Monday, May 30, 2011

The Jellybeans & the Big Book Bonanza by Laura Numeroff & Nate Evans

The Jellybeans (Bitsy, Emily, Anna, & Nicole) return in another adventure. Anna with the help of the librarian shows her friends that even though they don't really like books, there is a book for them.

What I thought: I like the Jellybeans. I love that their second adventure deals with books and reading. I like that Anna's book turns out to be a book of fairy tales. Calling book reports a book bonanza is an interesting idea. The illustrations are classic Munsinger--lovely! My favorite illustrations are Anna reading in a chair, Anna reading in the bathtub, and the Jellybeans as princesses. I look forward to the Jellybeans' next Adventure: The Jellybeans and the Big Camp Kickoff.

Like Laura Numeroff, my favorite jellybean flavor is buttered popcorn. :)

(Illus. Lynn Munsinger. Abrams, 2010)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Panda-Monium! by Cynthia Platt

A panda named Beckett feels hungry. On his journey to acquire some bamboo (that's what pandas eat, you know!) he unknowingly gathers a panda following. One bamboo tree and fifteen pandas don't seem like good odds.

What I thought: A cute book! Pandas are so likable. Kids will love counting all the pandas. The illustrations are lovely--soft colors and lines. My favorite is panda-monium. I'm looking forward to using this book for my China & Japan story time this summer.

Story Time Themes: Numbers, Pandas, Bears, China.

(Illus. Veronica Vasylenko. Tiger Tales, 2009)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

From Willa, With Love by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Willa's summer continues to be eventful. She has a new brother who is convinced their dad is still alive. While she's waiting for her boyfriend Joey to return from baseball camp in Florida, another local boy catches her eye. The only problem--he's friends with Joey. Add to this some startling new about two friend and an overwhelming desire to make a difference. All in all, a typical situation for Willa.

What I thought: The Willa books keep getting better. The two things that most endear her to me is her love of books and her desire to make a difference. It's about time we have a love triangle. Willa and Joey were getting a bit too comfortable. Willa's latest Pix List is great as per usual. I've read 5 of the 11 books on it. Like the previous books in the series, From Willa, With Love is a perfect summer read. One of these days, I'm going visit Cape Cod.

(Scholastic, July 2011. ARC provided by publisher.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wish I Might by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

What Willa Doesn't Have This Summer
~Her boyfriend Joey (drat baseball camp!)
~Her best friend Tina (too busy with Ruby stalking cute lifeguards)
~Her new best friend Mariel (She's in NY with her mom)

What She Does Have:
~Strange British boy claiming 1) he's her half-brother and 2) their father might still be alive

Willa turns to her old standbys candy (you can't go wrong with taffy) and books to help her relax and deal with all this new complication.

What I thought: Another great installment in Willa's life. You know, her father has always been a hazy area in her life. I'm not surprised Coleen decided to develop it a bit. Even with a new brother, Willa seem very alone this summer. I think she shows great strength of character in dealing with Will. I continue to revel in the lovely small town-ness of Bramble. It's one of my top vacation destinations. Willa's Pix List is excellent as usual. I love that she continues to change the world around her for the good. She's an inspiration.

(Scholastic, 2010)

Friday, May 20, 2011

#FlannelFriday: Questions & Observations

I don't have anything new to add to #FlannelFriday this week, but I do have a few questions and observations.

Besides the hot air balloons that I'm going to use each week during Summer Reading, I'm also planning to make pigs for my UK story time (for the English rhyme "This Little Pig") and pandas for my China & Japan story time. For the pigs I'm using a coloring sheet as a pattern. For the pandas, I'm using the illustrations from Panda-monium! by Cynthia Platt.

My question is this: when you're making a figure that has 2 colors, which color do you use as the base? (In the case of the pandas, black or white) Or do you make the whole thing 2 layers so it looks nice?

I'm enjoying making flannel stories. I've found that I like invisible tape better than clear for taping on the patterns because I can see it better. I'm wishing we had a craft store close because Wal-mart only carries black, white, green felt squares that you can buy individually. I predict a trip to Hobby Lobby in my future.

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Donna Underwood is different. Her peers call her a freak. That's just what she feels like, but Donna is more than an outsider. When she was a child, evil fey cursed her hands. Alchemists manages to restore them only by infusing them with iron. She hides bother her hands and the strength they give her. Donna is content to live life on the edge (the outskirts, that is). She's comfortable with her life until the day she sees a wood elf in the city. Wood elves are bad news. Donna isn't thrilled when they kidnap her best friend, Navin. With the help of Xan (cute guy who just happens to be half faery), Donna must steal the elixir of life from the alchemist who saved her hands and helped rtaise her. A fair exchange surely--powerful potion for irreplaceable best friend. But will complying with the elf queen's request really resolve the situation.

