Friday, February 26, 2010

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce

Viola is tired of being invisible. One day, her wish for something more is so strong she calls up a genie. He has a job to do--grant three wishes and return to his world where he doesn't age. Viola doesn't make Jinn's job easy. She doesn't know what to wish for. She doesn't want to waste her wishes on something trivial. What Jinn didn't count on was growing to care for Viola. He doesn't want to hurt her. A girl and a genie--in what world can they be together?

What I thought: I love the idea of genies from Disney's Aladdin to the old TV show I Dream of Jeannie. Once I even wrote a story about a girl and a genie. These are the reasons I couldn't help but read this book. I wasn't disappointed. Viola's situation (invisibility) is one my former teenage self can relate to. And I'm sure other readers will as well. The presence of a genie is exotic and exciting. I love that Pearce gives us both points of view--Viola's and Jinn's. It adds depth to the story. Will there be a sequel I wonder?

(New York: Harper Teen, 2009)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Gracepearl is tired of life on Miramore. She longs to journey across the sea. The only problem is the only boats belong to the princes who come each summer for training. To get off the island, Pearl must find herself a prince. Sir Richard might do, but her friend Lu likes him. Or there's Sir Peter. But her friend Nuff likes him.

Gracepearl has always felt like there's more to the world than Miramore. As her sixteenth birthday approaches, she discovers the truth about herself and a way off the island that doesn't involve a prince.

What I thought: I didn't even know this book was coming out. I'm a big fan of Paratore's Wedding Planner's Daughter series. Setting wise, this is quite a departure for her. Fantasy as opposed to modern realism. Miramore Island instead of Cape Cod. However, I find A Pearl Among Princes to be quite similar to the Wedding Planner's Daughter series. Willa and Pearl both love the sea and live near it. They also both like to read and/or appreciate the written word. I loved the nursery rhymes that head each chapter. The mystery of who Pearl is was well written. I didn't know until Paratore revealed it. I don't like predictable books. This one wasn't Highly recommended to fairy tale fans.

(New York: Dial, 2009)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

In 1837 London, most girls have qualms about their first season. Will they be popular? Will they have suitors? Will they receive a proposal? Twins Pen and Persy Leland have much bigger worries. Not only are they about to come out, they are also witches. Concealment of their craft is paramount. The disappearance of their governess and fellow witch Ally spurs them to action Who abducted her? Why? Add to this Persy's love for childhood friend Lochinvar and their younger brother Charles' determination to help recover Ally. Bewitching Season is a Victorian romp with love and magic.

What I thought: A riveting read. My fondness for all things Jane Austen endears this time period to me. What if anything was missing from Austen? I'll hazard a guess--magic! This book has it all--action, adventure, love, and magic. Can't wait to read the next book. The chemistry between Persy and Loch was stupendous, The third person narration kept me in agony about these misguided lovers.

(New York: Henry Holt, 2008)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

As a small child, Cassie is enchanted by her grandmother's story of the polar bear king. Growing up on an Arctic Research station, Cassie appreciates the beauty of the polar bears. At eighteen, Cassie makes a startling discovery. Her grandmother's story was true. The polar bear king is real and he has come to claim his bride--Cassie.

What I thought: I can't resist fairy tale books and this one was well worth reading. As a young child I saw the movie The Polar Bear King. The story enthralled me. Later on, I discovered the Appalachian version (Snow Bear/White Bear Whittington) of the original Norwegian tale (East of the Sun, West of the Moon). Durst's retelling (or re-imagining) of the tale is wonderful. Cassie is a thoroughly modern girl caught up in a fairy tale world. Her acceptance is grudging and based primarily on the return of her mother. The chemistry (for lack of a better word) between Cassie and Bear is great. This is not some sappy love story. She doesn't want to be there. And in the beginning, he doesn't really love her. I like that love is not easy for them. The back story Durst creates (munaqsri) is intriguing. For some reason, I think this book would pair well with Chris D'Lacey's dragon books.

(New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clover Twig & the Magical Cottage by Kaye Umansky

Clover is a practical sort of girl. Her family needs more income. Her father's disabled and the family has many mouths to feed. In light of their situation, Clover applies to be the local witch's cleaning girl. The wages are good and as witches go, Mrs. Eckles is not so bad. Cover is content to keep the cottage and gardens tidy. Her contentment is soon complicated by Mrs. Eckles' sister's plot to steal the cottage. With help from unlikely sources (clumsy Wilf and witch's cat Neville), Clover must save the day.

What I thought: This was a good solid book. The story was original but at the same time familiar enough so that I wasn't put off by the fantastic bits. (I'm a low fantasy kind of girl.) I like that the characters aren't stereotypical. Mrs. Eckles is not your average witch just as Clover isn't your usual girl. The uneasy friendship between Clover and Wilf will likely increase the book's appeal. This is not a girl book or a boy book. It's a good book that many will enjoy. Recommended for fans of Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series. Will there be a sequel? I hope so.

