Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

Henry has a crush on the prettiest girl at school. By chance, they end up sitting next to each other in class. Henry gives Chloe his blueberry muffin. The rest is history.

What I thought: A charming book. The story is simple and sweet. The illustrations are great--soft and monochromatic. I love how the color pops off the page. The different animals in class remind me of Rosemary Wells' Yoko though the two books have very different illustration styles.

Story Time Theme: Valentine's Day

(Balzer & Bray, 2010)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Looking for Luna by Tim Myers

We're looking for a cat, Dad & me. Not that one or that one. We're looking for our cat--she's gray and has tiger stripes. Have you seen her?

What I thought: Great book. The story has real rhythm without being overdone. I love the word choice (e.g., fog-gray). The illustrations are nice. The cats are particularly well drawn.

Story Time Theme: Cats

(Illus. Mike Reed. Marshal Cavendish, 2009)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

After eighty years, the gang (Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Tigger, Kanga, Roo, and Eeyore) have some new adventures. They have a spelling bee, learn to play cricket, make a new friend, and generally have a wonderful time in the Hundred Acre Wood.

What I thought: This book was enchanting and delightful. I'm only sorry to say that it took eighty years to have a new Pooh book. Benedictus did such a good job with the stories. I wouldn't mind seeing another Pooh book by him. The illustrations were quite good. My copies of the original Pooh books have black and white illustrations, so the color was very nice. My one complaint is that Roo looked more like a squirrel than a baby kangaroo. I checked the illustrations in the original books and apparently he looked like that then, too. I don't know how I missed it. I loved Lottie. She's such a sassy girl. My favorite illustration is of Eeyore with all the rabbits on his back. I got tickled when the gang ate cucumber sandwiches. Yum! I have two favorite chapters: Chapter 4 (In Which It Stops Raining For Ever and Something Slinky Comes Out of the River) and Chapter 8 (In Which We Are Introduced to the Game of Cricket).

(Illus. Mark Burgess. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2009)

Blogiversary & ARC Giveaway

Today marks the two year blogiversary of my blog. What is Bridget Reading? started out as a simple way to share all the booktalks I was writing during grad school. Over the past two years, it's grown into so much more. I'm reviewing all sorts of books for children and teens. I have several reading projects either completed (Ramona Quimby) or in the works (Beatrix Potter, Harry Potter). I can't wait to see where the next year will take my blog.

In honor of my blogiversary, I have 4 sets of ARCs to give away. They've been cluttering up my bookshelves and I've decided to share the wealth. The books are:

Set #1
Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins
Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin
The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

Set #2
A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tacy
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
The Little Known by Janice Daughtery

Set #3
Noonie's Masterpiece by Lisa Railsback
Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors

The Lost Children by Carolyn Cohagan

Set #4
A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

Open to US entrants only! Giveaway ends October 1 at 11:59pm.

Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment on this post with your email.

Additional Entries:
-Follow What Is Bridget Reading? (Leave a separate comment for following) +2 entries
-Tweet about the giveaway. (Leave a separate comment with a link to your tweet. If possible mention me: @bridgetrwilson. Can only tweet once.) +1 entry

Winners will be drawn randomly after the giveaway ends. Winners will be notified by email.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter

First published July 1906
60 pages, 28 color illustrations

Mr. Jeremy Fisher sets out to catch a minnow, but instead gets caught himself by a trout.

The History Behind the Tale:
The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher as a picture letter to Eric Moore in 1893. The same year Beatrix Potter sold nine frog drawings to Nister (a publishing company) and they turned them into a story. In 1906, Jeremy Fisher was publisher by F. Warne & Co.

My Thoughts: A delightful story! I love that Jeremy is a gentleman frog. He dresses so nicely. This is definitely a boy book. All my fishing fans will enjoy this one. I liked meeting Jeremy's friends, Sir Isaac Newton and Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise. I hope we'll see them again.