What I thought: Yeah, I like this one. First of all, the cover art is gorgeous. Second, The Iron Witch is a retelling of one my favorite fairy tales, The Girl Without Hands. After reading this book, I went back and reread the Grimm's version. I like what Mahoney did with the tale. Navin and Donna's friendship is great. Xan is a compelling love interest. I can't wait to see their relationship develop in future books. (Oh, and I loved the snarky comment about fallen angels on pp.117-118 though I do like the sub genre of paranormal myself.) Mahoney's article/author's note "The Girl with Silver Hands: The Making of The Iron Witch" was really intriguing. Her approach to retelling a fairy tale is much more elemental. She took the basic themes (girl without hands and a battle between good and evil--isn't it always?) and came up with The Iron Witch. Amazing!

Look for The Wood Queen (#2) in 2012 and The Stone Demon (#3) in 2013.

(Flux, 2011. Review copy provided by publisher.)

The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes by Kelly Easton

Liberty Aimes endures a life of dull drudgery until the day of the skunk attack. With the key to her father's laboratory, Liberty discovers several things, including comprehension cream and lifting soda, that aid her in escaping her home life. Her goal is school. Can she reach the Sullivan School before her dastardly father apprehends her and forces her to resume her previous life of drudgery?

What I thought: A fun story. I like Liberty and her adventures certainly are outlandish. The illustrations are lovely. Liberty's face and person match her personality perfectly. This book would pair well with Matilda by Dahl, Pippi Longstocking by Lindgren, and any of Polly Horvath's hunorous middle grade novels.

(Illus. Greg Swearingen. Wendy Lamb, 2009)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Me & the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy

Mildred has a hobby--she grows giant pumpkins every year in hopes of winning a prize in the Pumpkin Show. Her aunt Arlene thinks she's addled. Why can't Mildred be interested in clothes and boys like other girls? Mildred's dad and her friend Jacob have faith in her. Could this be the year?

What I thought: A delightful book. Mildred is a likable character with a daring quest. After all, how many eleven year olds do you know who grow giant pumpkins? Following Mildred's progress was fascinating. My hat's off to Kennedy for all the research she put into the book. Me and the Pumpkin Queen would pair well with Squashed by Joan Bauer.

(Greenwillow, 2007)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel

Matt Cruse and Kate de Vries are off on another adventure. This time their destination is not the sky, but outer space. The price of Kate's participation in the expedition is her engagement to the man of her parents' choosing. While Matt cringes at the sight of another man's ring on Kate's finger, he has a mission--reach outer space in one piece and return safely to Earth. As is the custom with Matt and Kate's exploits, this one is filled with new creatures and grave peril.

What I thought: Airborn was my first taste of steampunk though I didn't know it at the time. I'd never heard the term, but I knew I liked Airborn. I compared it to those adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson with great guy appeal. Skybreaker was a good sequel, but I really enjoyed this third installment, Starclimber. The plot is exciting from the start and the developments in Matt and Kate's relationship add suspense. Starclimber seems to be quintessential steampunk with the Victorian Age, new creatures, and technology. The science fiction element appeals greatly when paired with everything else. Dare I hope that there will be another book in the series?

I read Starclimber for the Full Steampunk Ahead Challenge.

(Eos, 2009)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee

Bink and Gollie...two friends, three adventures.

What I thought: I loved it! I can see why it won the Geisel Award this year. I like that both the girl express themselves uniquely. Their choice of words is great. My favorite words are baffled and implore. Bink & Gollie will make a great read aloud. The illustrations are great. I've liked Fucile's style ever since I read Let's Do Nothing. My favorite illustrations are Bink & Gollie eating pancakes after the sock incident and Bink & Gollie skating on the pond. Might I hope that Bink & Gollie's adventures will continue?

(Illus. Tony Fucile. Candlewick, 2010)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Otis & Sydney and the Best Birthday Ever by Laura Numeroff

From the moment Otis and Sydney first meet, they are best friends. They like the same things and have so much fun together. Otis plans the best ever birthday party for Sydney, but things don't go as planned.

What I thought: I love Laura Numeroff and I love this new book. Otis and Sydney are lovable characters. Their friendship is wonderful. The illustrations are lovely. I like the mix of full page and vignettes. The colors are muted yet appealing. The shading work with the pen is well done. My favorite illustrations are Otis's dream of the party and the two friends smiling at the end of the story. I hope to see more stories and these two friends.

