Sunday, July 28, 2013

24. Hand of Evil - J. A. Jance

#3 Ali Reynolds
audio read by Karen Ziemba
2007 Simon & Schuster Audioworks
9 unabridged discs (10. hrs)
384 pgs.
Murder Mystery
Goodreads Rating:  3.73
My Rating: 1/Didn't like it at all
Setting: Sedona, Arizona
1st sentence/s:

My comments:  I couldn't wait until I'd finished this.  I didn't like the first one at all, either, so I don't know why I keep torturing myself with this series.  Perhaps because of the locale.  So what is it I don't like?  Ali.  Goody-goody Ali.  Her stupid blog. And the writing.  Every tiny detail is explained over and over. And people remember details of information from 40, 50 years previously.  Sure.  Also, so much more could be said about this lovely community and it's totally missing.  Blech! (I guess I really, really want to like these and I keep getting disappointed....)

Goodreads Review:  "When Arabella Ashcroft, a member of the family who gave Ali a generous scholarship for her education decades earlier, suddenly asks her for a meeting, Ali wonders what it can mean. Before she can satisfy her curiosity, though, Ali receives another startling call: a friend's teenage daughter has disappeared. Ali offers to help, but in doing so, she unknowingly begins a quest that will reveal a deadly ring of secrets, at the center of which stand two undiscriminating killers...."

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Boy Who Loved Math - Deborah Heiligman

The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Roaring Brook Press, 2013
Ellsworth Library 
40 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.46
My rating: 5 - Awesome book on many counts
Endpapers: prime numbers on a greeny/brown
Title Page:  Double pages, the same greeny/brown with 4 Erdos-as-a-kid, writing those prime numbers...
Illustrations:  Colorful, fun, the actual NUMBER (8, 1, 2....) incorporated as often as possible.

1st line:  "There once was a boy who loved math.  He grew up to be 1 of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived.  And it all started with a big problem..." 

My reaction:  What an incredibly fascinating person. I'm so glad I've found some picture book biographies that lessen my ... dislike ... of nonfiction, and that someone had the insight to write about Paul Erdos. The books and illustrations complement each other in such a way that it seems like one person might have created a book on her own. And Erdos (AIR-dish) was ultra-interesting. Especially to a math lover (me). Prime numbers, the sieve of Eratosthenes, and my new favorite discovery:(Erdos's, actually), that there is always another prime number between a prime number and its double. Fascinating, interesting, and fun! I will definitely be purchasing this book for my classroom to use both with my author studies AND math.

Goodreads:  "Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it's true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn't learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made "Uncle Paul" a great man."

Colorful Dreamer, The Story of Henri Matisse - Marjorie Blain Parker

Illustrated by Holly Berry
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
HC $16.99
Ellsworth Library
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 3.79
My rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Blue
Title Page:  Cutout letters, paintes, colorful, entire page full of art and information
Illustrations:  Black & white line drawings for the parts of Henri's life without color, color is introduced whenever he is creative or as he discovered it as a young man.  Then, as he became a painter, Berry creates the illustrations using the same sort of techniques that Matisse would have used.  

1st line:   "Years ago a dreamy boy gazed out his bedroom window.  He lived in a dreary village in France.  It was an industrial town -- choked with factories, clanking looms, and smoking chimneys."

My reaction:  Although this is a very simple biography, the writing uses some really beautiful language. The illustrations reflect the text on each page - when there was no color in Matisse's life, the artist draws in black and white, when Matisse was being imaginative she used color, and as he eventually became a painter, investigating different styles, she used those styles to decorate the relevant pages. Another great model for biography writing, and a very nice introduction to a fabulous artist.

Goodreads:  An inspiring portrait of one of the world's most loved artists.  There was once a boy named Henri, whose dreams were full of color even though his hometown was dreary and gray. His parents expected him to learn a trade when he grew up, but being a law clerk bored him, and he continued to dream of a colorful, exciting life, and of being noticed. Then Henri started painting . . . and kept painting and dreaming and working at his craft until he'd become one of the most admired and famous artists in the world.  This lyrical, visually rich picture book is more than an excellent biography; at its core, this remarkable book is an encouragement to never give up on your dreams

Open This Little Book - Jesse Klausmeier

Illustrated by Suzy Lee
Chronicle Books, 2013
HC $16.99
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.27
My rating: 4
Endpapers: Lines of grey teardrop shapes on white
Title Page:  3/4-inch smaller lavender page, with the animals from the upcoming story reading books as they lean on a pile of books.
Illustrations:  Simple.  It's the make-up of the book that's original and clever. Books inside of books inside of books.

