Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Case of the Gypsy Good-Bye by Nancy Springer

(Enola Holmes #6...the last and final...sigh!)

It's been almost a year since Enola's mother disappeared. It's been almost a year since Enola ran away, fleeing her uncomprehending brothers Mycroft and Sherlock and threats of boarding school.

Enola's mother is still missing. In fact, Enola hasn't heard from her in several months. Enola enjoys her life of freedom, but alluding her astute brother Sherlock is proving more and more difficult.

Finally, circumstances (a mysterious note from her mother and a missing lady) force Enola and Sherlock to work together. Are two heads really better than one?

What I thought: Another winner! Springer continues her well written series about an intelligent, independent-minded young woman. The only thing that disappoints me about this book is that it is to be the last of the series. What will I read now? I'm glad that Sherlock is finally appearing in a favorable light. His last words to Enola (the last paragraph of the book) are a great quote.

The Enola Holmes Series:
The Case of the Missing Marquess
The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline
The Case of the Gypsy Good-Bye

(Philomel, 2010)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wayfarer by R.J. Anderson

Linden must be a hero(ine). Her people, the faeries in the oak, are dying. Magic is scarce. Her quest is to save her people lands her with an unusual ally, a human teenager named Timothy. Together they discover not the saving of the faeries but another threat. The faeries outside the oak serve an evil empress and drain humans of their creative gifts. Can Linden and Timothy find help for the oak faeries before the empress seeks to destroy them?

What I thought: I liked Wayfarer, but not as much as Spell Hunter. Set 15 years after the end of Spell Hunter, Wayfarer features Knife's (now known as Peri) daughter Linden as protagonist. Despite all efforts to sustain, strengthen, or save the oak, it and its inhabitants are dying. Charged by both her previous and current queens, Linden is the only hope the faeries have left.

This book introduces some great new ideas--other faeries, male faeries (Hello, Rob!). I like that Anderson doesn't stick to the same story--faery girl and human boy. Linden and Timothy are really just friends. I can't wait to see what happens in the next book, Arrow (It was released in the UK on January 6. Not sure when it will be released in the US or what the US title will be.) Wayfarer, as it takes place so long after the close of Spell Hunter, reads more like a standalone novel than a sequel.

(Harper Teen, 2010)

Friday, August 26, 2011

#FlannelFriday: Five Frogs

I made this to accompany the song "Five Frogs" from the album Anna Moo Crackers. I'm using it for my pajama story times in September. I took the theme (Frogs, Snakes, Turtles, Gators, & Crocs) from Rob Reid's book Family Storytime. I used coloring sheets I found online for patterns.

I'm really beginning to love making felt stories for the flannel board. I'm also working on a version of Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd and I plan to turn If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff into a flannel board story for my October Laura Numeroff Party (to celebrate the release of her latest book, If You Give a Dog a Donut.)

The Loud Book! by Deborah Underwood

How many kinds of loud are there? More that you can think of, but here are a few to get you started--surprise loud, applause loud, fireworks loud, and crickets loud.

What I thought: I didn't think Underwood and Liwska could top The Quiet Book, but I was wrong. The Loud Book! is great. Children love making noise and that means they'll love this book, too. The text is simple and the illustrations are beautiful. My favorite kinds of loud from the book are home run loud, thunderstorm loud, and fireworks loud. My favorite kinds of loud that the book didn't mention are story time loud (Yes, story time can be VERY loud!) and visiting home loud. My favorite illustrations are applause loud, Aunt Tillie's Banjo Band loud, and fireworks loud.

Story Time Themes: Opposites, Time

(Illus. Renata Liwska. Houghton Mifflin, 2011)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich

Mister Bud has a great life. He has everything he needs and keeps to a schedule. Until, that is, the day when his owner brings home another dog, Zorro. Mister Bud and Zorro do not get along. They don't share well and they both are pretty grumpy. Will they ever get along?

What I thought: Now here's a story I can relate to. Dogs always act this way when you add another dog to the house and Carter has captured it perfectly from the dog's point-of-view. I like the illustrations--realistic with good lines. My favorites are Mister bud fierce about his schedule, say hello to Zorro (a stranger), nap time (both dogs), and Mister Bud and Zorro on the bed.

