Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Imaginary Garden - Andrew Larsen

Illustrator: Irene Luxbacher
For: Young Kids
Kids Can Press
Rating: 4.5 (maybe even 5?)
Endpapers: Pale Blue (why?)

The story is cool, the art is wonderful, a mixed-media collage. There is lots of dazzling white which brings out the greens, purples, and yellows of the extremely vibrant garden. Black and white line drawings enhanced by painting with subtle collage thrown in: cut paper, fabric...... Painting happens before your very eyes, page by page. They even show how to paint a bird with simple strokes of color! I may have to upgrade my rating to a five, the more I study the pages. Very, very cool.

When Theo's Poppa moves from his old house to an apartment, he has to leave his fabulous garden behind. But, on his 4th floor (I counted!) balcony, on a huge canvas he has placed against the wall, wearing gardening hats, they paint an imaginary garden from the ground up - adding elements as the growing season progresses. I love the cover - here's where I desire another poster for my room.

What a cool book. And very clever.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Hinky Pink - Megan McDonald

Illustrated by Brian Floca
Published 2008
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Pumpkin

Similes and metaphors: "Her stitches were straight as a new set of teeth. Her French knots were perfect roses. Her lace, why it was as wispy as any spider web in the kingdom." Alliteration and elipses: "If only she could embroider silk and satin, touch velvet and voile..." Great vocabulary: "Holy ratatouille!" "Poodle curls as plain as pennoni." Great verbs: loomed, creaked, snatched, peered,

This is a terrific folk tale, based on another but twisted and turned and recreated by Megan McDonald. There are a couple of places that I thought there was something missing, even going so far as to see if two pages were stuck together. Other than that, it was good storytelling. She might have even gone a little overboard with the figurative language, so this would be a great teaching tool for many reasongs.

Anabel, a young seamstress who dreams of creating and stitchin a ball gown, is called to the home of a princess and given one week to do so. They give her a beautiful tower room in which to live and sew, but she finds she cannot sleep. Something is pinching her and stealing her covers all night long. She ingeniously figures out how to solve this problem just before it's too late and she'll not finish the beautiful gown she's making. But, as we know will happen, all comes out perfectly, tra la!

Lots of text, very cute illustrations, good story. This works together well. I'd love to read it to kids and ask them to watch for places that it needs a few more details to get from one point to the next! Transitions, organization.....

First Line/s: 'Back when mirrors could talk and princes were frogs, there lived a girl in Old Italy named Anabel. Alas, not Anabella."

Friday, June 12, 2009

33. Beige - Cecil Castellucci

Published: 2007
Rating: 4
307 Pgs.
Paperback $8.99

14 year-old Katy leaves Montreal to spend two and a half weeks in LA with the dad she barely knows - who happens to be "The Rat", a punk drummer from the legendary band "Sucks." Her mother has gone to Peru to research and archeological site, and this is the first time they've been separated. Katy has been raised to be polite and kind, so the various rockers, punks, and free spirits that she meets in Los Angeles are all very strange to her. She doesn't say much, just listens. She's never had any appreciation for any kind of music, but is now thrown headfirst into a world she does not know, and does not care to know.

Her father has bribed a young female musician, Lake Suck, to keep her company. And on her own she meets a couple of other teenagers. So when her mother decides to spend the entire summer in Peru, Katy has no choice but to stay in LA. Lake has christened her "Beige", and she becomes known by that name.

This is an interesting story about a girl learning to be herself. It is also a story about overcoming the odds (most of the adults in the book are recovering addicts), and learning about what friendship and family really means. I liked it.

First Line/s: "The first thing I notice as the plane lands at LAX is that it is cloudy and pouring rain. So much for the myth that it's always sunny in Los Angeles."

