Wednesday, September 30, 2009

62. Shiver - Maggie Stievater

for: YA
Scholastic Press, August, 2009
HC $17.99
200 pgs.
Rating: 4.5

MOVIE - My One and Only

Very enjoyable!
Limited realease Aug. 21, 2009
PG-13
9/25 at El Con (alone)
RT: 70% cag: 71%
Director: Richard Loncraine

Renee Zellweger, Kevin Bacon

I hurried to the El Con to see Julie and Julia at 5:05, but I didn't make it there until almost 5:15. I would hate to miss the beginning (I still had to buy popcorn after all), so I went in to see this movie knowing only that it starred Renee Zellweger. I'm glad I didn't know any more than that to jade or shade (or whatever) my viewing. I liked this movie a lot, and I'm glad I didn't have any pre-supposed ideas about it when I sat down with my popcorn.

1953. Ann Devereaux comes home to her high-rise NYC apartment to find her husband, a band leader (like Ricky Ricardo), in an uncompromising position with the singer from his band. She takes her two teenage boys, buys a light blue Cadillac convertible with most of the the money she's taken from their safe deposit box, and leaves town.

Ann loves her boys, but doesn't really "know" them. She's beautiful, but the only life she's known is as the beautiful showpiece for a man who will take care of her, and that's what she goes after, whether it's intentional or not. But, oh, the men she chooses! There are four (I think) different suitors and situations that go from funny to sad to pathetic and even to silly. But, oh, what a ride! George, the younger son, watches what happens to his mother and longs for his old life in New York.

There was a surprise at the end which was delightful. It has been told in a few of the reviews I've skimmed, but it was most fun not to know while watching the movie. It would have definitely changed my "watching attitude".

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PLAY - The Kite Runner

Wow. Three thumbs up.
Arizona Theatre Company
Temple of Music and Art
Sept. 23, 2009 with Sheila
My rating: R
Directed by David Ira Goldstein

I've read the book, written by Khaled Hosseini. Loved it. I've seen the movie. Wonderful. And now I've seen the play, screenwritten by Matthew Spangler. Powerful. Leaving the air snapping with electricity, this stage production was wonderfully crafted, gut-wrenching, and quite unforgettable. I felt sorry for the people who had no clue about the story and were unprepared for the enormity of what they were about to see. The two young men who portrayed the two boys, Amir and Hassan, were wonderful. Believable. And always present, narrating the entire play, was the grown-up Amir. I cannot imagine givening this performance each and every day. I was exhausted and wrung out just watching it!

I have a zillion positive things to say, and only two slightly negative. (1 - The two young men playing the leads should have had a curtain call just prior to the lead Amir, not so close to the beginning of the curtain calls. 2 - The scene with Amir praying for the first time in two decades was loud and jarring and too overdone for me. It seemed out of place somehow.)

Cowardice. Guilt. Redemption. Growing into yourself. Growing up. Thanks, Sheila, for a wonderful seat smack dab in the middle of the orchestra section, and a wonderful (if very late)evening.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So Many SERIES Out There!

Suggested series I have not yet read:
Billy B. Brown and Hey Jack , two series by Sally Ripp
(as seen on My Book Boost blog)

I spent a large part of the summer checking out series books, especially the dearth that are now available for beginning chapter book kiddos. Here's a sampling of some that I've either discovered or rediscovered (and I'll be adding more as I get the chance):

Cam Jansen Series
by David Adler
Illustrated by Susanna Natti
(new cover art by Joy Allen)
For: 6-10 year olds
(Reading Levels 2.2-2.7, 480-500 Lexile, Level L, DRA 28)

See listing of books on separate page on this website


Eleanor Series
by Julie Sternberg
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

See listing of books on separate page on this website.



Gooney Bird Green Series
by Lois Lowry
Illustrated by Middy Thomas
1.  Gooney Bird Greene
2.  Gooney Bird and the Room Mother
3.  Gooney the Fabulous
4.  Gooney Bird is So Absurd
5.  Gooney Bird on the Map





Ivy and Bean Series
by Annie Barrows
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
For: 6-9 year olds
(Reading Levels 2.7 - 3.2, Lexiles 510-580, Levels M & N)

See listing of books and comments on separate page of this website.





