Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Albert the Fix-It Man - Janet Lord

Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Peachtree, 2008
32 pages
For: Young kids, especially boys (I don't want to be sexist, but I know my grandson would like this)
Endpapers: Black with white tools of all sorts....clamps, flashlights, scissors, paint buckets, levels, balls of string, and even a hand-turned-old-fashioned-egg-beater-type drill.

I have becomje a Julie Paschkis fan - I just love her art. This story, written by her sister, is simple and fun and sends the message, "what goes around, comes around."

Albert helps everyone in the neighborhood by fixing fences and leaky faucets and even mending broken teacups. So when he gets a terrible cold, the neighborhood comes together to fix him a meal and make him feel better. I wish I had an Albert.

Again, Julie Paschkis delights with her simple, heart-warming drawings. Covering the entire page with a pale yellow instead of white the designs she uses - right down to the spotted cat, dishes in the cupboard, and the flying birds - just tickle me. Her website lists her books (there are quite a few!) and takes some peeks at her other artistic ventures.

22. The Night Fairy - Laura Amy Schlitz

Illustrated by Angela Barrett
For: Kids of all ages
Candlewick, 2010
122 pgs.
This one's a five
Endpapers: Sparkly, metallicy dark blue...mmmmhhhhmmmm.

Laura Amy Schlitz wrote the wonderful, Newbury Award-winning book Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! so I was thrilled to see her new book...so thrilled that I didn't want to wait until the library FINALLY got it (in about six months, probably). So I splurged. I read it aloud to one of my fourth grade classes. No matter how antsy they were (it was the very end of the day), they settled down immediately to listen. Boys and girls alike, they were all entranced by this feistly fairy.

Flory is a night fairy. Shortly after her birth, when she is off on her own, a bat, thinking she's a bug, nips at her so that she loses her wings. Just learning her magic skills and now, wingless, she has to figure out how to survive. She lands in an elderly lady's backyard. This "giant" tends lovingly to her garden, feeds the birds, and has lovely plantings of all sorts. So Flory makes her new home in a birdhouse. She cleverly furnishes it, makes begrudging friends with an always-hungry squirrel so she can have occasional transportation, and builds a new life for herself in this backyard. The story takes a bit of a turn when Flory discovers a hummingbird trapped in the sticky web of a spider.

Flory is not a sweet fairy. She uses her wiles to survive. But her true depth emerges as the story travels quickly along. This book made a great read-aloud. The kids enjoyed it greatly. The writing is exquisite. I'm not a big FAIRY person, to say the least, but I could read this over and over just for the gorgeous writing.

"She soon found that her body did not like the day. Her skin liked to be cool and moist, not hot and dry. When the shadows fell, her whole body itched with alertness, and she found it hard to sleep. Sunshine made her eyes water, which made her irritable, but Flory could not help herself. She missed her wings, and she had to make a whole new life for herself, with no one to show her how."

Oh, I must not forget the illustrations. Every ten or fifteen pages there's a full-page color, finely crafted illustration. Some are a little dark, but the kids were fascinated with the detail. Each chapter title is also illustrated with a blue and black silhouette that created much discussion and predictions. A perfect little book.

Thanks, Laura Amy Schlitz. I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Beatrice's Goat - Page McBrier

Illutrated by Lori Lohstoeter
An Anne Schwartz Book, Atheneum, 2001
32 pages
5 stars
Endpapers: Cream, a rooster in the middle of the left side and a slateboard and chalk laying on a banana leaf on the right

Written in coordination with Heifer Project, we hear the true story of Beatrice and her family in Uganda, Africa, and how their lives become incredibly better because of the gift of a Heifer Project goat. One single, pregnant goat. The goat has two kids. The kids can be raised and sold and the mother, named Mugisa, will continue to produce milk, which they can sell.

Beatrice has always longed to go to school, but cannot afford the uniform or the books. However, the proceeds from the milk sales grow and school becomes a reality. So does a new house with a tin roof which won't leak. Wow.

Lori Lohstoeter's illustrations give a feel for the Ugandan countryside, for Beatrice, and for Mugisa. This is a very special book. I plan to read it to my student government kids (not baby goats....children) at our next meeting. They've learned much about Heifer Project during our last two Passport to Peace festivals. And I shall certainly read it to my fourth graders. Now, let's see....the current Heifer Project International Catalog says a goat can be purchased for $120. That's really so little to help create a much better life for an African family....

http://www.heifer.org/ Check it out.