Miniature Letters (Linder 79-81):
Sir Isaac Newton to Drew Fayle (a real little boy)
Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise to Drew Fayle
Jeremy Fisher to Drew Fayle
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle to Drew Fayle
Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise to Jeremy Fisher (dinner invitation)
Jeremy Fisher to Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise
Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise to Sir Isaac Newton (dinner invitation)
Sir Isaac Newton to Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise

All about Jeremy Fisher needing a wife and another dinner party for the three friends.

Favorite Illustrations: Jeremy Fisher looking out the door (12), Jeremy Fisher eating lunch (27), Jeremy Fisher & Sir Isaac Newton (55), The Three Friends (57)

Activities:
-Fishing
-Fish, fish, frog (like Duck, Duck, Goose)
-Fish/frog tag

Favorite Words: larder, macintosh, goloshes, bobbit

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. I'll be back next Thursday discussing The Tale of a Fierce Bad Rabbit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors

The Puddings are goat farmers. They live in the country with their goats and collies. They have no use for the City. So says Mr. Pudding, but his twelve year old son homer has to disagree. Homer knows he's meant for something more than the small town drudgery of a goat farm. He wants to be a treasure hunter like his Uncle Drake. Homer likes nothing more than poring over maps looking for hidden clues.

When his beloved treasure hunting uncle dies suddenly and tragically, Homer is devastated. However, he doesn't have long to grieve. His uncle left him something. That something is a dog, a Basset Hound that can't smell but has the uncanny ability to find lost things. Dog's collar is another clue--gold with the letters L.O.S.T. on it.

Homer knows there's something Uncle Drake wanted him to uncover. He sets out to find a treasure and instead captures his uncle's murderer. Smells Like Dog is a humorous tale of adventure and intrigue.

What I thought: Smells Like Dog is a unique story with an unlikely hero. Homer Pudding isn't much good at anything except reading maps and daydreaming. The adventure his uncle's death starts brings homer into his own. He learns to think on his feet and be resourceful. Dog is a great character. I've always liked Basset Hounds. Smells like Dog is a family story with Homer's sister Gwen and his new friend Lorelei. There's more than enough to appeal to boys as well as girls in this book.

(Little, Brown & co, May 2010. ARC won in giveaway at Reading to Know)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay

After Sara Crewe is rescued from her dismal life of servitude, what happens to her and the other girls at Miss Minchin's Seminary? These are questions countless generations of readers have asked since Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess was first published. (Note: A Little Princess was published in 1904. It is an expanded version of a serialized novel, Sara Crewe: or, What happened at Miss Minchin's boarding school, that Burnett published in 1888.)

Hilary McKay, a British author like Burnett, also wondered what happened when the book ended. So did her daughter. Out of that wondering, Wishing for Tomorrow was born. Now, we know what happened to Ermentrude, Lottie, Lavinia, and the rest of the girls at Miss Minchin's after Sara left.

What I thought: I was very excited to hear that this book was being published. Of Burnett's three famous works (I've only read A Little Princess and The Secret Garden), I prefer A Little Princess. I still have the copy I bought myself for a dollar. The pages are wrinkled where I dropped it in the bathtub when I was in high school. This book wasn't quite what I expected from a sequel. I assumed the sequel would follow Sara. How wrong I was. The action is at the school. The girls' adventures after Sara leaves are fun and endearing. I like that Ermentrude is forced into a central role. Her letters to Sara are great. I like them even more knowing that she doesn't mail them. They're for her. I liked this book and I'm happy to say that I think Hilary McKay wrote a fabulous book that both pays homage to a literary classic and stands on its own.

(Sequel to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Illus. Nick Maland. New York: Margaret K. McElderry, 2009)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Alchemy & Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

Meggy Swann is used to being unwanted. Born with crooked legs, her mother couldn't or wouldn't love her. She turned Meggy's care over to her mother, Meggy's grandmother. Granny's death meant change for Meggy. Her mother sends her to the father she's never known, an alchemist in London. Armed with only her walking sticks and her best friend Louise the goose, Meggy finds that she adapts rather well to her new situation. She discovers new strength and inventiveness as she struggles to show her father how useful she can be and ultimately save him from ruin. Meggy finds new friends in Roger, her father's former apprentice, a group of players, the cooper, and the printer.


