Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Billy & Milly: Short & Silly by Eve B. Feldman

In three or four rhyming words, Feldman tells stories about Billy and Milly.

What I thought: I love it! Word play is one of y favorite things. What fun it will be to come up with my own story. I think kids (preschool and up) will appreciate this book. The younger ones will like the humor. The older kids will want to try their hands at the word play.

(Illus. Tuesday Mourning. New York: Putnam, 2009)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Sam struggles to adapt to his new permanent human skin. Grace still hopes that Olivia will return so they can cure her. Isabel is dealing with her guilt about her brother's death. Cole, one of the new wolves, is disgusted at being caught between wolf and guy. He wants nothing more than to lose himself in the wolf. When Grace gets sick, Sam, Isabel, and Cole unite to save her life. Can they find a cure before she dies?

What I thought: My first reaction/impression was that I didn't like Linger as much as I had Shiver. Too complicated, too many problems, and too many new characters/voices. Then I asked myself this question: Would I have enjoyed a book simply about Sam and Grace being in love, the wolf problem resolved? My honest answer would be no even though I am a sucker for happy endings. As I re-read Linger, I realized what Maggie was doing. In a planned trilogy, you have to introduce more conflict and characters to build the action and keep the story going. I liked the additional points-of-view (Isabel and Cole) though at times it made the narrative a little disjointed. Cole's inner turmoil was particularly well done. I loved watching him unfold as a character in the book. If I'm honest, I have to acknowledge that all the characters have inner turmoil. I'm still a strong supporter of Maggie's (were)wolf mythology. Her ideas about werewolves are innovative and thus immensely interesting. Linger ends with quite a cliffhanger. I have numerous questions that I will refrain from posing here to avoid spoilers. I hope all the loose ends are tied up in Forever (Book 3 in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series due out July 2011). Overall, a strong sequel to Shiver and it gives plenty of material on which Forever can build. What did you think of Linger?

(New York: Scholastic, July 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Secret Circus by Johanna Wright

In Paris, there's a circus that's secret. Only the mice know.

What I thought: Cute story, lovely illustrations. I love the muted colors and the texture.

Story Time Theme: Circus (Pair with The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen)

(New York: Neal Porter, 2009)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Kip Campbell's Gift by Coleen Martagh Paratore

Helping the dead rest in peace isn't getting any easier. When the school bully's mother dies, Kip is shocked when he has to deliver not one but two messages to the family. He's labeled a freak. Can Kip carry on in the face of adversity? Rumors?

What I thought: Another quick read from Paratore (141 pages). Kip gets more interesting in this book. He's the object of two girls' affection. He has to give messages that harm him (reputation-wise). I can't wait to see what life has in store for Kip next.

(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Funeral Director's Son by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Who is Kip Campbell? He's the funeral director's son. He's the outdoor guy. The problem is Kip doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps. He doesn't want to be a funeral director.

What I thought: A quick read (134 pages). Kip isn't as complex as Paratore's other character Willa, but he's endearing all the same. Paratore writes from Kip's perspective with ease. That must come from having three sons of her own. I liked the fantasy element in the book. It kept me reading--wanting to know why Kip does what he does.

(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Read It, Don't Eat It! by Ian Schoenherr

The Dos and Don'ts of library books for the small crowd.

What I thought: As a children's librarian, I can't help but love this book. The advice is simple, the illustrations charming--a step up from pastel colors and judicious use of white space. I also love the humor. For example, "dogear" gets you a picture of a dog. "Magic" get you a rabbit.

Story Time Idea: This book would be great to use when introducing children to the library and books. Maybe read it every so often to reinforce how to care for a book.

(New York: Greenwillow Books, 2009)

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra

Subtitle: A Bedtime Story from Alphabet Town

It's bedtime in Alphabet Town. What are all the little letters up to?

What I thought: Delightful! I love Sierra's alliteration. The letters' antics will no doubt produce giggles of the childish variety. Nice illustrations. I love how the letters have personalities. They are all unique.

Story Time Themes: Bedtime, ABCs, Baby Sit & Sign ABC

(Illus. Melissa Sweet. New York: Knopf, 2009)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reading Ramona Take 6

Book 6: Ramona Quimby, Age 8
First published in 1981, illustrated by Alan Tiegreen
190 pages, 9 chapters (New York: Scholastic)
Awards: Newbery Honor Book, Notable Children's Book

Dependable describes Ramona as she enters third grade. Her family depends on her to behave herself when she stays with Howie's grandmother (i.e., be nice to Willa Jean) so her mother can work so her father can go back to college. Ramona doesn't really like being dependable. It's doesn't get her much except constant reminders abut Willa Jean and hard boiled eggs that aren't.

I love Ramona's interaction with Danny, AKA "Yard Ape." They have a great relationship/rivalry. They're friends without seeming to be so. This book brings us the beginning of SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) or DEAR (Drop Everything And Read). I find it interesting that Ramona prefers to call it SSR because she thinks it sound more important. I love Ramona's inventive idea for her book report. Well, Mrs. Whaley did tell her to sell the book.

