Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Year 3: ...Prisoner of Azkaban
First published October 1999 in the US, illustrated by Mary GrandPré
448 pages, 22 chapters

The rat that wasn't. The murderer who wasn't. Harry's third year at Hogwarts is one of secrets and contradictions. Will the truth be better than not knowing?

Memorable Moments: the Knight Bus, Hogsmeade visits

Favorite Illustration: Padfoot (chapter 18)

The Food: Pepper Imps, Chocoballs, sugar quills, Fizzing Whizbees, butterbeer, jelly slugs, toothflossing stringmints, ice mice, peppermint toads, exploding bonbons, cockroach clusters

The Pets: Padfoot (Sirius), Crookshanks, the owl Sirius gives to Ron (as yet unnamed)

Favorite Quote: "He was my mum and dad's best friend. He's a convicted murderer, but he's broken out of wizard prison and he's on the run. He likes to keep in touch with me, though...keep up with my news...check if I'm happy..." (Harry to Uncle Vernon, page 435*)

Scenes that should have made the movie: Harry spending a week in Diagon Alley, Snape's Grudge (the Whomping Willow joke)

-Wizard's chess
-Rat/Cat Tag

Reading Reflection: POA is one of my favorite books in the series for many reasons. The kids are growing up--they're thirteen now. They get to visit Hogsmeade. Their friendship (especially Ron & Hermione's) is tested and tried. Harry discovers more about himself and finds someone who truly cares for him. The air of mystery in the book definitely appeals to my inner sleuth.

An interesting side note: POA came in at #18 on Adele's (Persnickety Snark) Top 100 YA Novels Poll.

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Things will get very complicated in two weeks when I discuss the fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Until then, happy reading!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback

Noonie Norton is an artist. She means to be a famous artist, but she realizes that most artists don't become famous until they die. Nevertheless, Noonie wants us to know about her and her art. Right now, she's ten-years-old and she's already had a Blue Period (which coincided with her mother's death), and she is just starting her Purple Period. We leave Noonie at the beginning of her Polka-Dot period. Throughout it all, Noonie is outspoken and endearing. She learns what a family is and that appearances are deceiving.

What I thought: I've enjoyed books about young artist ever since I read Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff. Noonie's Masterpiece was no different. I was entertained from page one. Noonie comes across as much more sophisticated than her ten years, but I suppose we need to make allowances for circumstances and artistic temperaments. I loved all the relationships and interactions in the book. My favorite was Noonie's friendship with Reno. They make great friends. I liked the illustrations. They looked exactly like a talented young artist drew them. They definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the book.

(Illus. Sarajo Frieden. San Fransisco: Chronicle, April 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins

What do Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, and Marie Curie have in common? They were all born in 1867 and they all had daughters. In this verse novel, Atkins explores these famous women and their relationships with their respective daughters.

What I thought: I've long been a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, so I was very excited to hear about this book. I was familiar with Marie Curie, but had never heard of Madam C. J. Walker. The research that went into this book was phenomenal. Through narrative poetry, I learned more about Wilder and her daughter Rose than I ever could have imagined. I was so intrigued by the idea that Rose not only proofread but revised the Little House books that I have since read The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane by William Holtz. It goes without saying that my favorite poems from the Laura and Rose sequence are "Shears" and "Truth." The poems about the other mothers and daughters also left me wanting to know more. I truly enjoyed this book. I can't wait to see what Atkins treats us to next. This would be a great book to give to mothers and/or daughters. I also think mother-daughter book clubs would enjoy Borrowed Names.

(New York: Henry Holt, March 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny by Beatrix Potter

First published September 1904
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

With the help of his cousin Benjamin Bunny, Peter Rabbit recovers the clothes he lost in Mr. McGregor's garden. Retrieving the clothes is easy. Escaping the cat is not.

The History Behind the Tale:
The Tale of Benjamin Bunny is a continuation of Peter Rabbit's story. If you remember, Benjamin Bunny was mentioned briefly in Peter Rabbit (Benjamin knows about cats!). Like Peter, Benjamin was a pet rabbit of Beatrix Potter's. Benjamin Bunny is the first tale not to have started as a picture letter or a picture book present.