What I thought: I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Karen Cushman's historical novels. She puts such life into her books. The descriptions were so vivid I felt like I was in Elizabethan England. I became Meggy Swann wincing with every step. The setting was so distinct and well researched. Cushman introduces such wonderful characters--Meggy, Roger, Mistress Grimm and her children (Violet Velvet, Ivory Silk, Silver Damask, and Russet Wool). I loved this book. What I liked most was Meggy coming into who she really is, getting past her crooked legs to her real strength.


(Clarion, April 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan by Beatrix Potter

First published October 1905
60 pages, 11 color illustrations, 20 black & white illustrations

An invitation to tea turns into much more when Duchess the (Pomeranian) dog fears eating mouse at her friend Ribby the cat's house. An attempt to change the mouse pie with a ham and veal one is thwarted. Duchess didn't realize Ribby had a double oven! After eating what she thought was her ham & veal pie, Duchess is afraid she's swallowed the patty-pan she used to hold up the crust.

The History Behind the Tale (Linder 168-172) :
Like Tiggy-Winkle, The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan was a story Beatrix Potter developed long before it was published. The backgrounds in the illustrations feature cottages and other locales in Sawrey where Beatrix had visited and by 1905 was living part-time at Hilltop Farm. The book was published in a larger format (about twice the size of Peter Rabbit) with plain end papers under the title The Pie and the Patty-pan. In 1930, the book was changed to the smaller size and retitled The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan to match the other books.

Miniature Letters (Linder 81-82):
Ribby to Duchess
Ribby to Tabitha Twitchit
Tabitha Twitchit to Ribby
Duchess to Ribby

All about scheduling another tea party after the events in The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan.

My thoughts: The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan is a charming story. The illustrations are quite different from the other books. The book only has 11 color illustrations including the cover. They resemble the illustrations in The Tailor of Gloucester as they are framed by a thin black line. The color illustrations in The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan are larger than those in The Tailor of Gloucester and have captions. I liked meeting Dr. Maggotty in this book. You will remember him from the Squirrel Nutkin Miniature Letters. The 20 black & white illustrations are particularly well done. So far, I think The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan is the most humorous tale Beatrix has written.

Favorite Illustrations: "The Invitation" (13, color), Duchess brushing her coat (29, black & white), "Duchess in the Porch" (35, color), and "Dr. Maggotty's Mixture" (49, color)

Activities:
-Find the patty pan (hide a patty pan and various other tea time articles. Whoever finds the patty pan wins.)
-"Duchess, Duchess, where's the pie?" game (like doggy and the bone)
-Party planning activity including writing invitations

Favorite Words: ornamental, genteel, marmalade, tippet

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan. Do read the book for yourself. I guarantee you'll have a nice laugh. Next Thursday, I'll be discussing The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. I hope you'll stop by.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole

Subtitle: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home

A Nest for Celeste is a story about friendship. Celeste, a mouse, has two ill-favored friends in the rats Illianna and Trixie. They taunt and abuse Celeste. Luckily, a cat catches Illianna, and Trixie disappears. The incident with the cat leaves Celeste homeless. She ventures upstairs and befriends Joseph, young assistant to the painter John James Audubon.

Celeste doesn't like the way Audubon gets his pictures (killing and posing the birds with wire). She encourages first Cornelius (a wood thrush) and then Lafayette (an osprey) to pose beautifully for Joseph and Audubon. Thus, she saves their lives.

The cat necessitates yet another move for Celeste. This time she ventures into the attic and discovers the perfect house for a mouse--a dollhouse. Joseph and Audubon leave. Cornelius flies south for the winter, but he sends Celeste a new friend, Violet (a wren). Celeste and Violet settle down to endure the winter companionable in the dollhouse.