Judy Moody Series
by Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick
Reading Levels Around 3rd for most

Lots more "stuff" on the Judy Moody page on this website.



Junie B. Jones Series
by Barbara Park
Illustrated by Denise Brunkus
Stepping Stone Books, Random House
for: ages 6-9 (Junie is in K and 1, see below)

Check out the Junie B. Jones page on my website.





Mercy Watson Series
by Kate Di Camillo
Illustrated by Chris VanDusen
Candlewick
(Reading Levels 1.9 - 2.3, Lexiles 380-390 Levels K+)

Go directly to the Mercy Watson page on this blog.

Mouse Scouts
by Sarah Dillard
Alfred A. Knopf
1.  Mouse Scouts (Sow and Grow a Garden)
2.  Mouse Souts Make a Difference
3.  Mouse Scouts Camp Out






My Weird School Series
by Dan Gutman
Illustrated aby Jim Paillot
Harper Trophy
Ages 7-10

Go to this website's separate pag on this great series.




Piper Green and the Fairy Tree SERIES
by Ellen Potter
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Alfred Knopf
2nd - 4th grade

Check out the book titles and more information here.





Stink Series
by Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick
(Reading Levels 2.5 - 3.0, Lexiles 480-580, Levels L, M, N)

Stink has his very own page on this website...





"WHO WAS" Biography Series
Mosey on over to a separate page to view all the titles and further information










Zigzag Kids Series by Patricia Reilly Giff
Illustrated by Alasdair Bright
Wendy Lamb Books, Random House

This looks like Giff's trying to update the Polk Street Kids series with a group of young elementary students (K up) who go to an afternoon program at the Zelda A. Zigzag School in these more contemporary times. Barack Obama as our president is mentioned....

1 - Number One Kid
2 - Big Whopper (about Destiny) 2010
3.  Flying Feet
4.  Star Time
5.  Bears Beware
6.  Super Surprise
7.  Sky High

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Girl's Like Spaghetti - Lynne Truss

Why You Can't Manage without Apostrophes!
Illustrated by Bonnie Timmons
GP Putnams, 2007
$16.99
32 pgs.
Rating: 3 (I really dislike the title)

Lynn Truss says "Every time an apostrophe appears in the right place, the Good Punctuation Fairy is made very, very happy." I LOVE the idea of a GOOD PUNCTUATION FAIRY!

There's a huge difference between:
The dogs like my dad. AND The dog's like my dad.

or

See the boy bat. AND See the boy's bat. AND See the boys' bat. (Illustrations accompany to show the difference visually.)

Those smelly things are my brothers. AND Those smelly things are my brother's.

Illustrations are almost James Stevensons-y.

So many ways to use this in a classroom - make a big deal when an apostrophe is used correctly, create or find your own two "different" sentences, make a class book when there's enough - if brought up enough, kids will really learn!

(And how about pointing out some of the homonyms that kids mix up - from fourth grade all the way up the ladder - and reward them when used correctly. Yup, too/to/two and especially there/their/they're......)

The Day the Stones Walked - T. A. Barron

Illustrated by William Low
Philomel (Penguin), 2007
$16.99
32 pgs.
For: ages 7 - 10
Rating: 4
Endpapers: navy blue

Lots of times a book - an article - a paragraph - even a simple reference - sparks an interest that takes us researching farther. This book awakened such an interest in me.

Easter Island. "The world's most remote inhabited island. It lies over 2200 miles west of South America, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean." 30-foot tall hand carved "moai" guard the island's shores. Who carved them? And why?

This story takes us to Easter Island on a long ago day when a tsunami hits. Pico is sent by his mother, who senses danger by looking at the clouds, to warn his father, who is carving a moai. The immense wave is powerful and disatrous. The story is really more about the tsunami than the carvings, which is a bit disappointing - although it is a moai that saves Pico when he is pulled underneath the roaring water. More information to come after some research!

The illustrations fully cover the page, complimenting the story well. The 2-page author's note at the end is informative and has now set me on a quest to know more about Easter Island. Fascinating.

