I attempted five challenges in 2009. Some were lofty. Some were not. I didn't do too badly...if I'd read the 100 novel-length books I'd hoped to read, I could have possibly done it. There are just too many choices out there.
The 999 Challenge I finished all nine books in five categories (new-2009-books, books by an author I'd already read, Mystery/Thrillers, YA titles, and Just for the fun of reading it), but fell short in four categories (Early Reader Series-6, Books with an Arizona setting-3, Books relating to teaching literature-4, and Novels that take a contemporary twist on history-4 plus a mess of unfinished, uninteresting titles). Oh well.
The 2009 TBR Challenge was a real let-down. Of the 20 books in my TBR pile as of January 1st, I only read TWO, Mission to Sonora and Gray Ghost. That's bad news.
2009 Mini-Challenges - of the twelve mini-challenges, I fulfilled six and messed up on six. I guess I'm stubborn about reading outside my genre-comfort level. I really need to challenge myself more in my old age.
This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010. The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted at Medieval Bookworm. Challenge gneres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction. Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe. There are three levels:
Peasant -Read 3 medieval books of any kind. Lord-Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind. King - Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.
You're not required to make a list or stick to one. I've signed up for the PEASANT, because I need to diverge from my hohum path a tiny bit in this year to come!
The books I've read for this challenge are: 1. 2. 3.
Hyperion Books, 2006 44 pages - 2 fold open For: Ages 4 up Endpapers: Huge colorful outline map of the US.
At first I didn't think that Ella would be too interested in this book. However, she was fascinated with the huge, colorful U.S. map. She liked to learn where she lived, and was able to point to Pennsylvania after going to other states. She realized that Arizona, where Nan lives, is very far away. She now knows where Maine is (she visits her cousins there), and Florida, where Disney World is located. She kept flipping back to the map to "remind" me of the locales of these places!
The book is presented in huge double-page spreads (and in two cases, TRIPLE page spreads!) We begin in New England. "New England is famous for fishing and ships and Patriots and Pilgrims." The scene we see is a wharf beside the sea, with a yellow-clad fisherman holding up a huge (reddish-orange) lobster. Okay, so it's already been cooked..... There are sea gulls and lobster traps, whales and fish. We travel from New England to New York Harbor and turn the book around so that we can see the Statue of Liberty standing tall on the two pages. Then Niagara Falls. When we arrive in Washington, we have to turn the page around and around, because the buildings are rising from each of the edges. Back to horizontal for the southeastern seashore, then vertical again for Cape Canaveral. We continue to turn the book through the midwest and west, arriving in Hawaii before we end in Alaska.
Turning this large book around and around was a little disconcerting, but Ella appeared to love it. She looked at the pictures and listened to the simple explanations. (The two three-page spreads were the Robert E Lee floating down the Mississippi and the Grand Canyon.) Every illustration had so many different things to find, it became a game of "can you find....."
There were saguaro cactuses at the Grand Canyon. One of my little peeves - the Sonoran desert ends far below the Grand Canyon, though they're definitely found in southern Arizona. Oh well, I'll let it go.
Henry Holt, 1999 32 pgs. For kids, even very young ones Rating: 4 Endpapers: Hands of different browns and sizes around the border
I've been reading book after book to Ella these past few days. I'd been looking at the hardcovers, and when I began hunting in the paperbacks, I was tickled to find a Karen Katz title. Her illustrations are distinctive, her message simple and clear.
Lena wants to paint her friends, so she asks her mother, an artist, how to mix the color brown. Which brown? They take a walk outside to check out the many different browns that people's skin tones can be. They see her friends, the retailers, relatives - all with a different shade of brown skin. Then Lena goes home and mixes the right color brown for each of the people that she wants to paint. Cinnamon, honey, chocolate, coffee, toffee.....yummy and right-on.
Released December 2006 Limited NR (1:52) Netflix RT: 69% cag: 83% Director: Isabel Coixet Tim Robbins
This thought-provoking look at the aftermath of war/insanity and the sometimes bizarre ways that lives come together fascinated me.
Almost-silent, hearing-impaired Hanna lives a self-imposed isolated life working a drone-job at a factory in Ireland. She is forced to take time off (she has worked at the plant for four years without taking a day off) and goes by bus to a coastal Irish town. There we find that she is a nurse, as she takes on a short-term job caring for a burned and broken oil rig foreman.
Out in the middle of the ocean on this huge shut-down-for-repairs oil rig, she allows herself to be drawn in by this somewhat older, cynical, sensitive man - Joseph - played by Tim Robbins.
