Monday, May 31, 2010

41. Eighth Grade Bites - Heather Brewer

Book #1 in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod
for: Middle School
Speak paperback, 2007
$8.99
182 pages
Rating: oh, I don't know....

There are a dearth of vampire books out their for young adults right now, and I wasn't going to read another one. However, one of my fourth graders was reading this particular book, he said his high school sister loves them, and I decided to find out what one of my ten-year-olds was sinking his teeth into. (Har-de-har-har)

Vlad Tod is half vampire. Born of a human mother and vampire father, he is learning about how he must live with only the aide of his aunt/guardian, because his parents were killed three years before. He is small, pale, a bit of an outcast, and usually dresses in black. He lives a fairly normal life, getting most of his sustenance on the leftover blood his aunt brings home from the hospital where she works. She puts capsules of blood into his peanut butter sandwiches so that he can eat at school. His best friend, Henry, knows he is a vampire, but no one else. O....kay.....

When Vlad's favorite teacher disappears, the substitute who takes over is named Otis Otis. He introduces the 8th graders to research on werewolves, witches, vampires....and tries very hard to get to know Vlad. The story goes into fast forward from there.

This does not appear to be a romance in the way that many of the previous vampire novels I've read recently have been, although there are already three sequels with Vlad moving into ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades, so surely this will become more prominent. This first installment is the introductory one, with Vlad and Otis winning out over the bad guys and with hints of an upcoming romance between Otis and auntie (they're holding hands at the end). There was some adventure and not many surprises. The story moved swiftly. I can see why kids would like it. And although there's nothing particularly innappropriate for a fourth grader, I'll wait a year or two before suggesting it to most of them. It will be very interesting to see where Brewer takes the story in the sequels. Does that mean I'll read them? Well, maybe.....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

40. Out of My Mind - Sharon M. Draper

For: Middle Grades
"ages 10 and up"
Atheneum Books, 2010
HC $16.99
292 pages
Rating: 5

Wowzer. Sounds trite. This is NOT a trite book. What a wonderful gift, this book. A fifth grader with major cerebral palsy, has never spoken a word, though she is extremely bright and has thousands of words whirling around in her head.

"Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes --each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands. .... Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs."

No one knows how smart this drooling, spastic child is. She knows she drools, she hates it. She knows that she makes weird noises and flails her arms in awkward, embarrasing ways. She hates it. No one knows the insightful thoughts that are in her mind. No one knows that that mind is practically photogenic, that she can see colors accompanying music, that is a sponge ready to learn, learn, learn. Her parents have an idea. Her next-door neighbor, the woman who takes care of her while her parents work has certainly figured it out....and we, as readers are to discover how Melody's life changes as others figure it out, too.

How prejudiced our world - me included, I'm ashamed to admit - is to people with disabilities. We stereotype. We are embarrassed. We look away...or we stare. We avoid this world at all costs. We can even be mean. In this story, we watch all this happen and see it through Melody's eyes. We see her frustrations, we look at her world differently, and we celebrate and cry with her.

This is an exceptional story. It is gut-wrenching. Sharon Draper is a brilliant, insightful author to have created this masterpiece. I will not forget it...and I will read it again and again. I want to keep reminding myself to be a better person, to look deeper.

Wowzer. Do NOT miss this book!

Sharon Draper has a blog that includes a great review - much better than mine. And on her website she even has a study guide!

One Big Family: Sharing Life in an African Village - Ifeoma Onyefulu

Illustrated by Photographs
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 1996
28 pages
For: anyone interested in Africa or Nigeria
Rating: topnotch
Endpapers; Brown handmade-looking paper with large black stenciled designs

Of all the reading I've been doing about Africa, this has been one of the most informative and interesting.

Eastern Ethiopian villages have ogbos (or-BOs), which are groups of people of the same five-year age span. They exist as almost a part of the family unit, and members are always a part of that ogbo, no matter how old they become or where they live. Each ogbo has different jobs to help the community, from cleaning and tending and caring to building and ruling the village. In some villages, ogbos ange spans may be just one year, or two, but in Obioma's village of Awkuzu, ogbos have a five year age span.

So we get to see, and visualize (because of Onyefulu's lovely photography) what life in an eastern Ethiopian village looks like. This was a meanignful, helpful glance into a way-of-life that most Americans can only imagine, and it was like a gift. I loved it.

I'm on the way to the library right now to find more of her books. Thank you, Ifeoma Onyefulu!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

39. The Heaven Shop - Deborah Ellis

For: Middle school & YA
Fitzhenry & Whiteside (Canada) 2004
186 pages includes author's note and question/answer interview
Rating: 4

Contemporary Malawi, Africa.

Told from 13 year old Binti's point of view, we meet her, her 14 year old brother, Kwasi, and her 16 year old bossy sister, Junie. They live happily in Blantyre, the largest city in Malawi, with their father, who has a coffin-making business run from their modest home. It's called The Heaven Shop. The do well enough to be sent to private school to get a good educations, and Binti is an actress/reader in a radio program that everyone in the country hears in weekly serial form.

HIV and AIDS are everywhere, killing indiscriminately, and about a third of the way through the book, the father weakens and dies. His brothers and sisters take all the family belongings, sell the house and business, and separate the siblings, making them work like servants. Binti has been spoiled, but she becomes stronger and more sure of herself as she takes off to find the grandmother that she barely knows.

The story is one of hope, of course. There is much discussion about AIDS, its stigma, condoms, prostitution, and monthly menstrual cycles, which makes the book still a little too old for my fourth graders. But I'd love to see kids of a bit older persuasion read this - good information, and a clearcut look into the lives of people in subSaharan Africa.

Deborah Ellis wrote Breadwinner, one of my all-time favorite books, about a young girl dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan. A Canadian writer with quite a few awards - well deserved awards -- Deborah Ellis is an author I am always pleased to read. This wa a good one.

Friday, May 28, 2010

38. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Series Book #1
for: ADULTS
Ace Books/Paper, 2001
292 pgs.
Rating: i n t e r e s t i n g

I've heard lots of people enjoy the HBO series Trueblood, which is based on this Sookie Stackhouse series. So when I stumbled across this first installment, I decided to give it a look-see. So what do I say about it?

It was a quick read. It held my interest. There were some very....steamy.....parts. It has an interesting take on our contemporary world, making vampires recognized, and even legalized. It gives the reader a look into smalltown southern (Lousiana) America.

Sookie Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress with a "disability" that keeps her separated from much of the world. Separated by choice. She's pretty, but because of her strange....gift... most people think her dim-witted, and she has no boyfriend. She feels she'll never be able to have one. Sookie's strange ability is to read other people's minds. She spends much of her time - and energy - trying to block people's thoughts from bombarding her, confusing her, as a mish mash of other people's tidbits swirling around in your head might indeed be a bit disconcerting.

