Monday, February 28, 2011

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Tuesday is Lola's favorite day of the week. Why? It's library day. Lola gets to pick out new books, play, and even listen to a story. The library is Lola's favorite place.

What I thought: I like Lola from the moment I met her in Lola Loves Stories. Her first book doesn't disappoint me. I now know where her love of stories comes from--her weekly visits to the library. The illustrations are bright and colorful. The lines are soft and don't overpower the color. My favorite illustration is of story time.

Since writing the above, I've had the opportunity to use Lola at the Library for story time. I don't know if it was me, my listeners, or what, but the story fell a little flat. I think Lola Loves Stories would work better in a story time setting. Lola at the Library might work best for one-on-one sharing.

Story Time Theme: Libraries

(Illus. Rosalind Beardshaw. Charlesbridge, 2006)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Do You Have a Cat? by Eileen Spinelli

The narrator asks the reader/listener a simple question (Do you have a cat?) and at the same time, introduces us to famous persons' cats. I bet you didn't know that Queen Victoria had a cat!

What I thought: What a fun way for kids to "meet" historical figures. I had no idea these people owned cats. The illustrations are wonderful--bright, colorful, and appealing. My favorite illustration is of Domenico Scarlatti. I like how the cats look like their owners.

Story Time Theme: Cats

(Illus. Geraldo Valerio. Eerdmans, 2010)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On the Farm by David Elliott

In 13 simple poems, Elliott explores the farmyard world. From the rooster to the rabbit, we see what they do and how they interact with the farm around them.

What I thought: I liked On the Farm as much as I did In the Wild. Elliott's simple poems are exactly right for young readers and listeners. My favorite poems are "Rooster" and "Goat." Meade's illustrations are so appealing--the colors are great and the woodcut lines add definition. My favorite illustrations are the bees and the rabbit. On the Farm would work well for preschool story time. Pair with Doreen Cronin's farm books for a fun program.

The animals: rooster, cow, pony, dog, sheep, cat, goat, pig, snake, bees, bull, turtle, rabbit

Story Time Theme: Farm Animals

(Illus. Holly Meade. Candlewick, 2008)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan

Lucy, Henry, Evie, Russell, and May have the privilege of meeting and being taught by Ms. Mirabel--an author. Her time with them becomes a time of discovery. As they write, they explore and find themselves.

What I thought: Much better than a nonfiction book on writing. This book will do much to inspire young writers. Though Word After Word After Word is a short narrative (6 weeks, 125 pages), I really got to know the five friends/narrators. MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of my favorite middle grade novels. She is truly worth studying. She can pack so much into a short novel. This book is a great addition to any library. It will pair well with Locomotion by Woodson, Love That Dog by Creech, Writing Magic by Levine, and Pizza, Pigs & Poetry by Prelutsky.

(Katherine Tegen, 2010)

Friday, February 18, 2011

April & Esme, Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham

April & Esme are descended from a long line of tooth fairies. When April receives her first call at age seven and three quarters, she's ecstatic. Convincing her mom & dad she's old enough takes some doing, but they finally agree. Sisters April & Esme are children no longer. They are tooth fairies.

What I thought: A magical book. I love the illustrations. The characters (April, Esme, Mom, Dad, even the family fairy dog) are so unique and individualistic. My favorite illustrations are Mom in the bathroom, the Underhill house (as April & Esme leave), and Daniel & his dog. I liked the incorporation of modern technology. The call is received via cell phone and the girls text their parents. This is a great book for parents to share with their children. After reading April & Esme, Tooth Fairies, I want to go watch The Tooth Fairy and Toothless.

(Candlewick, 2010)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In the Wild by David Elliott

Do you like animals? You do? You're in luck because this collection of poems will introduce you to or reacquaint you with many wild animals including the elephant, the panda, and the kangaroo.

