Tuesday, August 25, 2009

58. When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead

Ages 9-14, Grades 5-7 Wendy Lamb Books, Random House July, 2009 200 p. Rating: 4 2010 Newbery WINNER 1979 New York City - Miranda's mom is getting ready to be a contestant on the $20,000 Pyramid. Her best friend, Sal, has stopped being her friend - she knows not why. She's spending her lunch period working a Jimmy's, helping to prepare sandwiches. She avoids the crazy, laughing homeless man who hangs out on her corner. She reads A Wrinkle in Time over and over. And she grapples over tiny notes she's been receiving that truthfully foretell bits of her future. Told in short chapters, this multi-faceted story is interesting and thought-provoking. At the end I spent an hour slipping back to look for foreshadowing and clues. Some of my 4th graders - and even some of my 5th and 6th - will not "get" some of it- but those who can think outside the box and/or love A Wrinkle in Time will certainly enjoy this story.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Middle Grade Books Read

As much as I love spending my time reading YA and adult murder mysteries, I'm teaching fourth grade now instead of middle school, and it's time to read and reread middle grade literature. Here's my keepin' track list:

Allen, Kate - The Line Tender, 2019 (4.5)
Anderson, John David - Posted , 2017 (4.5)
Anderson, Laurie Halse - Chains, 2008 (or is it YA?) (4)
Applegate, Katherine - Home of the Brave, 2007 (4)
Avi - Crispin, Cross of Lead, 2002 (1)
Barnhill, Kelly - The Mostly True Story of Jack, 2011 (2)
Baskin, Nora Raleigh - Anything But Typical, 2009 (5)
Bauer, Joan - Stand Tall, 2001 (3)
Blackford, CherylLizzie and the Lost Baby, 2016 (1)
Blakemore, Megan Frazer - The Water Castle , 2013 (3.5)
Block, Francesca Lia - House of Dolls, 2010 (4)
Branford, Anna - Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot, 2010/2012 (5) (EARLY middle rdrs.)
Brockmeier, Kevin - City of Names, 2002 (3)
Bunker, LisaZenobia July, 2019 (4)
Calhoun, Dia - After the River the Sun, 2013 (4)
Carmichael, Clay - Wild Things, 2009 (5)
Carter, CaelaMy Life With the Liars 2016 (5)
Cheng, Andrea - The Year of the Book, 2012 (4)
..... Where Do You Stay? (4)
Clements, Andrew -  The Map Trap, 2014 (4)
.....No Talking, 2007 (4)
.....The Jacket, 2002 (4)
Clinton, Cathryn - A Stone in My Hand, 2002
Colfer, ChrisThe Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell  , 2012 (3)
Condie, Allie Summerlost , 2016 (4.5)
Connor, Leslie - Waiting for Normal, 2008 (5)
.....The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, 2018 (4)
Couloumbis, Audrey - Say Yes, 2002 (4)
Creech, Sharon - Hate That Cat, 2008, (5) Love That Dog, 2001 (5)
Curtis, Christopher Paul - Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, 1995 (4.5)
Day, Karen - A Million Miles from Boston, 2011 (4)
Deutsch, Barry - Hereville, 2010 (5)
Dionne, Erin - The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, 2010 (3.5)
diCamillo, KateRaymie Nightingale, 2016 (4.5)
.....The Magician's Elephant, 2009 DNF (1)