MOVIE - My Life in Ruins

A waste of time
Released Jne, 2009 (Last week -it won't be in the big theaters long)
RT: !3% (Guess I should have paid better attention to this rating)
cag: 25%
Richard Dreyfuss
Director; Donald Petrie

I needed to be "taken away" for an hour or two, but I almost walked out of this one after the first 20 minutes. The woman who wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding starred in this. She cannot act, or overacts, or does something that really did NOT connect with me. Her lipstick was too red and she was always too well put together. She was snotty, uptight, and above everyone, and then Richard Dreyfuss helped her make a total turnaround in about two hours. "Georgia" became hip and "with it" and fun and even funny in the snap of the fingers. Give me a break! Every single character was a stereotype - and not a good one. Bad acting, bad writing, Blech! It's not even entertaining, it's just boring. Okay, during the last half when some of the quirkly (of course) people on her tour started endearing themselves to me I wasn't complete loathing it, but.....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Visit - Reeve Lindbergh

illustrator: Wendy Anderson Halperin
Rating: 4
Endpapers: cream with photos-animals-food-flowers "sprinkled" around

Two sisters travel to the country for a visit with their Aunt Laura and Uncle Ted. Written in rhyming stanzas where first and fourth lines repeat:

Highway and country lane, dirt road and dust,
Beth watches leaves whirling up in a gust.
Jill sees a mailbox covered with rust.
Highway and country lane, dirt road and dust.


Maple tree, willow tree, poplar and pine.
Beth watches swallows, swooping to dine.
Jill finds a lost kite, tangled n twine.
Maple tree, willow tree, poplar and pine.

Illustrations: arched "window" to view 2/3 of page, four smaller rectangular illustrations below - lots to see - pencil, watercolor, lots of detail.

Birds - Kevin Henkes

Illustrated by Laura Dronzek
For: very young kids
Rating: 5
Endpapers: Pink

As I read this book, I knew that writer and illustrator had to have collaborated in its creation. Words and picture totally and completely go together. So when I read on the back flap that "they live with their chilfdren" I had an A-HA moment.

I liked this book. A lot. It really works. It tells short descriptions of what trees - cllouds - the air - look like with and without birds. However, I've got to say, It never "called out" to me. I walked by it in the library and book stores many times before actually picking it up.

"Sometimes, in winter,
a bird in a tree
looks like one red
leaf left over."
(It's a cardinal-on a bare tree-in the snow.)

One question. Why pink endpapers? Bleck!

Monday, June 8, 2009

First Dog - J. Patrick Lewis & Beth Zappitello

Illustrated by: Tim Bowers
Published: May, 2009
Rating: 4
(Beth Zappitello is J. P. L.'s daughter)
Endpapers: Blue with the ten different breeds of dogs mentioned with infor about that dog.

What a riot!
A cute little black dog travels around the world looking for the perfect place to live. He goes to many different locations - discovering dogs associated with these places (London/English bulldog, Paris/French poodle, South Africa/Rodesian Ridgeback, etc.). But there's a problem at each spot around the globe. So he returns home to America, sees an article in the newspaper that the first family is looking for a dog, gets into the White House, the girls ask if they can keep him and their dad's reply is, "Yes we can!"

Illustrations: Boxes covering most of the page, framed in pale yellow - no white. Words on yellow.

Afterword about abandoned dogs.

32. Betrayed - P. C. Cast & Kristin Cast

House of Night Series #2
For: YA
310 pgs.
Rating: 2

Okay. It's not great writing. It's not even very good storytelling. Some of it is pretty stupid and predictable. Repetitive, too. But, as Romantic Times Bookreviews says on the book's cover, "A highly addictive series." It's got s-x scenes that are uncomfortable for one of my male sixth graders, so it's really a YA. But that's what makes so many 8th grade girls love it.....

Zoey, in a month's time, has become the school leader. She's much too smart for a girl of her age, if you ask me. She throws up very easily and constantly. She has the most stereotypical friends that you'll ever meet in a YA novel.
SPOILER ALERT: Her mentor, beautiful, powerful Neferet now becomes an untrustworthy nemesis. She begins to befriend the previously rotten Aphrodite. Her best friend "dies", but doesn't exactly. She imprints with her human boyfriend, Heath, but also has a fledgling boyfriend, Erik, and is mutually attracted to a vamp poet/teacher, Loren. Just a little too...."romantic? ? ?" for me. But I guarantee that I'll read the next book in the series, Chosen because there's still so much unresolved. Darn.