My thoughts: Benjamin Bunny is a pleasant book. I like Benjamin and Peter's camaraderie. I also like Peter's uneasiness in the garden. Rightly so. The illustrations are lovely as always, but the story doesn't appeal like Peter Rabbit did.

Favorite Illustrations:
-Peter and Benjamin (19)
-Benjamin munching in the garden (32)
-The mice (36) So fat and cozy looking!
- Cat on basket (47)

-Peter's Clothes Hunt (Hide clothes around the library for children to find. Winner finds the most.)
-Cat and Rabbit Tag (The cat is "It.")
-Play store (Peter's mother runs a small store.)
-Follow the tracks or guess the tracks (print out several types of animal tracks for the children to guess what animal or to follow.)
-Benjamin Bunny coloring sheet on the official Peter Rabbit website

Favorite words: gig, relations, muffetees, bazaar, tam-o-shanter, lolly-pops

I hope you've enjoyed visiting with Benjamin Bunny today. Next Thursday, we'll be exploring The Tale of Two Bad Mice.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan

Twelve-year-old Josephine Russing has accepted certain circumstances in her life. She must always wear gloves. (It's a law!) Her father ignores her. She doesn't have any friends. But that all changes one day with the arrival of a mute boy called Fargus. When searching for him, Josephine finds herself transported into a parallel universe where children are scarce and everyone fears the "Master." With Fargus and his friend Ida by her side, Josephine intends to solve the mystery of the "Master" and return home.

What I thought: What a magical book! It had me hooked from the first paragraph. Though the best genre word to describe The Lost Children would be fantasy, I also appreciate the mystery elements in the story. It had a twist at the end that even I wasn't expecting. The blurb likens the book to Alice in Wonderland and I agree. However, I wold also name The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as similar. This book with its enchanting, adventurous story, believable characters, dastardly villain, and strong friend has the makings of a classic fantasy for children.

(New York: Aladdin, February 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

(The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book 1)

Penelope Lumley is looking forward to being the governess at Ashton Place. It sounds like the perfect position for her--"experience with animal strongly preferred." Little does Penelope know that the animals are not the fat, content ponies she imagined, but the children themselves. Found in the forest by Lord Fredrick, he has appointed himself their guardian.

Penelope is not daunted by the task of humanizing the three Incorrigible children, as Lady Constance and Lord Fredrick call them. Alexander, Beowulf, Cassiopeia, and Penelope have a fine time educating each other. But why does Old Timothy always watch them? Why is Lord Fredrick adamant that the children attend the holiday ball? These and more mysteries thrive in The Mysterious Howling.

What I thought: A charmingly mysterious book and a fine start for a new series. I admire Penelope's endurance and intelligence. She is a credit to the Victorian governess character. The children are endearing. Their circumstances before Ashton Place are intriguing. I mean, how did they come to be in the forest in the first place? They must have been there for some time to pick up those animal mannerisms. The ending was just right--I feel that Penelope and the children will be safe until I see them again. As you know, I love a good mystery--all the better if it's a series. I look forward to reading the next book.

(New York: Balzer & Bray, March 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Top 100 YA Novels meme

As you know, Adele of the Persnickety Snark blog offered a Top 10 YA Novels Poll and has since counted down the Top 100 YA Novels from the poll results.

4 of the 10 titles I nominated made the top 100. Without further ado, here is the list. The ones I've read are in bold.

#100 The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (1985)
#99 The Pigman by Paul Zindel (1969)
#98 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987)
#97 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (2010)
#96 The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (2009)
#95 Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (2009)
#94 Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (2008)
#93 Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (2001)
#92 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (1994)
#91 The Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party (2006)

#90 Glass Houses by Rachel Caine (2006)
#89 A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle (1980)
#88 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (2003)
#87 An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (2006)
#86 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (1990)
#85 Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead (2008)
#84 Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (2006)
#83 The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2008)
#82 Jacob I Have Loved by Katherine Paterson (1980)
#81 The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (2009)

#80 Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (1998)
#79 Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
#78 Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (2006)
#77 Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (1971)
#76 The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares (2001)
#75 Feed by MT Anderson (2001)