The story - the few people she meets - the slowly reavealed informaqtion about Hanna's past, just keep getting more and more interesting.
Shamed on most Americans (including me) for knowing so little about what really happened in Yugoslavia - Serbia - Croatia - Kosovo --I'm only just realizing NOW...
Good story (in an interesting, off-beat, indie sort of way), good acting, Tim Robbins, and lots and lots of stuff to think about.
The cover says the author is Stella Lennon. Stella Lennon is the pseudonym of a collaboration. Melissa Kantor actually wrote this book. Other writers will write the next in the series. Harper Teen 2009 296 pages Rating 4
Amanda Valentino, new to Orion and Endeavor High School, has befriended Callie Leary. And since Callie is a member of the "I-Girls", the most popular freshman, and Amanda has been pegged by the other three I-Girls as a weirdo, she keeps the friendship secret. But she has felt more special in Amanda's company than she has in a long time. Callie's living with a secret - her mother has mysteriously left with not word, no reason, and her father has hit rock bottom - the rock bottom of a wine bottle.
And then, one day in March, Amanda disappears. She has left mysterious messages for three different people - Callie, Hal Bennett, and Nia Rivera. A fourth message is left in and on the assistant principal's car in the form of colorful grafitti. Neither Callie, Hal, or Nia knew that Amanda had any other friends, and they are certainly not friends.....yet. But the mystery of Amanda's appearance brings them all together.
I was intrigued and interested in the story. There are a lot of questions, about Amanda and her lies and secrets, but especially about Callie's mom, her disappearance, and why her father hates the assistant principal so much.
The story ends with the creation of a website that the three create in the hopes they find other people who might have known Amanda. The website is available for all to see: http://www.theamandaproject.com/ . There will be seven more stories, all written, it seems, by different authors (much like The 39 Clues). This will be interesting, and I plan to continue with the series - starting with Book #2, Signals from Afar, by Peter Silsbee, out in June of 2010.
A Magic Ribbon Book Illustrated by Dona Turner Piggy Toes Press, Atlanta, 2000 $8.95 Board Book Ages 3 and up
When I asked Ella what her favorite book was, she ran to her crowded book shelves and pulled out this book. And what a cool book it is!
When Little Rabbit assked his Mama, "What makes a rainbow?" she told Little Rabbit to ask some of his friends. As each page is turned, another satin ribbon is pulled across the page underneath the previous one. So Ladybug loves red, then Fox loves orange, Little chick loves yellow, Grasshopper loves green, Bluebird loves blue and Butterfly loves purple. Just add the sun, and you get the whole rainbow!
The whole ribbon concept is particularly cool, and the giant pop-up rainbow and sun at the last page turn is wonderful. Clever, clever, clever. Nice repetition and rhythm, short and interesting. Perfect for MY little three-year-old!
Poems about the Color Brown Illustrated by Jamel Akib Children's Book Press, SF, 2009 $16.95 32 pgs. Rating: 4 Enepapers: Abstract brown leaves
A lovely book of poetry celebrating brown that includes family, tradition, food and home. Tan, sienna, topaz...bay, sepia, cocoa...ocher, beige, sandalwood...coffee, adobe, tamarind...spruce, nutmegt, BROWN. All written in the same format. A wonderful model. A beautiful picture book. Lovely poetry.
Tales of the World: Mali, Africa Illustrated by Peter Sylvada Sleeping Bear Press, 2007 Rating: 4 Endpapers: White
Rusts and golds dominate this story, told in the first person by a young girl from Mali. The women in the village spend many hours each day pounding....pounding....pounding....the millet to make grain - at least three hours of pounding for one day's worth. Water is carried on the women's heads from a well. Many onions are grown to eat and sell at market. Andy they raise goats. It's work from dawn 'til dark - until the women earn enough to obtain a contraption that will immediately turn the millet to grain.
In an author's note we discover that thees grinding machines are "multifunctional platforms" that come from the U. N. Development Program and have been placed in over 350 African villages. Fascinating! I should read this to my student government in preparation for our upcoming P2P. I went to the website provided, http://www.ptfm.net/, but it looks as if this program is no longer functioning? I will have to do some further research.
Gloria Whelan also divulges in her author's note that part of the proceeds from this book will go to BwB (Building with Books) which helps kids in the U. S. and in Mali.