Bubble Trouble - Margaret Mahy

Illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Pub 2008 in UK, 2009 in US
Rating: 5
Endpapers: Blue, Green, White Bubbles in the sky

"Little Mabel blew a bubble, and it caused a lot of trouble...
Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobbly way.
For it broke away from Mabel as it bobbed across the table,
where it bobbled over Baby, and it wafted him away."

Page after page of adventure, rhyme, and rhythm, as the entire town starts to chase after the baby floating in the bubble. Nineteen four-line stanzas. What a perfect production for a class to practice tongue-twisting, alliterataive, rhythmic verse. For MY class to practice, to memorize, to perform. I can't wait!

The illustrations are definitely cute and go well with the story, but it's the words that grabbed me here.....words to love (especially the verbs....) bobbed, bobbled, wafted, quibble, dribble, reeling, bellowed, groveled, babble, hobble, squable, tattered, tartan, gabble, gibbering, goggling, vanish, hovel, cavorting, aloft, huddled, grapple, topple, clambered, nefarious, plunged, gargles, quiver, drivel, shrivel, wilt, swivel, divested, dumbfounded, rebounded, prattle. Wowee!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Our Children Can Soar - Michelle Cook

A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change
Multi-Illustrators including:
...Bryan Collier (Thurgood Marshall)
...Leo & Diane Dillon (George Washington Carver)
...E. B. Lewis (endpiece)
...James Ransome (intro)
and more!
Purblished: 2009
Rating: 5
Endpapers: Red

"Our ancestors fought George could invent.
George invented Jessse could sprint.
Jesse sprinted

From George Wasington Carver, Jesse Owens, Hattie McDaniel, and Ella Fitzgerald to Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, MLK Jr, through Thurgood Marshall and our most recent president, Barack Obama, this book is a celebration of Black Americans oin American history who paved the way .

Each two-page spread is devoted to one person and illustrated by a different illustrator. The text throughout is the simple text above. There are paragraph bios and paragraphs explanations for each illustration at the end of the book.

This is a beautiful book, perfect for teaching about Civil Rights and Black History.

The Bookshop Dog - Cynthia Rylant

Rating: 4
Endpapers: Lavender with painted-on purple dog bones, coral hearts & yellow dots

Artwork: No white - all paintings. Thick painted borders (you can see the paint lines) with some sort of small embellishment (swirls/dots, whie diamonds with red dot, dots in triangular sets of three, x's, moon slivers, triangles with dots, v's, x's and o's, rectangles with dots - a great model for student-made pages! Colorful great font, great illustrations to a fun stry.

Story: A nameless lady owns a bookstore. She has a yellow lab that she LOVES and takes everywhere with her - so she renames her bookstore after Martha Jane. Everyone loves Martha Jane, and much of the community comes frequently to the bookshtore and get to know her. When the bookshop owner has to have her tonsils removed, everyone bickers over who will "babysit" Martha Jane. A happy ending ( think "Here Comes the Bride") to a dog-lovin' story.

31. The Watchman - Robert Crais

Read by James Daniels
Unabridged Brilliance Audio
8 Discs/9 hours
Rating: 5

Some people call this Joe Pike #1. It's all Joe Pike, even though Elvis Cole is there, helping, working, being Elvis. So I agree, this is not Elvis Cole #11, it's Joe Pike #1.

Joe is hired to "take care" of/be a body guard for a young, cocky, LA heiress (think Paris Hilton) named Larkin Barkley, and he takes his job very seriously. Samrt - very smart- hitmen are after her. And of course, nothing is as it seems. The wonderful thing about Joe Pike is that no matter what he gets himself into, you KNOW that he's going to be okay and come out the winner, so you don't have to get too too nervous. Lots of people die. He never hesitates and he is more-than smart. So is Elvis Cole. This story takes us into the previous life of Pike, except it's in bits and pieces, not one fluid story. I love the way it's written. Many points of view. But I reiterate, it's all Joe's story. And I loved it. Go Joe!