#74 The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (1983)
#73 Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (1978)
#72 Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)
#71 The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (2006)

#70 If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2009)
#69 Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (1999)
#68 Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (2008)
#67 Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen (1999)
#66 City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (2009)
#65 How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (2004)
#64 Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (1992)
#63 The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)
#62 Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (1989)
#61 The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974)

#60 Fire by Kristin Cashore (2009)
#59 Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2006)
#58 Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (2007)
#57 Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (2000)
#56 Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty (2003)
#55 Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (2003)
#54 Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (2009)
#53 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (1973)
#52 Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
#51 Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2000)

#50 The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (2000)
#49 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)

#48 I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
#47 Forever by Judy Blume (1975)
#46 Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margie Stohl (2009) [My #7]
#45 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (2003)
#44 Sabriel by Garth Nix (2003)
#43 Evernight by Claudia Gray (2008)
#42 The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (2000)
#41 Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (2008)

#40 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
#39 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)
#38 Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (2009)
#37 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (2000)
#36 Paper Towns by John Green (2008)
#35 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)
#34 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
#33 The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (2008) [My #8]

#32 Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (1995)
#31 A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (2003)

#30 Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)
#29 Harry and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling (2005)
#28 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985)
#27 Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (1983)
#26 The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien (1954)
#25 Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (2001)
#24 Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007)
#23 Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008)
#22 Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (2007)
#21 Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (2009)

#20 Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
#19 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
#18 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (1999)
#17 Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
#16 On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006)
#15 City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (2005)
#14 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)
#13 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (2007)
#12 Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (2006)
#11 Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)

#10 This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (2002)
#9 Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005)
#8 The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)
#7 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006) [My #5]
#6 The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (2004)
#5 Northern Lights [The Golden Compass] by Philip Pullman (1995)
#4 Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1996) [My #1]
#3 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
#2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling (1996)
#1 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)

I've only read 35 out of 100 titles. I don't know about you, but I have some reading to do!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Come to the Fairies' Ball by Jane Yolen

The fairies are giving a ball and everyone s invited. Don't be late, dress in your best, and come to the fairies' ball.

What I thought: Pure poetry! I can't stop admiring Yolen's way with words. The story was enchanting. The rhythm of the words is wonderful. They really capture the magic of fairies an the like. The almost begs to be read aloud. The illustrations are fantastic--so detailed. I looked them over several times.

(illus. Gary Lippincott. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong, 2009)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

First published October 1903
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

The tailor of Gloucester has an important commission this Christmas. He is to make a coat and waistcoat for the mayor's Christmas Day wedding. A spiteful cat hinders the tailor's progress, but helpful mice make the coat and save the day.

The History Behind the Tale:
The Tailor of Gloucester grew out of a story Beatrix Potter heard while visiting a cousin in Gloucestershire. Though the tailor didn't know it, his helpers in the real story were his own assistants. He attributed the making of the coat to fairies. Needless to say, the story tickled Beatrix's fancy.

In December 1901, Potter wrote and illustrated her own version of the story as a gift for Freda Moore, another of her former governess's children. That manuscript had twelve illustrations (Linder 113). Potter then decided to have the story privately printed. She knew her publisher would want to delete some of the rhymes from the story and she wanted it published exactly as she pictured it. The private edition was printed in December 1902 and had sixteen illustrations (Linder 114). Potter believed the story would appeal more to older children (Linder 116). F. Warne & Co. published The Tailor of Gloucester in October 1903 with twenty-eight illustrations and only six of the twenty rhymes from the privately printed edition.

My Thoughts: As much as I like mice and Christmas, The Tailor of Gloucester is not one of my favorite tales. I think perhaps because it is so different from Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin. The natural world isn't featured much in this tale. However, it's still a charming story. The illustrations are particularly fine. I find it interesting that they are set off with black lines and square or rectangle in shape. As such, these illustrations are unlike the ones in Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin.