I've also read about a book called Give a Goat by Jan West Schrock that's about a class of kids that reads Beatrice's Goat and what they do because of it. The library doesn't have it...but I plan to track it down!

Brand-New Baby Blues - Kathi Appelt

Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Harper, 2010
"ages 3-6"
32 pages
Endpapers: Almost-dark blue

Yay for Kathi Appelt, one terrific poet!
"Once upon a time
I was the only one,
I was the cat's pajamas,
I was the moon and sun.

It was me and only me --
I was the icing on the cake.
I was the royal pooh-bah,
the chocolate in the shake.

Now everything is different,
everything is changed.
I'm not the one and only.
My whole life's rearranged.

Those good ol' days are over.
It's official, it's the news!
With my brand-new baby brother
came the brand-new baby blues!"

I think I'll wait until Ella's new baby brother is a few months old before I read this to her, I don't want her to get any preconceived ideas. The story goes on to show all the attention that a new baby gets, but eventually comes to the place where the girl realizes that once her baby brother is no longer a baby she'll have a great playmate!

Super rhyme and rhythm.Cute illustrations - particularly all the facial expressions that totally accentuate the story. Fun.

Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories - Audrey Penn

Illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson
Tanglewood Publishing, 2009
32 pages
Endpapers: Purple

I picked this book up just to glance through it, to read it quickly, but with no intentions of blogging about it. However, I really enjoyed it. I liked the illustrations. I liked the story. I liked that it talked about making memories, but avoided spirituality. There's certainly a place for books like this.

When Chester Raccoon discovers that his friend Skiddil Squirrel has died, his mother helps him understand what that means, and helps him relieve memories of their time together, creating a happy spot in his mind about his friend. And when they travel to the place where Chester and Skiddil always played, they are accompanied by others who knew the squirrel. There's even a cool, happy ending that really cements the idea of memories and how important they are: Skiddil had collected a cache of acorns and buried them. However, when it came to finding them again, even with his friends helping, they could not be found. But Chester and his mom find a stand of new oak trees, and know this was the hiding place.

The illustrations cover the entire page, are very detailed and colorful and....happy.

Okay, I really like this book.

The Boys - Jeff Newman

Simon & Schuster Bks for Young Readers, 2010
40 pages
"ages 4-8"
Endpapers: red

A wordless picture book that says a lot. A young boy brings his bat, ball, and glove to the playground in his city, but only watches the other kids play. He sits on a bench with four elderly men. The next day he returns, minus his baseball gear. Day by day he joins the men, becoming more and more like them, until, one day.....the old guys aren't too old to have fun and play....they play in the playground, ride bikes, and play ball with the boy. And finally the day comes when the boy is brave enough to join the others of his own age playing ball. His friends, the four elderly gents, stick around to watch.

The five protagonists, though very simply...almost crudely...drawn, have their own wonderful personalities. I could create stories for each of these old guys. They're great!

Clever, clever, fun book.

My Brother Charlie - Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete

Illustrated by Jane W. Evans
Scholastic, 2010
32 pgs.
Endpapers: Blue sky with puffy clouds, the corner has the head of the family dog with a robin sitting on his nose.

Based on the true story of twins Ryan and RJ Peete, Callie tells the story of her twin brother Charlie. Charlie has autism. She tells the differences between them, how they felt when the doctors told them he had this neurological mis-wiring, what she does to understand his quietness and differences, and how he relates to people. The story is heartfelt and brave, and the illustrations are perfect. No white, yellow background instead. Big bold characters. You can faintly see brush strokes on canvas. Eyes that show such expression!

This book discusses how to try to understand kids that are different. It tells a bit about autism, that so many of us know so little about, but which we are hearing about more and more. But it's a great book to share to begin a discussion about treating ALL kids with respect, looking for the attributes they have deep inside, not just the differences we see outwardly.

Barnes and Noble has a three-minute interview with the authors that's informative and interesting (it's always nice to peek at an author, and this is with both the authors).