Illustrated by Robert Neubecker Beach Lane Books, 2009 $16.99 32 pgs. Rating: 4 Endpapers: Bright orange
What a nice combination of illustration and font to accentuate the clever storytelling in this book. As Sophie Peterman discusses everything that is disgusting about little brothers, we sympathize with her fully. and when she does come to the realization that maybe she can, indeed, live with him....she is rewarded with a bit of a surprise.
"An awesome movie - pucker up, because the love train is coming." (Ashley & Brendan) Released 12-23-09 PG (1:28) 12/26/09 at Maine Coast Cinemas with Bren, Ash, Bri & Heather RT: 25% Director: Betty Thomas
Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are joined by the "Chipettes," three singing chipmunk cuties named Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor. When Dave is hospitalized because of an Alvin-accident, first Aunt Jackie comes to care for the boys --but ends up in another hospital. The boys are given over to cousin Toby, who spends the day playing video games and eating junk food. The boys are forced to begin high school, where Alvin becomes a football star. Adventure after adventure follow. They two singing chipmunk groups are set up in a musical competition to win $25,000 for their school music program, which is running out of money. (Ashley helped write this review. She is very clever with words.)
This was a cute movie. I watched it in a smallish theater FILLED with kids crackling popcorn bags and talking out loud, with a whimpering or crying here and there. It's been a long time since I went to a theater full of kids - by choice. The movie started almost ten minutes late, and there was nary an ad or a preview. The movie just....started. The volume of the movie wasn't very high, either. And the lights came on a good two minutes before the movie was over! But every kid in the audience was enthralled, and many guffaws came from the adults. I had more fun watching my two kids....they loved it. Ashley said it was REALLY good and Bren said it was AWESOME. (He's watched the first one over and over and over and couldn't wait for this squeakuel.) I'm glad I was able to accompany them!
Thomas arrives at "the Glade" with his memory erased but with a weird sense of recognition. There is the huge maze with monstrously hight walls and doors that clang shut every night. Doors that protect them from the terrifying "grievers." Maze walls that change every night. Unanswered questions. Getting stung and going through "the change." A new boy arrives every month. Supplies arrive. For two years this has gone on. Thomas is the last newbie/"greenie" male. Everything changes after his arrival.
When I got to the end of the book and saw the words END OF BOOK ONE I threw the book across the room. There's no joy in this book at all. I don't know about its futre - a series? Enough of these series! Tell a good story in one book!
Jesse breaks up with her boyfriend because he is running the student-body-president campaign for her twin brother's opponent. Of course she regrets it and tries to rectify it. Of course there's the usual funny attempts and misfires - with the always appreciated satisfying ending.
I read this for my TARC reading group. It was exactly what I expected. It was a quick read, perfect for reluctant high school female readers.
Completely enjoyable, gives you a bit to think about. Released limited 12-4-09 Released wide 12-25-09 R (1:49) 12/25/09 at Bangor with Fran and Christine RT: 90% cag: 90% Fandango: 83/100 Director: James Reitman George Clooney
This movie has gotten lots of hype for awards this year...it's already been nominated for a number of Golden Globes. It was good...the perfect role for George Clooney. Cool, debonair, a slight dimpled-smile ever-present on his face. Ahhhhh, yes. Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, carefree with no family or romantic ties, at least until this movie begins. He works for a company that goes into firmss and fires the employees during downsizing. He's good at his job. He loves to fly and travel and knows every in and out to get the best of car rentals, room upgrades, and first class and priority flying. Until a young, just-out-of-school psychology major comes up with a way to cut costs, changing Ryan's life and job forevermore. And then there's the family wedding in northern Wisconsin that he has to atten - wheterh he wants to or not. No ties. No baggage. He gives motivational talks about emptying out your personal "back pack."
So it's easy to figure out what's going to happen. He falls for someone. He gets a little reconnected with his family and roots. He thinks about what his life really holds for him. The movie doesn't have the standard "pat" happy ending, but the ending works in the way it NEEDS to work. It feels okay. It was a good movie. I thought about it all night long, and that doesn't happen very much.
Know for the $64,000 question. Is it worth all the awards it's going to be up for this year? I'm going to have to see a few more of its competition to figure that out, I guess.....
Illustrated by David Diaz Tricycle Press (Berkeley) 2009 $18.99 24 pgs. & cd Rating: 4.5 Endpapers: Batik illustrations - snowflakes and circles, showing different symbols of peace from around the world
This seems to be a year that old folk songs are being turned into lovely picture books. Peter Yarrow's done a couple really recently and tonight I bumped into this one. Who can't love this song -- its simple words and memorable tune? Written in 1955, the words are now renewed in this eye-popping picture book.
