Saturday, January 30, 2010

R.I.P. Howard Zinn

1922 - 2010

Another sad passing. Howard Zinn died this week. My friend Sheila was one of his many students, she kept in touch with him, and quotes him a lot. His book, A People's History of the United States, is an HONEST history, illuminating facts that have either been ignored or glossed over, but now finally told. And recently, he wrote a two-volume children's edition, which is really wonderful and oh-so readable. Then again, 87 is nothing to sneeze at. I think he lived every minute to the fullest...apparently he was swimming when he had his fatal heart attack.

My daughter took U. S. History as a senior because she was in a special program that included a lengthy trip to Ecuador during her junior year. Being in a junior-year class as a senior wasn't too much fun, but because she was in that particular class, she got the opportunity to travel to Boston for a weekend and meet Howard Zinn. And since Sheila was the history teacher that planned the trip, I was asked to accompany the class as a chaperone. And oh, what a trip.

The five-hour-each-way bus ride wasn't a joy...but everything else was. We toured Harvard. We saw RENT. We rode the subway all over the city. And we met with Howard Zinn - just this small, intelligent class of high school kids and Mr. Zinn. I can still remember the conversation, the questions, how impressed he was in these knowledgeable young people. And he was charming. And funny. And quick. The kids were prepared. They'd read his book. It was an unforgettable experience - for all of us.

He is included in Robert Shetterly's 2005 book Americans Who Tell the Truth. I remember being terribly pleased about that. I hope that people, when they hear of his passing, go out and read or reread A People's History. They won't regret it.

Some good articles to read about Howard Zinn:

"A Radical Treasure" by New York Time Op Ed Columnist Bob Herbert

"Howard Zinn, America's Most Inspiring Teacher, Dies at 87" in San Francisco's "BeyondChron"

"Howard Zinn, historian who challenged status quo, dies at 87" from the Boston Globe, his hometown newspaper

MOVIE - Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges was amazing!
Limited release Dec. 16, 2009
R (1:51)
Jan. 30, 2010 at El Con with the Weinsteins
RT: 92% cag 96% (yup, one of my favorites)
Fandango: 83/100
Director: Scott Cooper
Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell

Bad Blake. Quite a name. Has-been country singer. Alcoholic. Playing tiny southwestern towns in bowling alleys for very little pay. Jeff Bridges sings. And acts. Oh, does he act. He was incredibly wonderful. He deserves an Oscar, hands-down. I had a crush on him many, many years ago (20??) when he starred in Starman. He was so GOOD. Well, he's even better in this. Believable. Genuine. To play a falling-down, constantly-regurgitating drunk for 7/8 of a long movie is no easy chore. We FEEL for him. We see what he's gone through. We want him to find help, but it seems pretty useless. It's just not going to happen...... Redemption? Fullfillment? Reconciliation about past deeds? Lots to ponder here.....

Maggie Gyllenhaal is gritty in her role as Jane, the youngish reporter in Santa Fe that falls for him. Colin Farrell is GREAT as his past-protege. Both Bridges and Farrell do their own singing - famously. I've got to get this soundtrack.

Well worth the price of a full-price ticket. I'm genuinly satisfied with this one.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

10. Right Behind You - Gail Giles

For: YA
Little Brown, 2007
292 pgs.
Rating: 4.5

I read this all in one sitting, couldn't put it down. There are three parts, three settings. Alaska, Indiana, and the coast of Texas. When Kip was nine and hardly realizing what he was doing he set a seven-year-old on fire. From catatonic state to four years in a mental institution, Kip tries to learn to live again. The first third of the book tells of his life in the hospital in Alaska.

When his doctors deems him well enough to join the real world, his dad and stepmom move to Indiana and change their names, there have been hate crimes and death threats because he "walked away" from the crime. From inside Kip - now Wade's - head, we suffer with him as he tries to construct a life after over four years in almost-isolation. He's smart, friendly, athletic. He makes friends, studies, joins the swim team. But his guilt is his constant companion. He starts drinking, and one night tells his friends about his past. He is ostrasized, and they have to leave again.

They end up in a house on a beach in Texas, where Wade falls for the girl next door- who has her own demons. But he feels he must tell her about his past. So he writes the whole story into journals, which he gives her to read. That's what we've been reading.

Intriguing story. Tough topic. Masterful storytelling.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

9. Burned - Ellen Hopkins

Audio read by Laura Flanagan, who gets high marks
For: YA, definitely older YA
published 2006
5 unabridged cd's
5 hrs. 15 min.
544 pages - told in free verse form
Rating: Ooooh...hard to say......some is 2...some is 3, I guess

After I heard the first minute or so I almost didn't continue. I should have realized that this beginning part was definitely foreshadowing. Pattyn Von Stratton, just ending her junior year in high school, is the oldest of seven sisters with pregnant mom finally about to have another sibling. However, this time it a boy.

Thre's so much to say about Pattyn and her family. They're Mormons who live in Carson City, Nevada. The father is an abusive drunk. The mother, although the main target of the abuse, sits on the couch and watches reality tv all day while the daughters cook and clean and vacuum and change diapers. The girls are raised to obey the father, be righteous, attend Sunday testimonies, and never...ever...think for themselves. They wear homemade clothing and have few friends.

When a male classmate becomes interested in Pattyn, she is torn in two directions - what her bishop and father have taught her, and what her own feelings..and all the reading she's done....are telling her. Then her father catches her in an uncompromising position and sends her for the summer to stay with his estranged sister in the middle of Nevada. This is where I had my second wonderings about the book. Aunt Jeannette was a wonderful, caring, thoughtful, liberal feminist who had nothing good at all to say or do with the father. Why would he ever send Pattyn there? And then Pattyn has a wonderful, love (and sex)-filled summer learning to drive, to ride, and to trust herself and her feelings.

But disaster after disaster happens once she has to go back home. One bad thing right after the next. The ending , after all these disasters, is what any thoughtful reader should have realized right from the first few lines was going to happen.

You hear the last words of the story and say, to yourself: "Okay." "What?" "Well...." and "Yuh, I guess so." I KNOW that if I had any inkling about what was going to take place in this book, I wouldn't have read it. I don't know if I'm glad I had no inkling and DID read it, or would have rather not read it at all.