And then Bill, a good-looking loner vampire walks into the bar one evening. Her world changes. Her employer, cutie-boy Sam, who has his own mysteries, starts to notice her. Her brother, Jason, the town's handsome womanizer, keeps getting in trouble. Her grandmother, with whom she lives, would really like to see her find a boyfriend. And the tiny town's somewhat quiet life is interrupted by a series of murders of young, "loose", women. There are vampires galore - good ones, bad ones, iconic ones. Just plain fun.

I haven't read a book with good "steamy" parts in years. This certainly is not great writing, but it certainly IS entertaining. A perfect book for me to read on this last day of school. Chill. Swim. Have a marguerita. Curl up and read. Welcome, summer! No I can rent the first few episodes of Trueblood and see what's goin' on.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cats Night Out - Carolyn Stutson

A Foot-Tapping, Finger Snapping Counting Book
Illustrated by J. Klassen
Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster, 2010
$15.99
ages 4-8
32 pgs.
Endpapers: Mustard

This sing-songy musical book is catchy and fun and uses great words. In twos, and adding more and more at each turn of the page, pairs of cats dance. It becomes a counting book that counts by 2's!

"Six cats tango in red capes....up and down the fire escapes."
"Sixteen rumba in the dark, twitching silk bottoms through the park."

We see cats doing the samba, boogying, tap dancing, line-dancing, doing the twist, fox-trotting, doing the polka, the conga, and even the waltz...until neighbors complain.

The illustrations are dark - it's night after all - in numerous shades of browns and creams with just a subtle touch of pink and pinky red here and there. No white.

Exceptionally cool book.
I want to read it aloud!

A Mother's Song - Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Kathleen Kemly
Sterling, 2010
$14.95
24 pgs.
for: ages 3-6
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Light blue with 3 "snapshots" that are illustrations from the story

A lovely, rhyming mother-daughter picture book. There's lots to examine on each page as mother and daughter explore and have fun through the neighborhood with their puppy.

Feel summer showers
fall cool on our toes,
before running off
to wherever rain goes.

Chase after leaves
floating down from the trees.
They're dancing in circles
like lost bumblebees.

37. Deal Breaker - Harlan Coben

#1 in the Myron Bolitar series
for: adults
paper, 1995
343 pages
Rating: 5

New Jersey/NYC
Funny, clever protagonist with interesting sidekicks
Moves rapidly along
Edgy
Good stuff....

Another series to consume! A good one, can't wait to read the next title. Myron Bolitar is early 30's, lives in the basement of his parent's house, is a sports agent but used to be a lawyer/mysterious government agent of some sort, has an....interesting....best friend and sidekick, and seems to be a one-woman man. Quick comebacks and quite humorous.

When Bolitar's first superstar, football player Christian Steele, receives an anonymous (porno) magazine with a photo of his long-missing girlfriend, Cathy Culver, inserted into one of the 1-900 ads, Bolitar is on the case! It's helpful that he is intimately involved with the Culver family since his past love is the missing girl's older sister, Jessica. And, of course, Jessica now reappears in his life. Big sigh. And the whole time that he's working on this case he has all sorts of other problems happening with his current clientele that have to be dealt with.

It's fun to get a peak into the professional sports world. This is a fast-paced mystery with lots of twists and turns, great clues, funny reperte, and wonderfully crafted characters. A winner.

MOVIE - Iron Man 2

Can't even compare to Iron Man I
Released May 7, 2010
PG-13 (2:04)
May 25, 2010 at ElCon with Sheila
RT: 74% cag: 42%
Director: Jon Favreau (who also had an acting part)

Robert Downey, Jr., Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson

Big name cast. Lots of action. Boring....and stupid. Nothing compared to Iron Man 1, which I loved. A huge disappointment. Mickey Rourke was great. Those are all the thoughts swirling through my mind at the end of this overly long movie. I couldn't wait to see this sequel, because I loved Iron Man 1. So I was completely let down.

Tony Stark is still rich, still brilliant, and even more cocky than he was previously. Only now he is dying because the implant that's keeping his heart going is poisoning his blood. So he starts taking stupid risks because, hey, he's going to die anyways, right? He makes his buddy Pepper (Paltrow) the CEO of Stark Industries and goofs off until he has a brainstorm and magically creates a previously unknown element that will save him. In the meantime, Mickey Rourke has created an even more powerful "suit", has a grudge against Iron Man, and is on a crusade to bring him down. Then there's a storyline with Samuel Jackson and Scarlett Johanson....well, there are quite a few storylines. You can easily keep up and know what's going one, but....I didn't really care!

And, just like Iron Man 1, after you watch all the credits there's a little peek into what might come next.

I'm glad that since I took two hours of my time to watch this that I saw it on the big screen. I think it'll be lousy on a TV screen - at least on my tiny one. I love Robert Downey. And he (and his gorgeous suits) were wonderful to watch, as usual. So was Mickey Rourke. But the rest.....

Monday, May 17, 2010

36. Year of No Rain - Alice Mead

For: Middle Grades
Dell Yearling/Random House, 2003
130 pgs.
RL 4.5, ages 9-12
Rating: perfect for my 4th grade Africa Unit
Dedication: For the children of South Sudan

It is 1999. Stephen Majok's life is irrevocably changed when his southern Sudan village is attacked, cows and relief food stolen, and most people killed. Stephen had been sent to hide in the woods, and returns to find his mother dead and his older sister gone. No one is left, the food has all been stolen, the rope to the well is gone so water is unavailable, everything seems useless. So Stephen and his two friends set off for Kenya, or at least for somewhere they can find food and shelter.

This is the story of 10-year-old Stephen's journey. Trying to find water, protecting themselves from lions, hiding from trucks and planes that transport soldiers, and even contracting malaria are some of the hazards of this new life. The reader gets a feel for Sudan - its way of life, its landscape, and some customs of the Dinka people. It's somewhat adventurous, and incredibly difficult to imagine. It's real...and it's contemporary. It's happening now, and kids can learn about Africa as well as current events. A tough topic.

Yes the mother dies, but it is not too graphic..."He ducked his head and entered and saw immediately that his mother was there, dead. Keeping his eyes averted, he quickly covered her with a straw mat."

I think Alice Mead did a good job.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

35. The Song of the Whales - Uri Orlev

translated from Hebrew by Hillel Halkin
Houghton Mifflin, 2010
108 pgs.
Rating: I'm afraid I didn't like it at all

Michael's parents move from America to Israel because Michael's grandfather, who lives there, is getting old, and the parents don't want him to give his estate away to his housekeeper/"kept woman." They buy a big house in Jerusalem, and Michael goes - on his own - to visit his grandfather, who he feels close to.

Michael has no friends. He'd rather create and pretend, and he's never had friends. He isn't close to his parents, who don't seem to have much interest in him, either, to tell the truth. Madame Saupier, the housekeeper, doesn't like children because she was never able to have any of her own, and she forces Michael to be clean, clean, clean.