I hope this book gets read by as many people as possible.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Nest, Nook & Cranny - Susan Blackaby

Illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Charlesbridge, 2010
54 pages
For: Kids
Rating: 5 !
Endpapers: White pine cones/crabs/snakes.jelly fish on black

All I had to do was open this book and take a peek at the endpapers and I was SOLD. This book is the size of a chapter book though a bit more slender, and it isn't what you expect.

It's full of poetry. Poetry from five different habitats. Desert. Grassland. Shoreline. Wetland. Woodland. They're beautiful, descriptive, and use incredible words. But there's more -- she ends with telling the reader how she wrote each poem. Whether it be cinquain or sonnet, she discusses her use of onomatopoeia, alliteration, similes, metaphors - and also gives information about some of the subject matter. I love this book.

Check out the wordplay, metaphors, similes, snazzy verbs and interesting rhyming:

Otters loll like whiskered boats,
bobbing gently in the swells.
Kelp beds help the otters float
While prying shellfish out of shells.
Thoughtful otters dot the ocean,
Head awash with crabby notions.
Whay prey, tell, do otters dwell on?
Anything that has a shell on.


A household tucked inside a hole
Or stuck inside a sticky bowl
Of twisted twigs and mud and stuff
Holds eggs or cheepy heaps of fluff
And various pairs of prickly feet,
Tiny feathers, pointy beaks.

Although it has a bird's-eye view,
With central air and skylights, too,
There's not a lot of room to grow.
Flighty families come and go.
As soon as one clan flies away,
Another mother comes to stay.

The author's from Portland Oregon, the illustrator's from an "island off the coast of Maine." WHICH ONE????

21. T is for Trespass - Sue Grafton

Audio read by Judy Kaye
Random House Audio, 2007
10 unabridged cds
11 hrs. 30 min.
400 pgs.
Rating: 4

When Kinsey's elderly (and grumpy) next door neighbor falls and needs in-home nursing care, Solana Rojas is hired. She is pleasant, caring, and attentive to her patient. Yuh, right. Solana Rojas is not her real name. She's fleecing, then killing her patients. Slowly Kinsey figures out that something not-quite-right is going on, and Solana retaliates. She's a tough cookie. I enjoy the details in Grafton's writing - even unnecessary details help set the stage. And I love the relationship between Kinsey and her octogenarian landlord, Henry. There are a couiple of side stories happening as well, and Kinsey does some interesting sleuthing. Entertaining story...but a very troubling one. I guess you just never know what's going to happen in life....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

20. Captivate - Carrie Jones

2nd book in a series, Need was the first
For: Young Adults
Bloomsbury, 2010
276 pages
Rating: Really got into it....4.5

The first book was enjoyable because it takes place in Ellsworth, Maine, which I know intimately. This one was enjoyable because the story raced along and I couldn't put the book down. Still in Ellsworth (called Bedford, Maine) in the middle of a snowy winter, I could picture the entire story perfectly. Right down to the bus of Sumner high school kids on Route 3. The hospital, where Asley and Brendan were born. The grocery store where I get groceries every time I'm visiting. The running trail where the cross country team - including Steve and Laura - ran. Talk about nostaligia!

Not much time has passed since Need ended, and I'm guessing not much time will pass before the opening passages of book number three (which I hope comes out soon). Zara and Nick are still hot and heavy, and still battling pixies. The evil pixies, whom they have imprisoned and hidden in the woods. But new pixies are arriving from all over, ready to take over the weakening king's territory. Enter Astley, a young and handsome pixie king from elsewhere who swears he is not evil... and that Zara is destined to be his queen. Hmmm. This guy really is quite appealing. But what about Nick? Beware, there's a SPOILER COMING: Well, the unthinkable happens, and Nick is overpowered. Just as he is about to die, he is taken to Valhalla to be made into a warrior to fight for Odin and....I know, I know. Sounds nutty. But it all works. And instead of mamby-pambying around with this "turning" by kissing, Carrie Jones confronts it and GOES FOR IT! Finally. A daring twist. I cannot wait to see what she does in the next book.

Relationships. That's really what this book was about. Trust and love and humanity. I'm really looking forward to Number Three! Thanks, Ms. Jones!

