Friday, July 31, 2009

MOVIE - The Ugly Truth

40% silly, 30% cute, 30% hilarious
Released: July 24, 2009
R (1 hr. 35 min.)
Harrisburg Regal Theater with Laura
RT: 15% cag: 55%
Director: Robert Luketic
Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler

Cute but silly, lots of snickers and one tears-streaming-down-the-face scene that was worth watching the whole movie.....

Katherine Heigl is the ultra controlling producer of a Sacramento morning news show that has low, low ratings. Gerard Butler is a raunchy "womanizer" that thinks he has all the answers to get to a man's heart. Their antagonistic relationship, of course, changes into friendship and then more. Gerard Butler talks like he has a wad of food in his cheek? Does he always do this? Is this how he controls his accent?

Fun and mindless. Not as good as 29 Dresses (it could actually be any number, I can't remember and I'm pullin' at straws here) or Knocked Up. Oh well, can't have it all.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rachel - Amy Ehrlich

The Story of Rachel Carson
Illustrated by: Wendell Minor
Silver Whistle/Harcourt 2003
32 pgs. ages 5-8 930L
Endpapers: Palest blue with white seashells

What a lovely short biography - a perfect read-aloud-in-one-sitting length. And there's lots of wonderful writing to model, even starting at the very beginning What a nice way to set up a story:
"Rachel's house was far from the ocean, hundreds of miles inland at a bend on the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania. There were no seagulls there, no sharks or whales. But one day she found a fossil, a single dark spiral lodged in a rock at her feet. She brought it to show her mother, and they looked it up in a book. The fossil was a sea creture, her mother said. Millions of years ago the ocean had covered their land and left it behind."

Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962. It's an expose of all the toxics that are being put into our environment. Most environmentlists feel this book is what started the green/environmental movement. She died of cancer in 1964. She seems like an odd, thoughtful, creative person...and she loved and lived in Maine. I'd like to learn more about her.

Wendell Minor's artwork is stupendous, taking up either a full page or, in two cases, full two-page wordless spreads. They get me homesick for the coast of Maine. Delicious.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

49. Serpent Gate - Michael McGarrity

Kevin Kerney #3
Audio read by George Guidall
Recorded Books
Unabridged 6 cassettes/8.5 hrs.
314 pgs.
Rating: 4

Two entirely different stories wrap themselves around each other and Kevin Kerney, who has been given the rank of Deputy Chief of the State Police, is clever enough to solve them both. His old nemesis, Mexican Enrique deLeon, whom he butted heads with in the first book, has masterminded a huge art theft from the governor's office. And Kerney is back and forth between Santa Fe and Mountainair, where he has solved the murder of a police officer. During that investigation he met mentally disabled Robert Cordova, and both stories "end" during a blizzard at Serpent Gate. We know there's more to come, too, because before the book closes we get a glimpse of deLeon on his yacht plotting revenge.....and of Kerney waiting for the outcome of a trial to find out if the woman he arrested in Mountainair will be acquitted. - thus allowed to enter his personal life.

I'm so glad I went to Santa Fe last Thanksgiving, because I have foggy pictures in my brain about the setting. Now I want to go back. And this time, I want to take a closer look at Truth or Consequences and Socorro, with side trips to some of the places mentioned so far in these three great novels. Looking forward to the fourth.

Ocean's Child - Christine Ford & Trish Holland

Illustrated by David Diaz
Golden Books/Random House
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Aqua/lavender batik

This gentle bedtime, good-night story is swathed in batik. The backgrounds (from edge of the page to edge of the page) are batiked. Some of the animals are batiked. Batik is a special kind of fabric created with wax resist. It's my favorite fabric - it's beautiful.

Each two-page spread ends with a similar soft chant. For example:

Safe and snug in his leafy bed,
Baby otter is rocked to sleep.
To ocean's child we say good night.
Good night, little otter, good night.

In this way we also say good night to walrus, dolphin, whale, polar bear, puffin, sea lion, orca, albatross, and child.

Mmmmmm. A lovely bedtime book.

Grandpappy Snippy Snappies - Lynn Plourde

Illustrated by Christopher Santoro
Harcourt, 2009
Ages 3-6t
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Red

I usually adore Lynn Plourde's writing - rhyme, rhythm, clever wordplay and wonderful words. However, I didn't seem to get caught up into these snappin' red suspenders. So I read it a second time, and a third. And I got into the silliness - and the cleverness - and now I can't wait to read it to Ella!

Grandpappy snaps his red suspenders to "fix" things -- and flixes them in crazy ways. Cows stuck in mud end up flying through the sky raining milk. He sends the derailed mail train to Mars. But when all the snippy snappy goes out of the suspenders....and just as he's about to save Grandmammy from a flock of crows --- well --- you'll never guess what happens!

Yes, this is perfect for little 'uns - say 2 1/2 to 5ish...

Amelia Hits the Road - Marissa Moss

Grades 3-5
Pleasant Co. (American Girl) 1997
40 pgs.
Rating: 3.5

I've had Amelia books on my bookshelves in school for years, but have never read one cover to cover. They look really busy and overwhelming, but they're not hard to read at all. I wish I could keep a journal like Amelia - but you have to be able to draw. She (Amelia/Marissa Moss) makes it look so easy.

This is a series where Amelia ages, but she's only ten in this one, on a car trip with her mom and sister Cleo from Oregon to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley (with a stop afterwards at Manzanar) on the way to Yosemite, with the final destination being their old hometown in Barton, California...and her best friend, Nadia, who she hasn't seen in a year.

Cleo gets carsick a lot, and they hike down the Kaibab Tral at the Grand Canyon - full of mule poop. There's quite a bit about vomit and poop and a bratty-drive-you-crazy sister (is Cleo older or younger, I can't tell...), but it's also full of ten-year-old angst, great tourist sites, and all sorts of ephemera. She even meets a boy who makes chains of gum wrappers (great drawing) just like I used to!