Story Time Themes: Dogs, Pets, Friendship

(Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hide & Squeak by Heather Vogel Frederick

It's time for bed, but the mouse baby isn't done playing yet. With Daddy finding and baby mouse hiding, they have quite an adventure before bedtime.

What I thought: Cute! The repetitive text will appeal to children. The story is sweet and I love the illustrations. They're so colorful and filled with action (as is the story). Daddy Mouse's glasses are great. My favorite illustrations are mouse baby in the tub and daddy tucking baby in (My mom used to tuck us in and say "snug as a bug in a rug"). I look forward to using Hide & Squeak at story time.

Story Time Themes: Mice, Bedtime

(Illus. C. F. Payne. Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Time to Eat explores the eating habits of some unusual animals from the panda to the blue whale. We find out what, how, and when they eat.

What I thought: I'm becoming quite a fan of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. When I see their names in a review, the book goes on my order list. Time to Eat is the perfect blend of facts and pictures. It is simple enough to appeal to preschoolers but informative enough so that elementary and middle school students could use it for research. I love the illustrations. I has no idea that cut and torn paper collage could be so intricate. My favorite illustrations are the panda, chipmunk, and aye aye.

(Houghton Mifflin, 2011)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

[Sherlock Holmes, The Legend Begins Book1]

Before he was the most famous detective in all of England and perhaps the world Sherlock Holmes was just a teenager. A loner who doesn't fit in well at his school, Sherlock looks forward to the summer holidays. But his father is off in India, his mother isn't well, and his older brother Mycroft is too busy to look after him. Ergo, Sherlock is unceremoniously sent to summer with his uncle in the country.

His uncle and aunt don't notice him. The housekeeper is inhospitable to say the least. Sherlock's summer isn't looking good until several things happen. He meets Matt Arnatt, he acquires a tutor, and two men die mysteriously. New friends and a mystery serve to enliven an otherwise dull summer holiday.

What I thought: I liked Death Cloud. Nothing can ever surpass the original short stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but this is a promising start to a new series. I liked that the young Sherlock Lane has created didn't spring from the womb with a highly developed analytical mind. At fourteen, he's an average boy. With the help of his brother, his tutor, and new friends, Sherlock begins to develop those skills that serve him so well in his later years. I look forward to reading the next book Rebel Fire, due out in the fall. The afterward was most informative about Lane's motivation and where he sees this series going. Interestingly, this series is authorized and endorsed by Doyle's estate.

On a side note, my two favorite derivative Sherlock Holmes' series are Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series and Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series.

(FSG, 2010)

Monday, August 15, 2011

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison

The year is 1791. Jane Austen is fifteen years old. Her cousin and best friend Jenny Cooper is sixteen years old. Jane scribbles away even then. Jenny is embroiled in her own romance that may one day inspire one of Jane's novels.

What I thought: An enjoyable book. Jenny makes a compelling narrator. Her opinions and thoughts show how different life was two centuries ago. Mostly I've heard how close she was to her sister Cassandra. This book shows another side to Jane--a younger, playful, more temperamental side. Harrison's knowledge of Austen's writing (both published and unpublished) is vastly evident. The historical detail is top notch. May thanks for the author's note that clarifies what was true and what was altered.

I read I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.

(Delacorte, 2010)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Little Mist by Angela McAllister

Little Mist is a snow leopard. He's just a cub so his mother introduces him to the wonderful world they live in. She also tells Little Mist what he will be like when he grows up.

What I thought: A lovely book. The story is sweet and the illustrations are wonderful. My favorites are Little mist playing in the snow, Little Mist looking at his reflection, the red panda, and the moon bear. This story will appeal to parents who often introduce their children to the world in the same way Little Mist's mother does for him.

Story Time Themes: Baby Animals, Mothers, Other Countries, Exotic Animals (This book features snow leopards, red pandas, gray wolves. moon bears, yaks, musk deer, and blue sheep.)