(Illus. Johanna Wright. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2009)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Daughters of the Sea: Hannah by Kathryn Lasky

Deemed unsuitable for going into service, Hannah is sent west from Boston on an orphan train. Being so far from the sea nearly kills her. Her skin leaves salty deposits. She begins to grow what appear to be scales. Hannah's not sure what's happening to her but about one thing she is certain. She must be near the sea. On her return to Boston, she goes into service for the Hawley family. There she is drawn to three things: vases that depict half human half fish creatures, a harp, and the painter Stannish Whitman Wheeler. As the mystery of who (or what) she is unravels, Hannah must make a decision that will change the rest of her life.

What I thought: Brilliant concept backed by beautiful prose. I was drawn into the story. What's great about the story is the dramatic irony. A savvy reader knows what Hannah is before she does. I kept reading to see how she would react, what choice she would make. The ending was a bit ambiguous, but I understand this to be a trilogy. I (im)patiently await the next installment. I want to know what happens to the painter. I want to know id Hannah's choice is absolute. I want to know about the others. Loved the setting. New England is the quintessential place to set a sea tale (tail? Yes, I see the pun). If you're a mermaid fan, this book will pair well with the Disney Channel movie The Thirteenth Year.

(New York: Scholastic, 2009)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sunday Chutney by Aaron Blabley

Sunday Chutney is always the new girl at school. The wonderful thing about Sunday Chutney is she doesn't care what the other kids think about her.

What I thought: A delightful book that will be a must read for any new kid at school. Sunday reminds me of several other characters (Clementine and Pippi to name two). She's spunky and happy despite all the moving her family does. The illustrations are great. After so many bright and busy books, these are refreshing. Blabley's use of pastels results in muted colors. The illustrations also have a minimalistic quality to them. My favorite illustrations are Sunday's imaginings (the mad tea party, her animal friends).

(Honesdale, PA: Frontstreet, 2008.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Dollshop Downstairs by Yona Zeldis McDonough

In 1914, sisters Sophie, Anna, and Trudie live above their father's doll repair shop in New York City, They love playing with the dolls and helping their father and mother with the work. Like all sisters, they sometimes squabble.

When war breaks out in Europe, the family worries about their business. The bulk of their replacement parts come from Germany. Anna comes up with an ingenious plan. They can't repair dolls, but they can make them.

What I thought: A quick and easy read with only nine chapters. A charming story. I love the distinct setting (1914, NYC). I also liked the details the author includes about the family's Jewish faith and culture. Just enough I thought to make a reader want to know more. I was delighted to find out the story is loosely based on Madame Alexander's childhood.

(Illus. Heather Malone. New York: Viking, 2009)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mama, Will It Snow Tonight? by Nancy White Carlstrom

Winter is here. Three children (human, fox, and rabbit) anxiously await snow. Everyday, they ask, "Mama, will it snow?" After several days of waiting, watching, and asking, the answer is yes. Snow falls.

What I thought: What a great idea for a book. I remember waiting for snow just as the girl, fox, and rabbit do. The repetition in the story will make it a great read aloud. I like the illustrations. They are soft yet bold.

Story Time Theme: Winter

(Illus. Paul Tong. Honesdale, PA: Boyd's Mill Press, 2009)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Edward Lear's The Duck & the Kangaroo illustrated by Jane Wattenberg

Duck is tired of his life in the pond. He admires Kangaroo's ability to hop. Duck wants Kangaroo to give him a ride. After much discussion and the putting on of socks, the two hop around the world not once but thrice.

What I thought: I'd never read this poem by Lear. I am an admirer of nonsense poems. I only object to the line about the cigar. But my objection could be overruled by the fact it's a duck not a person. Wattenberg's illustrations, which I understand to be collages of bits and pieces of art that artists and scientists produced, are wonderful. Each page has so many textures. The colors are bright and vibrant.

(New York: Greenwillow, 2009)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

Cats do not like parties. They don't even like their own birthday parties. Bad Kitty is less than pleased with the celebration of her birth. She'd much rather be sleeping. Instead, she has to put up with an endless stream of guests and their gifts. During her party, Bad Kitty lives up to her name.

What I thought: Another great Bad Kitty chapter book from Nick Bruel. Kids love parties. They'll especially love Kitty's dislike of hers. I loved the notes at the end of the book about different cat breeds. They could definitely spark further interest in the topic.

(New York: Roaring Book press, 2009)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Jane Cabrera

Here is an entirely new version of a nursery rhyme favorite. With hiding chicks, numbers up to 20, and a party. What fun!

What I thought: Delightful! Cabrera has made this nursery rhyme her own with charming illustrations and new verses. I love the inclusion of all the other animals. The hiding chicks are a stroke of genius. Kids love to locate things in pictures (e.g., the mouse in 1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle).

Story Time Ideas: This book would be great for a Mother Goose/Nursery Rhyme story time. Would also be good for Baby Sit & Sign when we do numbers.

(New York: Holiday House, 2009)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Whoo Goes There? by Jennifer A. Ericsson

Owl watches and waits for his dinner. With every sound he hears, owl imagines what animal it is. He guesses wrong a few times before he gets it right. However, some raccoons interrupt his dinner.

What I thought: A lovely book. The repetition in the story is great. I think this could be a story time favorite. The illustrations match the story perfectly. Just dark enough and so realistic.

Story Time Themes: Nocturnal Animals, Owls

(Illus. Bert Kitchen. New York: Neal Porter, 2009)