What I thought: A delightful story with charming illustrations. A Nest for Celeste may only be a story about a mouse, but it's a first class adventure story. Villains, storms, and friends all combine to make it a quick read. I read the book with great enjoyment. The illustrations are just lovely. So reminiscent of Garth Williams (Charlotte's Web and the Little House books). The soft pencil of the illustrations set just the right tone for the book.

Favorite Illustrations: Celeste with Cornelius in cage (chapter 16), Celeste and toad (chapter 17), Lafayette and Celeste (chapter 20), Lafayette with Celeste in gondola (chapter 23), Parrots (chapter 23), Cornelius and Celeste (chapter 25), Celeste and Violet (chapter 37)

After learning about Audubon's methods, I am very thankful we have (digital) photography today. While I understand what Audubon wanted to achieve, I can't help but cringe at his methods. Those poor birds!

Favorite quote: "She thought of Cornelius and Lafayette; and as she offered a berry to Violet, she thought how good it was to have friends" (last page).

(New York: Katherine Tegan, March 2010. ARC provided by Publisher.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Year 4: ...the Goblet of Fire
First published July 2000, illustrations by Mary GrandPré
734 pages, 37 chapters

Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts is to a bang. He attends the Quidditch World Cup with the Wealeys and Hermione. At Hogwarts, Harry, Ron, and Hermione find that they can't settle down as usual. This year, Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament and thus students from the two other wizard school,s, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Harry's name (even though he's too young to enter) is mysteriously added to the Goblet of Fire and he is chosen as a champion. He doesn't know what to do. Clearly, someone doesn't wish him well.

Memorable Moments: S.P.E.W., Dudley with a ton tongue, Neville as a canary

Favorite Illustration: Winky drunk on butterbeer (chapter 28)

The Food (courtesy of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes) : Ton Tongue Toffee, Canary Creams

A scene I wish had made the movie: the time at the Burrow before the Quidditch World Cup

Favorite Quote: "As Hagrid had said, what would come, would come...and he would have to meet it when it did" (last line).

Reading Reflection: Aside from Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire is my favorite book. There's so much going on, so many subplots. The movie was okay, but they left out so much--like Hermione's obsession with the house-elves. This book is the pivotal one in the series. Voldemort has regained his body. He's back and what does that mean for all our favorite characters? Harry, Ron, and Hermione were only babies when he disappeared the last time. Adults talk about him in hushed tones. They don't even say his name. Harry doesn't triumph this time fully. Yes, he escaped the graveyard with his life, but Voldemort is back and perhaps stronger than ever. The world as Harry knows it is about to change in a big way. And if you remember, Rowling left us hanging for 3 years before we find out what happens next.

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'll be back in two weeks to discuss book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

He avoids school to watch people in the square. He's quiet, thoughtful, and observant. His name is Sherlock Holmes. In 1867, he is thirteen. A brutal murder and a chance meeting with the accused spurs Sherlock to action. He believes Mohammad didn't kill the woman. He just has to prove it.

What I thought: Brilliant! If anyone has ever wondered why Sherlock Homes is the way he is, they need to read this series. His childhood makes his adult years comprehensible. His misanthropic ways were born in his youth. I look forward to reading the other books in the series. The Boy Sherlock Holmes series will pair well with the original Sherlock Holmes books by Conan Doyle, Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series, and Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series.

Teen Sherlock fans should also check out the 1985 film Young Sherlock Holmes.

The Boy Sherlock Holmes series
1. Eye of the Crow
2. Death in the Air
3. Vanishing Girl
4. The Secret Fiend

(Boy Sherlock Holmes Book 1. New York: Tundra, 2007.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Woof: A Love Story by Sarah Weeks

Can a dog love a cat? Yes, he can. Here's his story.

What I thought: A sweet story. I love that the animals suffer from miscommunication. The illustrations are wonderful. I love the collages.

Story Time Themes: Dogs, Cats, Valentine's Day

(Illus. Holly Berry. New York: Laura Geringer, 2009)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter

First published October 1905
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

Little Lucie has lost her handkerchiefs and pinny. On her quest to recover them, she discovers the woodland laundress, Mrs. Tiggy-winkle.

