Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis

The untimely death of their aunt leaves fifteen-year-old Maude and eleven-year-old Sallie in a state of shock. The bank repossesses their house. Taken in my the preacher, Maude faces marriage to an old man and Sallie faces a life of servitude waiting on the preacher's family. Feeling they have no choice, the girls disguise themselves as boys and set out for Independence, Missouri, in hopes of locating their uncle there. Their journey isn't easy from the beginning and takes several turns for the worse. The girls eventually reach their destination, but not before Maude has acquired the reputation of a notorious outlaw. Now, the trick is to ditch the reputation before it ditches her.

What I thought: I had such fun reading this book. Sallie was a wonderful narrator. Their adventures reminded me greatly of other western books (L'Amour & Grey) and movies and I've read and watched. I was on the edge of my seat every time the girls ran into trouble. Maude's transformation into an outlaw was laughable. When they found the newspapers, I laughed so much. It goes to show that you can't believe everything you read. Marion Hardly was a quite interesting character. I can't wait to see how he develops in the next book.

I read The Misadventures of Maude March for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.

(Random House, 2005)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mable Riley by Marthe Jocelyn

Subtitle: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, & Romance

Mable Riley longs for adventure. She hopes that her new situation (as her sister's teaching assistant) in a new place away from all she's known will bring her some adventure. Not so. Her life is just as dull in Sellerton as it was in Ambler's Corners. However, when she befriends an unusual woman who wears bloomers and rides a bicycle, Sellerton is suddenly filled with adventure for Mable.

What I thought: A delightful book. Mable Riley reminded me just a bit of Anne Shirley. Could be because both the girls are native Canadians. Mable is a lively narrator and her account of events is often humorous. I can't begin to pas judgment on the historical details as I'm not that familiar with turn of the century Ontario, Canada, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless. Mable is a mischievous girl on the brink of womanhood. I wouldn't mind reading more adventures that feature her.

Favorite Quote: "If I had no books. I would shrivel up like a dead caterpillar" (23).

Read for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge hosted by Stephanie at Books Are a Girl's Best Friend

(Candlewick, 2004)

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan

Lena's connection to the ocean is stronger than she ever imagined. Strange things are happening in her life. She sleepwalks and blanks out. She even faints on occasion. These episodes seem yo be tied to the ocean and the mermaid Lena is sure she saw. Can Lena discover the truth before it's too late?

What I thought: I liked The Mermaid's Mirror. It's the ultimate modern surfer setting paired with a fantasy world where mermaids are real. I must say that I prefer the modern world to the fantasy one in the story. This is a fresh story for teens who enjoy paranormal fiction. Mermaids seem to be a growing trend in YA fiction. The Mermaid's Mirror is the 2nd of three mermaid books I've read recently. The others being Daughters of the Sea: Hannah by Kathryn Lasky and Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs (review to come).

Since writing the above, the wonderful and promising YA author, L.K. Madigan has passed away. Her first YA novel Flash Burnout received the William C. Morris YA Debut Award in 2010. She was working on a sequel to The Mermaid's Mirror. Such a loss--she was a great writer. Read her books. They are both wonderful in very different ways.

(Houghton Mifflin, 2010)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hawksmaid by Kathryn Lasky

He was Flynn. She was Matty. This is the story of how they became Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

What I thought: My obsession with Robin Hood is entirely due to the BBC's Robin Hood TV series. I was thrilled to hear about Kathryn Lasky's new book honoring the timeless hero. I wasn't disappointed. Lasky's version of Robin Hood and Maid Marian's story is unique. I was hooked from the first page. Hawksmaid is a real and believable back story that explains Robin and Marian's relationship in the movies and the TV shows. The falconry was an interesting aspect of the story. I liked the fantasy element it added to the story. Dare I hope that Ms. Lasky will continue the tale of her Robin and Marian?

(Harper, 2010)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker

In Clementine's latest adventure, she's super excited about having her turn as the class's friend of the week. Her elation is short-lived when her kitten Moisturizer disappears. Margaret (of the infamous haircut) comes to Clementine's rescue in an unexpected way.

What I thought: Clementine improves with every adventure. Her 4th book didn't disappoint me. Full of adventure and mishap, it was a true literary romp and a real page turner. Clementine and Margaret are the epitome of uneasy friends.

My reviews of the other Clementine books:
The Talented Clementine
Clementine's Letter

(Illus. Marla Frazee. Disney Hyperion, 2010)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors by Joyce Sidman

The subtitle describes this collection perfectly--"Celebrating Nature's Survivors." In 14 poems, Sidman explores some of the most resilient things on Earth. Additional notes and a glossary enrich this beautiful collection of poetry that commemorates the world we inhabit.

The Subjects: Bacteria, Mollusks, Lichens, Sharks, Beetles, Diatoms, Geckos, Ants, Grasses, Squirrels, Crows, Dandelions, Coyotes, Humans

What I thought: Since I first discovered Joyce Sidman, I've liked her. Her poetry collections are always so rich in both lyrical poetry and information. Ubiquitous is no different. The illustrations are striking--bold lines and colors. They are wonderfully suited to the poems. My favorite illustrations are the gecko and the coyotes. My favorite poems are "Gecko on the Wall," "Tail Tale," and "Fluff Head."