(Illus. Sarah Fox Davies. Knopf, 2009)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dream Big Little Pig by Kristi Yamaguchi

Poppy may be just a pig, but she has big dreams. From ballet to modeling, she tries it all. But she's not good at any of it. With supportive family and friend, Poppy doesn't give up. She just looks for something else. Could ice skating be her thing?

What I thought: A beautiful book with a great message. Poppy is an endearing character. I like her determination and spunk. The support she receives from her family and best friend Emma is great. I was pleased when Poppy finally found her niche. The illustrations are lovely--bright and colorful with good use of white space. My favorites are Poppy dancing, Poppy singing, Poppy being a model, and Poppy asking to fly.

Story Time Themes: Pigs, Dreams/Aspirations

(Illus. Tim Bowers. Sourcebooks, 2011)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cloaked by Alex Flinn

Johnny Marco is a shoe repair guy. Nobody special. He'll tell you he's not a hero. But when a princess gives him a quest, how can he resist? Johnny's world goes from humdrum to fantastical in a flash. He encounters things he thought only exited in fairy tales. The quest isn't as easy as he imagined, but Johnny's more heroic than he gives himself credit for.

What I thought: I liked this one. Cloaked seems to confirm for me trend in fairy tale retellings. It began back in 1942 when Eudora Welty published her novella The Robber Bridegroom. Welty borrowed from a total of seven fairy tales. Then there's Polly Shulman's The Grimm Legacy and Adam Gidwitz's A Tale Dark and Grimm. Cloaked is a fast paced adventure. Johnny makes the perfect hero because he thinks he's not one. Meg is a wonderful friend and sidekick. I love how Flinn blends the different tales together. I will definitely be reading the originals. I also like the Florida setting. It grounded the story and helped tie the different tales together. Johnny as narrator adds guy appeal to the book. I always find it refreshing to get a male perspective (see also Flinn's Beastly and Donna Jo Napoli's Beast). This is Flinn's third fairy tale novel. Beastly is now a movie. I haven't read A Kiss in Time but plan to soon.

(Harper Teen, 2011)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

The Contest: Candymaking

The Contestants:
Logan, the Candymaker's son- He can taste and correct any candy, but can he make his own?
Miles, allergic to the most unusual things- Will his candy win?
Daisy, strong for a girl with a horse for a best friend- Can she concoct a winning candy?
Philip, rich man's son- What's he scribbling in that notebook, recipes or something more sinister?

Will these four kids be friends or will the contest drive them apart?

What I thought: Okay, after reading this book, I'm seriously craving something sweet. The format of The Candymakers is intriguing. You only get one character's point-of-view at a time. This adds to the mystery. I thought I had the story figured out and then I'd get the next character's perspective. Though I haven't read Dahl's Charlie and Chocolate Factory (Gasp! Yes, I know my admission is quite shocking. ), I have seen the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The Candymakers puts me in mind of that magical film. I enjoyed this book. It just might be my favorite of Wendy's thus far.

(Little, Brown, & Company, 2010)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Queen of France by Tim Wadham

Rose likes to play dress up. Today, she's the Queen of France. When she's the Queen, she pretends not to know herself or her parents. When she's Rose, she doesn't know the queen.

What I thought: A lovely book that showcases the wonder that is imaginative play. I like how Rose's parents don't discourage her (very similar to Roslyn Rutabaga & the Biggest Hole on Earth). The illustrations are beautiful--soft colored and very girly. My favorite illustrations are Rose as the Queen (prancing) and Rose feeling scary. I wouldn't mind seeing more books about Rose and her dress up.

Story Time Theme: Imagination

(Illus. Kady MacDonald Denton. Candlewick, 2011)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Little Black Crow by Chris Raschka

A boy sees a little black crow. He questions what the crow might wonder about.

What I thought: The premise of Little Black Crow is certainly a novel one. The questioning format will appeal to my story time crowd. I can just imagine the answers they'd give. I love the illustrations. I never knew how much I liked watercolor until I looked at this book. My favorite illustrations are the crow family and the boy with the crow.

Story Time Themes: Birds, Fall, Imagination

(Atheneum, 2010)