MOVIE - New York, I Love You

Quite artsy -- and delightfully different
Limited release Oct. 16, 2009
R (1:52)
Jan. 26, 2010 at Crossroads with Sheila & Ronnie
RT: 41% cag:
Director: Perhaps ten or eleven, different directors for each of the "shorts"

Andy Garcia, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, James Caan, Bradley Cooper, Julie Christie, Eli Wallach, Cloris Leachman....

This was a very interesting movie. The setting...of course....New York City, mainly different parts of Manhattan. Eleven (???) vignetees/shorts/separate stories that occasionally intertwine and over lap. Most have a cute twist at the end. Some are better than others. And there's only one where you wrinkle your brow and say, whaaaaat??? That was also the one that seemed the longest and most tedious...a bit of fantasy in a world of reality, and it just didn't seem to fit for me (Julie Christie, a no-longer-singing-opera-singer who is about to commit suicide (I think) watches a crippled immigrant jump from her window instead...but it is apparently all in her head....)

These were my standouts, perhaps because I so enjoy the actors? Natalie Portman shines. Her vignettes were thoughtful and clever (two of them, linked by others). The James Caan pharmicist setting up a recently jilted young man with his attractive daughter, to go to his prom - and when the daughter appears, she's in a wheelchair. Every one of the four or five times that Bradley Cooper appeared (incredible eyes, no matter what he does). The scene where Ethan Hawke tries to pick up a woman after he lights her cigarette outside a bar. And Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach, walking to the boardwalk at Coney Island on their 63rd wedding anniversary...although a bit drawn out, was wonderful.

It was good. I enjoyed it a lot. And the half price happy hour at Buddy's beforehand was yummy, cheap, and perfect....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Peppe the Lamplighter - Elisa Bartone

Illustrated by Ted Lewin
Loithrop Lee & Shepard, 1993
For: gr. 1-4
My rating: Story: 2.5/ Illustrations: 4
Endpapers: Bright Yellow
Caldecott Honor

Ted Lewin's beautiful, full-page illustrations take on a dark tone in this story. Peppe lives with his seven sisters and sickly father in the tenements of New York's Little Italy. Peppe hunts everywhre to find a job to help support his family, and finally procures one lighting the lamps around his neighborhood with a flame on the end of a long pole.

However, his father is ashamed of him - he says this is not why he brought his son to America -- he wants much more for him. His father's silence and attitude eventually rub off on Peppe, who gets more and more depressed - until he doesn't light the lamps one night. And because of that, his little sister doesn't arrive home. (She is afraid of the dark and huddles under an unlit lamp.)

Distressed, the father begs Peppe to go out and light the lamps. He finds his sister and brings her home to a now-loving and accepting father.

Okay, the illustrations are gorgeous. But the story throws me off a bit - this father! What a jerk. He doesn't deserve so many caring, hard-working kids! I bet if I read this aloud to my students they'd decide that for themselves, too. Grrrrrr.

The Storytellers - Ted Lewin

Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1998
32 pages
For grades 1-4
My rating: 4
Endpapers: The city of Fez, surrounded by palms and mountains.
There's a glossary of Arab words and pronounciations.

Set in the city of Fez in Morocco, this story leaves us with a wonderful sense of what it might be like there - so very different from what American kids might be used to -- mules pulling wagons on the skinny streets of the marketplace, craftsmen performing their tasks for all to see --- we smell the smells (some unpleasant) and see the sights. Beautiful carpets. A walled city. Moroccon dress. And we wait to discover where Abdul and his grandfather are going.

Abdul's grandfather is a storyteller. They let their white pigeon fly free, and when it returns it "brings a story from the sky." The gathering crowds drop coins onto the carpet where the storyteller and his grandson sit and listen attentively to the stories.

This is based on something Ted Lewin witnessed when he and his wife were on a trip to Fez.

This is a superb look into the eveyday lives of another culture in our world.

Big Jimmy's Kum Kau Chinese Take Out - Ted Lewin

Harper Collins, 2002
32 pages
For: gr. 1-4
My rating: 4
Endpapers: Colorful Chinese take out menu...mmmmm...

Ted Lewin's masterful portraits cover these pages with black font on yellow or light blue, orange and yellow font on black. His are some of my favorites - they really capture place and mood.

It's Saturday and a young boy is going to "help" his parents run their Chinese take-out on a busy street corner in Brooklyn, New York. Ted Lewin has fashioned this after a real Chinese Take Out - named Kum Kau ("gum-kow"), in his own neighborhood. It describes the eight various cooks chopping, steaming, preparing fresh meats and vegetables for the onslaught that begins when the metal doors rise from the sidewalk for the 11 o'clock opening. It has a cute ending, a self portrait of the author eating his favorite - Buddha's Delight, - and an excellent explanation of how the the book's illustrations were created.

Yum. Chinese takout for dinner, anyone?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

R.I.P. Robert B. Parker

1932 - 2010

I never met Robert B. Parker, although we lived in the same town for many years. I saw him a couple of times - once he was out washing his car in the driveway. He and his family lived in Lynnfield, Mass., the town in which I grew up. Years later my husband, Steve, discovered Spenser. We both read the mysteries...gulped them down, actually, going back to the very first one, The Godwulf Manuscripts. His Smithfield was my Lynnfield. I don't think he changed the names of many places in his books, we used to discuss why he might want to disguise Lynnfield. Then some of his settings made it to Maine, where we lived. One weekend we drove down to Belfast to see if we could discover where he was describing (we did). On at least two weekends, while visiting my family in the Lynnfield/Wakefield/Reading areas, we traced a couple of his jaunts in and around the suburbs of Boston - Middleton, Peabody, up Rte. 114, book description open on my lap while Steve drove.... We went to the Boston bars where Spenser went, giggling over our drinks.

I am extremely saddened to hear of Parker's death on Monday (January 18, 2010) at age 77. He felt like someone I knew. HE was Spenser. I feel horrible for his wife, Joan. It makes me ache, knowing that he was Steve's favorite author, and that Steve read every one of his books through 2000 (and that's a lot of books). It's Parker (and Spenser) that got my son, Brian reading. Other than Hatchet (Paulsen), Brian had never had any interest in reading. The outdoors was calling much too loudly. But he is now a voracious reader of murder mysteries - and it began, shortly after his dad's death - by reading all the Spenser novels, most of which he found on his dad's bookshelf.

Mr. Parker, thanks for the laughs (you must have had a wonderful sense of humor), for the wonderful mysteries, for the gentle tough-guy persona of Spenser....and also for instigating my own trips around Massachusetts and glimpses into other parts of the country, for being the spark that got my kid to read, and for sparking all the talks and sharing and audio-book listening on long car rides that were part of my own married life.

