds me of the dwarfs and their mirrors in 10th Kingdom). I can't wait to see what the next book has in store for Jesse, Daisy, and Emmy.

(New York: Random House, 2009)

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Little Red Elf by Barbara Barbieri McGrath

The Little Red Elf works hard. She keeps the workshop in order while her roommates (Reindeer, Penguin, and Hare) laze about sleeping and playing games. This behaviour goes on until Little Red Elf has enough. She's tired of doing all the work. Why should Reindeer, Penguin, and Hare get any gifts? She does relent and their gifts are very appropriate--they gets lots and lots of stuffed little red hens.

What I thought: A Christmas version of the Little Red Hen--how wonderful! This is a story I'd never considered the possibility of adaptation. It worked well. The illustrations are great. They are so detailed. I (and any child) could spend hours pouring over them. I suppose the prefect word to describe the illustrations is charming.

(Illus. Rosalinde Bonnet. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2009)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Where Teddy Bears Come From by Mark Burgess

Little Wolf has a problem--he can't sleep. He tries a variety of remedies before he decides he needs a teddy bear. But that's another problem. Little Wolf doesn't know where teddy bears come from. He sets out on a journey to find a teddy bear so he can sleep soundly. After a few cases of mistaken identity, he succeeds.

What I Thought: What a great idea for a book! Adults woulds automatically think teddy bears come from stores, but not Little Wolf or some children. I also love that this is a fractured fairy tale. Little Red Riding Hood, her granny, and the three little pigs make an appearance. This story redeems the wolf who is always cast as a villain. The illustrations were great. So colorful but not too busy.

Story Time Ideas: This book could be used for a variety of story times including teddy bears, fairy tales, and Christmas.

(Illus. Russell Ayto. Atlanta: Peachtree, 2008)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson

Confined to an oak tree by circumstances, a young faery longs to see the outside world. As she grows up, she gets more than she ever dreamed. Apprenticed to the queen's hunter, she may freely leave the oak. As her skill with weapons grows, she adopts a new name--Knife. Brought up to fear the outside world's danger, Knife is surprised to find a human friend. Knife's friendship with Paul leads to the unraveling mystery of the faeries' captivity in the oak. When asked (commanded) to choose, which will Knife pick--faery or human?

What I thought: An astoundingly good book. The story line is unique. The world building superb. Anderson's faery world reminds me a bit of Lynne Reid Banks' The Fairy Rebel only for an older audience. The ending had a clear resolution and an hint at the beginning of something more. Can't wait for the sequel Wayfarer due out April 2010.

(New York: Harper Collins, 2009)

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer

Enola is still hiding from her brothers and masquerading as a secretary. Her latest mystery hits close to home. Her landlady is abducted and it's up to Enola to find out why. In the course of her investigation, she meets an elderly Florence Nightingale, admires the many uses of embroidery, and brushes up on her Morse Code.

What I thought: Springer does not disappoint in this latest installment in the Enola Holmes series. It was fast paced and riveting. As always, I was on the edge of my seat wondering if she could continue to allude her brothers.

(New York: Philomek, 2009. Enola Holmes Book #5)