Dowell, Frances O'Roark - Ten Miles Past Normal (2011) 4
.....Where I'd Like to Be, 2003 (4.5)
Draper, Sharon M. - Out of My Mind, 2010 (5)
Du Prau, Jeanne - City of Ember, 2003 (3.5)
Ellis, Deborah - No Ordinary Day, 2011 (4) READ CAUTION in review
.....Parvana's Journey, 2002
.....The Breadwinner, 2000
Erskine, Kathryn - Mockingbird, 2010 (5)
Fagan, Cary - The Big Swim, 2010 (2)
Fipps, LisaStarfish, 2021 (5) Verse
Fitzmaurice, Kathryn - The Year the Swallows Came Early, 2009 (5)
Fleischman, Sid - The Dream Stealer, 2009 (3)
Fletcher, Susan - Shadow Spinner, 1999
Furlong, Monica - Robin's Country, 1995 (3)
Giff, Patricia Reilly - Gingersnap, 2013 (3)
.....Pictures of Hollis Woods, 2002 (5)
Gino, AlexGEORGE, 2015 (4)
Grabenstein, ChrisEscape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, 2013 (1.5)
Graff, Keir The Matchstick Castle, 2017 (2)
Green, ShariMacy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, 2017 (4.5)
Gregory, Kristiana - Bronte's Book Club, 2008 (3.5)
Haydu, Corey AnnEventown, 2019 (3)
Hermes, Patricia - Our Strange New Land, Elizabeth's Jamestown Colonial Diary #1, 2000
Hesse, Karen - Brooklyn Bridge, 2008 (5)
Hiaasen, Carl - Hoot, 2000 (3)
Hirsch, JeffSovereign, 2019 (1)
Holmes, Barbara Ware, Following Fake Man, 2001
Holmes, Sara Lewis - Operation Yes, 2009 DNF
Holt, K. A.House Arrest, 2015 (5)
Holt, Kimberly Willis - Piper Reed, Navy Brat, (4) (5)
..........Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel
Horvath, Polly - Everything on a Waffle (4)
House, Silas & Neela Vaswani - Same Sun Here, 2011 (4)
Hurwitz, Michele Weber - The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, 2014 (4)
Hyde, Catherine Ryan - Pay It Forward, 2014 (2)
Jacobson, Jennifer Richard - Small as an Elephant, 2011 (3)
..........Winnie Dancing on Her Own, 2001 (4)
Klise, Kate - Dying to Meet You (43 Old Cemetery Road #1) 2009 (4)
Kadahata, Cynthia - Half a World Away, 2014 (2.5)
Khan, HenaAmina's Voice , 2017 (3)
Korman, Gordon - Schooled, 2007 (4)
LaFleur, Suzanne - Listening for Lucca, 2013 (3)
LaRocca, Rajani Red, White, and Whole, 2021 (5) VERSE
Latham, Irene - Leaving Gee's Bend, 2010 (4)
Law, Ingrid - Savvy, 2009 (3.5)
Levine, Gail Carson - Dave at Night, 1999
Lin, Grace - The Year of the Dog, 2006 (4)
Lord, Cynthia - Touch Blue, 2010 (4.5)
......Half a Chance (2014 (4)
Lopez, Diana - Confetti Girl, 2009 (4)
Lowry, Lois - Gooney Bird Greene, 2002 (4)
.....The Gooney Bird Collection, 2009 (4)
Lubar, David - Punished! 2006 (4)
MacLachlan, Patricia - Word After Word After Word, 2010 (4)
.....Waiting for the Magic, 2011 (5)
.....The Poet's Dog (4)
Marks, Janae - From the Desk of Zoe Washington (4)
Martin, Ann M. - A Corner of the Universe, 2002 (3.5)
Mass, Wendy - 11 Birthdays, 2009 (4)
.....Every Soul a Star, 2008 (5)
.....Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight (1) really too young for middle grade titles, but not sure where else it would belong?
McMann, Lisa - The Unwanteds, 2011 (3.5)
Mead, Alice, Year of No Rain, 2003 (4.5)
.....Girl of Kosovo, 2001