1st line:  "Open this...LITTLE RED BOOK (turn page)...and read about Ladybug, who opens a......(smaller page to open)....LITTLE GREEN BOOK (turn page)....and reads about Frog, who opens a.....LITTLE ORANGE BOOK (pages consistently get smaller, then larger as thy'er closed)

My reaction:  Fun and clever.  I do love clever.  Pages, representing books, get smaller and smaller as you turn them.  The only "actual size" pages are the endpapers!  Ashley and Ella both loved it.

Goodreads:  What will you find when you open this little book? A fun story? Sweet characters? Enticing pictures? Yes! But much more. Open this book and you will find...another book...and another...and another. Debut author Jesse Klausmeier and master book creator Suzy Lee have combined their creative visions to craft a seemingly simple book about colors for the very youngest readers, an imaginative exploration of the art of book making for more sophisticated aficionados, and a charming story of friendship and the power of books for all.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs - Mo Willems

Illustrated by Mo Willems
Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins, 2012
HC $17.99
Ellsworth Library
Goodreads rating: 4.20
My rating: 4
Endpapers: X's through other possible titles:  Goldilocks and the Three Hippos, Goldilocks and the Three Cyclops, Goldilocks adn the Three Germans, etc. (all different and very funny)
Title Page: Big block letters, colored in  - left page has a wide-eyed Goldilocks peering around a corner
Illustrations - Simple, clean and clear, no white (color washes instead), humorous

1st line: "Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs:  Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, an some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway."

My comments:  FUNNY!  Clever!  A great "fractured" fairy tale.  Lots of sarcasm and joking.  Ella (6 yrs old) didn't get some of it until I explained it to her, but she understood more and more after that and enjoyed the story immensely.  So did I.

From Goodreads:  One day--for no particular reason--they decided to tidy up their house, make the beds, and prepare pudding of varying temperatures. And then--for no particular reason--they decided to go...someplace else. They were definitely NOT setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl.
Definitely not! This new take on a fairy-tale classic is so funny and so original--it could only come from the brilliant mind of Mo Willems

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Noah Webster & His Words - Jeri Chase Ferris

Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
Houghton Mifflin Books For Children, 2012
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.22
My rating: 5
Endpapers: Dark Brown
Title Page: Lines and "feathered" border, open dictionary with wire-rim glasses (nice model)
Illustrations (all pages have a lined border), simple line drawings, deeply colored - lots of squiggles and lines and hatchings....

1st line: "Noah Webster always kenw he was right, and he never got tired of saying so (even if, sometimes, he wasn't.) He was, he said, "full of CON-FI-DENCE" [noun: belief that one is right] from the very beginning."

Goodreads:  Webster’s American Dictionary is the second most popular book ever printed in English. But who was that Webster? Noah Webster (1758–1843) was a bookish Connecticut farm boy who became obsessed with uniting America through language. He spent twenty years writing two thousand pages to accomplish that, and the first 100 percent American dictionary was published in 1828 when he was seventy years old. This clever, hilariously illustrated account shines a light on early American history and the life of a man who could not rest until he’d achieved his dream. An illustrated chronology of Webster’s life makes this a picture perfect bi-og-ra-phy [noun: a written history of a person's life].