When Grandfather begins to ail, he and Madame Saupier come to live at Michael's house. Imagine, they have four bedrooms, how convenient. And Michael (who has become Mikha'el in Israel), slips into bed with his grandfather now and again. And now the really weird part - they share grandfather's dreams. This is a gift that he has apparently had, and it has passed on to Michael.

The dreams are bizarre (as dreams usually are), sometimes scary, and boring to read. The story jumps here there and everywhere, never really sticking to a storyline or finishing out an idea that was about to blossom. Sometimes it was even hard to tell what was real and what was a dream. And.....I didn't care. I was just happy to be finished.

I can't imagine a kid liking this book.

MOVIE - Letters to Juliet

A sweet, feel good, predictable love story
Released 5-14-10
PG
5-15-10 at El Con, by myself, on its opening weekend
RT: 44% cag: 76%
Director: Gary Winick

Vanessa Redgrave, Amanda Seyfried

I've never been a big Vanessa Redgrave fan. Perhaps it's because I've never seen her in many movies, but she is one classy actress. And the young protagonist, Amanda Seyfried, was smiley and sweet and bubbly and and cute-as-a-button and a dreamer. So yes, this was a soapy, sappy movie, but the kind you need once in awhile to feel good, to enjoy the scenery, and to know exactly what's going to happen all the way through. You leave the theater with a little smile on your face.

The opening credits are pretty cool. We see painting after painting of couples kissing. Tender, sweet lovers. I totally enjoyed the art show.

Sophie and her fiance, Victor, leave for a "pre-honeymoon" to Verona, Italy. He is a chef, about to open a fancy Italian restaurant in Manhattan, she is a researcher for New Yorker magazine, and a wannabe writer. When they get to this incredibly romantic place, he spends all his time on the phone, then spending days on the road to attend a wine auction here, get a cooking lesson there, and tour a cheese-making venue somewhere else. So Sopie is on her own.

She unwittingly meets a group of volunteer women who answer lovelorn letters that are left daily on the wall under Juliet's (of Romeo and Juliet fame) balcony. She unloosens a brick and finds a 50 year old letter written my Englishwoman, Claire, (Redgrave) telling how she abandoned the love-of-her-life because of nerves. This is all in the previews, so I'm giving nothing away. Well, the expected happens....after Claire writes back (as Juliet), Claire and her cutesy grandson come to Verona immediately to try to find the 50-years-lost Lorenzo Bartellini. Charles is totally agains it, and the relationship he has with Sophie at first is extremely strained. Yadeeyadeeya.

The scenery is beautiful. Italy - Tuscany - is gorgeous. The streets are pristine, everyone is nice to each other, there's no traffic anywhere, but the ending is one of those stupid ones that I hate. It celebrates older people loving each other, holding hands, still having passion. And this is a very cool thing. (Made me a little sad and jealous, as usual, but I'm getting used to it.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

34. The Opposite of Invisible - Liz Gallagher

Audio read by Lara Hirner
Random House Audio Listening Library, 2009
3 unabridged cds
3 hrs. 31 minutes
160 pgs.
Rating: 3.5

At first I was horrified at some of the decisions that Alice made, then I realized they were the same exact kinds of decisions I would have made when I was 15 -and it's probably an awful lot like kids are feeling today......so I liked it a lot better...because it's probably pretty darn close to reality. To fall under a guy's spell for the first time, to want to be pretty and popular, to enjoy kissing, to realize almost too late to slow down.

Alice and Jewel have been best friends for years, Jewel's a boy, and artist, a free spirit, and they tell each other everything. They need no one else, so choose to become "invisible," just the way they like it. But when Alice gets a crush on the jock-y Simon, pulls her hoodie down and shows how cute she is, it puts a wall between her and Jewel and builds a chasm between them. You really do wonder all the way through if Alice will end up with Simon or Jewel, Simon or Jewel, Simon or Jewel. The time spent riding in the car back and forth to school for a week passed quite quickly.

Friday, May 14, 2010

MOVIE - City Island

A new favorite
Released 3-10-10
PG-13 (1:43)
5/13/10 at El con with Laraine
RT: 84% cag: 95%
Director: Raymond de Felitta

Andy Garcia, Julianna Marguilies, Steven Strait

This is the best movie I've seen since Sunshine Cleaning, which I adored. El Con movie theater is a mainstream movie theater that uses one of its 20 theaters for movies with less buzz...or something like that....because it's the only place those movies play in town. And then it had Andy Garcia and Julianna Marguilies that drew me even more. Sooooo entertaining. Soooo funny. Such great acting.

Andy Garcia plays Vince Rizzo, a corrections officer in a prison near New York City. He lives on an island off the Bronx. A real place, I'd never heard of it. He has a quirky, funny family that is in a bit of a crisis....he and his wife (Marguiles) are keeping secrets from each other, the college daughter is also keeping major secrets from her parents, and the high school son has an obsession that's just a riot. If I tell any of the particulars it will ruin the story, because it's watching these secrets unfold that make it so entrancing. The major secret is the glue that binds the entire movie, and that is a young man who is incarcerated at the prison where Rizzo works. So good, so good, so good! (and so is the acting. Ezra Miller, the young man who plays the son, is just TERRIFIC, sweet and funny, and Steven Strait, the young "hoodlum" is fantastic...and soooo great to look at!

In one scene, Garcia and Emily Watson (another lead) are traveling in a tram above the city. I've got to look this up. I love New York. I've researched it, I've adventured all over. But a tram? That's a new one for me!
I'd go to this one again tonight. Hmmmm. Maybe I will!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I Don't) - Barbara Bottner

Illustrated by Michael Emberley
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
$17.99
24 pages
Rating: 4
Endpapers - Vertical 3/4" plum and green stripes

Miss Brooks is a librarian that will do anything in her power to interest kids in books. She particularly loves to dress up as the characters when she introduces one. The protagonist, an unnamed first grade girls, just doesn't understand it. She certainly can't find any books that she loves like Miss Brooks does!

And then, horror or horrors, during "book week," the girls had to dress up and share her favorite story. She's fit-to-be-tied. There's no favorite story to dress up as. She reads and reads -- and then reads some more. And then she finds it! A book she loves! She can dress as a "stubborn, smelly, snorty ogre" --- Shrek! Yay!

The illustrations are terrific. the two protagonists are funky and fun. Miss Brooks has a Ms. Frizzle craziness to her and our protagonist's messy hair protrucing from her striped knit hat and her specs are adorable.

The pages are almost too glossy and seem to have a musty, moldy smell to them. Sort of unpleasant, like it's the survivor of a flood....and it's brand new, still in the store!

Otherwise, cool book.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top 100 Children's Novel Poll

I've been seeing this meme on a lot of blogs for over a month now, so thought I should include it here....because if I ever want to find it again, it'll take me forever. So I'll put it here. It's a pretty decent, interesting list. To see more about how it came about, SLJ's Fuse #8 Productions blog. How many of these books have you read? I'm going to be really honest here, the red ones I've read, the green ones I've started but didn't finish (and I do love being colorful!)