Mills, Claudia - How Oliver Olson Changed the World, 2009 (5)
Moss, Marissa - Amelia Hits the Road, 1997
Nickerson, Sarah - How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, 2002 (3.5)
Orlev, Uri - Song of the Whales, 2010 (1)
Park, Linda Sue - A Long Walk to Water, 2010 (4.5)
Partridge, Elizabeth - Dogtag Summer, 2011 (4.5)
Paterson, Katherine - Day of the Pelican, 2009 (3)
.....The Same Stuff as Stars, 2002 (3)
Patt, Beverly - Best Friends Forever, 2010 (5)
Paulsen, Gary - Lawn Boy, 2007 (4.5)
......Amazing Life of Birds, 2006 (3.5)
Pennypacker, Sara - Summer of the Gypsy Moths, 2012 (5)
Pinkney, Andrea DavisDear America: With the Might of Angels, The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson, Hadley Virginia, 1954, 2011 (5)
Polacio, P. J. - Wonder , 2012 (5)
Potter, EllenPiper Green and the Fairy Tree #1, 2015 (5) (Beginning Chapter book
Ray, Delia - Here Lies Linc, 2011 (4)
Rhoads, Dorothy - The Corn Grows Ripe, 1956 (3.5+)
Rhodes, Jewell Parker - Ninth Ward, 2010 (3)
....................................Towers Falling, 2016 (4.5) 9/11
Riordan, Rick - The 39 Clues Book 1- Maze of Bones, 2008 (2)
Rollins, James - Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, 2009 (4)
Rose, Caroline Starr - May B. a Novel, 2012 (3/Liked it)
Ryan, Pam Munoz - Esperanza Rising (4)
Salerni, Dianne K. - The Eighth Day, (4)
Schlitz, Laura Amy - The Night Fairy, 2010 (4)
..........Princess Cora and the Crocodile, 2017 (4)
Selznick, Brian - Wonderstruck, 2011 (3-Liked it)
Shovan, Laura - The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary (4) VERSE
Sloan, Holly GreenbergCounting by 7s, 2013 (5)
.....................To Night Owl From Dogfish (with Meg Wolitzer) 2019 (5)
Smith, Alexander McCall - Akimbo and the Crocodile Man, 1993 (2.5)
Spinelli, JerryThe Warden's Daughter, 2017 (4)
..........Eggs, 2007 (3.5/5)
..........Loser, 2002 (4.5)
..........Stargirl, 2000 (4)
Springer, Nancy - The Case of the Missing Marquess, 2006 (4)
Staples, Suzanne Fisher - Under the Persimmon Tree, 2005 (4)
Stead, Rebecca - When You Reach Me, 2009 (4)
Stolz, Joelle - The Shadows of Ghadames, 1999/2004 (5)
Sturm, James - Satchel Paige, 2007 (4)
Timberlake, AmyOne Came Home, 2013 (2)
Tolan, Stephanie S. - Surviving the Applewhites, 2002 (5)
Tucker, LauraAll the Greys on Greene Street, 2019 (4.5)
Warga, Jasmine Other Words for Home, 2019 (3)
Waugh, Sylvia - Space Race, 2000
Whelan, Gloria - Listening for Lions, 2005 (4)
..........Small Acts of Amazing Courage, 2011 (3.5)
..........Angel on the Square, 2001 (3.5/4)
White, Ruth - You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does), 2011 (4)
..........A Month of Sundays, 2011 (4+)
Williams-Garcia - One Crazy Summer, 2010 (3.5)
Wolitzer, MegTo Night Owl From Dogfish (With Holly Goldberg Sloan) 2019 (5)
Wolk, LaurenWolf Hollow , 2016 (5)
Woodson, JacquelineHarbor Me, 2018 (3)
Yang, KellyFront Desk, 2018 (4.5)
Yohalem, Eve - Escape Under the Forever Sky, 2009 (4.5)
Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn - Reaching for Sun, 2007 (4)

