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.)