For some informative reading about Robert B. Parker, here are a few websites I checked out this morning:

This was the best - Parker and his son, Dan, singing Moon River. It's really wonderful!

Here's are comments from one of the funniest and clever young adult authors I know - David Lubar.

This site has a huge list of tributes and blogs about Parker.

Here's one of the Boston Globe obituaries, and here's one from the London Telegraph.

And lastly, here's a tribute from fellow Boston author, Dennis Lehane.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Food Fight This Fall (and Other School Poems) - Marilyn Singer

Illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Sterling, 2008
40 pages
My rating: 4
Endpapers: "Snapshots" of each of the 12 kids who "write" these poems about their school life in Ms. Mundy's class

Subjects and people and the playground, the classroom and celebrations and poetry -- all are creatively presented. This is a perfect fun 3rd/4th grade collection of poems that tell a story.

The illustrations are bright, the text is on top of and part of the illustration. Picture and poems work together so well.

Field Trip

Look at this painting, that color, this line.
Look at that tiger, so different from ine.
Look at the walls, at the ceiling, the floor.
Art everywhere! In the next room there's more!
Boats in the harbor, a girls with a cup...
Will I be an artist when I grow up?
Will they hang my pictures where people can see 'em
When they take a trip to this super museum?

Spring Me!

bee bumping
the window, let's
trade places. You want to come
in and work. I want to go out
and play.

What woke me? It might
have been a robin. It might
have been a poem.

Because of You - B. G. Hennessy

Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Candlewick, 2005
24 pages
Endpapers: Dark blue-aqua watercolors

One person CAN make a difference! This book should be read and shared at my school's next Passport to Peace event. It's simple:

"When you were born, there was a new person for your family to love and care for.

And because of you, there is one more person who can love and care for others."

Back and forth, this story tells how simple acts of kindness can be the beginning of peace in our world. Gentle. Simple.

The watercolors are an excellent model for kids that are beginning to use watercolors carefully and with detail.

Flotsam - David Wiesner

Clarion Books, 2006
40 pages
My rating: 5
Endpapers: beige "sand"
2007 Caldecott Winner

Why have I never before looked at this Caldecott winner??? It's a gorgeous wordless story. Ultra-clever. SO creative, so much to say, a full-fledged story without words.

A boy is lazing at the beach with his family, examining bugs and crabs and the ocean in general, when a large wave brings in a strange old camera - a "Melville Underwater Camera." He develops the film inside and can't believe the pictures that appear. Underwater fantasies of all kinds - whole stories could be told in each underwater photo - so many lesson plan ideas - But that's not all the pictures that are on the camera. There's a photo of another child, standing on a beach, holding a photo. And when he looks closer, he sees that the photo being held is of another child standing on a beach holding another photo....and back and back and back....

Note to self: start hunting for copies!

The illustrations are definitely Caldecott worthy. What a story.

Katy and the Big Snow - Virginia Lee Burton

Houghton Mifflin, 1943/1971
Brand new paperback edition has sparkly cover and STICKERS!
$6.99 paper
40 pages
My rating: 5

Virginia Lee Burton's picture books - over sixty years old - are stiill being published! The Little House, Mike Mulligan, Katy - this is incredibly cool, huh? And after reading Katy and the Big Snow again (it's been an incredibly long time) I know why.

There's a wavy border on every page. There's a compass rose on any page that shows the city of Geopolis. There are maps. There's excitement. There's a hero (heroine!)....

When a blizzard covers the city of Geopolis, big, strong Katy the bulldozer-with-a-plough is called out to help (to the rescue!)

The illustrations are primarily in aqua with black, red, yellow, green. and white as the only other touches of color. They're "old fashioned" and incredibly wonderful.

Winter Trees - Carole Gerber

Illustrated by Leslie Evans
Charlesbridge, 2008 (paper 2009)
Paper $6.95
32 pages
My rating: 4

I've been looking for TREE books to accentuate my 4th grade Judaic partner's unit on TuBishvat. This book was a great find!

The illustrations are linoleum block prints, with water color and collage. Really lovely.

The rhyming text looks simple but has a sophisticated complexity:

"They stand distinct as skeletons.
We clearly see the form of each:
the egg shape of the maple tree;
the taller oval of the beech..."

We learn about trees by what they look like in winter - bare decidious shapes, fuller coniferous forms.

Trees discussed: maple, beech, birch, oak, yellow poplar, eastern hemlock, white spruce....these are MY trees, the New England trees that i grew up with, played in and under, knew well. I've been in southern Arizona for 7 1/2 years now, and I know the major cacti, but it's time to learn the native trees!

Reading Makes You Feel Good - Todd Parr

Megan Tingley/Little Brown, 2005
Paper $6.99
32 pgaes

With his usual simplicity, Todd Parr celebrates books and the joy of reading in words and pictures. Bright bright colors. Simple drawings - a thick black line colored in with solid colors, but the whole page is covered, without a speck of white.

This could be written up as a poem and kids could brainstorm their own additions - or create their own new poem in a similar vein, on this subject or another.

"Reading makes you feel good because...
You can imagine you are a brave princess or a scary dinosaur
You can learn about cool places and people
You can make a new friend
You can do it anywhere!
Reading makes you feel good because....."

You get the idea.
I'd like to put some of these double-page spreads on the walls of my classroom.

Thirty Days Has September

Cool Ways to Remember Stuff
Scholastic, 2008
124 pgs.
1st published in Britain

Here's a great gift for every 4th - 8th grade student! Not only does it have "cool wasy to remember stuff," but it has lots of interesting facts.

"In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue."
There's edeifinely no A in definite.

Clues for punctuation, homonyms, grammar, mnemonic devices for remembering historical dates, the presidents, geography, the 50 states, colors -- dates -- planets -- chemical formulas -- multiplication memorization (and even waaay more difficult math concepts)...every clued that's out there is in here.

8. Under the Persimmon Tree - Suzanne Fisher Staples

for: Middle Grades
Frances Foster Bks, Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 2005
HC, $17.00
275 pgs.
My rating: 4

This was a very interesting book, detailing, so sadly, some of the atrocities that have (and possible still are?) taking place under the Taliban in Afghanistan. This story has TWO interesting perspectives. We flip-flop, chapter by chapter, between an American woman living in Peshiwar and an Afghani girls fleeing from her destroyed home in the mountains. Both stories are heartbreaking.