57. Confetti Girl - Diana Lopez

for: Middle Grades
Little Brown, June 2009
200 pgs.
Rating: 4

Lina Flores is tall, skinny, and motherless. She has a huge sock collection, a best friend that she shares everything with, and a dad who's still grieving his wife's death and seems more interested in his books that he is in Lina. Her reaction is to blow off English (her dad's an English teacher), and she begins to fail. A sixth grader, she also acquires her first boyfriend.

She's lucky that her best friend, Vanessa, lives across the street. Vanessa's mother has been a man-hater since her divorce, and spends every free moment she has making cascarones from eggs, filling them with confetti and accumulating them. It's a good story about friendship, and the loss of a parent. Also included are lots of dichos: Los amigos mejores son libros - Books are your best friends, En boca cerrada no entran moscas - Flies can't enter a closed mouth....etc.

It started out great, petered out a little toward the end. Nevertheless, a good story that many girls will adore.

MOVIE - The Time Traveler's Wife

Better than expected
Released Aug. 14, 2009
PG-13 (1:48)
El Con with Kate and Sheila
RT: 36% cag: 89%
Director: Robert Schwentke
Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams

It made perfect sense to me, the book took me lots longer to figure out (and I read the book ages ago, so it wasn't that my "exceptional" memory helped me out at all). Some friends loved it, some didn't like it much, some didn't like it at all. It was supposed to be really sad. So I didn't think I'd like it. Wasn't even looking forward to going to the movies! Yes, tears rolled down my cheeks quite a bit. But I though this was great story-telling, and I loved the two leads as well as the young ladies who played the daughter. They had to have been sisters, they looked so much alike. Good, solid entertainment, but it left me drained.

Henry has a weird genetic honomoly that makes him travel forward and backward in time. He has no control over it, and although it usually takes place for a brief amount of time, sometimes it's for longer. He meets Clare on one of these trips, when she is a young child. They meet again and again until they finally meet in "real" time. It's a love story. A good one. She is beautiful. He is beautiful. Time well spent.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mercy Watson Fights Crime - Kate DiCamillo

Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
#3 Mercy Watson series
Candlewick, 2006
74 pgs.
For: ages 6-8
Rating: 5

Now here's a series where a clever, funny story and very clever, comical illustrations work together perfectly. Just perfectly. Such characters! Such humor. Great fun.

Mercy Watson, a pig, a plain old non-talking, food-loving pig, lives with Mr. and Mrs. Watson in her own room with her own bed. She loves to eat and sleep and ... well, that's about it, I guess. But what an adventure she unwittingly gets herself into.

Tiny Leroy Ninker, who wants to be a cowboy but is a robber, breaks into the Watson kitchen. He steals the toaster, the clock, and various other kitcheny items until Mercy hears the toaster sliding across the counter and thinks someone is preparing toast with butter. She discovers that no one is, so she falls asleep in front of the getaway door. When Leroy begins to step over her, she awakens and takes him for a Yippee-I-Oh ride across the lawn, waking up two old-lady sisters next door.

Hilarious and fun. Last week when I was in Maine, my granddaughter, Ashley, and I went into the Briar Patch children's bookstore in Bangor. (Wow, more on that later...) Her immediate choice of a new book was the newest Mercy Watson, #6, that has just been published. She said that Chris Van Dusen (the illustrator) had come to visit her school and she'd read other books in the series. Ashley's somewhat of a reluctant reader, so this was a very happy discovery for me. A very worthwhile, happy discovery. I want to get to know more of these characters - especially Baby and Eugenia Lincoln, the two elderly sisters who live next door.

56. Lawn Boy - Gary Paulsen

For: Middle Grades (9-12)
Wendy Lamb Bks/Random House, 2007
HC $12.99
90 pgs.
Rating: 4.5

A very funny book, especially for a budding economist/ entrepreneur/ investor/ or wanna-be rich kid. Told in the first person from the point-of-view of a nameless 12 year-old, we see how an innocent old riding lawnmower, bestowed to him by his grandma, takes over his summer and turns him into an unwitting "thousandaire." But there are some delicious twists and turns along the way including some interestingly devoloped characters and sidekicks.

There are some parts of this easy-to-read short novel that might be difficult for kids too young - undocumented migrant workers, investment lingo, and chapter titles like "Labor Acquisition and Its Effect on Capital Growth" and "Businesss and the Art of Creative Misrepresentation" - which I must admit had me rolling in laughter, 'cause I did get it.....

As an adult I loved this story. I'll try it out on one or two fourth graders and see if they "get" it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

55. If I Stay - Gayle Forman

for: YA
Dutton Books/Penguin, April 2009
200 pgs.
Rating: 5 (or maybe 4.5 because it made me cry)

Right from the beginning you know that there will be a catastrophe and what that catastrophe is. And, yuh, I did cry, but not 'til the end....whew....I just couldn't help it.