El Barrio - Debbi Chocolate

Illustrator: David Diaz
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Bright Yellow

Another book of CELEBRATION! Celebration of a culture and of home. Celebrations of Hispanic roots, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Aztec, Maya...... Barrio means neighborhood. This is the story of a glorious Hispanic neighborhood. It could be in Chicago, or New York City, or even Tucson.

"El barrio is where Nativity parades, Cinco de Mayo,, and Day of the Dead explode into big holidays. Feli Navidad!
El barrio is a quinceanera party (my sister turns fifteen today!) and a swollen birthday pinata bursting with candy treasure."

The illustrations are bright and wihout any white. The borders look like photos of beading, mosaics, leaves, textiles. The double-page spreads look like acrylic on wood cuts, but it's really hard for me to tell. They're big and bold and bright - greens and aquas and purples and reds. Lady of Guadalupe candles, salsa music, neon city streets.....LOVE IT!

Pima County Library

When I moved to Tucson, Arizona from Northeast Harbor, Maine, within the first 48 hours I'd located the nearest library to my new digs. To my utter astonishment, I discovered over a dozen libaries would be available to me. My wonderful library in Northeast Harbor (and all the friends I made there) had welcomed me from my first week of residency to this very day, but I was overwhelmed and in love with these new facilities at my fingertips. And, since that first step into the Bear Canyon Library in 2002 to today, I hit one of the Pima County Libraries at least once a week, usually more. Yesterday I ventured to one that I hadn't visited before, and loved it. So I decided that one of my summer goals would be to check out each and every branch. I bet they're all wonderfully different. Oh, the picture books, the music, the array of books-on-tape, the different places to sit and read a magazine.......

I love the new library logo. In front of my school, just behind one of the most beautiful metal sculptures I've ever seen, is a plant that looks EXACTLY like the logo. I'll have to take a photo.

I love scanning my library card, scanning the books, and checking out myself.

I don't love that I can only have 25 out at a time - as a school teacher that uses lots of literature in her classroom that IS a bit limiting. .Ah, well.

And I don't love the reserve policy - I wish I could have more than 15 on reserve at a time. I'm always waiting for the good new ones to come in, and unless I want to be #88 out of 353 (this happens all the time, there are a lot of people in Tucson) I have to get my reserve request in. But I can receive a book that's sitting on a shelf in a far-off library withing two days. So the reserve list is used to transfer a book to Golf Links so that I can pick it up there. So so so cool, but it's really easy to get up to 15.

Miller-Golf Links Library, closest to my home and where I pick up all my reserves. My third home (Barnes & Noble Cafe is my second). Comfy.

River Branch, closest to school and on the way home, this is also where I went for most of the time I lived in the Foothills. I bump into a lot of students here, so to be anonymous I only use this in an emergency...although there's a really cute librarian that I like to say hi to once in awhile....(oh, how shallow!)

Bear Canyon They remodeled this library a bit ago, and it's a little less personal now. It also has a really unpleasant librarian (the only one I've met here). But it's an easy ride on the way home after school, and has a Dairy Queen right next door (mmmm, I feel like a Hawaiin Blizzard right now.....). Its also always VERY quiet, and I love the magazine reading area.

Himmel Park I spent one whole year, twice a week, tutoring here. It's small and always very busy with lots of little kids reading (and making noise). Too bad it's not bigger.

Nanini Branch A few blocks west of Sonoran Science Academy, where I taught for two years, I was a frequent visitor. Locked my keys in the car while there once (AAA was fast). Busy.

Murphy-Wilmot Branch This is closest to the mall, between Broadway and Speedway...I return a lot of books here. It's really, really busy, but easy to access, and I can find a lot of the children's books I'm hunting for here. For some reason, I run in almost every Sunday for one reason or other, and will today, too..... NOTE: July 2009: They're going to do some major remodeling on the library, and will move it for perhaps a year or so to a large building a bit south of the mall, (still on Wilmot).

Joel D. Valdez Main Library This is right smack in the downtown area. There's an undergroun parking garage. I've only been here once, and that was for a (wonderful) poetry class. It's huge, so I'm going to have to really check it out soon.