Favorite Illustrations:
-Mouse reading newspaper (cover)
-Mouse tailor fitting jackets (11)
-Lady mouse with magnifying glass (12)
-Lady mouse curtsying (24)
-Cat in coat and boots (31)

-Christmas carols/rhymes
-Find the mouse (hide a toy mouse under tea cups)
-Mouse, Mouse, Cat game (like Duck, Duck, Goose)
-Simpkin, Simpkin, where's your mouse? game (like doggy and the bone)
-Visit the official Peter Rabbit Website to make a Tailor of Gloucester spinner (Fun & Games--Make & Do)

Favorite Words: lappets, taffeta, snippet

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tailor of Gloucester. Next week, I'll be exploring The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, sequel to Peter Rabbit.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Driving My Tractor by Jan Dobbins

A farmer has a big day ahead of him. He drives his tractor and picks up all the animals.

What I thought: This book will appeal to readers on so many different levels. There's repetition, onomatopoeia, animals, and a tractor. The illustrations are colorful.

Story Time Themes: Farm Animals, Baby Sit & Sign Animals or Numbers (1-5)

(illus. David Sim. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books, 2009)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

Year 2: ...the Chamber of Secrets
First published June 1999, illustrated by Mary Grandpré
341 pages, 15 chapters

Harry's second year at Hogwarts is not off to an auspicious start. First, Dobby the House Elf warns Harry not to return to school. Then, he and Ron cant get through the barrier at Platform 9 & 3/4. They fly Mr. Weasley's enchanted car to school. You can imagine the professors' reaction. The Chamber of secrets has been opened. People (and pets) are being petrified. Can Harry, Ron, and Hermione discover who the Heir of Slytherin is before it's too late?

Memorable Moments: all encounters with Dobby, degnoming the garden, The Burrow

Favorite Illustration: Dobby on page 12--he looks much more appealing than the movie version.

Pets: Mrs. Norris (cat), Aragog (HUGE spider), and the basilisk

Favorite Quote: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" (333, Dumbledore).

Scenes I wish had made the movie: the Deathday party, Valentine's day (I can just see the dwarf sitting on Harry!)

-Find the Heir (memory game)
-Rogue Bludger Dodge (Dodgeball)
-Guess the Creature trivia game (use Fantastic Beasts as a reference)

Favorite new word: mudblood (I know it's not a nice word, but it is unique.)

Reading Reflection: Chamber of Secrets is not my favorite book in the series, but I do like seeing how the characters and their relationships develop. Harry must be the luckiest boy around--he almost died again in this book. I can see that Harry, Ron, and Hermione will likely be friends for life. They have been through so much together already.

I hope you've enjoyed this post in my Harry Potter Reading Project. In two weeks, I'll be back again to discuss Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Until then, happy reading!

Monday, August 16, 2010

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant

What is a day? What will you do with it? Here are some suggestions.

What I thought: A charming book. The idea for the story is unique--asking readers to consider a day and what it will bring. I loved the illustrations. They are classic--black and white with minimal color. It reminds me of older picture books. This would be a good book to give as a graduation.

Story Time Idea: Pair with Kevin Henkes' A Good Day.

(illus. Nikki McClure. New York: Abrams, 2009)

Friday, August 13, 2010

When I Wore My Sailor Suit by Uri Shulevitz

A little boy likes to pretend he's a sailor. Every day, he puts on his sailor suit and has high seas adventures. He even outsmarts a pirate and finds a treasure map.

What I thought: Here's another great book about the power of imagination. I love an book that encourages the use of imagination. This one will appeal especially to boys. The illustrations are great--simple lines and vibrant colors.

(New York: FSG, 2009)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter

First published August 1903
59 pages, 28 color illustrations (including cover and frontispiece)

In the fall, the squirrels sail over to Owl Island to gather nuts. Twinkleberry and the cousins bring gifts to thank Old Brown for letting them gather nuts on his island. Nutkin is a rude little squirrel and teases Old Brown with riddles. When he teases Old Brown one too many times, he looses his tail.

The Story Behind the Tale:
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin began in 1897. Beatrix Potter heard an American story about squirrels using their tails as sails when going to gather nuts on an island. She wrote Noel Moore about that story on August 26, 1897. She concluded the Keswick squirrels (that's where she was at the time) must swim.