This story is layer after layer of character development woven beautifully together. Love. Family. Quirkiness. And music. Lots and lots of music- punk and classical and many more of those aforementioned layers in between. It's clever and heart-warming and tells the story of a 17 year-old cellist bound for Juilliard, from her point-of-view.....her point-of-view as an out-of-body protagonist that is watching her family and friends as she hovers in a coma after a dreadful car accident.

I don't want to give any more spoilers. The story is so beautifully written and pulls you in so quickly that you very badly want to know these people. And don't decide not to read it because you don't like sad stories. It's too good to do that.

In the afterword, Forman says that she listened to Glen Hasard and Marketa Irglova sing Falling Slowly 200 times while she wrote this book. I SO love that song - it's on my FAVORITES playlist on my IPod. And if you saw the movie Once, you've heard it, too. That REALLY endeared me to the author.

What a great piece of storytelling.

Monday, August 10, 2009

54. Satchel Paige - James Sturm

Striking Out Jim Crow
A Graphic Novel
Illustrated by Rich Tommaso
The Center for Cartoon Studies, 2007
96 pgs.
Rating: 4

The title was a little misleading - I thought, for a bit of the beginning, that the protagonist was Satchel Paige. When I figured out it wasn't, at that this was a linear story and not vignettes, I went back and started over, understanding the story.

From the point-of-view of a young black man that faced the pitching of Satchel Paige, we learn of many things - about the great black pitcher, about the lack of any rights for blacks, in baseball or in life, at this point in time (the book goes from 1929 through 1944), and at the life of one sharecropping family in the south during this time.

The introduction by Gerald Early sets up the history of black baseball in America and the true story of Satchel Paige, at the end are short discussions of various pieces of historic information brought up in the book: Wages, The Railroad, Sharecropper Shacks, The Negro National League, African American Press, Bullet Rogan, Paige's Personal Catcher, Paige's Pitches, Rituals and Rhythms, Speek and Daring, Barnstorming, The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, Jim Crow's Unwritten Laws, Lynching, The Role of Church, The N-Work, Calling in the Infielders, His Next Gig.

You get a real feel for the man, the time, and this tiny slice of black history - all in graphic novel form.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Anne Frank Case - Susan Goldman Rubin

Simon Wiesenthal's Search for the Truth
Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
Holiday House, Jan. 2009
40 pgs.
For: Middle grades
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Pinky-red

This is the story of Simon Wiesenthal, his harrowing life through many concentration camps during the Holocaust and his determination to find and prosecute Nazi's in the aftermath. In 1958, when a group of Neo-Nazi's booed a play about ANNE FRANK, he set out to prove that she WAS a real person, that her diary was not fabricated, as they claimed. That is the premise around which the book is written, going back and forth between different times in his life and his attempts to find the Nazi who arrested the Franks and his work helping to ensure that the Holocaust will never be forgotten. He died in 2005, at 96 years old.

The illustrations are dark and beautifully done. There is a resource list, a glossary, and additional information at the end of the book.

Swing Around the Sun - Barbara Juster Esbensen

Illustrated by:
Cheng-Khee Chee (spring)
Janice Lee Porter (summer)
Mary GrandPre (fall)
Stephen Gammell (winter)
Carolrhoda Books, 2003 (original verse 1965)
48 pgs.
Endpapers: orange

Enjoy beautiful art from four very different illustrators while traveling through the seasons with twenty of Esbensen's (1925-1996) poems that include:


Day is Night!
The world is black;
The thunder snaps
With a splitting crack!

Beaks of lightning
Rip the air
And willows swing
Their streaming hair.

Threads of rain
Bind earth to sky;
The gutter’s torrent
Rushes by.

No house has shape,
No tree has form;
The town is lost
In summer storm!


Within its polished universe
The apple holds a star,
A secret constellation
To scatter near and far.

Let a knife discover
Where the five points hide;
Split the shining ruby
And find the star inside!


The sky’s a fiery garden
That scatters in the breeze,
Vying with the fireflies
Glowing in the trees.

Spangling the darkness,
Velvety and deep,
The last exploding starfall
Crumbles into sleep.