Favorite Quote: "Ramona blissfully read herself off into the land of princesses, kings, and clever youngest sons, satisfied that the Quimbys had a clever younger daughter who was doing her part" (54)

Activities from Ramona Quimby, Age 8:
Cooking for the family (My best friend and I held yearly dinner parties for ourselves. We picked out the menu, prepared everything, and enjoyed! Cooking can be quite fun.)

SSR/DEAR [If you don't already practice SSR/DEAR at school or home, I encourage you to start. The no strings attached reading (no book reports!) might just motivate those reluctant readers. You might even institute a family DEAR--where the whole family listens to a story/book read aloud. DEAR is official--April 12th is National Drop Everything And Read Day (and Beverly Cleary's birthday).]

Up next book 7: Ramona's Forever.

Only 5 more weeks until the theater release of Ramona and Beezus. Are you getting just a little excited?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor

Book 3 in the Looking Glass Wars Trilogy

Arch's plot to take over Wonderland has succeeded. He has possession of the Heart Crystal. Redd and Queen Alyss are without their imaginations. Can there be any hope4 for Wonderland without imagination? Alyss waits/hopes for the return of her imagination. Dodge does all he can to protect his queen and love. Homburg Molly deals with her guilt. Arch is plotting and scheming. He means to make his reign permanent. All the while, the Caterpillar Oracles are muttering about an Everqueen. Will Alyss be restored as queen and Wonderland returned to peace and prosperity?

What I thought: A rousing final installment in the trilogy. The conflict was perfect. I wouldn't want being queen to be easy. Alyss truly earns her title in this book. Her courage in the face of adversity is commendable. The romance between Alyss and Dodge seemed to be less apparent in this book though I did like the ending. I suppose there's not much time for romance during anarchy. Bravo, Mr. Beddor! What will you write for us next?

(New York: Dial, 2009)

The Looking Glass Wars Trilogy
1. The Looking Glass Wars (2006)
2. Seeing Redd (2007)
3. ArchEnemy (2009)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Anne of Green Gables Abridged

(Retold from the Lucy Maud Montgomery original by Kathleen Olmstead. Illustrated by Lucy Corvino. New York: Sterling, 2005)

If you remember, I liked Sterling's abridgment of Little Women. I felt it stayed true to the original. This abridgment of Anne of Green Gables does not. The word "retold" says it all. Olmstead takes liberties with the original and gives readers a mixed up tale that is rushed and only matches the original slightly.

The only success this abridgment can claim is that it does reduce the number of chapters and pages. The original version has 320 pages and 38 chapters (100th Anniversary Edition from Putnam). The Classic Starts' version has 145 pages and 24 chapters.

The first chapter was fine. It was after that it started to go downhill. This book is "retold" to the point the story is changed. Nothing happens the right way or in the right order. The whole book seems rushed. Remember, Anne of Green Gables covers Anne's life from age 11 to 16. 145 pages doesn't seem like enough to do justice to 5 years in the coming of age of such a heroine. L. M. Montgomery was known for her beautiful descriptions. These are totally ignored. Anne's quirkiness is also not as evident. Such an abridgment is what gives all abridgements a bad name. I was sorely disappointed and cannot recommend this book to younger readers. They should definitely wait and read the original.

Great Illustrated Classics also has an abridged version of Anne of Green Gables. I haven't read it for comparison. I only hope it stays true to the original.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Polo & the Dragon by Regis Faller

One wintry day, Polo goes out on his boat. It's so cold that the water freezes and the boat gets stuck. With help from a quill and ink, Polo draws himself a way out. In the forest, he unknowingly wanders into a dragon's lair. Fearing for his safety, Polo flees his dragon foe. The dragon turns out to be friendly. He uses his fire to thaw Polo's boat. The two sail home and enjoy a nice dinner under the stars.

What I thought: The Polo books bring back the magic of comic strips for me. The ones I liked best had minimal words (Ziggy, Garfield). Polo's such a lovable character. Faller's skill as an illustrator is great. To create such charming stories with no words isn't something just anyone could do.

(New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2003)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Little Blue by Gaye Chapman

When a boy finds a little blue girl lost in the woods, he tries his best to help her find her home. When they can't, takes her home with him and finds her home in his cupboard.

What I thought: What a surprising book! I'd never have thought the little girl was a piece of china plate/ I kept thinking she was a fairy. Delightful, fanciful illustrations make the story complete.

Story Time Theme: Imagination

(Australia: Little Hare, 2008)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora's used to being plain, ordinary, invisible. But that suddenly changes. Two guys come into her life. Both are dangerous. One is irresistible. Elliot gives Nora bad vibes. Add to that his involvement in a murder. Bad vibes or not, Nora is drawn to Patch. She knows she should stay away, but she can't. As her life becomes more and more dangerous, Nora needs a protector. Has she found one in Patch? Or will he only draw her further into danger?