On September 15, 1901, Beatrix Potter wrote a letter to Noel's sister Norah about a squirrel called Nutkin. This picture letter had 12 illustrations. Many consider Squirrel Nutkin to be in the pourquoi tradition as it tells how Nutkin lost his tale (Lear 161). The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin is unique in that it was the first book in which the endpapers were introduces and it was also produced in a deluxe chintz fabric covered edition. F. Warne & Co. published Squirrel Nutkin in August of 1903.

My thoughts: Nutkin is such a rascally little squirrel. I've always been fond of squirrels, but I'm not familiar with the red squirrels that Potter depicts. We have ordinary browny gray squirrels here in Tennessee. I knew something was going to happen to Nutkin. You can't tease an owl repeatedly with no consequences. The riddles were a nice touch. I only wish I knew the answers.

Squirrel Nutkin Miniature Letters (Linder 74-76):
Squirrel Nutkin to Old Brown four time asking for his tail back
Twinkleberry to Old Brown on behalf of Nutkin
Squirrel Nutkin to Dr. Maggotty about a medical cure for his tail
Dr. Maggotty to Squirrel Nutkin
Squirrel Nutkin to Dr. Maggotty
Dr. Maggotty to Squirrel Nutkin
Squirrel Nutkin to Dr. Maggotty

Favorite Illustrations:
Squirrels gathering nuts (20)
Nutkin peeping in the keyhole (27)
Nutkin playing ninepins (47)
Nutkin with a short tail (58)
From the original picture letter- the squirrels laying the mole on the stone (Linder 60)

Favorite words: impertinent, obstinately, gracious, ridiculous, flutterment, scufflement

-Sailing (sail boats in a tub of water)
-Nut hunt (hide nuts and let the children find them. Provide them with sacks similar to the ones in the book.)
-Ninepins (i.e., bowling)
-Dancing (from p. 49- "Nutkin danced up and down like a sunbeam")
-Riddles (Have the children share riddles with one another and take turns guessing the answers)

Join me next Thursday as I explore The Tailor of Gloucester!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ferocious Wild Beasts by Chris Wormell

A young boy lost in the woods fears running into the ferocious wild beasts his mother warned him about. He, in turn, warns a bear, elephant, lion, crocodile, wolf, and python about the ferocious wild beasts. They unite in avoidance of the beasts. The boy's mother soon finds and scolds him for being in the dangerous forest. He tells her that he didn't see any ferocious wild beasts.

What I thought: What a fun book! Wormell is playing on a child's understanding of an adult concept. The irony will be a hit with older kids. The story is slightly repetitious which makes it good for story time. The illustrations are great--soft colored and realistic.

Story Time Themes: Animals, Baby Sit & Sign Animals

(New York: Knopf, 2009)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie Mercer is a witch. If that isn't enough of a hassle, she also has problems controlling her powers. Her latest attempt at a love spell ends with her sentenced to attend Hex Hall, a reform school for witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

Life at Hex Hall isn't easy. Her roommate is the only vampire on campus. She upsets the most powerful witches at school. She crushes on the unattainable warlock. Hex Hall is turning into Hex Hell. Can Sophie survive her sentence there?

What I thought: An engrossing book and I felt like the story wasn't overdone. So many YA books these days (thank you, Twilight) have a paranormal bent. I don't mind this, but I expect the books to be original and well written. I think Rachel Hawkins has accomplished this with Hex Hall. The back story isn't overly complicated. We all know about witches, faeries, shapeshifters, vampires, and demons. We also get the concept of boarding or reform school. I also appreciated the mystery in the book. It wasn't predictable and at the end, I didn't feel confused over the conclusion. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

(New York: Hyperion, March 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wild Orchid by Cameron Dokey

Mulan never knew her mother. She never sees her father. Raised by servants, she grows up without much guidance. She has the usual female skills like embroidery. However, she can also shoot a bow and fight with a sword. These unlikely skills are courtesy of her best friend Li Po.

Mulan's life becomes a bit more traditional when her father returns home and remarries. Mulan is happy. Her father and stepmother are happy. Sadly, the Huns have no regard for happiness. They decide to invade China. All soldiers are called up including Mulan's aging and wounded father.