Song of Middle C - Alison McGhee

Illustrated by Scott Menchin
Candlewick, 2009
Ages 5-8
Rating: 4
Endpapers: colonial blue with musical notes

"Hoo boy!" I've got to get this book for Dede. It's a wonderful story for anyone who takes piano lessons and enjoys them enough to practice, practice, practice.

Told in the first person, our nameless heroine practices and practices and practices "The Dance of the Wood Elves" for her recital. She knows it. She owns it. She is ready. Her piano teacher, Miss Kari says, "True artistry requires great imagination." But she's nervous, so for the recital she wears her lucky hat, shoes, and underwear. She's the last to perform. "Hoo boy!" And what happens? You guessed it - she forgets everything she's practiced. So she improvises, to everyone's great delight. And now Miss Kari says, "True artistry requires great imagination....and great improvisation!"

Colored pen and ink drawings go perfectly with the story.

53. Whiskey Sour - J. A. Konrath

Audio Read by Susie Breck and Dick Hill
Brilliance Audio, 2004
For: adults
6 CD's/7 hrs.
288 pgs.
Rating: 4

Grizzly murders, humorous female protagonist, overeating side-kick, and the city of Chicago frame this humorous introduction to Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels, a lieutenant of detectives in the Chicago PD.

Jack is in charge of a particularly grizzly murder of a Jane Doe, dumped into a 7-11 trash can, badly brutalized. The next day, at another 7-11, the same thing. The Gingerbread Man is taking lives quickly...brutally....and has become mesmerized by Jack, trying to get to her, too. He is meticulous, thinks through every move, hard-to-track or catch. But Jack is smart, funny, brave and brazen and she figures it all out, much to the sociopath's chagrin. Hair-raising, scary, and quite funny, I'm sure I'll look for the next in this bar-drink titled series.

At the end of the audio the author himself reads the short story from which this book came. Great way to end the book.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

52. Tales from Outer Suburbia - Shaun Tan

Arthur A Levine Books/Scholastic,
Australia 2008, US 2009
96 pgs, YA
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Tiny grey-pencil sketches from the stories on cream background

Fifteen bizarre short stories - all that make you think, look further and deeper, put two and two together to make seven or fifty-four.....

Contents: a different postage stamp for each story - the denomination is the page number and the illustration is the same as within the story.

Illustrations: all distinctly different from each other, in most cases they either tell the story or are needed to tell part of the story.

A sampling of stories: ERIC: a foreign exchange student comes to stay with a family. He is the size of a large nut and lives in the pantry. One day he leaves without saying goodbye, but has left a garden planted in tiny bottlecaps , boxes, and found-things.

BROKEN TOYS: An Asian man dressed in a deep sea diver's garb (see cover) arrives mysteriously with a broken wooden horse and is allowed to mysteriously enter the grouchy next-door-neighbor's house.

DISTANT RAIN: A collaged story of lost bits of poems adding themselves to an enormous ball of poems that rains all over the city.

GRANDPA'S STORY: A weird pre-wedding trip...both in pictures and words.

All quite bizarre, using weird parts of the brain to decipher, a book of stories that will really grow on you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

MOVIE - Public Enemies

Johnny Depp was great
Released July 1, 2009
R (2 hrs. 23 min.)
Reel Pizza Thurs 8/6 with Fran
RT: 67% cag: 88%
Director: Michael Mann

This machine-gunning love story had humor and great acting. John Dillinger - Public Enemy # 1 in the 30's, recreated by Johnny Depp and Michael Mann - was interesting and entertaining. The violence and mahem were expected, the smirk on Depp/Dillinger's face was beautiful, of course you were rooting for the bad guys....and the ending was perfect. Yes, it was indeed a love story. And how much of this was true? Was he really so smart? Was he really so cheeky? (Walking into the Chicago Police station and strolling into the Dillinger unit!) Or was he really just lucky? Between the book I'm currently reading and this movie, I am more-than-ever convinced that the FBI is, for the most part, ummmmm....... ineffective???