I love the covers of these books - the marbelized black journals with stickers and maps and colorful drawings added.

Quick read - and a fun one. (And I love all her hand-drawn cactuses and license plates and the way she uses colored pencil circles and splashes of water color to accent certain words.)

Bubba the Cowboy Prince - Helen Ketteman

A Fractured Texas Tale
Illustrated by James Warhola
Scholastic, 1997
Rating: 4

Bubba lives with his wicked StepDaddy and his hateful stepbrothers Dwayne and Milton. One day Miz Lurleen, who was purty and rich and owned the biggest spread around, decided to throw a ball to find herself a feller that was "cute as a cow's ear."

You know the story. This one is cute and the illustrations are really cute. And who was his "fairy godmother?" Well, let's see: "Now, Bubba figured he'd bonked the bejeebers out of his bean, 'cause the voice was coming from a cow. She chewed her cud for a moment, then said, "I'm your fairy god cow, and I can help you go to the ball."

Yee ha!

The illustrations are full page, edge-to-edge and give a whimsical old west feel.

Note: The illustrations include a lot of saguaros. I've become quite sensitive to this, living in the Sonoran Desert which is the only place in the world where saguaros grow naturally. They are NOT native to Texas, and won't be found in the wild there.....

Rocks in His Head - Carol Otis Hurst

Illustrated by James Stevenson
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Creamy pink

"Some people collect stamps. Some people collect coins or dolls or bottle caps. When he was a boy, my father collected rocks. When he wasn't doing chores at home or learning at school, he'd walk along stone walls and around old quarries, looking for rocks. People said he had rocks n his pockets and rocks in his head. He didn't mind. It was usually true."

This wonderfully told memoir includes a little history about the Depression, a little information about collecting, and the story of a man whose passion turns into a living - the true story of how a man with no college education - but a huge love of learning - can become a curator at a museum. Super.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Surprise - Sylvia Van Ommen

Front Street/Boyds Mill Press
2007, originally Pub. in the Netherlands, 2003
28 p.
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Shelves of colored bottles (dyes)
A wordless delight - especially for a knitter. Sheep weighs himself (can't tell which gender, so I'll go with male), then hops on his moped and heads to the dye shop where he buys a bottle of red dye. At home he covers, rinses, dries, his wool, then shaves it all off. Hopping back on his moped he takes it to a fancy pink poodle who spins it into yarn. At home, he knits and knits and knits, then wraps. Again on his mjoped he zooms off to give a very long-necked sweater to his friend Giraffe, who rewards Sheep with a kiss on the cheek. Very sweet story. And a great one to write!
Illustrations are simple, very bright, and totally enjoyable.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Horace and Morris Say Cheese (which makes Dolores sneeze!) - James Howe

Illustrated by Amy Walrod
Ginee Seo Books (Atheneum) 2009
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Dark aqua
The title of this book doesn't work. Dolores is getting shortchanged - this is her book, not Morris'! I'd have kids give it a better title. Kids frequently have a tough time coming up with an appropriate, catchy title - so this would make for a great writing lesson.
It's also full of alliteration, rhyme, dialogue boxes, a great story, and all-color pages. And the characters are all...mice.
Dolores loves loves loves cheese - any kind of cheese - but becomes very allergic to it. It's difficult to find replacements for cheese, and she keeps slipping back, which makes her break out in a horrible rash. She finally discovers that if she tries different combinations of cheeseless food, she's all set. Cute story written in a clever way. And kids will love the illustrations. I do.
"Horace and Morris but mostly Dolores loved to eat cheese. They ate string chees and Swiss chesse on Sundays. Thet ate Muenster with mustard on Mondays."

48. The Case of the Missing Marquess - Nancy Springer

Enola Holmes Mystery #1
Philomel Books, 2006
216 pgs
Rating: 4
Grades 5-8

Enola Holmes is one cool 14 year-old. She lives with her elderly mother on an estate outside London. And one day, on Enola's 14th birthday, her mother disappears. Her two older brothers come from London to take over Enola's future. And one of those brothers is Sherlock Holmes. Their decision is to make a lady out of her, and to send her to boarding school. She knows this cannot let this happen.

Her mother has left her two books. One is a cipher book that she had created herself, the other a book of flowers. Enola discovers that her mother has left her messages in the ciphers. She has also left her lots and lots of hidden bank notes. But the biggest gift that she has given her is a great sense of independence. So on the day that she is to be transported to boarding school she hatches an ingenious plan, disguises herself, and sets off for the rest of her life. And that is NOT going to be boarding school! On the way she stumbles upon a mystery (an apparently kidnapped rich kid), which she solves with no problem. And at the end of the book, setting us for many books to follow, we find her becoming Ivy Meshle, secretary to the unseen Dr. Leslie T. Ragostin, a famous scientific perditorian. And what is a perditorian? In Enola's words, a "knower of the lost, wise woman of the lsot, finder of the lost."

There are lots of references to Victorian England that might be tough for some kids to understand. Creating a glossary for these references would be something cool to create while reading.

The writing is quite, quite nice, though some of it might be difficult for kids that have a tough time reading:

"My brothers lived here? In this -- this grotesque brick-and-stone parody of any world I had known? With so many chimney-pots and roof-peaks looming dark against a lurid, vaporous orange sky? Lead-coloured clouds hung low while the setting sun oozed molten light between them; the Gothic towers of the city stood festive yet foreboding against that glowering sky, like candles on the Devil's birthday cake. I stared until I grew aware of hordes of indifferent city-dwellers brushing pst me, going about their business. Then I took a deep abreath, closed my mouth, swallowed, and turned my back to this curiously ominous sunset."