Story Time Themes: Friendship, Birthday, Bears

(Illus. Dan Andreason. Abrams, 2010)

Friday, May 13, 2011

#FlannelFriday: Five Little Airplanes

I'll preface this by saying my airplanes aren't flannel, but crocheted with magnets attached. When I have the time, I like to crochet pieces for my magnet board. Airplanes would be very easy to make out of felt. Lots easier than crocheting them, I'm starting to realize. When I did an airplane themed story time in November, I couldn't find any rhymes I liked so I wrote my own. I hope you like them!

This little airplane (UP)
This little airplane flew to Africa & picked up a lion
This little airplane went to China & took tea with a panda bear
This little airplane flew to Australia & boxed a round with a kangaroo
This little airplane went to the South Pole & swam with some penguins
This little airplane flew to South America & met a llama named Mama

Where should our planes do now & what should they do while they’re there?

[written by Bridget R. Wilson]

Five Little Airplanes (DOWN)
Five Little Airplanes flying in formation
One flew north to Alaska, met a moose & then there were 4
Four little airplanes whizzing around
One flew south to Mexico to dance the flamenco with a Chihuahua
& then there were 3
Three Little airplanes playing tag
One flew east to England to take tea with the queen
& then there were 2
Two little airplanes following each other
One flew west to California to be a movie star
& then there was one
One little airplane running low on fuel
He flew back to base & then there were none!
[written by Bridget R. Wilson]

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

When his seventeen year old brother is unlawfully conscripted into the Union Army by their dastardly uncle, Homer P. Figg sees no other solution than catching up to his brother before he gets to the war. Homere's most notable talent is embellishing the truth. Or if you prefer, just plain lying. As he journeys south, his talent comes in handy time and again. Will he reach his brother in time?

What I Thought: This book is a perfect read aloud and will hook those boys who are often reluctant readers. Homer's talent for lying and exaggerating and his voice as narrator make this book. Who wants to read a dull, dry book about the Civil War? Not me, I assure you. Homer reminds me of Pippi Longstocking. She is skilled in the same way as him. Fans of Polly Horvath's humorous stories will enjoy The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.

April 2011 marked the beginning of the Civil Wars sesquicentennial. My favorite Civil War books are Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt and The River Between Us by Richard Peck.

(Blue Sky Press, 2009)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills

Oliver Olson is not you average third grader. His parents smother him with attention and help because he was sickly when he was younger. It's all getting a bit tedious, but Oliver can't seem to speak up. When his class starts their study of outer space, Oliver finds that he has more influence than he realizes. Instead of his parents doing his project for him as per usual, he ends up working with the outspoken Crystal. When thinking of a world changing idea to submit to the senator, Oliver looks to home. Parents shouldn't be allowed to help with and/or do their kids' homework. Will Oliver be bold enough to submit his idea? How will his parents react? Will they give in and let him attend the space sleepover?

What I thought: A charming book. Oliver is such a nice character. I liked seeing the changes in him as the plot unfolded. This book fits in well with Clementine, Ramona, and friend. I wouldn't mind seeing more books about Oliver.

(Illus. Heather Maione. FSG, 2009)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beatrix Potter Reading Project Wrap-Up

I apologize for the time it's taken me to get to this wrap-up of my Beatrix Potter Reading Project. I had great fun reading all her "little books." I like some more than others. After reading them all, my favorites are Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Jeremy Fisher, Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes, and Pigling Bland.

Here are links to my thoughts on all the books:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit
The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin
The Tailor of Gloucester
The Tale of Benjamin Bunny
The Tale of Two Bad Mice
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle
The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan
The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher
The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit
The Story of Miss Moppet
The Tale of Tom Kitten
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or, The Roly-Poly Pudding
The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies
The Tale of Ginger and Pickles
The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes
The Tale of Mr. Tod
The Tale of Pigling Bland
Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes
The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse
Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes
The Tale of Little Pig Robinson

I can't leave the subject of Beatrix Potter without mentioning the following items.

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear is a fascinating biography of Beatrix. It's my absolute favorite. In reading it, I discovered there was much more to Beatrix than her little books.

Jeanette Winter wrote and illustrated a charming picture book biography simply titled Beatrix Potter. You can read my review of it here.

Susan Witting Albert has written a mystery series called The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. The series follows Beatrix from 1905 when she buys Hilltop Farm through 1913 when she marries William Heelis. The books take place in Sawrey of the Lake District. The series is a grand blend of fact and fiction with Beatrix turning into something of an amateur sleuth as she solves village mysteries. The local animals (who the reader can understand) always know more than the humans. The first book is The Tale of Hill Top Farm. I've linked to Amazon so you can read reviews.