What I thought: I haven't read Elliott's other collection On the Farm, but I definitely like his style. The poems are short and lyrical, and they evoke beautiful pictures in my mind. Meade's illustrations are perfect. The colors are soft, but the woodcut's black lines adds the right definition. My favorite poems are the giraffe, the zebra, the panda, and the buffalo. I only lament the lack of a hippopotamus. Elliott's poems are ingenious in that they are short enough that In the Wild could easily be classified as a picture book. This collection is a great way to introduce preschoolers to poetry. The individual poems will work well with any number of story time themes. The collection, as a whole, will also make a wonderful addition to a zoo themed story time.

The Animals: lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, rhinoceros, sloth, jaguar, panda, tiger, orangutan, kangaroo, buffalo, wolf, polar bear

Story Time Theme: Zoo

(Illus. Holly Meade. Candlewick, 2010)

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

Flory, a young night fairy, looses her wings in an accident. After she gets over the shock, Flory adapts rather well to her new life in a human's garden. She makes friends and grows stronger in her magic.

What I thought: What a beautiful story. The Night Fairy enchanted me from beginning to end. The story seemed to end too soon. Dare I hope that there will be another installment in Flory's adventures? The illustrations are as beautiful as the story. My favorites are Flory and Skuggle (29), Flory on the hummingbird (112-113), and Flory asleep (116). This book reminded me a little of my favorite fairy book, The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks. Flory's story, like Tiki's, is not just a fairy story. It's an adventure story. Give older fairy fans Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson.

(Illus. Angela Barrett. Candlewick, 2010)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Art & Max by David Wiesner

Max's enthusiasm for painting leads to the coloration, de-coloration, and disappearance of Art, a true artist. However, Max's enthusiasm doesn't fail him. Art is soon back, better than ever. In fact, Max has taught Art a few things about painting.

What I thought: A delightful book. Art and Max are great characters. I wonder why Wiesner chose lizards, but I really like them. The minimal text really lets the pictures do the talking. My favorite illustrations are Art losing all his scales and Max & Art painting. This would pair well with Bruce Whatley's Wait! No Paint!

Story Time Themes: Art, Painting

(Clarion, 2010)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

[Caster Chronicles Book 2]

Now that Ethan has Lena, leaving Gatlin is the last thing on his mind. If Lena's there, he'll be there. However, after her uncle's death, Lena's barely there. She's lackluster and lethargic. Even Ethan's goofy friend Link can't cheer her up. Lena's in some sort of limbo. She wasn't claimed as Light or Dark, but claimed she must be. There's a plot to make certain of it. With the help of Link and Liv, the Lunae Libri's new keeper in training, Ethan does all he can to save Lena from the Darkness.

What I thought: Okay, so I'm not going to rave about this one. Beautiful Darkness seems to fall short of the beauty that was Beautiful Creatures. Perhaps because I haven't read Beautiful Creatures in a year. Maybe if I was fresh on the series, I would like Beautiful Darkness more. Like all sequels, things get a little more complicated in this book. A happy ever after isn't possible, you see, until the end of the series. Ethan was his usual self in this 2nd installment. I still love that he's the narrator. It always seems to be Lena who has the issues. Liv is an interesting new character. I found it funny that Lena was jealous of her. I liked the last few chapters most. They were fast-paced and contained quite a few surprises. I found the first 300 pages or so downright tedious. Maybe I'm a first book, last book kind of girl. I look forward to reading the next book that's due out this year.

(Little, Brown & Company, 2010)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser

Alyssa is used to seeing her parents drink. As they're Russian Jews, alcohol is an honored guest at every party. It isn't until her mom's drinking habits interfere with Alyssa's life that she realizes her mom has a problem. Trapped by convention (It's nobody's business but our own!), Alyssa has to sit back and watch her mom become an alcoholic. In this warped reality, Alyssa becomes the parent and her mom the child. Things can't go on like they are or can they?

What I thought: I enjoyed this book. Never having been exposed to the Russian-Jewish culture that Alyssa is raised in, I never dreamed of the problems that could arise from a society where it's normal to drink, expected to say the least. I admire Alyssa's fortitude in dealing with her mom's episodes. The characters were believable and the setting unique. Inconvenient is a nice addition the YA problem novel genre.