The Snack Smasher - Andrea Perry

Illustrated aby Alan Snow
Atheneum Bks for Young Readers
Rating: 3
Endpapers: Front: Green watercolor wash with tractor
Back: Splashes of aqua and fuschia with footprints

A variety of "vile villains, ruthless roughnecks, scoundrels, scalawags and dastardly deed doers" are described in the 13 poems in this book including people like snack smashers, wicked waitresses, ink drinkers, and snake knotters. Here are a couple:

The Scary-Hair Fairy (MUST use this near SCHOOL PHOTO DAY)

‘Twas the night before pictures – those taken at school –
when kids want their hair to look stylish and cool.

The students were nestled in bed unaware
of what was about to become of their hair.

When up on the dresser top, who should appear,
but that messer of tresses photographers fear.

The Scary-Hair Fairy! That rascally knave!
That scoundrel whose magic makes hair misbehave.

More rapid than spritzing, he’ll straighten your curls.
He’ll give you six cowlicks and bangs all awhirl.

With a twist of his comb and mysterious gel,
you’re helplessly under his hair-raising spell.

He’ll tangle your ringlets. He’ll snarl and he’ll knot
and stiffen and crimp all your hair so it’s taut.

And then he’ll be off spreading split ends and frizz
to the next unsuspecting young Mister and Ms.

Yet as he’s departing, his warning is clear.
He snickers with such a cold scalawag sneer.

“Tomorrow will bring you the bleak prospect of
a school picture only a mother could love!”


That sound you can hear?
At night in the dark?
That isn’t a sneeze, or a burp, or a bark?

It’s loud and alarming?
It keeps you awake?
And causes your bed and your dresser to shake?

That sound is the Snorist.
It means that he chose
to sneak with his tuba inside your dad’s nose.

He won’t ever leave
or stop making noise
since being annoying is what he enjoys.

He’s rude and uncouth,
a bothersome creep,
who wants to make sure no one gets any sleep.

He’ll play on for hours –
six, seven, or more –
each song getting louder and worse than before.

There might be a lull,
but don’t rest too soon…
the Snorist has merely switched to his bassoon!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Julio's Magic - Arthur Dorros

Illustrated by Ann Grifalconi
Rating: 3.5

Julio lives in a village of woodcarvers, but his own family are farmers. His friend Iluminado lives in the hills and has taught Julio to carve and paint. He has also taught him how to find the perfect wood for carving from the copal tree.

Iluminato has never entered the annual carving contest, and although his carving is slower and his eyesight failing, his carvings are still superior. So, this very first time that he enters, he wins. Julio helps with the painting and starts his own menagerie of carvings to enter nest year.

The artwork is collaged and painted with cut out people and objects on a paintd background. Some look photo quality, perhaps altered? Interesting. Subtle.

Arthur Dorris has a website which includes more information behind the story.

The Dunderheads - Paul Fleischman

Illustrated by David Roberts
June, 2009
Rating: 2 (darn!)
Endpapers: illustration of the Dunderheads tacked up onto a blue wall

Big-bosomed Miss Breakbone is a a tyrannical teacher who despises her students -- who she calls "fiddling, twiddling, time-squandering, mind-wandering, doodling, dozing, don't-knowing, dunderheads!" She gives herself a gold star whenever she makes a student cry and confiscates all their stuff to sell.

Then one day the class has had it and decide to retaliate. Using the special, odd skills each of the dozen-or-so Dunderheads individually hold, they create a plan to break into her fortress-like house to get back their stuff.

Told in the first person by one of the Dunderheads, the kid's personalities are well portrayed, and once I (as a teacher and proud of it) got over the hugely negative attributes of Miss Breakbone, I decided she was a hoot.

Now, Paul Fleischman is my favorite author. I actually preordered this book. I'm sure the illustrations are wonderful, but the whole package just didn't work for me. I'm really disappointed - I don't know if it's in myself, the artwork, the story, or the negative portrayal of teachers in general, which is a hugely pet peeve of mine. I'll reread this in a week or two. See how I feel then. (sigh....)

Artful Reading - Bob Raczka

Millbrook Press, Minneapolis (Lerner)
Rating: 5

Read by yourself. (Macke)
Read with each other. (Peale)
Read one good book. Then read another. (Van Gogh)
Read to discover what something means. (Degas)
Read to escape to a place you can dream. (Rossetti)
Read the news. (Cezanne)
Or read a globe. (Vermeer)
Read in a dress. (Fragonard)
Or read in your robe. (Durer)
Read while you wait for your train to come in. (Manet)
Read to find out how somebody's been. (Vermeer)
Read in a graden. (Cassatt)
Read in a house. (Messina)
Read by the window. (Matisse)
Read on the couch. (Renoir)
Read while you work. (Massys)
Read while you ride. (Hopper)
Read what you want. It's for you to decide. (Avery)
Read when you're young (Chardin)
Read when you're old. (Rembrandt)
Read all the words you can possibly hold. (Spitzweg)*
Read to friend, That's what friends are for. (Picasso)
Read all your life and you'll never be bored. (Lawrence)

Most of the page is filled with the art piece that illustrates that line - a few (Lawrence, Manet, Avery, Renoir) cover both pages - each double page is framed at the edge with a rufflly brown.

This is Raczka's eighth art book for young readers. It sure was a hit with me! What a great model to use in an artist's study, one artist, or several. A million ways to use in a classroom, and a great way to share rhyme and rhythm and great painters and painting to kids!

*Note: This Spitzweg painting is at the Milwaukee Public Library, sure to be and included destination in my next midwestern quilt shop hop.....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

47. Marcelo in the Real World - Francisco X. Stork

Published March, 2009
Arthur A. Levine/Scholasticf
316 pgs.
for: Young Adults 14 and up
Rating: A total 5 *****
(Also rated PG-13)

It is the summer before Marcelo's senior year, and his father is insisting that instead of working at the stables at his private school for the summer, he must come to work in the mail room of his law firm in Boston, to get a taste of the "real world."