It looks like Najmah has lost her whole family to the Taliban or American bombs. The 12-year old is rescued by fleeing neighbors, disguised as a boy, and set out on a difficult journey to the refugee camps on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. There is no food, little warmth or shelter, and a deep, deep sadness. Najmah stops talking, but uses her wits and determination to continue.

Nusrat has accompanied her doctor-husband from New York City to Pakistan so that he can help. She has converted to Islam, loves Faiz' family (who love and accept her) and has opened a school for refugee kids while she waits for him to return to her from the war zone, where he is working in clinics.

Najmah and Nusrat's stories progress until they come together. Incredibly sad, but an honest look at what's been going on for the last ten years in Afghanistan, to the population and particularly to the women.

There hasn't been a whole lot written (yet) for kids about what's been going on over there. I am so thankful for books like this. However, I'm such a Breadwinner (Deborah Ellis) fan that I must admit as much as I like Staples' work, I prefer Breadwinner over Under the Persimmon Tree and would recommend it first.

Such unbelievable despair. A whole country of people who have lost entire families, traditions, history, and freedom.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

7. The Third Angel - Alice Hoffman

Audio read by Nancy Travis (magnificent!)
for: adults
Published 2008
7 unabridged cd's
8 hrs.
288 pages
HC $25, paper coming in March, 2010
My rating: 5

Nancy Travis reads this so beautifully. I love the story, but I wonder if it's also the way that Ms. Travis reads it that hypnotized me. Wonderful storytelling. How do people create stories with such depth with so much weaving of lives? For that is precisely what this book is, the weaving of many lives, how one can touch another that touches another....

Set, for the most part, in London. Told in three parts, first in the mid-1990's, from the point-of-view of Maddy Heller, a young woman who is not entirely likable, who falls in love with her sister's fiance, Paul. Unfortunately, just before they are to be married, Paul succumbs to cancer, which has wasted him away. We get to know the two sisters, the parents of the bride and groom, and the fourth major player in the story - the hotel which is the setting of all three parts.

Then we travel to the Mid 1960's and get to know Frieda Lewis, a doctor's daughter who has run away to London and taken a job as a maid at the hotel. Frieda Lewis falls in love with a drug-addicted musician who marries another, but who has taken Frieda as his "muse." She marries and has Paul, who she loves fiercely. She is a wonderful woman, strong and smart.

Lastly, we meet Lucy Green, 12 years old at the end of WWII. She has traveled from NYC to attend the wedding of her stepmother's sister, Bryn. She is a reader, and lends her copy of Anne Frank to a handsome young man who is also staying at the hotel. This is Bryn's former husband, someone her parents considered a hooligan - enough to annul the marriage and send Bryn to Paris where she met and became engaged to Teddy Healy. But tragedy strikes, a tragedy that will follow Lucy Green through her life. We've already met her -- she is Maddy's mother.

There are so many people that come in and out of all three lives. There are constants, there are peripherals, and they are wonderfully woven in. This is a terrific story...of love, of loss, of pain, and of accepting things that we don't want to accept. It's a story of addictions, of heartache...and of happiness, too. It was really wonderful. And not one, despite what I've said, that is a tear-jerker. Thank goodness....

MOVIE - Leap Year

Adorable...but so predictable....
Released Jan. 8, 2010
PG (1:37)
1/19/10 alone at El Con
RT: 18% cag: 63%
Director: Anand Tucker
Amy Adams Matthew Goode

Ireland! What a gorgeous, green place.

This is a simple, predictable, extremely cute and fun story. A feel-good romantic comedy. You can put Amy Adams anywhere and she is always wonderful. And Matthew still female hearts! Move over Colin Furth. Dark-haired, accented

Amy Adams is a successful Bostonian who has been dating a (very nice, very ordinary, very boring) cardiologist for four years. When she thinks he is finally going to ask her to marry him, she is disappointed once again. Her father (John Lithgow) reminds her of an old, romantic Irish tradition that a woman can ask a man to marry her on Leap Day - which, of course, only comes once every four years. And guess what - her doctor boyfriend will be at a conference in Dublin! So she packs her Louis Voutton rolling suitcase and takes off. Needless to say it becomes a comedy of errors and she falls in love along the way. Fun and cute and predictable and feel-good. It'll be in the cheap theaters quite soon, I'm sure.

Gotta check out some other Matthew Goode movies: A Single Man (WITH Colin! ! !) Watchmen, Brideshead Revisted, The Lookout, Copying Beethoven, Imagine Me and You, Match Point, Chasing Liberty, and South from Granada. Netflix, here i come!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Too Much Kissing - Alaz Katz

(And Other Silly Dilly Songs About Parents)
Illustrated by David Catrow
"Ages 3-7"
Margaret K. McElderry Bks, 2010
32 pgs.
My rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Dark blue

14 two-page spreads that include a poems about mom and dad that go to the tune of a well-known (mostly well-known) song. Funny and fun. For example:

They're Full of Beans
(to the tune of "Take me Out to the Ballgame"

Mom and Dad just drink coffee.
They both live on caffeine.
Each has a pot before starting work,
while at their jobs they are on auto-perk,
and it's brew, brew, brew after dinner.
It's like a java monsoon!
It's no wonder they haven't slept
a wink since June!

Mom and Dad just drink coffee ---
extra strong, no decaf.
Every week they each brew twenty pounds.
Coffee pot broke, so the just ate the grounds.
And if they don't stop drinking coffee,
I fear that someday they will
want to pack up all our stuff
and move to Brazil!

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 ALA Awards -Caldecott Newbery Printz

The BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS were made this morning. For once, not many surprises for Caldecott or Newbery....

Congratulations Jerry Pinkney! ! !For the first time EVER I picked it! This is truly the most magnificent picture book this year. How could it not win??? Just look at the cover! It's a completely wordless picture book that tells the story perfectly. Here's my review from September. And here's the ALA announcement site.

The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Honor books:
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I love it. Here's my review.

Red Sings from Treetops by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Zagarenski. I just created a script from this book that my fourth graders will present next Saturday night to their parents. YeeHa!

Okay, this probably would not have been my pick. Here's my review. It was a good book, though, for sure. Here's the ALA Announcement site.