Other Poetry Collections by Joyce Sidman:
Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems
Butterfly Eyes & Other Secrets of the Meadow
Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors

(Illus. Beckie Prange, Houghton Mifflin, 2010)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

Zookeeper Amos McGee takes care of the animals, but he's also their friend. He plays chess with the elephant, races the tortoise, sits with the penguin, makes sure the rhino has a hankie, and reads stories to the owl. When Amos catches a cold and has to stay home, his friends come to visit and entertain him.

What I thought: A charming story with equally lovely illustrations. When I first read the book (around November) it was already creating a lot of Caldecott buzz. Since then, it went on to receive the 2011 Caldecott Medal. I couldn't be more pleased. The illustrations are delightful. With their gray shading and touches of color, they remind me of picture books from the 1950s and 1960s. My favorite illustrations are the friends arriving and Amos and the animals at night. A Sick Day for Amos McGee was one of my favorite picture books of 2010. I can't wait to use it in my zoo story time.

Story Time Themes: Zoo, Friendship

(Illus. Erin E. Stead. Neal Porter, 2010)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Brontorina by James Howe

Brontorina wants to be a ballerina. There's just one problem...she's a dinosaur. The studio's too small, she doesn't have the proper shoes, but Brontorina does have determination. With a little thought, these problems are nothing when compared to her dream of being a ballerina.

What I thought: A gem of a book. I like the idea of using dinosaurs to show children how to dream. Brontorina is a truly unique character. The illustrations are good--no lines and bright colors. My favorite is Brontorina in arabesque position. Brontorina is an unusual, but delightful offering in dinosaur picture books.

Story Time Themes: Dinosaurs, Dancing (or Ballet)

(Illus. Randy Cecil. Candlewick, 2010)

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander

Tired of being the butt of bully Dean Ottmer's jokes, Austin Gray has a goal. By next Christmas, she will be a hood ornament in the annual parade.. To achieve her goal, she joins the FFA and gets a chicken for Christmas (a Bantam rooster she names Charles Dickens). Austin makes new friends and finally comes to terms with herself.

What I thought: Sorry to be puny, but this is a sweetheart of a book. Austin is a great character that I think many readers will relate to. Her journey from almost social outcast to sweetheart of Prosper County was poignant and real. She was also a wonderful narrator. I liked seeing her grow. She doesn't just become the sweetheart of Prosper County but Austin Gray. Her aspirations ultimately lead her to her own identity. This book with its small town setting and believe able character is quite reminiscent of Joan Bauer and Heather Hepler. That's a good thing!

(Feiwel & Friends, 2009)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Jellybeans & the Big Dance by Laura Numeroff & Nate Evans

Emily loves to dance and she's excited about her new class. Her fellow dancers are less enthused. Nicole would rather play soccer. Bitsy prefers painting. Anna likes to read. Only after their names (BEAN) unite them do the four girls become friends. They make a splash at their dance recital.

What I thought: A great book about friendship. I love that the girls are individuals. They each have their own likes and dislikes. However, that doesn't keep them from being friends. Munsinger's illustrations are lovely as always. I love that the girls are not only different animals, but they also have their own color schemes as well. My favorite illustrations are before the recital and after the recital. I can't wait to read their next adventure, The Jellybeans & the Big Book Bonanza.

(Illus. Lynn Munsinger. Scholastic, 2008)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Old Bear & His Cub by Olivier Dunrea

Old Bear and his cub love each other though they don't always agree. Old Bear thinks he knows best, but sometimes so does his cub.

What I thought: A lovely book. I love the relationship that Old Bear and his cub share. The layout is great--excellent use of white space. As an illustrated character, I much prefer Old Bear. His whiskery countenance is so appealing. The illustrations are nice--I like the use of red as an accent color. My favorite illustration is Old bear and his cub outside their house.

Story Time Themes: Valentine's Day, Love, Grandparents, Bears

(Philomel, 2010)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dogs by Emily Gravett

You've heard that dogs are a man's best friend. Well, they can be a cat's best friend, too, as long as they don't chase him.

What I thought: I love dogs, too. I can relate to the cat's point of view. I love that the narrator is a cat, but we don't find out until the very end. The illustrations are nice. The colors are muted and the dogs are so realistic I almost petted them. My favorite illustration is the basset hound (slow dogs). I was disappointed that Gravett didn't include a Boston Terrier in her tribute to dogs. My mom loved the Great Dane. She owns two--a Blue one named Blue and a Fawn Merle named Ginger.

Story Time Theme: Dogs

(Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

Do you know how many kinds of quiet there are? This book explores many of them including making a wish quiet and first snowfall quiet.

What I thought: What a cute book! The idea behind it is interesting. I'm an adult and I've never thought of all the different kinds of quiet moments we have in our lives. Underwood expertly captures the kinds of quiet that children can relate to. My favorite kind of quiet from the book is story time quiet. My personal favorite kinds of quiet are looking at the Christmas tree quiet and writing a poem quiet.

The illustrations are lovely. I like the muted color palette with only hints of brighter color. My favorite illustrations are the car ride and the roller coaster.

I'm pleased to know that Underwood and Liwska have another book coming out on April 4th, The Loud Book.

Story Time Theme: Time (because all the quiet moments could happen within the course of a day, week, etc.)

(Illus. Renata Liwska. Houghton Mifflin, 2010)