Marcelo has a form of autism/Asperger's Syndrome, and is an amazing young man. We get inside his head. And he is fascinating. Extraordinary. Honest. He thinks - and speaks- of himself in the third person He takes an extra long time sorting through information, so he pauses for long periods before speaking. He's always been very quiet, he ponders questions inside and out before he speaks. He has incredible meta-cognition, is obsessed with the theories behind religion of any kind, hears his own music in his head AND on cd (he has a huge classical collection), and in good weather lives in a treehouse in his yard so that he can be alone. He likes organization, likes to be prepared for what's going to happen when, and in this summer, at his father's law firm, embarks upon a journey of growth and change and insight that is truly marvelous in its own way. I love hearing his entire thought processes when it comes to witnessing...and taking part in....the world. Truly fascinating.

I thought the beginning was just a little slow. But don't stop reading, it gets better and better an even better. Then midway through the story he finds a discarded photograph of a beautiful young girl who is missing half her face....which takes him on a journey that includes discovery about this girl and great insights about himself and the world.

There are many well-created personalities in this book: Jasmine, his young boss, just a little older than the 17-year old Marcelo; Aurora, his mom, his number one fan and role model; Arturo, his dad, a powerful lawyer trying, in his own way, to understand his son; and Jerry Garcia, the lawyer, who become a pivotal part of the story.

My favorite section of the book is when Marcelo accompanies Jasmine to her family home in Vermont.

Satisfying and illuminating.

University of Arizona POETRY CENTER

Tucked off Speedway just west of Cherry (its official address is 1508 East Helen St.) is the almost-brand new poetry center. Easy to park (it's free after five and on weekends, but there's a parking garage, not too, too expensive, on the opposite corner). Quiet. Peaceful. Cool. And chock-a-block full of poetry. You can read a current newspaper there, too. You can't cehck out any of the books, but you can read to your heart's content. And it's free, free, free!

Of course, my favorite corner is the children's poetry section. Full of books and teacher resources, it's a real find. There are comfy chairs for kids to sit in (I sit cross-legged on the floor) and there's a roll of paper and crayons to doodle and write on. They have Saturday morning "Poetry Joeys" for kids during the school year - usually near the end of the month. They are now offering two session, for young kids and for older kids, with activities and poetry. I'm planning to go as soon as they get started up again. I'm sure I can pass for 10 or 11......

They've also developed a fantastic curriculum called Verse!, that's geared to 4-6 year olds. I think they're cutting themselves short, many of the wonderful poetry-writing activities in this large manual can be done and/or adapted for older kids as well. Well worth the 25 bucks.

They usually have an artist exhibition, there's a huge computer room, and the lobby has a circle of sofas where you could gather and talk ......poetry, perhaps?

Upstairs are classrooms and offices. I took a beginner poetry writing class there last winter. They offer inexpensive workshops, and regular university courses, and you don't have to be a student. I'm so lucky to live near this university!

Here's their website.

Around Tucson

The Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures
4455 E. Camp Lowell
Tucson, AZ 85712
$7 for adults, $5 for kids, lots and lots of free parking, a brand-new, incredibly interesting museum full of miniatures - "doll" houses, room, collectibles, villages, and even a fairyland. Super interesting.
The Postage Foundation and Museum
920 No. First Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85719
FREE Admission, parking in rear. Not huge or time-consuming, but REALLY interesting. Only open weekdays, 8-3 or so.

University of Arizona Poetry Ctr.
1508 E. Helen St.
Tucson, AZ
just north of Speedway, west of Cherry
FREE Admission, parking garage adjacent, free parking nights & weekends, great children's and teacher resource section, read any of thousands of poetry books!

The Pima County Public Libraries
They're all over the place - and most are open 'til 8 on weeknights AND on Sundays from 1-5. Lots of compters, places to sit and read, zillions of books (in most branches) and it's COOOOOOOL inside. We are so lucky to have a FREE library system in this country!

Kartchner Caverns State Park,
Benson, Arizona

Part of the Arizona State Park System, a true wonder to behold! Reservations are highly recommended/required - the cost is well worth it. There are two different tours to choose from. I can only recommend the Rotunda/Throne Room Tour (it's the only one I've gone on) and it was unbelievable!

Postal History Foundation - Tucson

My last week of actual vacation at HOME before school starts, so I decided to do some exploring, especially to places that aren't open on the weekend. First stop, First Avenue near the U of A Campus to visit the Postal Foundation and Museum. WHAT A FIND!

There was a small tour there from the Botanical Garden, and I hitched on behind them for a little while, until I was directed to the director of educational services, Lisa Dembowski. And then I started getting excited.

First, you should see all the boxes and bags and containers and shelves of used stamps in this place. WOW!!! Apparently, Lisa goes all over Tucson to classrooms with presentations and activities about stamps in general, or for specific topics or themes. She was informative, helpful, and knowledgeable about her job. She gave me a bagful of "damaged" stamps (they looked fine to me) so that we can collage some onto the front of our journals to get us excited and enthused about stamps...and history....and famous people....and art.... on the first day of school.

Volunteers were everywhere, lots and lots of retired and elderly stamp collectors who have different jobs around the foundation, from soaking and sorting stamps to specialized expertise-type jobs. I'd LOVE to volunteer in the educational program here. Only problem, it's only open from 8 to 3 or 3:30 Monday through Friday, so I'm not going to get to return very often once school starts, never mind volunteering. I do think I'll become a member, though. This was a great place.

There's a small museum, a lovely library with a great kid's section, loads of used stamps and books to purchase, and a REAL post office (open until 2:30) on sight, with no waiting!

And everything's FREE FREE FREE!