To safeguard her father's health and happiness, Mulan does what she must. She goes to war. She makes an admirable soldier and ultimately saves China. Mulan discovers just what she made of during her adventure.

What I thought: Mulan is my favorite Disney cartoon. I've always loved the story of courageous Mulan. This retelling is lovely. After reading it, I immediately read a version of the original "Ballad of Mulan." Like most fairy tales, the ballad is straightforward and simple. Mulan goes to war in her father's place, saves China, and brings honor to her family. Dokey has taken that story and given it real depth. The characters are beautifully developed. I loved that Mulan wasn't completely anonymous as a soldier--Li Po and her father's best friend knew. Highly Recommend for fairy take fans. Cameron Dokey has written several other fairy tale re-tellings.

Other books by Cameron Dokey in the "Once Upon a Time Series":
The Storyteller's Daughter (2002) [Arabian Nights]
Beauty Sleep (2002) [Sleeping Beauty]
Sunlight and Shadow (2004) [The Magic Flute]
Golden (2006) [Rapunzel]
Before Midnight (2007) [Cinderella]
Belle (2008) [Beauty and the Beast]
Winter's Child (2009) [Snow White]
The World Above (2010) [Jack and the Beanstalk]

(New York: Simon Pulse, 2009.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer Reading Program Event Reflection #3

This is my last Summer Reading Program Event Reflection. This post will focus on the design of my teen program and the events I presented.

My library has never had a Summer Reading Program just for teens. They were lumped into a "Ten & Up" category and have to read 10-20 books in the five weeks to qualify for prizes. As I had the time and skills, I decided to volunteer as the Teen Summer Reading Program Coordinator.

I designed a Bingo card for the teens to use. Their goal was to get 2 bingos. That entitled them to a certificate, t-shirt, goodie bag, and an entry into the grand prize drawing. I tried to make the Bingo card interesting and about more than reading because I know some teens just don't like to read. Squares included water activities, volunteering, attending programs, reading, using the computers, etc. 24 teens signed up and 11 completed the program.

Here are some general reflections about the program: The bingo squares that I took to be self explanatory confused some of the teens. For 4 out of 5 of the programs, the same two teens attended. I surveyed the teens that completed the program and found that one had basketball practice, Saturdays weren't good for two, and others either forgot or weren't interested. I was surprised to find out that two teens suggested I provide better activities (i.e., events) for them. One of said teens did not attend any programs. The other only attended one. Sigh. Maybe I'll have better luck next year. I would like to form a Teen Summer Reading Program advisory group. Then the events would be of their choosing.

The following is my reflections on the individual events. The links are to the event plans on my wiki.

Event #1 (Battleship Tournament)
Only two teens attended. I decided to go low tech and use the battleship board from the CSLP manual. If I repeat this program, I would like to use the actual game. I thought this program would have appealed to guys, but they were a no show. Perhaps I'll have a game program in November.

Event #2 (Puppet Play Practice)
This event had to be rescheduled, but it went well. The same two teens showed up. They enthusiastically picked out a play and made the puppets. I see many more puppet plays in the library's future.

Event #3 (Percy Jackson Party)
Again, the same two teens attended. I found it funny that neither of them had read the books. I have only read the first book. They liked the PJ version of "rock, paper, scissors" that I found on PUBYAC. I would like to repeat this program maybe for the tween crowd. I think it would be popular if advertised enough.

Event #4 (Watertight Book Club)
It might have helped if my teens that showed up had read the book. One had read it in the last few months, but it wasn't fresh enough to hold a discussion. They did like the “create your own historical character” activity. Book clubs for this age group have been tried, but they are never well attended.

Event #5 (Make Waves Craft Session)
This was the best attended program, but I don't think it was the most popular. After having only two teens attend the previous four events, I didn't put too much preparation into this program. I also had a very small budget to work with ($40 for all 15 programs). We had one guy attend, so in the future I need to plan more unisex crafts.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

First published in 1902
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

You know the story...his mother warns him about going to Mr. McGregor's garden, but Peter can't resist the temptation. To the garden he goes to feast on lettuce and radishes. He should have listened to his mother! Peter does meet up with Mr. McGregor and they lead each other on a merry chase.