Columbus Branch I just discovered this one yesterday. Even though I've driven by it a hundred times (it's right on 22nd St.) I never noticed it. It's not labeled well. It's easy (and quiet) to park in the back, and the main entrance is there, too. There weren't many cars in the lot, but it was full of teenagers and adults reading and at the computers. Lots of tables and comfortable places to sit.

Martha Cooper Branch On my way home from school today (June 8th), I hunted for this one. It's on Catalina and Fairmount, between Pima and Speedway. Not too big, but not squished. New? There was a security guard - a really pleasant guy, but this is the first time I've seen that. Plenty of people inside, especially at computers both in the lab and their own personal laptops. Very small children's and YA section.

El Rio Branch Library is part of the El Rio Community Center. It's really, really small, with a limited number of books, but every computer was full and patrons continued to come in, going to the RESERVE section, or browsing the Spanish-language section. It's on Speedway, just west of the Berger Center, and has a beautiful mosaic outside.

Woods Memorial Branch Library
This is over on First, in the Amphi school district. It's very large. As usual, I spent most of my time in the children's section. On Sunday afternoon it was particularly quiet, but it was hot hot hot outside (111 degrees) so families were probably staying home. The computers were full, though. Lots and lots of kid's books!

Oro Valley Library This is an affiliate of the Pima County Library. I've written a separate blog here if you want to read it.

Bad Frogs - Thacher Hurd

For: Young Kids
Rating: 2.5
Endpapers: Chartreuse

Great rhyme and rhythm., bright greens and purples, and lots and lots of frogs (they've counted them - they say there are 170!) live and act like kids. But bad? I wouldn't say bad. I might say naughty. A bit of a difference.

"Making bad noises at the dinner table/Smelling yucky. Talking crummy./Wearing bad hats. Wearing dark glasses./Staying up late./ Kissing their girlfriends,,,," Perfect for little guys, with really fun illustrations of frogs dressed as kids doing all sorts of things.

There's a wonderful two-page spread ("Bad frogs. Very bad frogs.") where the frogs are painting and splashing paint all over the page. It's really cool - I'd love a poster of it -

Book Fiesta - Pat Mora

Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day
Celebremos El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Rating: 5 for the Illustrations alone!
Endpapers: Wow. Front: Sleeping on a Cloud, Waking on a moon, sun is rising....COLOR!
Back: Closer-up, moon smiling down at boy reading on cloud, nighttime's coming....

This book celebrates reading. It celebrates books. It celebrates story. And it celebrates family. It covers the world. It shows the southwest strongly (love it!). It rhymes. It's written in English and in Spanish. It's colorful.

"We read libros together in cars/ and planes/ and trains. We read to our puppies and kittens, and to lizards in our yard./We read riding an elephant/or sailing with a whale./ We read in a long submarine/ or floating in a hot-air balloon./ Then, snug in our beds, we read to the moon/ and fly away in our books. Toon! Toon!"

I want to have a Book Fiesta in my my school.....NEXT YEAR! At the back of the book Pat Mora give information and many suggestions to celebrate and annual "Dia" Children & Books Day. Take her up on it!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Library Mouse - A Friend's Tale - Daniel Kirk

Published: 2009
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Aqua

I love Daniel Kirk! His illustrations - his plotlines - his themes. The whole enchilada.

Picture book illustrators often do not get to meet the writers of the book they're illustrating (I well remember the story of Cynthia Rylant hating the Caldecott-Award-winning illustrations in When I Was Young in the Mountains) Daniel Kirk has created a story of libraries, and books, and writing, and friendhip - and the collaboration of a picture book where the writer (Sam, the mouse) and the illustrator (Tom, a boy and library patron) do not meet.

Tom does discover that the library's secret book writer is Sam, a mouse, but he keeps the secret that Sam is a mouse and they create a wonderful book without ever meeting eye to eye. Very cute. I would recommend reading the previous book, (Library Mouse), first.

The full page mouse/boy/library illustrations are TERRIFIC!

Roawr! - Barbara Joosse

Illustrator: Jan Jutte
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Med. Egg Yellow

This book is somewhat reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are (Sendak).

"One dark and snarly night when Papa was away, and Liam was a-snuggled in, he heard the forest crack and snap!"