1. Charlotte's Web
2. A Wrinkle in Time
3. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
6. Holes
7. The Giver
8. The Secret Garden
9. Anne of Green Gables (didn't read but love the movies)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth
11. The Westing Game
12. The Hobbit
13. Bridge to Terabithia
14. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
15. Because of Winn-Dixie
16. Harriet the Spy
17. Maniac Magee
18. Matilda
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
20. Tuck Everlasting
21. The Lightning Thief
22. The Tale of Despereaux
23. Little House in the Big Woods
24. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
25. Little Women
26. Hatchet
27. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
28. A Little Princess
29. The Dark Is Rising
30. Winnie-the-Pooh
31. Half Magic
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
33. James and the Giant Peach
34. The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963
35. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
36. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
38. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
39. When You Reach Me
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond
42. Little House on the Prairie
43. Ramona the Pest
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
45. The Golden Compass
46. Where the Red Fern Grows
47. Bud, Not Buddy
48. The Penderwicks
49. Frindle
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins
51. The Saturdays
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
53. The Wind in the Willows
54. The BFG
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins
56. Number the Stars
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
59. Inkheart
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
61. Stargirl
62. The Secret of the Old Clock
63. Gone-Away Lake
64. A Long Way from Chicago
65. Ballet Shoes
66. Henry Huggins
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
68. Walk Two Moons
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society
70. Betsy-Tacy
71. The Bad Beginning
72. My Father's Dragon
73. My Side of the Mountain
74. The Borrowers
75. Love That Dog
76. Out of the Dust
77. The City of Ember
78. Johnny Tremain
79. All-of-a-Kind Family
80. The Graveyard Book
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
82. The Book of Three
83. The Thief
84. The Little White Horse (oh my, I don't think I know this book!)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek (I've STOOD IN the banks of Plum Creek...)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
87. The View from Saturday
88. The High King
89. Ramona and Her Father
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall
91. Sideways Stories from the Wayside School
92. Ella Enchanted
93. Caddie Woodlawn
94. Swallows and Amazons
95. Pippi Longstocking
96. The Witches
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
98. Children of Green Knowe
99. The Indian in the Cupboard
100. The Egypt Game

I've read 52 - some more than a half dozen times. Some I loved. A few I didn't. I've started 9, but was apparently not engaged enough to continue.

Maybe Anne of Green Gables this summer? And Sideways Stories from the Wayside School, Mysterious Benedict Society, and The Book of Three? Oh, yeah, Island of the Blue Dolphins, too, which I've read parts of and know the story inside out and backwards, but have never read all the way through. And maybe it's long past due to reread the much-loved (by ME, as a kid) The Saturdays and Gone-Away Lake. Ooo, speaking of much-loved, how about The Lemonade Trick by Scott Corbett? Wonder if that's out of print...... hmmm there goes my mind, spinnin' away once again.....

33. Mockingbird - Kathryn Erskine

Philomel Books, 2010
$15.99
for: Middle Grades
235 pgs.
Rating: 5 - I loved it.

I had no clue that this would get to me so. A beautifully crafted, haunting book. I've had a few hours to digest this, and I can't get the idea of the father out of my head. Imagine losing your wife to cancer when your kids are really young. Discoveing your daughter has Asperger's Syndrome. And then losing your 8th grade son when he is killed in a school shooting. I'd cry all the time, too.

This story is told from the point-of-view of ten year old Caitlin, who has Aspergers. I've heard it called both Syndrome and Disorder. It's a form of autism. Usually kids have a difficult time communicating with others, are very, very concrete, dislike eye contact and physical touch, and become obsessed with subjects. Usually considered eccentric. Caitlin certainly has all these difficulties. But she has a particularly caring teacher who helps guide her through the fifith grade. Her brother, Devon, used to be the one who taught her all the social rules so that she wouldn't be so "weird." She still remembers all his lessons.

But now Devon's gone. Her father is terrifically grief-stricken and Caitllin, who loves (and understands) words and her dictionary, feels she must find "closure." She becomes obsessed with that idea. At the same time her teacher is trying to teach her about friends - what they are and how to be one. She befriends first grade Michael, who she recognizes from her brother's memorial service. Lo and behold, his mother, a teacher, was one of the three killed. But it is her idea to finish her brother's Eagel Scout project - designing and building a beautiful wooden chest - that starts the healing process.

Erskine uses italics to show dialogue, not quotation marks. I rather liked it.

Woven throughout the book is the story of To Kill a Mockingbird. This family is the 21st century Scout, Jem, and Atticus. This book is a treasure.

Here are some interesting blog reviews about Mockingbird:

Bibliochic (a "future teen librarian))
Six Boxes of Books (three 30-something sisters)
Reading Nook (another teen blogger....love 'em!)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

32. Fat Cat - Robin Brande

Alfred A. Knopf, 2009
$16.99
329 pages
for: Young Adults
Rating: 4+

I loved this story, didn't want it to end. Disregard the fact that Cat, the protagonist, was a super-woman who could cram 25 hours of working into a 24 hour day, and you'd have a perfect story.

From the time Cat was eight, her best friend had been Matt McKinney. They did everything together - both were bright and very science-oriented. But after Cat win's first place in the science fair in 7th grade, she overhears Matt saying something horribly unkind about her and it crushes her to the core. For years.

We begin this story on the first day of school four years later. Both Cat and Matt are in the same small science class, a tough class, where the students spend the entire year working on a secret science fair project that will be unveiled after just over 200 days. They have to randomly choose a picture from many that Mr. Fizer has collected and build their project around it. When Cat pulls the picture of four naked early humans gathered around prey, she is totally stumped. But there's an ah-ha moment. She figures out what to do.

As Cat hit puberty she'd gained more and more weight. She loved to eat, and much of her intake was junk food, candy, and Diet Soda. Her skin was a mess and her self-esteem was low low low. Her best friend Amanda was gorgeous, smart, and everything a best friend should be -- and more, actually. She stood behind Cat with humor and love no matter what happened. Cat was frequently the third wheel to Amanda and her boyfriend, Jordan's "dates."

For Cat's project, she uses herself as a guinea pig to replicate as much as she can the eating and technologies that the early humans in her picture might have had. She begins cooking organically, it eventually becomes a vegetarian diet. She juggles AP classes, a parttime job, cooking for her family four nights a week, walking an hour each way to school each day, then dating, daily swimming, and helping run a cafe, all while working on her project. Even if this all seems very unlikely, it's a fun story to watch unfold. Yes, predictable. But very cute. And interesting. Her skin clears up. Her weight plummets. She becomes quite good looking. All of this helps keep the story going.

I particularly liked the growing relationship between Cat and her 11 year old brother, Peter. And Cat's reactions to the three young love interests that enter her life this year are really interesting as well.