The History Behind the Tale:
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle did not start out as a picture letter. It is, however, a story about a real little girl (Lucie Carr) and a real hedgehog, Beatrix Potter's pet Mrs. Tiggy-winkle. The notion of making Mrs. Tiggy-winkle a laundress came from Beatrix knowing Kitty MacDonald, a washerwoman in Scotland where the Potters spent their summers when Beatrix was a child.

Work on Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle began as early as 1901, but the manuscript went through many changes before it was published in 1905 (Linder 155). The original manuscript from 1902 mentioned many more animals and their laundry than the published manuscript does (Linder 163).

It is interesting to note that the color of Lucie's cloak in the illustrations was a much discussed subject. Originally, the cloak was red. Later, Beatrix changed it to blue. Ultimately, Beatrix and her editor/publisher Norman Warne decided that brown suited the overall illustrations best (Linder 157?)

Miniature Letters (Linder 78-79):
Josephine Rabbit to Mrs. Tigggy-winkle
Mrs. Tiggy-winkle to Jospehine Rabbit
Josephine Rabbit to Mrs. Tigggy-winkle
Mrs. Tiggy-winkle to Drew Fayle (a real little boy)
Flopsy Bunny to Drew Fayle
Jeremy Fisher to Mrs. Tiggy-winkle
Jeremy Fisher to Mrs. Tiggy-winkle

These miniature letters are all about the washing Mrs. Tiggy-winkle does for the animals.

My thoughts: So far, The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is one of my favorites (next to Peter Rabbit & Squirrel Nutkin). It reads like a fairy tale. Lucie is an endearing little girl. Mrs. Tiggy is delightful. I love that she does washing for all the characters we've met and some we haven't been introduced to yet.


Favorite Illustrations: Mrs. Tiggy-winkle (frontispiece), Lucie looking up the hill (12), Mrs. Tiggy-winkle smiling (24), Mrs. Tiggy-winkle getting an iron (31), Mrs. Tiggy-winkle and Lucie taking tea (47), Mrs. Tiggy-winkle as "nothing but a headgehog" (58)


Activities:
-Mrs. Tiggy-winkle's washing scavenger hunt (hide the washing for the children to find)
-Sing-along (Mrs. Tiggy loves to sing as she works)
-Stuffed animal tea party
-Mrs. Tiggy colouring sheet at the official Peter Rabbit website
-Mrs. Tiggy's wordsquare at the official Peter Rabbit website


I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. Next week, I'll be discussing The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-pan.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Would I Trade My Parents? by Laura Numeroff

Even though his parents don't let him stay up late or drink chocolate milk, a boy decides he wouldn't trade them. They're perfect for him.

What I thought: Not at all what I thought it would be about, but I loved it. A sweet and humorous story. The illustrations are great--realistic and colorful.

(Illus. James Bernardin. New York: Abrams, 2009)

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

From the simple phrase "my heart is like a zoo," we meet 20 animals and find out what they add to the heart.

What I thought: Brilliant! I loved it. This book would be a great conversation started about emotions. What a wonderful idea for a book. I love the use of similes. This would be a fantastic book for teachers to use when they teach that concept. The illustrations are wonderful. What a great idea to make all the animals out of hearts. I could spend hours pouring over the illustrations. The bright colors are so appealing.

Story Time Themes: Emotions, Animals, Similes

Craft Idea: Let the kids make their own heart animal.

(New York: Greenwillow, 2010)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord

There's a race and Hamster's going to enter. But first, he needs a car. He doesn't want just any car--he wants a hot rod. Off to the junk yard he goes to have his hot rod built. It's a beauty, but will it win the race?

What I thought: This is the epitome of a boy book. I loved it. The story is engaging and rhythmic. The speech bubbles add even more interest. The illustrations are great--very colorful with soft lines.