NOTE: Watch the parking signs. They mean it. I found out for a fact.

See their website. If you teach 4th grade/Arizona History, there's a free postal booklet you can download that's really's terrific even if you don't teach "Arizona History", but only have an interest in Arizona history (heh heh heh, get it?)

Visit at 920 No. First Avenue (just west of Euclid, First Ave. is not the major roadway here that it is above Speedway), Tucson, Arizona 85719. (520)623-6652. Have fun!

Sky Magic - Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by Mariusz Stawarski
Dutton Children's/Penguin
March, 2009
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Bright orange to pale orange, fading (top to bottom)

14 poems about the sun, moon, and stars - including Schertle, Dotlich, Heard, McCord, and Sandburg.

The illustrations, by polish artist Stawarski, are bright, dark colors, with a decidedly geometric feel, color everywhere...the only white is the font!


I’m your star
center stage
the poem on your page
the beat ablaze

I amaze

I am the candle on your cake
a sparkler burning bright

I am light

at dawn, your kiss

I come to you
a diamond
on the morning dew

I am the wonder of all sky

I am the twinkle in your eye.

Lyn Littlefield Hoopes

Sing to the sun
It will listen
And warm your words
Your joy will rise
Like the sun
And glow
Within you

Sing to the moon
It will hear
And soothe your cares
Your fears will set
Like the moon
And fade
Within you.

Ashley Bryan

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sloppy Joe - Dave Keane

Illustrated by Denise Brunkus
Harper, 2009
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Lime green

"Mom says I'm the first kid in history to take a school picture with gum stuck in his hair.

You can barely notice."

I adore the way the Denise Brunkus illustrates this book and I love this kid-the way he looks, the way he acts, the way he thinks. When he decides to work really hard not to be sloppy anymore, he really tries - but you can imagine how successful he is. He's "all boy" -- as well as cute, caring, and funny. His jokes are corny, his intentions are valiant. He has character. and -- frogs, frogs everywhere! Quite delightful.

A great book for character develoopment.

MOVIE - 17 Again

A cute movie - and it seems Zac Efron can act!
Released: April 17, 2009
PG-13 1 hr. 42 min.
Kolb Century cheap theater
RT: 56% cag: 78%
Director: Burr Steers
Zac Efron, Matthew Perry

Some of this was stupid, but if you watch it tongue-in-cheek and get past that, it's really fun and cute. The story's been told, more or less, in several other movies, but the actors in this one were great. Zac Efron really acted! I wonder if he actually plays much of the basketball that gets played in the movie. Lots of fancy moves. Thomas Lennon, who plays his best friend, is a RIOT. Super geek extraordinaire. And the oldest son from Weeds plays the "bad boy." With very blonde hair. I snickered all the way through. I'd enjoy watching it again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oro Valley Public Library - Arizona

I've only been to this library once before, a few years ago, and I only stumbled upon it. I remember being very impressed. I was in Oro Valley yesterday, so decided to hunt it down. Wowee. What a great library!

This library is its own entity, owned and operated by the town of Oro Valley. It's an affiliate of the Pima Country Library. That was news to me. I took out three books, and the automation and procedures are exactly the same. I wonder if they have their own library card?

Teens and Children's both have their OWN ROOMS! And when you first enter, to the right is a huge, beautfiully labeled section of used books and media that is the FRIENDS of THE LIBRARY bookstore. Great prices, great selection, and lots of new stuff!

It's huge. It has public rooms - there was one room full of women playing Mah Jong. It has large study carrells sprinkled around. It looks like they subscribe to tons of magazines.

Unfortunately for the town and for me, it's closed on Sunday.

Outside is a gorgeous sculpture, a tree sprouting from a book. It was 113 degrees outside, so I didn't scramble to find something to write on to notate the words. I will next time. With the mountains in the background....what a sight!

There were no grouchy librarians that I could see. It was quiet and peaceful. It was packed with adults - not many kids here today.

I am so lucky to have access to the many wonderful libraries in the Tucson area!

Friday, July 17, 2009

46. Sworn to Silence - Linda Castillo

Minotaur Bks, St. Martin's Press, June, 2009
322 pgs.
Rating: 4

I saw this reviewed in People magazine a couple of weeks ago. It sounded really intriguing....and ex-Amish woman who has returned to her hometown in Ohio to become Chief of Police. My favorite genre, too. It's been a long time since I spent one day and evening just reading a book from start to finish. That's how this one got read.

I always say I like the gritty mysteries, not the cozies. Well, this one was perhaps one of the very grittiest I've ever read. Grizzly, actually....horrible murders take place, to not one, but three different vulnerable young women. They are described in great detail. They are awful. They are disturbing. But that didn't stop me from reading, and it didn't stop Chief Kate Burkholder from doing her job.

There's a pretty decent cast of characters to get to know, and good descriptions of the setting. Farmland, middle of winter, frigid cold, constantly snowing. You can see the police station, Kate's home, the Amish farms.

Not only has a serial killer seemingly returned to Painters Mill after a sixteen year absence, Kate cannot believe it could be the same killer. She has first-hand information about that killer from when she was fourteen. Information that she's never told anyone. Information that makes her wonder if it will change the way she investigates. She's a first rate cop; spunky, caring, smart. Of course she figures it out.

There are not a lot of surprises here, most is pretty predictable, though still exciting. For example, as soon as John Tomasetti is introduced, you know what's going to happen with him. (What a delicious name.) The outcome to the mystery is really no surprise either. But (other than the gruesomeness of the murders), it's a good piece of storytelling.

Psychopaths are usually born, not created. How can this be?