MOVIE - Invictus

Wonderful movie - even if you don't have a clue about RUGBY
Released 12-11-09
PG-13 (I have no idea why)
2 hrs. 12 minutes
Wed. 3-24-10 at Crossroads, just me
RT: 76 cag: 86
Director: Clint Eastwood
Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon

What a totally engrossing, historically important movie. I have always admired Nelson Mandela, and this movie puts the viewer into his back pocket. After 27 years in prison he is released and becomes the president of South Africa, ending apartheid, at a time when there is extreme hate and distrust between blacks and whites. This movie gives some insight into his thinking, his forgiveness, his magnificent mind. The only thing it does not tell us much about is the relationship (or non-relationship) with his family. Morgan Freeman BECAME Mandela. Both men are wonderful and amazing.

Even though there is a great deal of rugby action, you don't have to understand rugby to understand what is going on. And, to tell the truth, I now have an idea about the game! It's similar to football, but the player's only protection seems to be tooth guards. Amazing in this day of helmets and shoulder/shin guards and safety, safety, safety.

Matt Damon plays the captain of South Africa's rugby team, whom Mandela enlists to help in his quest to unify the country. Hair dyed blonde, South African accent in tow, he nailed this part. You watch him slowly come to understand and admire Mandela. And you watch the country slowly start to come together a bit, whether it be the black and white presidential body guards or a young black boy sidling up closer and closer to a cop car with its radio tuned to the final world cup game, just outside the rugby stadium where it's being played.

Bravo, Clint Eastwood....this movie was beautifully put together. My only problem was a personal one - I couldn't understand some of the rich South African accents, which was really frustrating in a couple of places. I wanted to rewind, which was impossible, of course.

Wonderful movie.

And, hey...this is my 600th post. Pretty cool....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Heart and the Bottle - Oliver Jeffers

Philomel Books/Penguin Group, 2010
32 pages of THICK cardstock
For: well....great for adults.....
Endpapers: Blue-line drawings of the young girl and her father

The very first illustration is of a little girls and her father in the forest. The little girl has stick legs and the flowers have no leaves. I was reminded immediately of The Great Paper Caper and I was right - this is the same author and illustrator. The father always wears pants, so you can't see his stick legs.

The little girl is an explorer, a questioner, nurtured and guided by her dad. In the evening he sits in his chair by the window and they discuss the "curiosities of the world." Then, one day the chair is empty. The little girl feels she needs to protect her heart so she puts it in a bottle around her neck. Her joy, her curiousity about the world is gone. As her life continues, the bottle gets bulkier and more awkward, but when she tries to take her heart out of the bottle, she cannot get it out. It takes another curious, questioning little girl to help her....and the book ends with her sitting, as an adult, in the empty chair with a huge pile of books beside her.

Grief is a simple thing. It's not complicated at all. It just.......is.

There's a video on the internet of Oliver Jeffers. He's from Northern Ireland with the adorable accent to prove it. I find his story interesting, clever, and beautifully illustrated. It grew on me more and more with each reading. But I'm not sure how or if a very young child would understand it.....

There's a difference between Heart and the Bottle and Heart IN the Bottle. An interesting discussion-in-my-head.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

19. Life Sentences - Laura Lippman

Audio read by Linda Emond (excellently)
9 unabridged cds/ 10.5 hours
2009 Recorded Books
352 pages
Rating: 2.5

Cassandra Fallows, well-known memoirist, has returned to Baltimore to write another "true life" story. This time it will be about a woman who was a peripheral character in her elementary school years and has become a media sensation for admitting nothing when charged with murdering her baby son. Cassie begins to dig. About half the book is from her point-of-view, telling what's happening as she unearths clues about Callie Jenkins. Part of the book are excerpts from her first memoir, which give us looks into her past, particularly about her friends Tisha, Donna, and Fatima. And the rest of the book puts us into the minds of some of the characters that she is encountering on her current quest for the truth. Lawyers, police officers, elementary friends, and her parents.

Great reader. So-so story. I didn't like the protagonist at all...I kept hoping she would think or say or do something that would endear me to her even slightly, but no such luck. Then I realized that maybe you're not supposed to like her? I mean, I didn't hate her, but I certainly didn't admire her, or feel sorry for her....I really felt she was a self-centered .....jerk. Ah well. Much of the story centered around her father and his second wife, Annie, a black woman that was the "love of his life." Annie is dead by the time the story takes place, but the father is not. Didn't like him either. Another self-centered....jerk.