Arizona is mentioned briefly. Therefore, I made the setting Tucson in my head and really had a visual of all the walking, the malls, and even the zoo. I can't find any information about where Robin Brande resides, so I'm thinking somewhere in southern Arizona.

Lincoln Tells a Joke - Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer

How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country)
Illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Harcourt Children's Books, 2010
$17.00
32 pages
Endpapers: wide red and blue spatter stripes with small white stars sprinkled on

I love Kathleen Krull's voice. She writes biographies for kids with really neat information and interesting point-of-view. She is joined by her husband for this biography.

I've never heard of Abraham Lincoln's love of jokes and laughter. This engaging story details his love of words as it tells of his many successes and even more failures. The way Krull depicts the man makes him seem real. Flesh and blood, complete with bad hair days.

Included are many quotes and many insights into Lincoln's personality and life.

"You may fool all the the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time." I didn't know that came from Lincoln! How about, "Better to remain silent and be though a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." ! ! !

This is a wonderful short telling of Abraham Lincoln's life. The laughter and joking references are terrific, but so are the facts about our 16th president that make the man who he was. Interesting. Well written. Great information.

(The illustrations are okay, but it's the words that carry this book.)

Sitting Duck - Jackie Urbanovic

Harper, 2010
"ages 4-7"
32 pages.
$17.99
A strong 4.
Endpapers: Purple background with various "snapshots" of characters

Apparently this is Jackie Urbanovic's fourth story about Max the duck. It's adorable!

Max, the duck, and Brody, the dog, babysit for Anabel, Brady's niece. It is not an easy job. And when Brody falls asleep and Anabel and Max go outside, the antics really begin! It starts with a trampoline and ends with Anabel getting rescued from the tree where she gets entangled.

The illustrations are joyful...colorful...expressive. A really cute book.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

31. The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta

Audio read by Campbell Scott (who was terrific...)
Audio Renaissance Audiobook/St. Martin's Press, 2007
9 unabridged cds
10.5 hrs.
368 pgs.
Rating: 3.5

This story is told first by Ruth Ramsey, a divorced mother of two girls who teaches sex ed to 9th graders at the local high school. An evangelical church has come into town, and the school board has decided to implement an abstinence curriculum that Ruth must now teach. She's not at all happy about this, she wants to tell kids the truth without sugar-coating or outright lying.

The story is then taken over by Tim Mason, Ruth's fifth-grade daughter's soccer coach and born-again Christian. He lost his wife and his life by overdoing drugs and drinking and has been "saved" by Pastor Tim of the evangelical church, coerced into marrying a young Christian believer, and tries to do what the church tells him is "right", even though it seems to go against his deepest wants.

Then the story starts going back and forth as the two meet and are oddly drawn to each other. After a particularly exciting soccer game he gathers the girls and spontaneously leads them in prayer, which incites Ruth as well as Tim's ex-wife. At the same time, Ruth's two girls decide they want to attend church. It's roly-poly upside-down stuff, but works. I did a lot of eye-rolling, I must say, but couldn't wait to see the outcome.

The outcome. Okay. It was disappointing. Perotta disappointed me there. The story built, and built, and built some more, then BOOM....it ended. Yuck. But I totally enjoyed the first 8 discs. The ride to school flew by, and I sat outside as long as I could before going in so I could listen just a little more....

30. The Van Alen Legacy - Melissa de la Cruz

#4 Blue Bloods series
(after Blue Bloods, Masquerade, and Revelations)
Disney/Hyperion, 2009
$16.99
Young Adult
369 pages
(the cover is misleading - I thought it was Schuyler, but it's Mimi)

This fourth installment has its highs and lows, goods and bads, just as the previous threee did. This one is told in short chapters from three points-of-view - Schuyler, Bliss, and Mimi. Mimi has become softer, more likeable, some of the snooty hard edges are gone. They start to reappear at the end, and I think that's a good thing.

Spoilers to follow:
A year has passed since the end of Revelations. Many are not what they appear to be, souls are hiding within other bodies - Lucifer, who is also Bliss' father, is hiding within her. But she's trying to outwit him when he "leaves" her. Schuyler is running from the coven because they do not believe she had nothing to do with her grandfather, Lawrence's death. She and Oliver spend three or four days in a different city in the world before taking off to another. Mimi and Jack have each joined a different Venator team - and she is falling for the handsome Silver-Blood-now-on-the-Blue-Blood's-side Kingsley Martin. Schuyler is still pining for Jack but cannot leave Ollie. And poor Bliss...she's one messed up young lady with so many dark souls lurking inside her.

A good question: When every important person in NYC goes to St. John the Divine for the "bonding" of Mimi and Jack...who are BROTHER and SISTER in the eyes of the Red Bloods.....and she's in an unbelievable wedding gown, so this is apparently a fancy wedding....what does the rest of the Red Blood world think? This is never explained, although de la Cruz tries to explain how things appear to Red Bloods in other places throughout the series. Maybe I missed it.

A fast read with some good adventure in middle. It will be interesting what twists and turns de la Cruz inserts into the next installment.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Brothers Kennedy - Kathleen Krull

Illustrated by Amy June Bates
S & S Books for Young Readers, 2010
$16.99,
for: grades 1-5
40 pages
Rating: 5
Endpapers: Royal blue

My kind of book. I love good picture book biographies - and this one is wonderful - a heart-tugger, actually.

Joe -- John -- Robert -- Edward -- the four boys in the powerful Massachusetts Kennedy family. This book is all about how they fit together, felt about each other, what their passions and beliefs were, and how they died. Their stories are woven beautifully to really present them as brothers. Brothers who teased and supported each other through everything. It's hard to believe they're all gone now.

Amy June Bates superbly illustrated this book. There's one absolutely tremendous illustration - the full-two-page spread of Robert and Edward on the dunes by the sea. The only words are, "And then there were two brothers."

There are two full pages at the end of "further information," then a timeline and sources list. Excellent history - interesting, not-at-all boring....real. Informative. A good read.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

MOVIE - She's Out of My League

Very funny and really quite sweet
Released 3-12-10
R (1:44)
5-5-10 at Crossroads, alone in the theater....
RT: 54% cag 84% (total entertainment)
Director: Jim Field Smith

I've been on a streak of watching silly comedies, but this one had more to it than just 'silly'. Well, the ending had some stupid sillniess in it (why do so many movies save this for the end), but I laughed loudly in many places. I was alone in the theater - I believe this is the first time ever that happened - and just laughed away. Guffawed in places. This is a sweet - though not quite believable - love story of a geek and a gorgeous, suave, unpretentious hottie. Jay Barachel plays Kirk, a really nice guy who works as a TSA in the Pittsburgh Airport. He has three best friends who give him varied advice. Alice Eve plays Molly, whose acerbic best friend (and her relationship with Kirk's friend Stainer) is more than a hoot. Kirk's family situation is ridiculous, but also very, very humorous. Other than the ending at the airport (you know what I mean....the climax between the two star-crossed lovers is watched by half the world), this story is sweet, funny, and really quite cleverly tied together.