45. Chasing the Dime - Michael Connelly

Audiobook read by Jonathan Davis
8 cassettes/ 10.5 hours
Published 2002
Adult Murder Mystery
pbk 448 pgs.
Rating: 3.5

This wasn't a Harry Bosch mystery. I found it on cassette, cheap, at Bookmans, so I've been listening to it when I've been swimming, cassette recorder propped up beside the pool, trying to have it loud enough so that I can splash and swim and still hear it while not allowing any neighbors to hear it. Since it's about a dead prostitute and a website where her ads can be found - well, I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about me....

Henry Pierce is a computer gee, who has created a cutting-edge business that is about to crack open the computerbiochip field. His girlfriend, Nicole, has broken up with him, so he has forlornly found an apartment in LA along with everything that comes with a move, including a new cell phone (now that I think of it, why wouldn't you keep your old cell number?) Oh well...this is where the mystery starts, because he keeps getting calls for "Lily" on his cellphone. Henry is curious and starts checking around, asking questions....Lily has disappeared. No one will answer many questions. He doesn't let it go, no matter how much trouble he gets into. And he digs himself in deeper and deeper until it looks like there's no way to get out - HE's going to be charged with her murder.

Many twists and turns later we come to a somewhat satisfying ending....or at least, all the questions seem to be answered. Even the questions that haunted me the most as I floated around the pool, why did he keep digging? Why didn't he get someone who knew what they were doing to help? Why was he so obsessed with these girls? Even that is answered. A few of the characters, especially his ex-girlfriend and his new assistant, didn't seem real, weren't developed enough for me. But it had a good intricate plot, which I love about Connelly. However, there's something about Harry Bosch that I couldn't find in Henry Pierce. Oh well, it's not a series, it's a stand-alone.

44. Emmaline and the Bunny - Katherine Hannigan

for: young kids
(advertised gr. 1-3 in one place, ages 7-12 in another)
Greenwillow Books, Feb. 2009
112 pages
full color illustrations by the author

PW calls this "an environmental fable." Somewhere else I saw that its a "celebration of ingenuity...and untidiness." Booklist gave it a starred review.

I've been sitting in front of the computer for fifteen minutes, trying to decide what to write. Maybe its because the last few books I've read have been murder mysteries and edgy young adult novels, but I don't know what to say about this book. I didn't like it. At all. Well, I guess I do know what to say. Perhaps if it was written in verse instead of prose? Would I then think it's a charming tale? I've read "Stink" lately, and "Ivy and Bean." Loved 'em both, so that shoots my first theory. I guess I just don't like the way its written. Because I do like what it says, just not how it says it.

Here is chapter 14 (Because I can't indent, I've put elongated elipses (.....) where paragraphs start):

....."They hopped in short grass and tall. They hopped around trees and along hedges.
.....Emmaline watched the white tail go up and down, up an down in front of her. "Bunny," she told it. "I am behind your behind."
.....When the bunny's ears went out, then in, Emmaline stayed still. "I am listening, too," she whispered."
.....When there were strange sounds, they scoot-skedaddled side-by-side. Beneath bushes, they crouched close together. "Bunny, I am not scared, mostly," Emmaline said."

The message is the town of Neatasapin, Emmaline is NOT. She is noisy, and messy...a very ordinary child. Not allowed. When she decides she wants a bunny for her birthday, she discovers that it's agains the rules. Tough. Not HER rules! These are stupid rules, so she does something about it. See, great message.

So why don't I like the way it's written? I just tried reading it aloud, and when you make it sound more like verse it seems much better to me. Much less.....talking down. Less "See Jane run." Maybe that's it. Or maybe I'm just in a fussy mood. Hmmm....don't think so.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Americans Who Tell the Truth - Robert Shetterly

Puffin, 2005
Paper $7.99
for: middle grades

To open a book and be greeted by Samantha Smith -- well! And then a few pages along comes Howard Zinn! Be still my heart! Throw in 48 other very special Americans....many of whom we don't see written up for kids....and we have this fascinating book.

The portraits of each person are etched with one of their own quotes. (I DO with the quotes were a little easier to read.) At the back of the book there's a short biographical blurb about each of them. But the fifty pages depicting the "celebrites" are hand drawn, hand etched, and beautiful.

(I met Robert Shetterly years ago at the Northeast Harbor Library AND at Oz Children's Bookstore in Southwest Harbor.... both on Mt. Desert Island, Maine. He's from Brooksville, ME, and he and his wife, also a writer, are lovely people.)

He says that after Sept. 11 he was "inspired to draw strength from this community of truth tellers." Cool way to put it.

Add more to the list. Create your own anthology with a different theme. Art, quotes, and information....just like Amelia to Zora.

The fifty:
Jane Addams
Muhammed Ali
Susan B. Anthony
James Baldwin
Wendell Barry
Rachel Carson
Cesar Chavez
Chief Joseph
Noam Chomsky
William Sloane Coffin
Dorothy Day
Frederick Douglass
W. E. B. DuBois
Marian Wright Edelman
Dwight Eisenhower
Emma Goldman
Amy Goodman
Woody Guthrie
Doris Haddock
Jim Hightower
Zora Neale Hurston
Molly Ivins !!
Mary "Mother" Jones
Helen Keller
Kathy Kelly
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jonathan Kozol
Dorothea Lange
Lewis Lapham
Frances Moore Lappe
Perry Mann
John Muir
Ralph Nader
Rosa Parks
Paul Robeson
Eleanor Roosevelt
Frank Serpico !
Margaret Chase Smith
Samantha Smith
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Louis "Studs" Terkel
Henry David Thoreau
Sojourner Truth
Mark Twain
Ida B. Wells
Walt Whitman
Judy Wicks
Jody Williams
Terry Tempest Williams
Howard Zinn

Hard to top THEM!

43. - High Lonesome Road - Betsy Thornton

Chloe Newcombe #2 Dudley (Bisbee), Arizona
paper $5.99
250 pgs
Rating: 4
Adult murder mystery

These Bisbee, AZ based mysteries are easy to gobble up. This one wasn't quite as intriguing as the first, The Cowboy Rides Away, but it had very interesting characters, and the description of the parched, lonely desert and stretches of road in southeastern Arizona are well-written but not overdone.