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead

Honor Books:
Claudette Colvin; Twice Toward Justice
by Philip Hoose
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

On Wednesday, at my TARC book discussion, this book was brought up. The only thing I remember being said is that it was, "really, really strange."

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Charles and Emma, the Darwin's Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Punkzilla by Adam Rapp
Tales of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem - Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney/Hyperion, 2009
40 pages
"ages 4-8" (I'd say great for 2nd-5th graders-funny and informative)
My rating: 5
Endpapers: Large advertisements for sea-related items in two shades of brown.

Another winner!

There are two types of illustrations in this wonderful book. Large, colorful, fanciful depictions of the story, and black and white (with brown and white) more technical drawings to illustrate the factual information that is presented. Combination FUN story and interesting blue whale facts.

Billy's parents are always threatening him - clean up your room/brush your teeth/finish your peas -- or they'd buy him a blue whale. Well...guess what. They must have gotten fed up with him enough to do just that. So he's stuck with the largest-ever-known mammal, which must accompany him wherever he goes. And does that ever cause problems!

But Who Will Bell the Cats? Cynthia von Buhler

Houghton Mifflin, 2009
32 pages
My rating: 4
Endpapers: Rosy red

I enjoy adaptations of Aesop's Tales - more so since I created some cool Aesop's Fable lesson plans for fifth graders in the last few years. This version of "Belling the Cat" will be a fun addition to an Aesop collection - for two reasons. The story is clever. It's about a princess with eight pampered cats and the mouse and bat who live in the castle basement. And secondly, the artwork is cleverly different, to say the least -- von Buhler has created the rooms as tiny sets for her story. She painted, then cut out the characters beforeplacing them in the rooms and photographing it all. Font is white, pages are borrdered; really different and special on many counts!

Blake Shelton - The Guy That Introduced Me to Country Music

Blake Shelton, a native Oklahoman (is that the right word?) is currently working on his sixth studio album, which will be released on March 2, 2010. Included on this will be his already-hit single, "Hillbilly Bone," which includes lots of vocals by the gorgeously deep voice of Trace Adkins, another superlative country performer. The great video has been out for a few weeks. There's a cute four minute "behind-the-scenes"video that shows the two of them preparing for the video and goofing around, here.

I've listened to all five of Blake's albums dozens of times. My favorite is still the first one I bought, the first one I listened to over and over and over: 2007's Pure BS. My favorite of favorites is "The More I Drink." I love the video, too - it's like a comical mini-movie. I'm not much of a drinker, but I love the humor and playfulness of the song - and the way he sings it. Also on this album are three songs he co-wrote, "This Can't Be Good," "I Have Been Lonely," and "The Last Country Song." Three more songs were added later, "Chances" and "I Can't Walk Away," both written by Shelton, and a big hit for him, "Home," which was written and first performed by Michael Buble.

In October of 2008 I wrote about how I first heard of him, you can get to that blog here. I met him for about twelve seconds last April at Country Thunder in Florence, Arizona. Even got my photo taken with him (check it out!).

I love his voice and the way he sings. I love his tall lankiness. I don't love that his favorite things to do are hunt and shoot. Oh well, you can't have it all. I'm getting used to the fact that Miranda Lambert is his girlfriend. Whenever I need to pull myself out of the doldrums I crank up Blake on my iPod and dance around the living room. He gets me going every time. A girl's gotta dream, right?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Henry in Love - Peter McCarty

Balzer & Bray (Harper Collins) 2010
"Ages 3-6"
My rating: 3
Endpapers: Flower blossoms floating in the wind across the page

This is a cute story of flirtation - Henry really likes Chloe. They're in the same class and the day that Henry's mom makes blueberry muffins for lunch he plays with her at recess. The teacher happens to move seats around that afternoon - and she seatr Chloe beside Henry. So at snack he gives her his muffin -more or less sealing the deal, I guess.

Very simple, a bit slow...for me as an adult. But kids always surprise me - they just might love it!

Friday, January 15, 2010

6. Faces of the Gone - Brad Parks

For: Adults
Minotaur Books, 2009
330 pages
Rating: 4
1st in a brand new series by a debut writer.

Debut writer Brad Parks has hit the nail on the head. He's created invesigative reporter Carter Ross. Smart, articulate, funny and even compassionate....he is a delightful protagonist. Written in the first person,we easily get into Carter's head to see how he thinks, how he puts two and two together. Park has done a superb job with the supporting characters, as well, including his finicky cat, Deadline.

Four execution-style murders have taken place in Newark, the police don't seem to have a clue. But Carter Ross finds a tiny clue and keeps hunting until he gets more and more. Every now and then, in italics, we get a glimpse of the thoughts of "the director," who is the culprit. The array of interesting characters and the glimpse into a darker side of life is so well done...real. And some of it, particularly the things that happen to Carter, are really, really funny.

Apparently Brad Parks was a journalist for 20 years and just quit to become an author and stay-at-home dad. He plans more books in the series. I am certainly looking forward to them!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Little Blue Truck Leads the Way - Alice Schertle

Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Harcourt Children's, 2009
40 pages
Rating: 5
Endpapers: rust

This book really works for me. Visually, I love it. Great size - perhaps 10 x 8. Color tones that really appeal, not too bright, not too washed out. Illustrations completely cover the page - the text is incorporated really nicely into the illustrations. The vehicles themselves have great personality. There are different views of the city from above, from WAY above, from the road, eye-to-eye. The city is depicted the way that I think of it - this could be Boston or New York...

The story is of a little blue pickup; small, old, and out-of-place in the hustle and bustle of the big city. When the pushy limousine that's driving the mayor breaks down, the little blue pickup gives him a lift. And then he teaches the push and shove, me-first crowd to chill out, be thoughtful, and enjoy life a little. At least this is my take. I liked it a great deal, on many levels.

It looks like there's another book about Blue that's already come out - Little Blue Truck. Gonna have to find it!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Senator and Me - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, D. C.
Illustrated by David Small
Scholastic Press, 2006
56 pages
Rating: 5
Endpapers: Red (but of sort of washed-out red)

Written from the point-of-view of Sen. Kennedy's Portugese water dog, Splash, who accompanies the senator to and from his office and meetings in Washington D. C. We see places in D. C. and learn about the government. We accompany them around the capitol and watch a bill being formed and passed.

This makes the people who run our country in Washington REAL. It's really well-written with warmth, intelligence and humor.

David Small does a wonderful job illustrating - his depiction of Sen. Kennedy is right-on.