It was a perfect movie to completely "take me away."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

29. Now You See Her - Cecelia Tishy

Regina Cutter series #1
for: adults
Mysterious Press/Time Warner, 2005
288 pages
3/5

Cecelia Tishy wrote a series of books about Kate Banning, then started in on this series about Regina Cutter. She published this in 2005, then All in One Piece in 2006, but I see nothing from her since. She doesn't seem to have a website and I find no information on her other than her books. A mystery!

Regina Cutter lives in Boston, is recently divorced after many years, has some minor psychic powers, and is trying to follow in her deceased aunt's clairvoyant/do-gooder/interesting friends footsteps. I love the Back Bay and Boston setting. Every character is a little off-the-wall, over-the-top (or it was the mood I was in while reading?), so much of the story seemed inplausible. Lots of coincidences. The Boston police must be pretty stupid if they couldn't figure out what she did, and she took a lot of chances in the middle of the night, which I can't imagine anyone in her position taking. A bit unbelievable.....but not enough to make me put the book aside.

Regina "Reggie" Cutter shares her inherited dog with a Harley-riding softee and is "helping" a Boston police detective by trying to use her (limited) psychic powers to free a wrongly accused black man who has been imprisoned for 13 years. She and that little dog are all over the city, either walking or driving her Beetle. She sticks her nose in everywhere, meets a variety of people by unbelievable coincidence, and gathers amazing clues by brashly being at the right place at the right time with the right excuses. She's one very lucky woman to come out of the whole mess with only a sprained ankle. Crooked politicians, nasty murders, disposing of chemical wastes illegally, your usual assortment of bad guys....and there you have it. The best "character" in the story was Boston itself!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Spanish Missions of Arizona - Robin Lyon

Children's Press/Scholastic, 2010
Content Consultant: Kristina W. Foss, museum director, Santa Barbara Mission Museum
48 pgs., Library Binding

On the cover, Missin San Xavier del Bac, just south of Tucson. The White Dove of the Desert. I wrote poems about this place with my fifth graders in Maine. Now I live here, and the missions of California and the southwest fascinate me. The idea that a group of people would come into a place so foreign to them to convert non-believers to their beliefs....well.....

This is reasonable-to-read nonfiction for kids. Informative interesting history, telling of the twenty plus missions in Arizona, most no longer standing, and the few that are -- Tumacacori, Xan Xavier. Many photos, a few painting depicting times of the past, names and dates and pronunciations of some of the hard-to-pronounce words -

Good book. Kid-readable. Pefect for 4th grade Arizona history studies and kids who are fascinated with history - I'm finding lots of those!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Water Hole Waiting - Jane Kurtz & Christopher Kurtz

Illustrated by Lee Christiansen
Greenwillow Books, 2002
$15.95 then, $17.99 now
32 pages
For: pre K - 4th grade
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Yellow

Lots and lots and even more lots to say about his book. The story, the writing, the illustrations, are all wonderful. There is only one teeny-tiny weakness for me, and I bet if I read it a fourth and fifth time that won't appear a weakness anymore. More on that in a minute.

The story: Monkeys (apparently they are vervet monkeys) wait at a water hole as many animals who live with them in the East African savannah approach for their own drinks. We see hippos, zebras, a crocodile, a lion, elephants, and even a giraffe take their turns soothing their thirst.

Figurative language: Wow. Lots. And lots. And lots more:
Personification:
"morning slinks onto the savannah"
"the silence pokes monkey's ear"
"the sun cartwheels slowly up the sky"
"sun climbs the sky like an acrobat" (throw in a simile!)
"sun bristles, bright and round"
"sun somersaults down the sky"
"evening slinks across the savannah"
"evening sighs"

Alliteration here and there:
"heat sizzles the savannah, heavy on the monkey fur."

Metaphor:
talking about a crocodile: "the log sinks back and waits"

Snazzy words, including great verbs:
slinks, plops, grunts, foraging, nibble, prance, parched, splay...

The illustrations: Lovely. Just lovely. We are taken to the savannah. There's no white at all, just lovely scenery completely covering the page. Love it.

My only negative view: the rhyming here and there is a bit to haphazard for me. Almost like it's thrown in, and in places forced into rhyming when it's not really a rhyme. Oh well. The rest of the book certainly makes up for it. Give me more of these Kurtz siblings and Mr. Christiansen's artwork!

On a Road in Africa - Kim Doner

Tricycle Press, 2008
$15.95
A portion of the proceeds go directly to the animal orpahange
40 pages
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Illustration of the road in Africa with a rhino, a tree with a sisal bag full of pineapple hanging on it, and many Kenyan words

This particular road in Africa is in Kenya. The line "on a road in Africa, on a road in Africa" is repeated frequently. This would be like saying, "on a road in Europe" or "on a road in Asia." Would we not say "on a road in the Netherlands" or "on a road in Japan" instead? I do wish it would have been "On a road in Kenya, on a road in Kenya." Oh well.

The story is about a woman who runs an animal orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. She has many volunteers and apparently hits the road frequently to gather supplies for her orphans. Sometimes they are donated, sometimes they are given inexpensively. It looks to be long, hard work. The orphans are lions and cheetahs, warthogs and buffalo, monkeys and mongoose.....

Based on the true story of Chryssee Perry Martin, who has lived in Kenya for over thirty years, we get a wonderful glimpse at the road around and about Nairobi (which is Kenya's capital). It is diverse, and the author's illustrations are colorful, fill the page from edge to edge, and show lots of information. The illustrations are the strong suit of this book. The last four pages contain information and photographs of the "real" Mama O, Ms. Martin.

I read the book through once and had very little idea of what was really happening. Then I read the book flap and the afterward/s. When I then reread the book, I understood what the author was doing. If I were to read this aloud, especially to my class, I would prepare the kids for what was to come, giving information and details so they'd understand the verse of the story. As I reading teacher I know how important prior knowledge is, and that's what this story lacks.

"Baskets empty on the seat
Must be filled with things to eat.
Colored sisal, rought to feel,
Woven tightly, holds a meal.
On a road in Africa,
On a road in Africa.
Where you gonna go, Mama O, Mama O?
Where you gonna go, Mama O?"

Without prior knowledge, all you say is, "what the heck is this Mama O business? Read the flap and the afterward/s first.

The Hallelujah Flight - Phil Bildner

Illustrated by John Holyfield
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010
$16.99
32 pgs.
Rating: 5
Endpapers: brown & white US map with route and stops between LA and NYC

Using wonderful words that tell a terrific story - based on a real event - Phil Bildner recreates a 1932 transcontinental flight piloted by James Banning and told by his co-pilot, Thomas Allen. We see joy and excitement, danger and prejudice, but most of all, never-ending spirit and good will. This is a wonderful story that urges us to learn more about James Banning.