My Goodreads comments:  This is a great biography, focusing on Webster's entire life, not just one portion of it as many children's picture book biographies do.  It is interesting and informative, written in a manner that doesn't talk down to kids and makes Noah seems like a real person, giving insights into his personality (he was an incredible patriot!).  Many words encountered in the book are immediately defined, as in the actual dictionary, which is a nice introduction to young kids and reinforcement for older kids.  I think this excellent biography will be one of my models to help teach my fourth graders how to write a good one themselves.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

23. The Night Ferry - Michael Robotham

audio read by Clare Corbett
2007 Recorded Books
11 unabridged cds (12.25 hrs.)
384 pgs.
Finished on the road 
Genre: Murder Mystery
Goodreads Rating: 3.75
My Rating: Very, very good (4.5)
Acquired through PBS
Setting: London, England and Amsterdam

Goodreads Review:  "Alisha Barba's dreams of being a detective were shattered when a murder suspect broke her back across a brick wall. Now on her feet again, with her police career in limbo, she receives a message from an old school friend, Cate Beaumont, who is eight months pregnant and in trouble.On the night they arrange to meet, Cate is mown down by a car that kills her husband instantly. As paramedics fight to save her life they discover there is no baby. Her pregnancy is an elaborate lie, a cruel deception.  Why? What happened? As Alisha sets out to answer these questions she is drawn deeper and deeper into a dangerous quest that will take her from the East End of London to Amsterdam's red light district and into a murky underworld of sex trafficking, slavery and exploitation."

My comments on Goodreads: Very, very good - I'll give it five stars - it kept me interested and guessing for over 2000 miles on the road 'cross country.  I particularly enjoyed the lilting, British-accented reader, her performance added realism to an already interesting story.  I enjoyed the British and Dutch settings as well. Great read.  (I really loved the last line - "The end of one story is merely the beginning of the next.")

Movie - World War Z

PG-13 (1:55)
Wide Release 6-21-13
RT Critic: 67 Audience: 76
Cag: 3/Liked it
Directed by Marc Forster
Paramount Pictures

Brad Pitt

Rotten Tomatoes summary:  The story revolves around United Nations employee Gerry Lane (Pitt), who traverses the world in a race against time to stop a pandemic that is toppling armies and governments and threatening to decimate humanity itself.

My thoughts:  Well...... I had no idea what this movie was about, as the preview did not tell all.  This was a good thing, because the element of partial-surprise was fun.  The first few minutes were calm, serene...."normal"....and then the action, adventure, questions, began flying at you a mile a minute.  It was a crazy ride.  You never really get the answers you're looking for (at least I don't think you do), but you can SO tell that there's more to come.  Yup, sequels...imagine that.  Brad Pitt was, as usual, a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e and the woman playing his wife did an outstanding job. I'll definitely be in line for the sequel/s.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Movie - Monster's University

G (1:35)
Wide Release 6-21-13
Viewed With Ella at Carlisle
RT Critic: 78 Audience: 86
Cag: 4 - Liked it a lot
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Walt Disney Pictures

Rotten Tomato Summary:  "Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn't always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they couldn't stand each other. "Monsters University" unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends." 

My comments:  I hadn't seen the first Monsters movie, so I had no idea what it was about.  I've gotta say, this was a pretty darn decent movie.  It was fun to watch Ella as she watched it, but I became quite engrossed myself.  A good flick, I'd watch it again (which is pretty high praise from me, since I'm definitely NOT an animated movie lover).

Movie - Love is All You Need

R (1:40)
Limited Release 5/3/13
Viewed on Tuesday, 7/9/13 At Reel Pizza (in Bar Harbor) with Fran
RT Critic: 75 Audience: 61
Cag:  3/Liked it
Some subtitles for Danish and Italian
Directed by Susan Bier
Sony Pictures Classics

Actors: Pierce Brosnan

Summary from Google: "Philip, an Englishman living in Denmark, is a lonely, middle-aged widower and estranged single father. Ida is a Danish hairdresser, recuperating from a long bout of illness, who's just been left by her husband for a younger woman, Tilde. The fates of these two bruised souls are about to intertwine, as they embark for a trip to Italy to attend the wedding of Patrick and Astrid, Philip's son and Ida's daughter."