What a great way to learn about our nation's capitol and the work of our elected officials there!

Yellow Elephant, a Bright Bestiary - Julie Larios

Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Harcourt, 2006
32 pages
Rating: 4

14 poems about 14 animals, illustrated in bright colors on a white-framed page. Really lovely illustrations.

Orange Giraffe

Orange sun rising
over the savana --

Can you see the orange water
of the Juba River?
Can you hear the hyena's
high orange laugh?
On the riverbank,
an orange giraffe.

Turquoise Lizard
Thunder rolls
across the desert,
quieting the buzz
of the cicadas.
One worried lizard
zips quickly
under a rock.
When raindrops fall,
the small lizard,
turquoise tail curled,
stays bright and dry
in the wet world.

Green Frog
One thing for sure
about a green frog
on a green lily pad
on a green day
in spring:
One hop
and her green
is gone.
See how she swims,
blue frog now
under blue water.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Perfect Gift - Mary Newell DePalma

Arthur A. Levine, Scholastic, 2010
32 pages
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Yellow

There's something very appealing just about the font and layout of this book. The font is large and whimsical. The illustration covers the page, or is in a box or two sporadically on the page - and sometimes bridges both pages. It has lots of white, which I don't usually like - but this works really beautifully here.

The story is cute, a little scary in one place - so I guess you could call it an adventure. Yup, this works for me.

Lori the parikeet is taking a juicy berry to her grandmother, but drops it into the river where it lands on the bottom. Some animal friends try to help - a chipmunk, a duck, and a frog. When a crocodile greedily grabs them all, Lori throws the berry into the air and that greedy croc goes after it, allowing the three animal friends to escape. No more berry as a gift for grandma. So they put their heads together and come up with a better idea - to turn their harrowing adventure into a book!

And I like the book that was created!

The Middle-Child Blues - Kristyn Crow

Illustrated by David Catrow
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2009
32 pages
Endpapers: Pale blue
Rating: 3.5

Okay, this one's fun.

Lee comes between Ray and Kate. He feels forgotten and confused. he's either "too big" or "too little" for much of what his siblings do. But then he pulls out his guitar and starts to sing the blues about this problem -- and draws a crowd of other "middle" kids. Lee ends up struttin' and happy. Cute and quirky. Illustrations cover the full page. Great I know any middle kids to share this with?

Sleepy ABC - Margaret Wise Brown

Illustrated by Karen Katz
Harper, 2010
"Ages 4-8"
Rating: 2
Endpapers: Bright orange

Here's a sleepy nighttime book that is vibrantly colored and wide awake - it doesn't really seem very sleepy to me. I adore Karen Katz's paintings, but his one doesn't seem to match the worrds. And Brown's words - written and copyrighted in 1953, seem so old-fashioned. Well....I guess they are....strike me down, now, lightning bolt!

Unfortunately, this book just doesn't work for me, as much as I'd love it to.

Snow! Snow! Snow !- Lee Harper

Simon & Schuster, 2009
32 pgs.
"Ages 4-8"
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Blue wash with white snowflake dots

Very simple, few words.

Two kids (dogs) wake up to a lot of snow, grab their dad and a sled and head through the woods to the lake "where there is the best sledding hill in the whole wide world." They soar down the hill and through the air until they land with a splat. What fun! Time to climb the hill and go again!

A great family fun winter snow story.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

5. Schooled - Gordon Korman

Audio read by a cast of readers
Recorded Books, 2007
4 unabridged cd's
5 hours
224 pages
Ages 9-12
Rating: 4

This book was a hoot and a half. It's told in many voices, but the major one, the star of the story, is Capricorn "Cap" Anderson. Cap has been raised by his grandmother on a commune, with practically no knowledge of the doings of the outside world....until his grandmother falls out of a tree and he has to go into foster care while she recovers. He's never been to public school, never had a haircut, has no clue about money or modern-day kids. But he has a heart of gold, is very bright and has been homeschooled well, and and has driven the farm's pickup since he was eight.

Enter C-average middle school and the eighth grade class. Everyone treats him mercilessly...until the tables are turned and they realize that he's really quite an extraordinary person. Throw in a gorgeous sarcastic high school housemate and the responsibilities of running the biggest dance of the year (when you don't even have a clue what a dance is)....and you have the ingredients for this story.

It's a good one. It has heart. There are a few unbelievable parts, of course, but if you listen (I mean read) with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek, it's an enjoyable romp.

4. Who Was Albert Einstein? Jess Brallier

Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker
WHO WAS Biography Series
For: Grades 2-4 (RL 3.3)
Grosset & Dunlap, 2002
Paper, $4.99
106 pages

These readable, intersting, fact-filled biographies fit the bill perfectly to teach BIOGRAPHY to my entire class without having them all read the same book. Between the school library and local bookstores (I didn't find any at Bookman's) I was able to find more than enough for each student in my class. Each is set up the same way, beginning with a quick overview, six to eleven chapters telling of the person's life, then a timeline of the life with the facing page having a timeline of what was going on in the world at the time.

I learned a great deal about Albert Einstein. An incredible peace-lover, war-hater that brought about the creation of the atomic bomb. A U.S. citizen when he died. A deep, deep thinker and somewhat of a loner. It was really quite sophisticated information, perfect for my fourth graders. And I discovered some really interesting facts about his Judaism!

MOVIE - Avatar

Released Dec. 18, 2009
PG-13 (2:30)
Viewed 1-10-10 (Cool Date) at Oro Valley Marketplace
with the Weinstein family
RT: 82% cag: 96%
Director: James Cameron

I was quite taken with this movie. It was spectacular. Watching it in 3-D alone was pretty amazing. The huge, brand new theater at Oro Valley Marketplace, although packed, was roomy and ultra-comfortable. Even the 3-D glasses were not a burden. The story! The SET! The whole premise.....other than the battle scenes, which I realize had to be included, were amazing. My palms were clenched and sweaty. The two and a half hours passed in a haze of sensations. I was totally wrapped up in the story and the scenery. Whew.

Jake Sully has returned from war a broken man...literally. He has no use of his legs and is in a wheelchair. His identical twin brother, a brilliant scientist, has died. So Jake takes over the extremely tricky job that his brother had been working on for years.