It was a bit disappointing that almost all of the characters in this novel are new. There was some nice wrapping-up of some loose ends from the first novel, and if you hadn't read it you'd probably wonder what was going on. There are some loose ends left here, too, and I'll bet they get referred to in the third in the series, Ghost Towns, which was published just a year later. Can't wait to find out!

Twenty years previously, Chloe had spent the summer with her brother James (now dead) in Venice, California. His close friend, Erica Hill, had lived upstairs, and they had gotten to know each other a bit as the summer progressed. Now Chloe discovers that Erica has been living right here in Dudley for the past eighteen years, and she has a 16 year-old son, Troy. But then Erica gets murdered while driving the county bookmobile, and the mystery begins. We meet some interesing characters: Stuart, the defense lawyer, who asks Chloe out and they begin an arms-length friendship; Dot Stone, retired, no-nonsense third grade teacher; Larry and Nelson, the handsome gay couple who live up the street from Erica; Sally Smith, Erica's library coworker, who is a little nuts;, Troy, the innocent son.......and on and on.

Kyle Bartlett, the sheriff's investigator from the first book and who Chloe still pines for, has disappeared up north somewhere and is replaced by Ed Masters, who Chloe considers....well, not quite competent. Chloe asks her own questions, puts two and two together (coming up with four and a half), and we figure out what happened as she does.

Amelia to Zora - Cynthia Chin-Lee

Twenty-six Women Who Changed the World
Illustrateda by Megan Haley & Sean Addy
Charlesbridge, 2005
Rating: 4
for: middle grades
920.72C PCPL
Endpapers: dusty purple

The illustrations for each page are done in mixed-media collage, with an actual photograph for the face. Also included on the page is a short biography and quote. This would make a great model for a class ABC book.

Women included are:

Amelia Earhart (flight, adventurer)
Babe Didrikson (golf)
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (astronomer, 1st female professor at Harvard)
Dolores Huerta (United Farm Workers co-founder)
Eleanor Roosevelt
Frida Kahlo
Grace Hopper (computer pioneer)
Helen Keller
Imogen Cunningham (photographer)
Jane Goodall (naturalist/chimps)
Kristi Yamaguchi (gold-medal figure skater)
Lena Horne (singer, activist)
Maya Line (architect/Vietnam War Memorial)
Nawal El Sadaawi (women's right's activist)
Oprah Winfrey
Patricia Shroeder (politician)
Quah Ah (Pueblo painter)
Rachel Carson (environmentalist)
Suu Kyi (soo CHEE)(activist/Burma/Myanmar)
Teresa (Mother Teresa) (missionary)
Ursula K. LeGuin (SciFi writer)
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (India/UN peace pioneer)
Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee politician)
Xiefen (she EH fun) (China/women's rights)
Yoshiko Uchido (author)
Zora Neal Hurston (Black author)

Sparrow Girl - Sara Pennypacker

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka
Rating: 4
Disney/Hyperion Books
Endpapers: Lots of swallows

Wow. Now here's a part of China's history that I did not know. This book is based on a true historical account. (We find this out in an author's note at the end of the book, but I'll begin with it here. )

In 1958, Mao Tse-Tung, the leader of China, forced the people of China to spend three days and evenings making lots of loud noise - to kill all the sparrows, either from stress, exhaustion, or heart attacks - so they wouldn't eat the grain crops. But this completely backfired. Yes, the sparrows were completely gone, but now the locust population took over. A famine bagan, and 30-40 MILLION Chinese died in the next three years. Unreal!

In this story, a young girls saves seven sparrows, thus saving her village from a locusts and grasshoppers and weevils and worms that would destroy all their crops.

Illustrations - a little dark (purposely, I'm sure), but really nice.

(Sara Pennypacker is the author of Clementine.)

Regards to the Man in the Moon - Ezra Jack Keats

Originally published 1981, new edition 2009
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Dark sky with faint stars - cool

Louis creates a spacecraft from junk in his family's junkyard and off he goes! Friends try to follow him (in a bathtub, no less), get scared, and their imaginations turn off, so they get stuck. Moral: you must have a great imagination.

The book shows the vallue of creativity and imagination, as well as a love of the skies, the very faraway skies, with a little recycling thrown in. And Keat's illustrations are timeless.

Official Ezra Jack Keats website with infomation about his foundations, his books, the awards that are given in his name (first time authors and illustrators) and his life. Quite interesting.

Teachers as Readers Book Club 09-10

I do enjoy this gathering of people and the short, interesting discussion about each book. The ensuing ideas and book talks about other interesting books would keep me going 24-hours a day forever. Good people. Intellectual conversation. Pie and Diet Coke. Can you beat that combo?

Here's the list for 2008-2009

September 9, 2009 (missed the meeting)
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy - Ally Carter
....(This is #2 in a series, the first is I'd Tell You That I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You)
Deep and Dark and Dangerous - Mary Downing Hahn READ
Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Jeff Kinney

October 14, 2009 (another missed meeting)
Epic - Connor Kostick
The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings - Alan Gratz
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libba Bray

November 11, 2009 (yippee, finally made it!)
Football Genius- Tim Green
Get Well Soon - Julie Halpern
Gym Candy - Carl Deuker

December 9, 2009
Homeboyz - Alan Lawrence Sitomer READ
How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-boyfriend - Jeanette Rallison READ
Jinx - Meg Cabot

January 13, 2010
Masquerade - Melissa de la Cruz READ
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac - Gabrielle Zevin READ
Peak - Roland Smith

February 10, 2010
Repossessed by A. M. Jenkins READ
Right Behind You - Gail Giles READ
Schooled - Gordon Korman READ
The Warrior Heir - Cinda Williams Chima READ