The last few pages are informative - about the songwriters, the creation of the song, the actual score of the song, and interesting explanations for 12 different peace symbols. These are fascinating - from the Japanese crane (and mention of Sadako Sasaki) and middle Eastern pslm trees to Scandianvian misteltoe and the Chinese ying and yang - clear and simple information to take in, to share.
David Diaz continues to keep me enthralled. I've drooled over his illustrations before - his pleasing colors and designs completely cover the pge. They were "rendered in Adobe Illustration and Photoshop." How?
Caldecott Medal 1953 Houghton Mifflin, 1952/1980 paper $6.95 84 pages Rating: 3.5
The illustrations in this 1953 Caldecott Award winner are brown and white and lovely. The story is definitely 50 years old.
Johnny Orchard goes out to hunt a bear as is the custom in the area, apparently. However, he befriends a baby bear, takes him home, and makes a pet of him. The bear eats and grows, eats and grows, until he becomes somewhat of a menace looking for food. The father tells the boy that the bear must go back to live in the woods.
Of course he's too late. No matter where or how far he takes the now-grown bear, he always finds his way back. So only one thing can be done. The boy takes his rifle and heads out into the woods. But, instead of shooting him, they are captured in a huge trap. The zoo is looking for animals, and the zoo is where this huge bear will now live out the rest of his life.
The pictures are very cool.
The story....well....is it still believable for some parts of the rural U. S? Because I don't think it was written as a tongue-in-cheek story. Did it match the times? Or is it just my-own-personal-anti-gun thing? Needless to say, many aspects of the story didn't do much for me. I've got to read more of these older award-winners...will this run true with others?
Audio read by Wendy Dillon Published 2003 6 unabridged cd's 6 hrs. 52 minutes 288 pgs. Rating: 3.5
Lina and Doon have grown up in the city of Ember, where electricity is on from a set time in the morning to a set time in the evening. When the electricity is off, it is completely dark everywhere. And the electricity is failing for longer and longer periods of time more and more frequently. It's been 200 years since Ember's been built. People are unsure of the future.
Then Lina and Doon, recently graduated from school to jobs (as a messenger, and in the pipeworks that keep the city electricity running), discover a message about a possible way out of Ember. It is riddled with holes and missing information, so they have to piece together the words and clues they discover.
We are left anxiously awaiting the next installment of the story with great anticipation. And three other titles have followed in the series:
#2 People of Sparks #3 Prophet of Yonwood (a prequel to the whole story) #4 Diamond of Darkhold
Linda DuPrau has a website, and there has been a movie made (with Bill Murray and Tim Robbins!). You can see the movie trailer on the website.
Unreal. I began this blog just to keep track of what I was reading and watching at the movies, and it has morphed into something I not only enjoy, but greatly look forward to. I began in August of last year, so about 17 months have flown by. YeeHa!
Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark
Walker & Co., 2007
Endpapers: Glossy bright yellow
What an interesting book! It tells about five different families - all familiar to picture book readers - with photos of the family and illustrations of their work. I was particularly looking at the Myers family (since I'm on a roll with Creech's Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, but was very interested in the other four stories as well.
The CREWS and JONAS family: Donald Crews, Ann Jonas, and Nina Crews
The HURD family: Clement and Edith Thacher Hurd and Thacher Hurd
The MYERS family: Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers
The PINKNEY family: Jerry Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
The ROCKWELL family: Harlow and Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell
Love That Dog, 2001 Hate That Cat, 2008 Rating for both: FIVE!
Two very special books, both written in verse, both with layer upon layer of witty writing, clever intertwining of poetry, and a healthy dose of a very cool relationship between a student and his teacher. I LOVED these books. I've read Love That Dog twice, and just knew that Hate That Cat couldn't come close. WRONG!!! So wrong....I think Hate That Cat is even better! Both are short reads, although Love That Dog is a bit shorter, and perhaps a little harder for some kids to get into. I read it aloud to my fourth graders after spending a week prepping them by sharing Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Pasture", William Carlos William's "The Red Wheelbarrow:, many of Valerie Worth's SHORT poems, William Blake's "The Tyger," Walter Dean Myer's "Love That Boy", and some of the poetry of Arnold Adoff. They were oh-so prepared, and they loved it. It was great fun to read aloud, and the kids' reactions were very gratifying.