To protect his Mama, because he knew there was something big and scary outside, he sets off to capture whatever "it" is. And what is it? A hungry bear. After he captures the bear, clever Liam discovers its hunger and figures out how to satisfy it.

"Now what? Now what do boys so clever, brave and true, with hearts a-thump for bears so fine and Mamas sleeping in the night....what do they do?" They go home and finally sleep.

More illustrations to love. Just past the center is a wonderful two-page spread of Liam crossing a fallen tree in the woods in the black of night. It's just lovely! Most illustrations cover the full page and are great fun. He used ink, watercolor, and acrylic.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

No! - David McPhail

for older kids
Published March, 2009
Rating: 4
Endpapers: glossy off-red

How do we stop bullying? Kids on a playground or countries at war? It's time to stop this craziness....that's what David McPhail is trying to say in this wordless story. (Well, wordless other than "no" and the words to a young boy's letter at the end of the book...)

A young boy sets out to mail a letter he has written to the president. Along the way he witnesses tanks and marching soldiers, bombs dropping and cops attacking. When he gets to the mailbox, a bully is waiting for him. He takes a stand. He says "No!" The bully backs down, tries to make amends. On his return trip home we see the same plane, cops, tanks....but they are all now participating in peaceful, helpful, positive activities.

I "read" this book three times. It made me think. Hard. When I went looking for a copy of the bookcover, I saw that it's recommended to ages 4-8. I disagree. This is also for older kids....and adults. It should be marketed to them, because they're the ones that should FOR SURE read it!

Just today, the headlines are that President Obama is speaking in Cairo with a message to the entire Moslem World. Mututal respect is what he requests. Thank you David McPhail AND President Obama. We must all start (or continue) on this quest! ! !

Hand-drawn borders leave a little white edge, his pen and ink and watercolors are lovely, though sad.

Another great title for my create-the-story-from -a-wordless-book lesson plan for 4th - 8th graders!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

MOVIE - Gigantic

Quirky and wonderful - a new favorite
Viewed 6/2 at the Loft with Sheila
Released 4-3-09 (Limited/Indie)
R (1:39)
RT: 36% cag: 95%
Zooey Deschanel, Paul Dano, John Goodman, Ed Asner
Director: Matt Aselton

Brian Weathersby (Dano), a 28 year-old, college-graduated, Swedish bed salesman living in New York City falls for a lovely young woman (Deschanel), who has tried five different occupations in five years and lives with her odd, wealthy, hypochondriac father (Goodman). Fantastic characters, wonderful acting, and a quirky storyline worked superbly for me. Don't read any of the reviews - or if you do, don't believe them, go see for yourself. It's really fun. Yes, it does leave a few questions, and Sheila and I tried to figure out answers for them afterwards. Why GIGANTIC? Who/Why/What is going on with the "homeless" stalker? And why is it Brian's obsession to adopt a baby from China?

You've got to see the way John Goodman travels around Manhattan!

Rotten Tomato consensus: "This overly quirky, incessantly whimsical indie is too self-conscious for its own good." NONSENSE! It's quirky and whimsical and wonderful. And what do they mean, too self-conscious? Trying to be intellectual? What are they REALLY trying to say? Come on!

30. Austenland - Shannon Hale

Read by Katherine Kellgren (mediocre)
BBC Audiobooks America
5 discs, (6:20)
Rating: 2

Okay, I was superbly disappointed. The author of Princess Academy, a Newbury Honor, writing an adult book about taking a three-week vacation at an English Manor, that pretends to be Jane Austen's England? The young NYC graphic designer has a crush on Colin Firth? (ahem, I know a little about that feeling....) Actors pretending to be regency gentlemen, corsets and manners and.....well you get the idea.

It turned out to be an ultra-wordy romance novel, without any s-x. I'm not even sure why I finished it, I just thought it might get better. No matter how much you love Pride and Prejudice, this one's a yawner. I'm sorry, Shannon Hale. I really enjoy your YA writing, But as much as I love Austen (AND Mr. Darcy), this story was B O R I N G and could have been easily told in half the words.