Skulduggery Pleasant - Derek Landy
Story of a Girl - Sara Zarr
Th1rteen R3easons Why - Jay Asher

The Titan's Curse - Rick Riordan
Twisted - Laurie Halse Anderson
The Wizard Heir - Cinda Williams
(This is #2 in The Heir Series)

Antsy Does Time - Neal Shusterman
Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater READ
Fat Cat - Robin Brande READ
Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan

MOVIE - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

What can I say...we're talking about HARRY POTTER here!
2 hrs. 33 min. (long)
Released July 15, 2009
El Con with Sheila OPENING DAY!
RT: 87% cag: 92%
Directed by: David Yates
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

My knees were jumpin' in excited anticipation as I sat in the crowded theater at 1:30 yesterday afternoon - and I was not to be disappointed. I love the Harry Potter music, by the way, I'd like to hear even more of it, I don't think it was included at the end of the movie, only at the beginning. Ah well, the movie....

Two hours and thirty-three minutes of a totally silent audience immersed in a "take me away" experience. The technical work is extraordinary. HOW DO THEY DO IT??? Crawling skeletal bodies; flames and fire and smoke; the spiraling, floating ink to get into that bowl of memories cauldron (this was also used for the end credits, very cool); incredible setting, inside and out of Hogwarts; and oh, that Quidditch scene. I repeat, how do they do it?

And oh, the head-first tumble into girls and snogging and hormones and all the good stuff that I love about working with adolescents-------and these actors are wonderful. Touching, funny (Ron Weasley/Ruper Grint is a riot!) and really, really fun to watch.

The up-and-down scales between the dark side and the light side of this movie were perfectly adjusted! I particularly loved getting a glimpse of Voldemort as a child. The cold Tom Riddle became much more of a reality. And Helen Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix....well, she's so good. She plays this sort of part so well....wasn't she Dr. Frankenstein's wife and the wacko woman with Johnny Depp in another recent movie? I'll have to look that up......Whatever.

Great entertainment on the grandest scale. Incredible storytelling. Special effects and costuming and sets that are just fantastic. What more could a person ask for in a movie????

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

MOVIE - The Brothers Bloom

A suspenseful romantic comedy with a "sweet" touch or two....
1 hr. 49 min.
Released May 15, 2009
Dollar Tuesday at the Grand, alone
RT: 62% cag 92% (I really liked the acting/chemistry/characters of Brody and Weisz)
Directed by Rian Johnson
Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo

Brothers Stephen and "Bloom" Bloom were sent from foster home to foster home when they were young boys. Mischievous might be a way to describe them. But when they are 13 and 10, we discover Stephen's penchant for creating intricate "stories" that they act out, step by step, toward a reward of some kind. They are con men.

25 years later, Stephen is still writing the "stories", they are aided and abetted by an almost-silent female sidekick nicknamed Bang-Bang, and Bloom has had it. He wants out. He wants to live a "real" life, not a story. Stephen convinces him to pull one last con. By now they are international con men, playing for big stakes. This one will be tricking a peculiar heiress, played by Rachel Weisz. And now it starts getting really good, trying to figure out what's con (most of it), what's not, and watching the relationship grow between Bloom and Penelope. That was my favorite part, watching those two characters interact.

Great sets and scenery, this was filmed in four places - Serbia, the Czeck Republic, Romania and...darn, I can't remember.

Fun, fun, fun.


I've been reading a lot of kid's books about Frida Kahlo this past week, preparing to begin this year's teaching with some overall history of MEXICO before I jump into Maya History. What a fascinating woman!

Frida Kahlo was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon on July 6, 1907, just before the Mexican Revolution, in Coyoacan, Mexico. There was much tragedy and anguish in her life, but it sure looks like she tried to live every minute to the fullest.

Here are some excellent BIOGRAPHICAL WORKS . They all include some of her paintings, and many include photos.

Frida by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
64 pgs.

This is the book that got me started, then fascinated. You can read my review here.

Frida Kahlo: Painting Her Lifeby Lila & Rick Guzman
Enslow Publishing - Famous Latinos series
32 pgs.

This is a biography that would make a good read aloud -- the text is linear, with not a lot of boxes and sidebars (other than the paintings and photos and their captions)--yet simple, sttraightforward, full of information but interesting, quick. Broken into five chapters (one/day?):
1 - Frida's Childhood
2 - Learning to Paint
3 - Frida and Diego
4 - Frida's Art
5 - Becoming Famous

The book ends with a timeline and resource list.

Frido Kahlo
by Adam G. Klein
ABDO Publishing Co. Checkerboard Library "Great Artists"
32 pages
Easy Reader

Includes 10 paintings, 7 photos, glossary, punctuation key, as well as a simple timeline of her life.

Each two-page spread has an easy amount of text, painting or photo, and a "Chapter" title that's surrounded by colorful swatches of dripping color.

I would certainly encourage a 3rd or 4th grader to read this book. Very appropriate.

Frida KahloArtists in Their Time Series
Jill A. Laidlaw
Franklin Watts, 2003
48 pgs.

Each two-page spread has a title ("Who Was Frida Kahlo? Childhood Years. Declining Health. What is Communism?), numerous photos and paintings with captions, boxes with interesting information, and a timeline across the bottom of each beginning page.

This is a particularly interesting, informative book to read. I'd use it with grades 4 and 5.

Amelia to ZoraTwenty-Six Women Who Changed the World
An ABC collection of simple biographies and quotes.

Frida Kahlo represents "F".
My review.

Me, FridaAmy Novesky/David Diaz
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2010
Young Frida has just married Diego Rivera and spends a year in San Francisco. Not my favorite of Frida, but details this time she spent in Calfornia, the first time away from Mexico.
My review.
More Coming....