Albert has done some extensive research for the series. In 1905, Beatrix published Two Bad Mice and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. She would be planning the next book which is The Tale of Jeremy Fisher. In Albert's story, Beatrix brings her pets (Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, Josey and Mopsy Rabbit, and Tom Thumb) with her to Sawrey. She also finds a local boy, Jeremy Cosfield, to help her locate frogs to sketch.

The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter Series:
1. The Tale of Hilltop Farm
2. The Tale of Holly How
3. The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood
4. The Tale of Hawthorn House
5. The Tale of Briar Bank
6. The Tale of Applebeck Orchard
7. The Tale of Oat Cake Crag
8. The Tale of Castle Cottage

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Morgue & Me by John C. Ford

Christopher's internship at the morgue is soon more than he bargained for. He discovers $15,000 cash in the medical examiner's office and that the recent stiff was murdered though the death certificate says suicide. Christopher's summer becomes one of intrigue as he teams up with a reporter to solve the mystery of the dead man and the money.

What I thought: A fast paced, suspenseful book. The plot was well constructed as I didn't guess "whodunit" until it was revealed. Christopher was a likable character. I wonder if he still wants to be a spy after the mess of his summer. As mysteries go, The Morgue & Me certainly fits into what's popular on TV and at the movies these days. Ergo, I think readers for this book and others like it do exist if we can only find them.

I read The Morgue & Me for the Edgar Awards Challenge.

(Viking, 2009)

Friday, May 6, 2011

#FlannelFriday: Five Little Bunnies

This is my first ever #FlannelFriday post and my first ever felt set. As a beginner, I like simple shapes. I'm hoping to branch out as I get more experience with making felt pieces for my flannel board. I found this post by Abby(the)Librarian to be very useful. Thanks, Abby!

You can find the rhyme I used here.

For Summer Reading, I'm working on a hot air balloon felt set that I'll use each week as we travel around the world.

P.S. I made the flannel board myself. I needed one that was small enough to be portable as I travel to four library branches. Thanks to Alison of Oopsey Daisy for the instructions. It has a few air bubbles, but it works. The next time I make a flannel board, I'm going to enlist another set of hands.

Me & You by Anthony Browne

You know the story--three bears and that blond girl, porridge, chairs, and beds. In this version, we discover that the bears and the girl have a story to tell and their stories just happen to meet and mingle.

What I thought: Definitely a new take on an old favorite. The minimal text of the bears' story and the wordlessness of the girl's makes this perfect for preschoolers. The illustrations are great. I like he contrast between the bears (light) and the girl (dark).

Story Time Theme: Fairy Tales

(FSG, 2009)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

Guiseppe is a street musician. A slave to his padrone, he sees no way out until the day he finds a green violin.

Frederick, an apprentice clockmaker, dreams of making journeyman and opening his own shop. The clockwork man he's building will earn him journeyman status. He knows it will.

Hannah is a hotel maid. When her father had a stroke, she went to work to support her family.

These three cross paths in the city and their stories become one. They each help the other. Their adventures are filled with danger and secrecy. As co-conspirators, they also become friends.

What I thought: An interesting novel. I liked how Kirby brought the three main characters and their stories together. The steampunk element (clockwork and the time period) is just enough to intrigue juvenile readers. The mystery was well done. I didn't guess the truth until it was revealed. The ending was highly satisfying. I felt good about Guiseppe, Frederick, and Hannah. The book felt complete.

I read The Clockwork Three for the Full Steampunk Ahead Challenge.

(Scholastic, 2010)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pirates! by Celia Rees

Nancy is the oft un-thought of and forgotten daughter of a merchant. It isn't until he looses his fortune that he remembers Nancy. A daughter of marriageable age is after all quite a commodity. Sent to the plantation she doesn't know she owns, Nancy faces a forced/arranged marriage to an evil man. Nancy does what she must. Escaping first the maroons' camp, she makes the drastic decision to become a pirate. Minerva, Nancy's new friend, joins her. Piracy is an escape from slavery for her. For the next 12 years, the girls are pirates. Sometimes disguised as men and often not. The spoils are good and the life tolerable. But all the while, Nancy knows the evil Brazilian she ran from is pursuing her. Will she ever be free of him?

What I thought: A riveting book. Pirates! was so fast paced and action filled. Those lovers of The Pirates of the Caribbean films should definitely try this book. It's all there--the pirates, the action, the intrigue. From what I know (garnered mostly from movies), the historical details are spot on. Nancy's connection to the Brazilian adds mystery and suspense to the plot. I look forward to reading Celia's other novels.

I read Pirates! for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.

(Bloomsbury, 2003)