Ah well. Life goes on. At least I tried a new author, right?

18. One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams-Garcia

for: ages 9-12/middle grades
Amistad/Harper Collins, 2010
218 pages
Rating: 3.5

It's the summer of 1968 and Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are going to spend it in Oakland California with the mother that abandoned them seven years before. We join them on their flight from New York, where they've left Pa and his mother, Big Ma, who have raised them. They have no idea what to expect. And neither do we!

Told in the first person by Delphine, we see the world through her eyes. She's in charge of her sisters, and there's a definite "pecking" order. They squabble. They love each other fiercely. They communicate without words. And Delphine takes care of them unlike your usual 11 year-old might. Because she has to take care of them - their mother barely speaks to them and has them fending for themselves, for the most part. They are sent to a local day camp run by the Black Panthers. Power to the people. And so the summer unfolds.

The setting is superb - the bay area of California during the summer of 1968. The characters are, for the most part, well drawn. There's a bit of insight into the Black Panther movement and what it might have been like to be black in the 60's. Delphine talks a lot about this - with the freedom - and the inside knowledge - that non-blacks could never know. It gave me a taste. A good taste. It was a good story. A great piece of historical fiction. But I'll never understand the mother. Never. I might understand what may have made her WANT to abandon her kids. But that she did, and her reaction to them all these years later left me cold. I can't like her because I don't get her. Would I get her if I let myself? I'm not sure....

Fuse 8 does an in-depth, interesting review. And here's the KidsReads review that first told me about the book. If you want more summary information, these sites will fill the bill.

Henry Aaron's Dream - Matt Tavares

Candlewick, 2010
40 pgs.
For: Gr. 2-5
Endpapers: pumpkin pie

Well, this book brought tears to my eyes. It's a powerful picture book biographyt, told in free verse, about Hank Aaron and all he had to go through to become a respected baseball player. It sure wasn't easy...

The illustrations cover 2/3 of the page, leaving the 1st or 4th vertical quarter for the words - on a creamy yellowish beige. They're done in strong, bold watercolors and with ink and pencil. Perfect for the story. Same writer and illustrator - he did a marvelous job.

A High-5 for sure!

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down - Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Little Brown & Co., 2010
40 pages - one folds out
Endpapers: plum

A powerful piece of the history of America, an integral chink in the chain that made up the timeline of the Civil Rights movement, the Greensboro sit-ins are eloquently described in this powerful picture book.

"We must . . . meet hate with love." (MLK Jr.)

On February 1, 1960 - 50 years ago - four black college classmates sat down at a Woolworth's counter for a cup of coffee and donut. They were ignored. FOR WHITES ONLY. They were peaceful...patient...quiet...polite. They sat and sat and sat. They were never served. The next day, more students showed up at the counter. The word spread. Well-behaved, well-dressed young people began to sit at lunch counters all over the south. Eventually, people took notice. And just like the bus boycott that Rosa Parks had begun five years before by not giving up her seat, a huge message was sent --- and heard.

The Civil Rights timeline at the end of the book is excellent.

I wish I liked Brian Pinkney's illustrations more. He uses slashes of black to outline the figures and predominant details, then a water color wash swirls throughout. Much clearer and less confusing that Chris Rashka's illustrations, but still a little too free-form for me. However, this husband-wife teamwork is pretty cool.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finn McCool and the Great Fish - Eve Bunting

Illustrated by Zachary Pullen
Sleeping Bear Press, 2010
32 pages
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers - Green with yellow diamonds & dot pattern

This brand new picture book/Irish legend by the great Eve Bunting will be a perfect read aloud for St. Patrick's Day. Not only is it a feast for the eyes, it's a story that can be richly discussed.

Finn McCool-a huge giant who lives in Drumnahoon, Ireland, is a kind and helpful soul. He is also not the brightest - and he wants some wisdom so he can be more helpful to his countrymen. He hears of a man named Simon the Baker who knows a great source of wisdom, so Finn travels to a nearby town to speak with him.

He is told that the wisdom he seeks is in a red salmon who lives in a nearby river. "Catch him and eat him," he is told.

So yes, Finn catches the great fish, but he is a compassionate giant and cannot bring himself to kill it. In typical mythological fashion he is rewarded for this sparing-of-life, thus bringing up the aforementioned discussion topics.