61. Gray Ghost - William G. Tapply

Stoney Calhoun #2
For: Adult
St. Martins Minotaur, March 2007
257 pgs.
Rating: 4

Set in the Maine woods and on Casco Bay (Portland), my second encounter with Stoney Calhoun was just as good as my first. With all memory wiped out by a lightning strike seven years before, Stoney has no desire to find out about his past. He's built a house in the woods on Bitch Creek, has his faithful dog, Ralph, and fishes whenever he wants. He's a fishing guide now. He has the knowledge he acquired previously, but nothing else. He's visited late at night by a nameless man who keeps asking him what he's remembered (nothing), but has no knowledge of his past life.

This mystery is about two murders. The first is a body burned beyond recognition on an abandoned island in Casco Bay. The second is a fishing client, whom he finds shot to death on his front porch when he arrives home one afternoon. His friend, Sheriff Dickman, insists that Stoney become his deputy because he appreciates Stoney's sixth sense, intuition, insight, into questionable matters. A fast moving story.

I went online to see if Tapply's written a third mystery with Stoney Calhoun as protagonist. To my great dismay, I discovered that Tapply died of leukemia on July 27th. He was 69. He's written a slew of Brady Coyne mysteries, and is quite well known as a fisherman and mystery writer in the New England area. I DID discover that his third Stoney Calhoun, Dark Tiger, will be published at the end of this month.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tsunami - Kimiko Kajikawa

Illustrated by Ed Young
Philomel Books, 2009
(Ellsworth Library 8/3/09)
$16.99
32 pgs.
For: ages 6-10
rating: 3.5
Endpapers: orange

A "long ago in Japan" folktale, white font on black on bottom eighth of page, illustrations collaged on rest of double-page spreads.

Ojiisan - grandfather - lived high on a mountain overlooking the sea. One day, after what seemed like a minor earthquake, the sea receeded, making more and more and more beach. Ojiisan knew what would happen when the sea came back - and it would devour all 400 villagers. So he set fire to every bit of his valuable rice fields to beckon everyone up the mountan. He saved them all.

Good verbal description of a tsunami - the collages (purposely?) leave a great deal to the imagination.

Bedtime in the Southwest - Mona Hodgson

Illustrated by Renee Graef
Rising Moon, 2004
$14.95
32 pgs.
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Desert at night with saguaros

What does a southwest critter do when Papa says it's time for bed?

In this adorable book we see some different bedtime avoidance techniques - from many different Sonoran desert animals - hares and roadrunners and geckos and coyote, to name just a few. Hiding and begging for a drink, hopping on the bed - very cute and funny.

My almost-two-year-old granddaughter's been rearranging furniture, emptying bureaus, making nests after "lights out." This will make a perfect bedtime story from her Nan who lives in the desert!

Monday, September 14, 2009

60. How Oliver Olson Changed the World - Claudia Mills

Illustrator: Heather Maione
For: grades 3-4
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March, 2009
HC, $15.95
104 pgs.
Rating: 5

Not only did Oliver Olson have a great teacher, Claudia Mills is right on about what goes on in a classroom when it has such a great teacher. All kids are great - and this story really shows it. With humor and a little tongue-in-cheek, we inhale the story of Oliver and his problems - parents who want to DO his homework for him, a mom who won't let him eat anything but healthy food and never lets him go to a sleepover, and get to witness firsthand his third grade classroom - talkative Crystal, the sage of poor Pluto who was kicked out of the planet brotherhood, and discusstions that create out-of-the box thinkers. While learning about the planets and planning for a grand-finale - a diorama, a sleepover, telescope, Star Wars movie, AND a visit from a state senator, this third grade classroom is one I'd love to have been a part of!

Wonderful story!

The Lion and the Mouse - Jerry Pinkney

Little Brown, 2009
For: everyone!
Rating: 5
Endpapers: African scene full of animals
2010 Caldecott WINNER

Wowee. Zowee.
I really enjoy retellings of Aesop's Fables.
I adore Jerry Pinkney's work.
I'm fond of wordless books. (Even the cover has no words - only a large painnting of the lion.)

Here, without words except for the SOUNDS of owl (who who, screech), lion (grrr, rroarr), mouse (scratch, squeak), and jeep (putt-putt) we watch this timeless story unfold. Mouse, while escaping from owl, gets caught by lion, who decides to let him go. Hunters snare the lion, hes roars are heard by jmouse, who chews him free.

It's absolutely marvelous!