The Story behind the Tale:
The Tale of Peter Rabbit grew out of a picture letter Beatrix Potter sent to Noel, the son of her former governess, on September 4, 1893. A few years later, Miss Potter decided the letter might make a good book. After being rejected by several publishers, she had Peter Rabbit printed privately. The first edition came out in December 1901. The second edition came out in February 1902. F. Warne and Co. finally agreed to publish Peter Rabbit. Their edition came out in October 1902. This marks the first of many successful collaborations between Potter and Warne.

My thoughts: Peter Rabbit is such a familiar tale. I can almost repeat it from memory. On re-reading the tale, I was surprised by the humor in it (e.g., the water can Peter hides in). The story reads aloud very well. The size of the book (5.5 x 4.25 inches) and the illustrations make it problematic for story time. The size makes it more conducive to one-on-one lap time. If any of my fellow children's librarian would like to chime in, I wold love to hear how you share Beatrix Potter's books during story time.

For this Beatrix Potter Reading Project, I am consulting two resources for additional information about Beatrix Potter and her books. The resources are Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007) and A History of the Writings of Beatrix Potter by Leslie Linder (London: F. Warne & Co., 1971).

Lear relates how interested Beatrix Potter was in other enterprises. For The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Potter developed a Peter Rabbit Doll, nursery wallpaper, and a Peter Rabbit Board game. Merchandise inspire by Beatrix Potter's tales is still popular today. Only a few months ago, I crocheted a baby afghan in a Peter Rabbit color scheme for a friend.

Lear describes The Tale of Peter Rabbit: "Although the story was always of central importance, there is in Peter Rabbit a perfect marriage of word and image. The precision of her drawings of plants and animals, gardens and woods, embellishes her text and carries the story forward to the next page with a flawless continuity of time and place, fantasy and reality" (154). I couldn't agree more.

Here's something new I discovered thanks to Linder's book: In addition to her picture letters, Beatrix Potter also wrote miniature letters to children. The ones for Peter Rabbit are as follows: Peter Rabbit to Mrs. McGregor, Mrs. McGregor to Peter Rabbit, Peter Rabbit to Benjamin Bunny, and Peter Rabbit to Drew.

Favorite Illustrations: Peter munching on carrots in Mr. M's garden, the cat watching the goldfish

Favorite words: exert, fortnight

-Mr. McGregor's garden obstacle course
-"Peter, Peter, where's the gate?" game (make the gate out of craft sticks, similar to Doggy and the Bone)
-"Where's Peter?" flower pot memory game (hide numerous things including a small rabbit under little clay flower pots. Each child gets a guess. Continues until someone finds Peter.)
-Taste testing: chamomile tea, blackberries, currant buns
-A compilation of Peter Rabbit Activities in PUBYAC's archives
-Make your own Peter Rabbit puppet show, color Peter Rabbit, and play games at the official Peter Rabbit website

I hope you've enjoyed this first post of my Beatrix Potter Reading Project. I'll be exploring The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin next week.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

When their ship sinks, fifteen circus animals find refuge on an island off the coast of Maine. The tiger's daring rescue of an islander cements the animals' worth to the other inhabitants. They live in harmony as friends--people and circus animals.

What I thought: Delightful! The story is wonderful. The text has such great rhythm. The illustrations are beautiful--so detailed and colorful. My favorite spreads are of the animals hiding and the animals living as friends with the islanders.

Story Time Themes: Circus, Friendship, Ships/Boats

(Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2009)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Reading Program Event Reflection #2

This is the second of three planned reflections on my Summer Reading Program Event experience. In this post, I'll reflect on the events I presented for children ages 6-11. The links are to the event plans on my wiki.

Event #1 (Ocean Adventure Games)
This was a fun, fun program. The kids loved correcting me when I asked "Does anyone have a bingo yet?" They'd say, "No! It's water." I forgot to share the some jokes as an opener and to take pictures. I'll be using my water creature bingo again during our Back to School Bash.