And then there are the illustrations. They, too, show all the emotion and detail of the story. They make the journey complete.

What a perfect book - cleverly written and joyfully illustrated with an exciting, super-interesting, adventurous, real-life story!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Shark vs. Train - Chris Barton

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Little, Brown & Co., 2010
$16.99
Rating: 5
32 pages
Endpapers: Lt. blue with 2 x 3ish toybox in the center

Okay -- this one looked stupid, but wasn't. Not at all. It's fun. It's clever. It'll have kids using great higher-order thinking skills like comparing and contrasting. Their synapses will be snapping and their imaginations will be running wild.

The book begins (and ends) with two boys looking for toys to play with, rummaging around in a toybox. It turns into a competition between the two toys they choose, a shark and a train that is comprised of an engine, four cars, and a caboose. Which will do best in a hot air balloon? Which will be best at roasting marshmallows? Who's taller when it comes to shooting baskets, or who will attract more riders at a carnival? Let the competition begin!

Note: The poor shark seems to have a more....evil....look than the more laid-back, nervous train. Such facial expressions on each! There's lot to examine in every picture.

Simple, bold, clear font. Some of the pictures use "talk clouds" to add a small bit of dialogue.

Yes, this is a good one.

Here's Chris Barton's page with all sorts of reviews from his book.

BIOGRAPHIES

There have been some wonderful picture book biographies written in the past few years. What a great way to introduce real people who have made an impact on our history/herstory to kids...there's nothing like a read aloud with great illustrations, right?

Aaron, Henry (baseball)
Henry Aaron's Dream (Tavares) 2010

Baker, Alia Muhammad (librarian in Iraq)
Alia's Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq (Stamaty) 2004 graphic novel

Ball, Lucille (televesion actress & comedian)
I am Lucille Ball (Meltzer) 2015

Barton, Clara (founder of the American Red Cross)
Clara and Davie (Polacco) 2014

Brown, John (of Harper's Ferry fame)
John Brown: His Fight for Freedom (Hendrix) 2009

Brunelleschi, Filippo (1400's Florence, Italy architect)
Pippo the Fool (Fern/Estrada) 2009 (48 pgs.)

Clinton Family
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dreams Taking Flight (Krull/Bates) 2008

Darwin, Charles (scientist: evolution)
One Beetle Too Many, The Extraordinary Adventure of Charles Darwin (Lasky/Trueman) 2009
What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World (Schanzer) 2009 (48 pgs.)

Degas, Edgar (Artist)
What Degas Saw (Friedman/Pieropan) 2016 - more about his artistic process than his life

Dickinson, Emily (poet)
My Uncle Emily (Yolen/Carpenter) 2009

Einstein, Albert (scientist)
Who Was Albert Einstein? (Brallier/Parker) 2002 (106 pgs.)

Emerson, Ralph Waldo (philosophical writer)
A Home for Mr. Emerson (Kerley/Fotheringham) 2014 48 pgs.

Erdos, Paul (mathematician)
The Boy Who Loved Mathematics (Heiligman/Pham) 2013 (40 pgs.)

Fawcett, Colonel Percy (mapmaker, explorer, adventurer)
The Quest for Z: The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon (Pizzoli) 2017, 40 pgs.

Gaudi, Antoni (famous Barcelona, Spain architect)
Building on Nature (Rodriguez/Paschkis) 2009

Geisel, Ted (Dr. Seuss) (writer/illustrator)
The Boy on Fairfield Street (Krull/Johnson & Fanchu) 2004

Gillespie, Dizzy
Dizzy (Winter/Quals) 2006

Greenwood, Chester (earmuffs/Maine)
Earmuffs for Everyone (McCarthy) 2015

Hemings, James Madison (son of Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings)
My Name is James Madison Hemings (Winter/Widener) 2016

Kahlo, Frida (artist)
Frida Kahlo (Klein) 2007
Frida Kahlo: Artists in Their Time Series, 2003 (48 pgs)
Frida Kahlo: Painting Her Life (Guzman & Guzman) 2006
Frida: Viva la Vida! Long Live Life! (Bernier-Grand) 2007

Kandinsky, Vasily (artist)
The Noisy Paintbox (Rosenstock/Grandpre) 2014

Kennedy Family
The Brothers Kennedy (Krull/Bates) 2010

Lange, Dorothea
Dorothea's Eyes (Rosenstock/DuBois) 2016

Lazarus, Emma
Emma's Poem, The Voice of the Statue of Liberty (Glaser/Nivola) 2010

Leavitt, Henrietta
Lookup! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Pioneer (Burleigh/Colon) 2013

Lewis, Edna (Af-Am chef)
Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie (Gourley) 200

Lincoln, Abraham
Abraham Lincoln Comes Home (Burleigh/Minor) 2008
Lincoln Tells a Joke (Krull & Brewer/Innerst) 2010

Maathai, Wangari (Kenyan environmentalist)
Planting the Trees of Kenya (Nivola) 2008
Wangari's Trees of Peace (Winter) 2008

Mandela, Nelson (South African Peace Activist and President)
Nelson Mandela (Nelson) 2013

Martin, Chryssee Perry (Kenyan animal activist/animal orphanage)
On a Road in Africa, 2008

Matisse, Henri (artist)
Colorful Dreamer, The Story of Henri Matisse (Parker/Berry) 2012

McNair, Ron (astronaut)
Ron's Big Mission (Naden/Tate) 2009 Fictionalized, based on truth

Moore, Anne Carroll (First Children's Librarian)
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children (Pinborough/Atwell)

Newport, Christopher (Captained the three ships that went to Jamestown)
Christopher Newport, Jamestown Explorer (Solomon/Bridy)

Obama family
First Family (Hopkinson) 2010

O'Keeffe, Georgia (artist)
Georgia Rises: A Day in the Life of Georgia O'Keeffe (Lasky/Eitan)

Paige, Satchel (baseball)
Satchel Paige, Striking Out Jim Crow (Sturm/Tommaso) 2007 graphic novel (96 pgs.)