Creaky Old House - Linda Ashman

A Topsy-Turvey Tale of a Real Fixer-Upper
Illustrated by Michael Chesworth
Sterling, 2009
32 pgs.
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Photos of the family members (9 + dog)

Linda Ashman's (Stella Unleashed, M is for Mischief) rhyme and rhythm within great storytelling continue to entertain me. This one is funny and clever...as usual.

"Our house is kind of old and creaky.
Porch is sloping, roof is leaky.
Windows drafty, shutters peeling.
There's a crack across the ceiling.
Paint's a little chipped and faded.
Might say it's dilapidated.
Still, each one of us --- all nine ---
thinks the house is fine, just fine."

Until a screw falls out of the front door dorrknob. And then a series of domino events take place that make the semingly tiny project escalate greatly. Fun, fun, fun.

Again - great storytelling, great rhyme and rhythm.

Dear Vampa - Ross Collins

Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins, 2009
For: Middle grades
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Bright Coral

The story is actually a letter than Bram, a young vampire from Pennsylvania, writes to his grandfather in Transylvania caomplaining about the new next-door nieghbors who love the sunshine, stay up all day long - and shoot them (in their bat-form) out of the sky in the evening!

With very little text and great accompanying illustrations -bright blue/yellow vs. black/red denoting the two families. who live side-by-side, this cute and clever story steers us right toward the end for a delicious twist.

There Was an Old Monster - Ed Emberley

Illustrated by Rebecca Emberley
Music by Adrian Emberley
Listen to the song at Scholastic.com/OldMonster
Orchard/Scholastic, 2009
For: young kids
Endpapers: Red

Cut paper collage on black. This time this New England Father-daughter team add another generation - granddaughter Adrian is a performing songwriter!

Based on - what else - the old lady who swallowed a fly - a monster begins his uncomfortable journey by swallowing a tick that makes him feel sick. He follows that with ants, a lizard, a bat, a jackal, a bear, and then he encounters a lion! Guess what happens next!

Too much fun! And perfect for Halloween.

Friday, September 4, 2009

59. Rough Weather - Robert B. Parker

Spenser Series No. 36
Audio read by Joe Mantegna
Random House audio, 2008
5 cd's, 5.5 hours
304 pgs.
Rating: 3

I used to really enjoy Spenser novels. Not only did they take place in familiar locales (the "Smithfield," Massachusetts, where Spenser used to frequent, is actually based on Lynnfield - where I lived until I was in junior high, where my grandparents always lived, and where my brother now lives), but the descriptions of the area were so familiar with reminders of my childhood. The mysteries were pretty darn good, too. I've read many, many of the series - and I truly cannot believe that there are now 36. Wow.

I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, I enjoyed the reparte between Spenser and his sidekick, Hawk. I'm getting really tired of Susan Silverman. Parker uses mostly dialogue to tell the story - and this is where my biggest complaint comes in. "Come in," he said. "Won't stay long," she said. The book is riddled with "saids." It's really apparent when read aloud. And it's really started to irritate me.

This time Spenser is hired by Heidi Bradshaw, a rich Boston socialite, to be available at her daughter's wedding on Tashtego Island, off the coast of Massachusetts somewhere. During a hurricane the bride is kidnapped and the new groom is gunned down. A previous nemesis, Rugar, aka The Gray Man, seems to be the culprit, and Spenser and Hawk begin their journey of philosophical sleuthing. It seems a bit unresolved in the end - so I'm guessing that Parker has saved wiggle room for another story.

MOVIE - Adam

Wonderful acting, moving story
Released July 29, 2009
PG-13 (1:37)
9/1 at El Con with Ronnie
RT: 64% cag: 90%
Director: Max Mayer


Hugh Dancy (of Jane Austen Book Club and Ella Enchanted), Rose Byrne


Adam is a 29 year old electrical engineer with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism. His father has died and left Adam alone - for the first time in his life. He lives in a New York City apartment and meets his new upstairs neighbor, Beth. A primary school teacher, she is sensitive and inquisitive, studies up on Aspergers, and befriends Adam. It runs from a friendship to more. But it's a difficult road...and an interesting one. Amy Irving and Peter Gallagher play Beth's parents, a subplot that impacts the story.


I think that Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne, as the leads, do terrific acting jobs. Hugh Dancy is adorable. And he's convincing. He's British and seems to have the American accent down pat. I really enjoyed this film.