(Review copy provided by publisher. Flux, 2010)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming

Invited to the princess's birthday party, Jack's lack of funds don't deter him. He barters and trades until he has all the ingredients for a wonderful cake. His journey to the castle is fraught with peril--to the cake that is. Piece by piece, Jack loses it until there's nothing left but the story of his journey. Luckily for him, the princess appreciates unique gifts like stories.

What I thought: I really liked this book. I think it's one of my favorites of 2010. Jack is a great character and the story is loaded with humor. Readers and listeners will sympathize with Jack's plight. I love the illustrations. They are truly unique. My favorites are the bear dancing and Jack and the princess chatting. I plan to use Clever Jack Takes the Cake when I have schools visit the library. I think first and second graders, in particular, will like it.

(Illus. G. Brian Karas. Schwartz & Wade, 2010)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems

A dog from the city makes friends with a country frog. Their difference of species doesn't stop these friends. Frog plays dog games and Dog plays frog games. Through the seasons, these two are fast friend. When Frog goes away for the winter and doesn't return, Dog isn't unhappy. He finds a new friend in the country--Chipmunk.

What I thought: A delightful book with charming illustrations. Dog & Frog's friendship is endearing. The book clearly shows that differences don't matter in friendship. The illustrations are lovely--soft yet vibrant. My favorite illustrations are Country Frog keeping City Dog dry and City Dog with a froggy smile.

Story Time Themes: Friendship, Dogs

(illus. Jon J. Muth. Hyperion, 2010)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer

I'm sure you've heard the old adage "there are two sides to every story." But have you ever considered it in the case of fairy tales? Luckily for us, Marilyn Singer did and even invented a new form of poetry to do so, the reverso. In this collection, the poems not only read top to bottom, but bottom to top. You see, there are two sides to every story, even fairy tales.

The Poems: An explanation, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Ugly Duckling, Snow White, Jack and the beanstalk, the Three Bears, Hansel & Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, the Frog Prince, Beauty & the Beast, An End

What I thought: Inspired and brilliant. Singer is truly a genius. The reverso is a lovely form, but difficult (at least to me--I've tried it & didn't have much luck). The trick of composition befuddles me. I guess it's a case of line by line. Or do you write the whole poem and then see what it says in reverse, and make changes as needed? Okay, now that I've theorized the reverso, I think I'll give it another try.

Back to the review. I loved this collection. My favorite poems are "Rapunzel's Locks," "Bears in the News," and "Longing for Beauty." The illustrations are great--so vibrant. My favorites are Snow White, the Three Bears, and Beauty & the Beast.

(Illus. Josee Masse. Dutton, 2010)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

One day, a wolf came to the gate. He looked like a man, but he was something much more terrible. Scarlett & Rosie March lost their grandmother to the wolf. Scarlett lost her eye protecting Rosie.

Seven years later, Scarlett and Rosie are hunters. Their prey--the Fenris, or werewolves. Aided by their friend and woodsman, Silas, the Sisters March seek to destroy the monsters that destroyed their lives.

The wolves' clans are gathering and merging to search for a Potential. Can Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas find him before the Fenris do?

What I thought: I think Jackson Pearce mat be taking the art of retelling fairy tales to a new level. Her version of the classic "Little Red Riding Hood" is inspired. Two heroines, a woodsman, the Fenris, and a modern setting create something special. I enjoyed the alternate points of view. I preferred Rosie's chapters to Scarlett's. Maybe because she had more outside interests. It would have been interesting to get Silas's point of view once in awhile, but I understand how that wouldn't quite work within the premise of the book (Sisters Red, not Sisters Red & Woodsman). The romance between Rosie and Silas was sweet. Scarlett's dedication to or obsession with killing the Fenris is intense. I enjoyed Sisters Red. Glad there's going to be a sequel/companion, Sweetly. It's due out in August. One last thought--I think this book would make a good movie.

I read Sisters Red for the Surlalune Book Club. See the discussion here.

(Little, Brown & Co, 2010)