Event #2 (Tall Tales)
This program went well, but there's room for improvement. I need to read another book that's more of a standard tall tale to get across the format and characteristics. I also need to provide them with examples for writing their own tall tale/creating their own tall tale character. I should have created a couple of characters myself to give them the idea.

Event #3 (Pirate Party)
This program was by far the most popular program for this age group (and the best attended). They were a rowdy bunch of "scurvy dogs," but that was mainly my fault. They didn't really listen to the pirate info I shared with them. They were more intent with getting on with the party. They were coloring their parrots as I shared the info. I should have taken them away from the table and put them on the story time blanket.

They loved playing "Pin the Parrot on the Pirate." We played it twice. The crafts went well except the the pirate ship masts wouldn't stay up. Any tips from fellow librarians? The refreshments went over great (as food always does with any kid). I had two great teen volunteers that helped me immensely. With twelve kids attending, I came to the conclusion, we need a larger program area. This isn't possible, but it would be nice. I would have liked to give treat bags, but the budget didn't allow it.

Event #4 (Outdoor Fun)
It was too hot for this program, but we still had fun. Outdoor programs are great. I'd like to repeat a version of this in the spring or fall. Putting up a tent for shade and providing refreshments will be a must. In retrospect, I would like to use bubbles and play hopscotch in addition to the sidewalk art and beach ball games.

Event #5 (Sea Serpent Party)
Despite low attendance, this program went very well and we had lots of fun. The kids really liked the games. I'll be using the sea serpent (AKA dinosaur) race again at our Back to School Bash. The craft went well. I always like when they enjoy simple activities.

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

Year 1: ...the Sorcerer's Stone
First published September 1998 in the US, illustrated by Mary Grandpré
309 pages, 17 chapters

Eleven-year-old Harry Potter is transformed into an unlikely hero when he discovered he's more than the Dursley's much put upon nephew. Harry enters Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to train as a wizard. He makes new friends (Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger), uncovers a mystery, and almost dies again.

Memorable moments: Hagrid knitting, Harry's first visit to Diagon Alley, the troll, quidditch

Favorite illustration: Fluffy (p. 262)- he looks much friendlier than he does in the movie.

The food: Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans (I've tried these!), Droobles Best Blowing Gum, chocolate frogs, pumpkin pasties, cauldron cakes, licorice wands, pumpkin juice, lemon drops

The pets: Hedwig, Scabbers, Trevor, Fluffy, Norbert, Fang (Hagrid has 3 pets. That doesn't seem fair to the other characters.)

Favorite Quotes:
"But from that moment on, Hermione Granger became their friend. There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them" (179).

"'People will insist on giving me books'" (Dumbledore, p. 214)

Scene I wish had made the movie: Hagrid getting sick on the Gringotts cart

Activities from Sorcerer's Stone:
wizard chess
Parties (Halloween & Christmas)
Dark Forest Scavenger Hunt
Shopping in Diagon Alley

Favorite new word: muggle

Reading Reflection: I first encountered Harry Potter in the summer of 1999. A friend of my uncle sent me the book. I was enchanted. I read the book quickly with enjoyment and put it on my bookshelf. Months later I was going to trade it in at a used bookstore. I decided to re-read it first. I still have my first copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I started reading the other books, hooked my friends on the series, made Gryffindor scarves, and the rest is history. I usually re-read the books once a year. The magic is still there. Watching the movies usually starts me off on reading the books again. The books are always better.

Now that I'm a youth services librarian, I'm looking forward to hosting my first ever Harry Potter party in November. Re-reading the books is part of my preparation.

I hope you've enjoyed my first Harry Potter Reading Project post. I'll return again in two weeks to discuss Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

If you want more information on all things Harry Potter, check out the Harry Potter Lexicon.

Monday, August 2, 2010

While the World is Sleeping by Pamela Duncan Edwards

A snowy owl takes a child for a nighttime adventure. They see what all the animals do while the world sleeps.

What I thought: Loved it! The text is pure poetry. The illustrations are lovely--just the right mixture of light and shadow. This book will spark readers' interest in the animals described.

Story Time Themes: Owls, Nocturnal Animals, Bedtime, Night

(Illus. Daniel Kirk. New York: Orchard, 2010)