What I thought: Wow! Gotta love a good book about a bad boy. I like to think of it as the Edward Cullen complex. Because isn't he the ultimate bad boy? (Hello, vampire!) The chemistry between Patch and Nora is palpable. It leaps off the page. As a reader, I didn't care that he was a fallen angel--he could be a devil for all I cared--He's hot, broody, and dangerous! I liked the story line. Hush, Hush reads much better than Lauren Kate's Fallen. (That I have an "eh.") Patch reminds of Batman (as Christian Bale plays him in particular). The resolution was great. I'm all for tying up loose ends. The possibility for a sequel is there but not mandatory. I wouldn't mind reading more about Patch and Nora, but I can manage with the ending and my imagination if I have to.

(New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep! by Maureen Wright

Old Man Winter keeps telling Big Bear it's time to sleep. Unfortunately, Big Bear is a little hard of hearing. Instead of sleep, he hears jeep, sweep, leap, deep, and steep. After all that exercise, Big Bear is ready for a nap.

What I thought: A good story. I loved Big Bear's misunderstanding. I'm sure kids will as well. The rhyming was good--not too over done. The repetition will make it a story time favorite. I liked the illustrations. The softness of the landscapes and the boldness of Big Bear and the other animals worked well together.

Story Time Themes: Bears, Winter, Hibernation

(Illus. Will Hillenbrand. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2009.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reading Ramona Take 5

Book 5: Ramona and Her Mother
First published in 1979, illustrated by Alan Tiegreen
208 pages, 7 chapters (New York: Harper Trophy)
Awards: Notable Children's Book, National Book Award

In second grade now, Ramona finds adjusting to a full-time working mother difficult. She misses the time she used to spend with her mother. However, Ramona resents being compared to Howie's horrid little sister Willa Jean. Seven and a half is a hard age.

This book definitely has the cozy yet realistic feel that all the other Ramona books have. Ramona's longing to be understood and cherished by her mother is endearing. She seems to want attention whether she realizes it or not. The running away scene was great. It's such a universal kid thing. I remember running away a few times myself. I'd pack up my pink plastic Barbie suitcase and head for the woods. A couple hours later Id' be home, over the hurt or anger that drove me from home in the first place.

Favorite Quotes:
"Sewing seemed like a cozy way to spend a rainy morning" (37).
"All sorts of uses for the sewing machine began to fly through Ramona's imagination" (46).
"People should not think being seven and a half years old was easy, because it wasn't" (51).

Activities from Ramona and Her Mother:
Sewing (Ramona wanted to make a book!)
Building a boat
Writing your name in an interesting way

Up next, Book 6: Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater

James survived his near death experiences with the faeries and is almost back to normal. He's bored at his new school. He and Dee aren't talking much these days. James meets someone new. She calls herself Nuala and she wants to make a deal with him. James is wary, but can't help being drawn to her. Once he learns her story, there's no going back. The faeries are back again. What (or who) do they want?

What I thought: Love, love, loved having the book from James's point-of-view. Kinda makes up for just having Dee's in Lament. Stiefvater is utterly original in her story/plot. (At least, I think so--I'm not as well read in faery books as I should be.) Dee met her match in Luke Dillon. Only seems fair to have James meet his in Nuala. The ending was great--reminded me of Beautiful Creatures--epic-ness with violence and even death. I will note that Ballad was published a couple of months before Beautiful Creatures. I just happened to read them in reverse publication order. So I guess the ending of Beautiful Creatures reminds me of Ballad in all fairness. Will there be another book? I don't think so, but I wouldn't mind reading more about James, Dee, and their otherworldly significant others.

(Woodbury, MN: Flux, 2009)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Little Known by Janice Daugharty

What would you do if you found a bag of money from a bank robbery? Knot, a young black boy growing up in the segregated South, decides to keep it. His ultimate goal is to reform Marge so they can go live with her sister. The only problem with stolen money is it's hard to spend. Knot begins sending hundred dollar bills anonymously to people in his community. He is upset when they don't spend the money as he thinks they should. This is a coming of age story. Through his use of the stolen money, Knot finds himself.

What I thought: This is not a book that I would normally read, but I found that I couldn't put it down once I started. I wanted to see what happened with Knot and his efforts with the money. The Little Known is a perfect title for the book. Knot is unknown. His own mother won't claim him. He never had a father. Daugharty used just enough dialect to make the book culturally appealing. There was a definite lack of male role models in the book. Interestingly, Knot chooses the only respectable male, Reverend Troutman, to emulate. This was a book of misconceptions. Knot is sure the people will spend the money as he thinks they should. He mistakenly assumes Marge's sister is rich. Other characters also misjudge and underestimate Knot throughout the book. I liked seeing Knot's evolution from "the little known" to David with a family and a future. Overall, I liked the book and recommend it.

ARC provided by Publisher
(Memphis, TN: Bell Bridge Books, Feb. 2010)