It is 2154. Earth is a mess, we have to go into outer space to find more viable ways to live. So the army and some sort of conglomerate have found a far-off planet that has riches in THEIR earth that our earth needs. However, it is a very alien planet. So some scientists, headed by Sigourney Weaver, have replicated the shells of the alien population using DNA from the scientist's bodies, so that the scientist's thoughts and actions can go into this.....avatar. But it's really a showdown between the scientists who want peaceful relations with the aliens and the military who want to take over with force. And the battle begins.

My friend, Ivan, hit the nail on the head - he says it's a modern western. It is. Only this time, it takes place in 2154 on Pandora, a planet far, far away and - -yay, yay, yay (SPOILER ALERT) the "indians" win!

Avatar is playing in Chandler at the IMAX theater. I MUST go see it there! ! ! ! !

Saturday, January 9, 2010

3. Masquerade - Mellissa de la Cruz

Bk #2 Blue Blood Series
For: Middle School/YA
Hyperion Paperbacks, 2007
308 pgs.
Rating: 4

I would have never read this book (or the first one, Blue Bloods), if I wasn't preparing for my next TARC book club meeting. However, I did enjoy this one - so much more than the first. I like all the mysterious angles and the interesting way that de la Cruz takes vampire lore and twists and turns it to fashion a new vampire philosophy. The reader feels frustration, happiness, sleuthing, and lots and lots of questionning, right along with the characters. Love and hate. Blood ties. Fascinating relationships. Mystery. Romance.

In this story, our heroine, Schuyler VanAlen finds her grandfather, who has been self-exiled for many years. He comes home to the family mansion on the westside of NYC and begins to repair its crumbling decor and facade. He also answers a lot of Schuyler's questions, and guides her through the new, awakening feelings she has as a fledgling vampire. And because she is a half-blood, no one is sure what her powers and strengths, if any, will be.

There are three female characters that de la Cruz has chosen to show the reader glimpses into their thinking. Three very different characters. Mimi Force, who you naturally want to hate. Glamorous, selfish, snobby. Bliss Llewellyn, tormented, friendly, and somewhat clueless. And Schuyler Van Alen, who is just trying to figure out her world.

This second book takes us through the planning and manipulations of the year's biggest soiree and the teenage masked ball afterwards. Schuyler meets her grandfather, and learns to read minds and move faster than the speed of light. She discovers that to stay healthy she must take a human "familiar," she needs more red blood, because the blue blood in her half-breed veins are taking over the red blood, which is still needed. They are still trying to discover who the Silver Bloods in their midst are, before the Silver Bloods destroy them all. A new character is introduced, Kingsley Martin....suave, debonair, knock-dead gorgeous, and dangerous. New things to think about, new angles to look at. I really enjoyed the story and looked forward to returning to it every time I put it down.

I had NO plans to read the sequel, but...guess I go to find it!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jeremy Draws a Monster - Peter McCarty

Henry Holt & Co. 2009
32 pages
My Rating: 3 at first, 4 after a couple of readings
Endpapers: Front: Illustrations of the boy/ Back: The boy plus lots of monsters
Dedication: To Stanford Nursery School

Jeremy never left his room. He watched the kids play, but he never joined them. He must've been pretty bored, because he drew a big monster in the air. However, it was an extremely demanding monster. he had to draw and draw and draw to create food and items it wanted. It even slept in his bed! He couldn't get rid of it -- until he drew it a bus ticket out of town. After he saw the monster off on the bus, he joined the kids to play.

Distinct line drawings, water colored over.

I enjoyed the story more when I read it aloud. So if you're sitting in a quiet library reading to yourself for you first reading, check it out and take it with you so you can read it aloud to a three or four year old boy. That's when it takes on a life of its own.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

MOVIE - It's Complicated

Cute with some good laughs
Released Dec. 25, 2009
R (1:54)
1-6-10 with Sheila at ElCon
RT: 50% cag: 86%
Director: Nancy Meyers
Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, John Krasinski

There's been a lot of talk about this movie, that every woman over 40 should see it, that audiences laughed like they had't in a long time, etc. Okay. Well. It was a very entertaining movie with some definite laughs. It was fun to watch. I'd recommend it. But it didn't live up to its "hype" for me. Maybe because I was never divorced? I'll have to ask some divorcees about what they thought. Because that's the premise of the whole movie.

I love the three major actors, and they were wonderful. But the most fun for me was John Krasinski, as the son-in-law-to-be. He was wonderful in a super role. He was made for this part. I don't watch "Office," which is the tv show he's on, but I might just have to now. This guy's got it down!

Streep and Baldwin divorced after almost twenty years of marriage, Baldwin started messing around with a younger woman. Now, ten years later, he's married to her. His relationship with his first wife is civil but strained. But now, his current marriage is souring and he becomes attracted once again to Streep. They travel from Santa Barbara to NYC to the college graduation of their son, and, after drinking too much, get together. And on it goes. Steve Martin, who is the architect for Streep's anticipated addition, becomes attracted to Streep, too.

So. Go see it. It's fun. Downright enjoyable. Well acted. Good laughs. Things to think about. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

MOVIE - Precious

Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Powerful. Great acting. Tough to watch.
Limited release 11-6-09
R (1:49)
1/5/10 at El Con with Kate & Julia
RT: 92% cag: 94%
Fandango: 79/100
Director: Lee Daniels

Whew. This was a tough one to watch.

When I was at a Lucy Calkins Workshop at Columbia University about ten years ago, this book was recommended to me by some NYC teachers. I bought it and read it then and there. I've read a few books since then, so I only remember the hazy storyline, but I was really looking forward to seeing how the story was put onto film.

This isn't the kind of movie that you could say you "enjoy." It's too sad, dark, infuriating. But it is magnificently presented. The acting is phenominal. Mo'nique, who played the protagonist's mother, was amazing. The young woman who played Claireece Precious Jones was really something. A makeup-less Mariah Carey and a caring Paula Patton, along with a wonderful cast of classmates AND Lenny Kravitz, well...... it was cast so well. The filming was interesting. As much as I got into the story, it was also interesting to watch where the camera went and how it got there. There were some really interesting scenes from Precious' imagination, the scenes she created in her mind to take her elsewhere. There were layers and layers of interesting technical additions. Fascinating.

The story. Precious has been abused her entire life. Abuse like most of us could never imagine. Mentally, physically, sexually. At sixteen she is pregnant with her second baby, and her own father is the culprit. She lives in almost-silence. She has never learned to read, although she understands and enjoys math. This story, set in the 1980's, begins when she is expelled from school because of her pregnancy. The principal follows up and gives Precious information about an alternative school. This decision, slowly but surely, changes her life. Watching this young woman learn, live....and an exhausting trip. I was drained at the end of the movie. There is a tiny bit of light at the end of the tunnel, I guess. Phew. After a little more reflection I'll have more to say.