I'm really glad I saw this. Hadn't been planning to. Good movie.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chicken and Cat Clean Up - Sara Varon

Scholastic, 2009
44 pgs. ages 4-8
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: thick green strips with encircled animal characters from the book

Chicken and Cat are two friends that live together. Chicken has decided to start a housecleaning business, and of course his friend Cat comes along to help out. But cat is tired, clumsy, and unsure of what to do, so he makes a lot of mistakes that have to be rectified. However, after they leave the apartment they are cleaning, he apprehends a mouse that has burgled a woman's purse, and thus becomes a hero.

Totally wordless. As I "read" it to Brendan, who's four, I had to explain what was going on in places, but he stayed interested and mesmerized througout the entire 44 pages. He talked about it later, so it was a hit! Very cute illustrations.

Chicken and Cat was written previously, this is their second adventure.

51. Talk - Kathe Koja

Frances Foster (FS&G), 2005
Young Adult 940L
134 pgs.
Rating: 4

Told in two voices in alternating chapters, we hear from the two leads in a high school play - Kit, his first time EVER acting, thinking he's been acting his whole life, and Lindsay, drama star and first class b----- ummmm---- mean girl. Kit has a crush on a trumpet player named Pablo and she has a crush on Kit. The play is controversial, the school board shuts it down and the cast and director take it to another venue.

Many issues raised here - being gay and "in the closet", how do you let your parents and friends know, how to you act upon it, how do you live with homophobic slurs, how do you convince a self-centered snob who has a crush on you that she's not what you'd ever be interested in? What does the future hold for these two seniors?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ma Dear's Old Green House - Denise Lewis Patrick

Illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
Just Us Books, Inc., 2004
Ages 5-8
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Olive

The illustrations are what called me to this book. Actually, they hollered. They remind me of batik. It says they're done with scratchboard and acrylic and that Sadler's paintings are exhibited in galleries all over the U.S. I've gotta check this out! They're exceptionally cool.

In this memoir, Patrick tells of fun-filled summers with her cousins at her grandmother's house on a hill in Louisiana.

What a great model for memoir writing for kids - and turning the final copy into a picture book.

The Red Book - Barbara Lehman

Houghton Mifflin, 2004
36 pgs, ages 5-8
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Red

The story is told by examining illustrations inside boxes, sometimes one box on a page, sometimes four. The illustrations are simple but not simplistic - there's plenty to see, examine, and admire.
         In the city it is snowing and a boy is on his way to school. He finds a red book in a snowbank. At school he opens it and is taken to a desert island where he sees another boy find a similar red book poking out of the sand. This boy opens it to find --- the boy in the city! They can see each other!
          After school the boy buys a huge bunch of helium balloons. They pull him up...up...up into the air and he drops the red book. The boy on the deserted island sees all of this transpiring on the pages of the red book that HE has, and is quite sad. Sad until - as we see in the pages of HIS book - his balloons floating onto the island!
          Our story ends with another boy in the city in the sonw, this time riding a bike. He finds the fallen book, sticking it under his arm and heading off along the sidewalk.
          Magical. Fun.

GoodreadsThis book is about a book. A magical red book without any words. When you turn the pages you’ll experience a new kind of adventure through the power of story.Winning a Caldecott Honor for its illustrations of rare detail and surprise, The Red Book crosses oceans and continents to deliver one girl into a new world of possibility, where a friend she’s never met is waiting. And as with the best of books, at the conclusion of the story, the journey is not over.

Monday, August 3, 2009

50. Death Assemblage - Susan Cummins Miller

Frankie MacFarlane #1
Texas Tech Univ. Press, 2002
Rating: 3.5

Set in Pair-a-Dice, Nevada, a tiny "hick" town in the northern part of the state, our heroine, six-footer Frankie MacFarlane, is working on her graduate thesis in geology and smarting over a broken romance. She has nine lives, a huge curiosity, and is very nosy. There's a huge cast of characters, murders, break-ins, strangers, and an inordinate amount of clues that DO come together at the end. It's improbable, interesting, and a fun read. The suicide? accident? murder? of her ex sets up a future novel...

It's not a "polished" story - many clues and much information are introduced weakly, but it's the first in a series (even possibly her first book?) and it will be interesting to see if character development is better in future novels.