Story Time Theme: Cars

(Illus. Derek Anderson. New York: Scholastic, 2010)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter

First published September 1904
59 pages, 28 color illustrations

When Jane and Lucinda go out for a stroll, they have some unexpected visitors at their house. Tom Thumb Hunca Munca (the nursery mice) come to visit. They're very upset by the doll's good which isn't real. They leave quite a mess and borrow a few things. Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca do make amends. They pay Lucinda and Jane sixpence and Hunca Munca sweeps their house.

The History Behind the Tale:
The Tale of Two Bad Mice was one of three stories Beatrix Potter planned to be published with Benjamin Bunny. Two Bad Mice was the one F. Warne & Co. preferred. Beatrix Potter actually had two pet mice named Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca. To aid her sketching, Norman Warne made Beatrix a glass fronted mouse house. F. Warne & Co. considered publishing Two Bad Mice in a larger format, but ultimately decided the small size was adequate. The real doll's house belonged to Norman Warne's niece, Winifred to whom Beatrix dedicated the book.

Miniature Letters (Linder 76-77):
-Lucinda Doll to Hunca Munca
-Tom Thumb to Lucinda Doll
-Lucinda Doll to Tom Thumb
-Tom Thumb to Lucinda Doll
-Lucinda Doll to Hunca Munca
-Hunca Munca to Lucinda Doll

These letters are all about borrowing things and Hunca Munca's work as the dolls' charwoman.

My thoughts: Two Bad Mice is an enjoyable story. Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca do make quite a mess , but it's fun to read about and they do make amends in the end. The mice's borrowing nature reminds me of Mary Norton's Borrowers.

Story Time Themes: Mice, Toys

Favorite Illustrations:
-Hunca Munca with babies (48)
-Tom showing the children the mouse-trap (55)
-Tom Thumb & Hunca Munca putting sixpence in the dolls' stocking (57)
-Hunca Munca with broom and dust-pan (58)

Activities:
-Doll Party (children bring their dolls to a party--lots of fun to be had by all!)
-Tea party (for that's what Tom Thumb & Hunca Munca tried to have)
-Relay Race (get the goods to the mouse hole)
-Hunca Munca's Messy Colouring on the official Peter Rabbit Website
-Make a pom pom mouse--directions on the official Peter Rabbit Website
-Hunca Munca Coloring Sheet on the official Peter Rabbit Website


Favorite words: perambulator, disappointment, frugal, bolster, sixpence

I hope you've enjoyed my discussion of The Tale of Two Bad Mice. I'll be back next Thursday discussing The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin

(Lisa Brown, Illustrator)

Living in the aftermath of the American Civil War, Jennie Lovell has no choice to accept certain things. Her twin brother Toby is dead. Her fiancé and cousin Will Pritchett is dead. Treated more like a servant than a lady in her aunt and uncle's home, Jennie survives.

The Pritchett family seeks out the services of Heinrich Geist, a spirit photographer, in hopes of seeing their son once more. Jennie begins an uneasy friendship with Geist. She hopes to explain the unusual happenings in her life. She learns the hard way that the ghost of her fiancé means no harm, but his living brother does. A tale of mystery and intrigue set against the background of the Civil War.

What I thought: I couldn't put this book down. I love mysteries and Picture the Dead was certainly a mystery . Very well written--I didn't suspect anything until Jennie did. The photography details were so interesting. Jennie is a strong character--stronger than even she can believe. Once she knows the truth, she confronts it. The Pritchett family and their treatment of Jennie seems strange to me, but I think their attitudes fit the time.

The illustrations were wonderful. The simple black and white color palette really added to the mystery and inevitable darkness of the story. My favorite illustrations were of the author and illustrator. I'd like to be illustrated like that. I once dressed up as Jo March (Little Women) for Halloween--hoop skirt and all! The author's note was very informative. I particularly liked the details behind the illustrations.

The book will pair well with The River Between Us by Richard Peck, Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, Two Girls of Gettysburg by Lisa Klein, and Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells. I hope Adele and Lisa will work together again.

(Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire, May 2010. ARC provided by publisher.)