Parks, Rosa (Civil Rights Movement)
I am Rosa Parks (Meltzer/Eleopoulis) 2014

Robinson, Jackie (baseball)
Testing the Ice, A True Story about Jackie Robinson (Robinson/Nelson) 2009 (A memoir by his daughter)

Roget, Peter
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (Bryant/Sweet) 2014

Roosevelt, Alice
What to Do About Alice? (Kerley/Fotheringham) 2008

Rousseau, Henri (artist)
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (Dobbins/Sims) 2012

Siegel, Jerry & Joe Shuster
Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman (Nobleman/MacDonald) 2008

Sotomayor, Sonia (Supreme Court Judge)
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx (Winter/Rodriguez) 2009

Steiner, Gertrude (women's lib)
Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude (Winter/Brown) 2009

Switzer, Bob & Joe (inventors of Day-Glo paint)
The Day-Glo Brothers, The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors (Barton/Persiani) 2009

Tutu, Archbishop Desmond (South Africa)
Desmond and the Very Mean Word (Tutu/Ford) 2013

Wagner, Honus (Baseball - Turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh Pirates)
All Star! Honus Wagner and the Most Famous Baseball Card Ever (Yolen/Burke) 2010

Warhol, Andy (artist)
Uncle Andy's Cats (Warhola) 2009 (a memoir by his nephew)

Warren, Mercy Otis (writer, political, early women's rights)
Write On, Mercy! (Woelfle/Wallner) 2012

Webster, Noah (creator of the dictionary/writer)
Noah Webster & His Words (Ferris/Kirsch) 2012

Wiesenthal, Simon
The Anne Frank Case: Simon Wiesenthal's Search for the Truth (Rubin/Farnsworth) 2009 (40 pgs.)

Williams, William Carlos (American poet)
A River of Words: the Story of William Carlos Williams (Bryant/Sweet) 2008

Memoir or Written as a Memoir

Crow Call (Lowry/Ibatoulline) 2009
Hallelujah Flight, The (Bildner/Holyfield) 2010 (about James Banning, aviator)
How I Learned Geography (Shulevitz) 2008
Ma Dear's Old Green House (Patrick/Sadler) 2004
Rocks in His Head (Hurst/Stevenson) 2001
Willie and May, A Christmas Story (Schachner) 1995
The Yankee at the Seder (Weber/Gustavson) 2009

Anthologies

Amelia to Zora, Twenty-six Women Who Changed the World (Chin-Lee/Haley & Addy) 2005
Americans Who Tell the Truth (Shetterly) 2005 - 50 Americans who made/make a difference
Pass It Down (Marcus) 2007 Five picture book families: Crews & Jonas, Hurd, Myers, Pinkney, and Rockwell

Who Will Plant a Tree? Jerry Pallotta

Illustrated by Tom Leonard
Sleeping Bear Press, 2010
$15.95
32 pgs.
Rating: 3.5 ('cause I'm an info-freak and want a little more)
Endpapers: white (!)

This is a beautifully illustrated simple telling of the many different ways that trees get "planted" -- mostly naturally, by animals. Squirrels with acorns, bears and geese, dolphins and horses, beavers and monkeys, moose and ants, owls and pacu fish in the Amazon River, and camels and wrens. It ends with....kids (not the goat-type).

I wish there were a bit of information about germination, or the wind - but kids could take the book and add their own researched info as an afterword or author's-type note.

Tom Leonard's edge-of-page to edge-of-page illustrations are really wonderful.

I Can Be Anything - Jerry Spinelli

Illustrated aby Jimmy Liao
Little Brown & Co., 2010
$16.99
16 pgs. - plus the two end pages both fold out
For: anyone, young kids, those who enjoy great rhyme and rhythm...
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Azure

A young boy is laying (lying?) in the grass pondering what he should be when he grown up. Spinelli uses clever rhyming to think of all sorts of "jobs" a boy would love to do....

"paper-plane folder, puppy-dog holder.....

puddle stomper, apple chomper.....

deep-hole digger, lemonade swigger.....

honeysuckle smeller, silly-joke teller....."

I'm reluctant to let me fourth graders include too much rhyming in their poetry writing, because they rarely "make sense." This is a great book to show that you can make silly rhymes, but they have to MAKE SENSE.

The illustrations are glorious! Bright, whimsical, with great expression and lots to think about on each page, they can almost stand alone! Wonderful book.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx - Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009
$16.99
32 pages
Rating: 4.5
For: grades 1-4
Endpapers: Yellow with white flowering vines
Back - author's note

This is a beautifully written picture book biography that introduces our newest supreme court justice to the world. It tells of her roots in poverty in the south Bronx and of the strong, loving mother who did everything in her power to feed, nurture, and educate her children. She instilled in her daughter a passion for learning, for success, to be and do her very best. She got into Princeton. I'm guessing a good part of her life might have been lonely - but she was proud to be Latino and proved that just because she was not a white male she could more-than succeed. Her story is one to be shared with every kid in our country.

Thanks, Johan Winter, for this fascinating peek at Sonia Sotomayor's childhood.

An added plus - the entire book is translated into Spanish on each page. Excellent!

The illustrations are not overpowering, they're gentle pen and ink, then colored, and enhance the story beautifully. I love the picture of her looking out her Princeton dorm window at a cricket in a tree.

Super book.

MOVIE: Date Night

Funnnnny and fun
Released 4-9-10
PG-13 (1:28)
4-28-10 at El Con with Fran, Sheila, Kate
RT: 67% cag: 87%
Director: Shawn Levy

Steven Carrell and Tina Fey have chemistry. I think they adlib half the movie, and it's a riot. They are a married couple with two children, they work hard, live in a NYC suburb in New Jersey, and love each other. They have a boring "date night" each week, where the next-door neighbor babysits and they go out to a movie, then the same restaurant and have the same meal. Well, they decide to spice it up and go into Manhattan to a new, hard-to-get-into restaurant. Needless to say, they can't get in. So when they hear the hostess calling three or four times for a reservation that no one answers, they take it. And that starts the ball rolling.

What happens is, of course, improbable. But....who cares....?? It's fun and moves quickly and very cute. There's a scene that includes James Franco and Mila Kunis that's really terrific....one of the best acted funny scenes I've seen in a long time.

Go see it if you just want to laugh. The acting is great. This was a good one.

MOVIE: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Loved the book, quite liked the movie
Released 2/12/10
PG (2:00)
4/28/10 at Crossroads with Fran
RT: 50 cag: 77
Director: Chris Columbus (I love that 1492 Pictures is his company)

(includes Pierce Brosnan, Catherine Keener, and Uma Thurman among its credits)

Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief has been a huge hit in my classroom for the last few years. The first book in a series of five about a contemporary boy who was fathered by Poseidon, we switch back and forth between a "real" contemporary world and gods and creatures from Greek mythology.

Percy Jackson has known nothing of his paternal side, known nothing other than he struggles in school because of ADHD and dyslexia. Then, one day in his early teens, his life rapidly changes with the entrance of centaurs and Olympic gods and nasty scary creatures who are all out to get him. He is taken to "Camp Half Blood" where his background is explained and he is immediately forced into a quest to find Zeus' lightning bolt, which Zeus thinks Percy stole. Along with his "protector" and a new female half-blood "warrior" like himself, they set off on a trip across America looking for the pearls that will allow them to leave the underworld, which will be their final destination. They have crazy, interesting, and just-a-bit scary adventures along the way.

I really enjoyed it. It was long, but the time passed quickly. My friend, Fran, who had not read the book and does not like fantasy/scary movies was less impressed. She was a good sport, though, and indulged me. Off to another movie tomorrow night!