My comments:  This was a sweet, predictable movie, very enjoyable to watch.  Pierce Brosnan was a cutie and the Danish (perhaps?) actress that played the lead was wonderful to watch.  There were some good laughs and some very sad moments, too.  I certainly would not have reacted to everything that happened in the way the Ida did, so it has given me many moments since watching to reflect.   And any movie at Reel Pizza is fun!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Driving My Tractor - Jan Dobbins

Illustrated by David Sims
2009, Barefoot Books
HC & paper (Carlisle's Bosler Library)
32 pages
for very young kids
Goodreads rating: 4.40
My rating: 5 (I have to say it's wonderful, Tristan loved it and enjoyed listening to it over and over and over again.
Title Page: Fully covered colored illustrations of the drier and his tractor, just like the rest of the book.
Illustrations:  Acrylics and Pastels.  Bright and lively and wonderful.
1st line: "Driving my tractor down a bumpy road./ And in my trailer, there's a heavy load./ There's a black-and-white cow Going moo, moo, moo! It's a very busy day.? Chug, chug, Clank,clank, toot!/ It's a very busy day."
Last four pages include two pages of farm trucks and two pages of crops that are grown on a farm..  The final page is a song with the music.

A farmer goes down a bumpy road every day to pick up heavy loads: one cow, two donkeys, three pigs, four lambs, and five chickens...until he hits a really big bump and they all fall out (then beat him home).

My comments on Goodreads: Tristan loved this book, the repetitive, rhythmic words and the colorful illustrations (he just turned three and LOVES "krucks"). We got this from the library and it had no cd, I didn't even know there was a song until we turned the last page of the book and saw it. We'd actually sung the words all the way from the beginning without realizing, it's a very singable book. Highly recommended for little guys (and I mean both boys and girls) who love trucks and/or farms.

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau - Michelle Markel

Illustrated by Amanda Hall
2012, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
HC "Ages 5-9"
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.17
My rating: 5
Endpapers: Lush jungle with flowers and animals
Title Page: Rousseau eating breakfast outside a cafe, with the Eiffel tower and a French flag in the background
Illustrations:  A+ Perfect for this book!

1st line: "Henri Rousseau wants to be an artist.  Not a single person has ever told him he is talented.  He's a toll collector.  He's forty years old."

Goodreads: Henri Rousseau wanted to be an artist. But he had no formal training. Instead, he taught himself to paint. He painted until the jungles and animals and distant lands in his head came alive on the space of his canvases. Henri Rousseau endured the harsh critics of his day and created the brilliant paintings that now hang in museums around the world. Michelle Markel's vivid text, complemented by the vibrant illustrations of Amanda Hall, artfully introduces young readers to the beloved painter and encourages all readers to persevere despite all odds

My comments on Goodreads:  A wonderfully illustrated story of how Henri Rousseau, despite all sorts of negative appreciation, pursued the artistic career that he dearly wanted. He never gave up, and kept painting until he was quite old. This book really SHOWS how he worked and worked and never gave up. Interestingly, it's told in the present tense.

Lookup! Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer - Robert Burleigh

Illustrated by Raul Colon
2013, Paula Wiseman; Simon & Schuster
HC 16.99 Carlisle's Bosler Library
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 3.79
My rating: 4
Endpapers: Dark Blue
Title Page:  two-inch strip on the top and a 1/2-inch strip on the bottom is an illustrations of the night sky looking through tree branches.  this is a nice model to share with kids what an appealing title page looks like.
Illustrations: Full page drawing on one page, text (many with lined borders) on the facing page, some double-page spreads
1st line:  "Night after night, Henrietta sat on her front portch, gazing up at the stars."

Goodreads:  Look up! is a picture book biography of the astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. The story is of a little girl who loved the night sky, who loved the stars, who followed her dream and persevered academically in a man's field. Most astronomers, at the time, being men, of course. But she knew what she wanted, and she knew she could do it. Henrietta's job--she got paid thirty cents an hour--was not to gaze through the telescope. Her job was to examine, to study, the photographs taken by others. She was good at her job, and through her measuring, through her detailed study, she made an important discovery, a discovery having to do with measuring distances and the vastness of galaxies.

My comments on Goodreads:  Henrietta Leavitt certainly made huge contributions to astronomy, and this book clearly and cleverly shows the process she went through to discover them.  The illustrations are lovely, and the three pages of additional information at the end are perfect for the older reader and teacher (or parent) that want to learn more.  Included at some great quotes about stars, a glossary, deeper information about Leavitt's discovery, and a bibliography and list of internet resources. A MUST addition to a study of astronomy, women in history, or just a fascinating read for star gazers!

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? - Tanya Lee Stone

The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell
illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Ella (6 yrs. old) says:  "I liked the book because she was the first woman doctor.  It was hard getting there, but she worked harder and harder and then she got there."