Here's a link to a NY Times article about the movie. (Thanks, Julia)

Monday, January 4, 2010

My class was on KVOA News tonight!

Well, I just watched the video clip that was made in December in my classroom. Kristy Tedesco of KVOA Channel 4 and her cameraman came to tape the kids listening to Ori Parnaby teaching a lesson on organization. Two of the kids and I were interviewed separately, then the cameraman spent 15-20 minutes taping the kids. They were told to ignore him. They're real hams - they did great! It's not often that we cram all of them into one classroom - they were really excited. I'm glad that the video is not available online, because I was HORRIFIED at myself. I look stupid and sound stupid - I was nervous and didn't want to be interviewed.....if only that part weren't included, 'cause the kids were really fun to watch. I love my kids!

You can read what was said here.

A Party in Ramadan - Asma Mobin-Uddin

Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen
Boyds Mill Press, PA 2009
32 pages
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Neighborhood homes morning/evening

This is the story of fasting on Ramadan and the acceptance a young girls finds when she is invited to a birthday party by her non-Muslim friends. This first day (ever?) of fasting is not easy, but the benefits and the evening meal are worth it.

Lovely soft illustrations emphasize and illustrate without being preachy.

An author's note discusses Ramadan and about wearing the Hijab (head covering.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Applesauce Season - Eden Ross Lipson

Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein
Roaring Brook Press, 2009
32 pgs.
For: kids
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: 3 x 4 blocks of apples & faces on each page (Granny Smith, Northern Spy, Ida Red...)

All I really have left of my "past life" as a Maine mom and wife comes in spits and spurts at unexpected times. This book brought it gushing like a plumbing fixture gone wild. It's all about a family tradition of making homemade applesauce. And it's made in almost the same way that my family begged for every October. First, we'd go apple picking in one of the many orchards in the Bangor area where you could pick a grocery bagful for a minimum price. When the kids were younger they'd sit on their dad's shoulders and reach they go older they'd find a ladder leaning against a tree. We'd munch on apples as we picked. I'm happy to say that both my kids now take their kids apple picking.

Once home, I'd make apple crisp and applesauce. I'd cut the apples and cook them EXACTLY like it tells in the book - except I'd only use one type of apple. I LOVE the idea of mixing three or more types in one cooking! I'd use a food mill, just like they do in the book, and add 1/3 cup of sugar to the still-hot apple mixture. Then we'd pour it into jars and share with friends and family. Sometimes the sauce would come out pink, sometimes yellow. Steve said he loved it when it was pink because it reminded him of his grandmother's.

And that's what this book is about - a family tradition. This family happens to live in the city and shop at the farmer's market, but it sure doesn't matter where those crisp apples come from. I LOVE this book!

I left my food mill behind when I came west. I've just gone online and bought one, it's time to make some applesauce in the sunny southwest. It'll be good for the potato latkes/pancakes I want to make, too! The only difference is that they don't make bright orange ones anymore, like I used to have....I'm going to have to settle for white!

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom - John Hendrix

Abrams Bks for Young Readers, 2009
40 pgs
for: 3rd grade upward
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Dark Reddish-Brown

I've been to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia many times. Not only is it a small (and quaint) town, but it is also a National Historical Park with fascinating history. It sits on a piece of land where WV, VA, and MD all come together, and where two rivers, the Potomac and Shenendoah, converge. And it is famous for John Brown. But all the information I ever knew about this man was foggy. An abolitionist, yes. But some have called him a madman. A very controversial one. So I was greatly excited to find this book.

It certainly looks like John Hendrix has researched thoroughly and well. He has written - and beautifully illustrated - an intelligent history, making John Brown human, and giving the facts of his thinking and crusading. In a two-page Author's Note he gives his feelings about John Brown, his beliefs and reactions. I found it extremely interesting.

John Brown hated the idea of slavery. He hated the idea that all men were NOT equal. He took it as his life's mission to try to do something to stop slavery in the United States. Although there was an instance in Kansas where, in acute frustration, he was involved in killing people, that does not seem to be a major part in his overall quest. All he wanted to do was stop slavery by amassing by creating an army of black and white believers that could help. Creating an army certainly means war, but I think he realized that it would not be a bloodless fight. Harriet Tubman was one of his biggest supporters and allies!

This book gives a reader great insight into the murky history of John Brown. I liked and appreciated it a lot. And the illustrations - pen and ink with an acrylic wash - greatly added to the telling of this story.

2. Dark of Day - Barbara Parker

Audiobook read by Elizabeth S. Rogers (beautifully)
BBC Audiobooks America, 2008
10 unabridged cds
11 hrs. 59 minutes
352 pgs.
Rating: 5

I listened to this on the train trip from Boston to Harrisburg, then on the plane from Dallas to Tucson, finishing up this morning as I knit many rows onto Brian's blanket. I figured out most of it quite early, the whodunit and the "secrets" that the protagonist kept, but it was told - and read- beautifully. The usual whodunit, the usual love-in-the-making story, typical good guys and bad guys....grittiness, not coziness...all that I love in a mystery. I read Barbara Parker's first Suspicion series book years ago on a 30-hour car ride to Florida, and remember it (I don't remember too many details, usually) because I liked the way that she told the story. She died last March at the age of 62 after "a long illness." Too bad.

This story is about a lawyer, C. J. Dunn, who works and is friends with the rich and famous of Miami. She knows how to manipulate the media to help her clients - and this is why she's hired to keep a U. S. Congressman, Paul Shelby's, name out of the papers when there's a possibility he'll be linked to the murder of a pretty actress wannabe, Alana Martin. Her actual client is Rick Slater, Shelby's chauffeur. An unlikely chauffeur, to be sure, his past is in the army and security. Of course, a bond forms between C.J. and this rough, tough cutie. A young friend of Alana's also takes a strong role, as well as C.J.'s best friend and investigator, Judy. Although there are lots of subplots and dips in the road, the story is easy to follow and interesting. It also showcases the rich and famous lifestyle of Miami.

Think it's time to get started (or REstarted) on the Suspicion series. And I've never been to Miami. That's where DEXTER is set. Next year's summer road trip???