Now I'm preparing the pre-poetry for Hate That Cat. There's more William Carlos Williams and Valerie Worth,with additional poems from Edgar Allan Poe, Alfred Lord Tennyson, T. S. Eliot ("The Naming of Cats"!!!), and Walter Dean Myer's son, Christopher. There's alliteration and onomotapoeia, similes and metaphors, rhythm and image. There's laugh-out-loud cleverness and a rolling, thought-provoking storyline.
I don't want to share the plots. They're a joy to watch unfold. They take 20-30 minutes each to read. Enjoy, enjoy.
Everyone calls this the precursor to the Academy Awards. It seems almost a little more "down to earth" than the Academy Awards. This year, let's see how they compare! The nominees were announced this morning in LA, the award show will be on January 17th. I wonder how many of the movies I can get to see before then? I've seen six out of the 25, but many of them (13/25, actually) have either not come out or not hit Tucson yet!
And the winners are? See the red additions below! They work for me!
In alphabetical order:
(500) Days of Summer (Best Comedy/Musical, Actor) *Avatar (Best Drama, Best Director) *The Blind Side (Actress-Sandra Bullock) Brothers (Actor) *Crazy Heart (Actor-Jeff Bridges) *Duplicity (Actress) An Education (Actress) *The Hangover (Best Comedy/Musical) Hurt Locker (Best Drama, Best Director) The Informant (Actress) Inglorious Basterds (Best Drama, Director, Supporting Actor-Christoph Waltz) Invictus (Director, Actor, Supporting Actor) *It's Complicated (Best Comedy/Musical, Actress) *Julie & Julia (Best Comedy/Musical, Actress-Meryl Streep) The Last Station (Actress, Supporting Actor) The Lovely Bones (Supporting Actor) The Messenger (Supporting Actor) Nine (Best Comedy/Musical, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress) *Precious (Best Drama, Actress, Supporting Actress-MoNique) *The Proposal (Actress) Sherlock Holmes (Actor-Robert Downey, Jr.) *A Serious Man (Actor) *A Single Man (Actor) *Up in the Air (Best Drama, Director, Actor and TWO Supporting Actresses) 90/90 The Young Victoria (Actress)
Illustrated by Rod Brown (paintings) Amistad/Collins, 2009 32 pages $16.99 Endpapers: Navy Blue
Being black in the south during Jim Crow - that's what these poems are about. Told in the first person, they are full of powerful voice/s. Poems entitled "Booker T. Washington School, 1941", "Water Fountains," Where I Live," Crying Trees," "Roadkill," "You Vote/You Die!" "The Klu Klux Klan," "Thank You Rosa Parks," "Martin Luther King, Jr.," " Brother Malcolm," "Sittin Down is Standin Up,".....
A couple of poems near the end have some interesting information added, to help people unaware of the history, or at least some of it. I wish there had been more explanations in the same vein for earlier poems. These are great poems, but many kids would need more explanation.
if they catch me sittin/jus' for a moment i might lose this heah job/but i can't 'ford to do that all my children/matt, maceo, bertha, mae, sunshine, and the baby 'long with ma/look to me for vittles and shelter/ it's just that i got to scrub all these floors till tehy'd look like glass/ that takes all day and i still aint got to the laundry yet/ boilin clothes/starchin shirts/ Lawd have mercy i got to spend all day tomorrow ironin so the missus and her mate can go to some bigshindig/ sposin i quit/how we gonna eat/no i aint going nowhere/ & there aint not fancy dunds or dancin in my future/ just scrubbin & scrubbin what aint mine
Heah Y'all Come
now the children run freely toward each other knowin no fears of the other so what? she's brown and her lips thick so what? yarmulkes atop their heads Buddha's smile graces their faces now America welcomes all the babies si si/todos los ninos are ours yes yes/wa alaikum salaam & the gods watch over all children & the flag protects each American all
I'm a just-retired fourth grade classroom teacher, I've taught fifth grade, middle school literature, and college-level children's literature. Now I work as an assistant in the Youth Services department of a big public library....heaven! Originally from New England, I spent the last 14 years in the glorious sunshine of Tucson, Arizona, and have recently moved to south central Pennsylvania - a new adventure! I adore my kids, my grandkids (I got married at "age 9"), my students, books and reading, quilts and quilting, yarn and knitting, papercrafts and altering books, genealogy, letterboxing, - and hitting the road to adventure far and wide. There are only two states that I've not yet visited, but I'm determined to get to all of them, even if I have to row.... Next goal? Foreign countries? US capitals or major cities?