2013 Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt
HC$16.99 Carlisle's Bosler Library
40 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.28
My rating: 4/ Super story
Endpapers:  Dark royal blue
Title Page:  Sweeping across the double pages are a stethoscope, necklace, bonnet, open book, bottles of medicine - plus font that is cursive-y.
Illustrations: Unfortunately, a little too Chris Raschka-y for me, though Ella liked them a lot and noticed  some of the details well before I did.
1st line:  I'll bet you've met plenty of doctors in your life.  And I'll bets lots of them were women."

Goodreads: In the 1830s, when a brave and curious girl named Elizabeth Blackwell was growing up, women were supposed to be wives and mothers. Some women could be teachers or seamstresses, but career options were few. Certainly no women were doctors.   But Elizabeth refused to accept the common beliefs that women weren’t smart enough to be doctors, or that they were too weak for such hard work. And she would not take no for an answer. Although she faced much opposition, she worked hard and finally—when she graduated from medical school and went on to have a brilliant career—proved her detractors wrong. This inspiring story of the first female doctor shows how one strong-willed woman opened the doors for all the female doctors to come.

My comments on Goodreads: I really like the way that Elizabeth Blackwell's story is told in this charming picture book.  My 6-year old granddaughter loved it, and I will read it to my fourth grade class and talk about the woman AND about the way the book was written...the inserted quotes, using prepositions to begin sentences, the use on incomplete sentences and their impact on the story. Priceman's illustrations are not my favorites - as with Chris Rashka's I find them a little too abstract (although my favorite art is abstract), it doesn't work for me in a picture book. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Splash of Red, The Life and Art of Horace Pippin - Jen Bryant

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
2013, Alfred A. Knopf
HC $17.99 Carlisle's Bosler Library
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.26
My rating: 5
Endpapers: Front:  assorted illustrations of color palettes, etc.  Back:  a map of the US showing where you can see Pippin's art and three small paintings of Pippin's (nice to see his actual artwork)
Illustrations:  Funky, folky, wonderfully Melissa Sweet - covering the whole page with lots and lots to read and look at
1st line: "On February 22, 1888, the town of West Chester Pennsylvania, celebrated a holiday.  That day, Daniel and Christine Pippin celebrated the birth of their son, Horace."
*TWO PAGES of afterwords, including information and all sorts of further reading including websites and films.

Goodreads:  As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn't lift his right arm, and couldn't make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint--and paint, and paint! Soon, people—including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth—started noticing Horace's art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country. Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist,

My reaction on Goodreads:  When I was in the Philadelphia Museum of Art a week or so ago I remember being quite taken with the art of Horace Pippin.  So when I saw this book - by a favorite author and illustrator - I was quite pleased.  My six-year old granddaughter said she really like the book.  When I asked her what she liked, she talked about how everyone asked Horace to draw for them.  I think she related to this, because she loves creating art for people.  We both loved the illustrations.  The words and pictures of this wonderful team (Bryant and Sweet) are truly special.  We read the book twice. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nelson Mandela - Kadir Nelson

Illustrated by the author
2013, Katherine Tegen Books, Harper Collins
HC $17.99 Carlisle's Bosler Library
40 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.20
My rating: 4/ (the illustrations are a definite 5)
Endpapers: deep cranberry
Title Page: No illustration, bold information on dark brown/tribal design background
Illustrations: Glorious!
2-page information and photo at the end of the book
Note:  I wish there had been a glossary/pronunciation guide, there were enough words to warrant one, perhaps this would be a good thing for my students to create after reading the book...

1st line: " Rolihahla played barefooted/on the grassy hills of Qunu."

Goodreads:  One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, the country's capital, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans.

My comments on Goodreads:  Kadir Nelson's illustrations, as usual, are incredible.  The cover is amazing.  This is the story of Nelson Mandela's life, but it seems a little spotty, starting with his earliest years (which was new-to-me information and really interesting), then jumping ahead, flying through his jail years, jumping ahead again....  I read this aloud to my 6-year old granddaughter and will read it to my fourth graders, and there are places that I felt I had to fill in information, or do some extra explaining.  Otherwise, I really loved this book.