Every page is a masterpiece. The storytelling is fun. Add an outline map of Ireland, show its place in Europe and the world, and you have a tantalyzing St. Patrick's Day presentation!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

17. The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet - Erin Dionne

for: middle grades (the protagonist is in the 8th grade)
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010
HC $16.99
292 pgs.
Rating: 3.5

Hamlet Kennedy begins 8th grade with an added humiliation to her usual humiliations - her 7 year-old sister, Desdemona will be attending classes with her. A tiny genius with over-the-top vocabulary, Dezzie will supplement her college-level classes with art and music and "socialization."

Ham has spent her whole life in a very odd family, trying to fit in as a "normal" person when in her outside world. Her parents are Shakesperian professors who have chosen to live the life - dressing and eating and even speaking as if they were still living in the early 1600's. Hamlet's mother doesn't even allow contractions! Of course some of the kids tease her about her name, but now they must find out about her sister -- and because the English and history teachers have chosen to present A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet's parents are invited to class. The final humiliation comes when she discovers she has a natural ability to recite Shakespeare beautifully. It's the last thing she wants. Something else to draw attention to her, a girl who wants to fit in and be normal.

Well, Ham will never be able to be normal - that is, average - coming from this family. Her parents are so clueless it's scary. And the "mean girls" are so stereotypical that you understand them and where they're coming from long before some of the other characters, who weren't so easily understood. Ham's best friend is a boy, but there's not enough background information to really, truly, understand their relationship, especially when Ham is told that Ty "likes" her. Okay, so what am I trying to say here? It's a good story. Different, in many ways. Some of the characterization is shaky, some is right-on. It's slow in places, but fun, especially if the reader knows even the tiniest bit about Shakespeare. I'll be interested to hear how kids like it.

Here are a few other reviews:
The Cooke Agency (literary agents - this is the first time I've seen a review from that venue!)
Becky's Book Reviews
Kids Read

Monday, March 15, 2010

MOVIE - The Ghost Writer

Kept me engrossed and thinking
Limited release 2-19-2010
PG-13 (2 hrs 8 min)
Friday 3/12/2010 at ElCon by myself (only coughed once)
RT: 81% cag: I'll go with that...
Fandango: 77/100
Director: Roman Polanski
Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Catrall

Set on an island off Cape Cod (Martha's Vineyard?) Ewan McGregor's character has been hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of former British prime minister Adam Lang (Brosnan). However, as soon as he arrives at the elegant digs on the northern Atlantic shore and discovers the circumstances surrounding his predecessor's demise he becomes enmeshed in a mystery. What's going on? An ex-aide of the prime minister has just accused him of war crimes. There's a mystery surrounding the past life of Lang. And there's the mystery of the predecessor's death. McGregor digs in and tries to figure it all out. I still have a couple of questions, but it's a movie after all, and kept me immersed and content for a couple of hours. The acting was good, the story was interesting, the setting was particularly interesting.....I'm glad I went!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brownie & Pearl Step Out - Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Brian Biggs
Beach Lane Books, 2010
24 pages
No Dustcover - endpapers are bright pink (If this takes $4-5 off a cover price, who needs a dust cover?)

Simple verse. Too simple. It almost reads like a Dick and Jane primer. I love Cynthia Rylant's words, her voice - but this needs a little bit of word-snazzing.

"Brownie likes the party.
She plays games.
She eats cake.
She eats ice cream.
She eats more ice cream."
.....and that's four pages long!

The illustrations are fun - very pink and green and girly. Simple faces show expression, I like 'em.

Quick synopsis: A little girl, Brownie, and her cat, Pearl, go to a birthday party. She's a little shy and almost doesn't knock, but Pearl goes through the kitty door so she knocks, enters, and has fun.

2nd Annual Tucson Festival of Books

Wow. What an amazing weekend. Perfect weather - low 70's. Sun shining...hot. Crowds of happy people, many with tee shirts glorifying reading in some way. Colorful parasols dotting the slowly moving people as they sip on free McDonalds frappacinos or glance at displays in one of the hundreds of booths. This is what the mall at the University of Arizona in Tucson looked like yesterday...and will today, too.

Free parking! That is, if you can find a lot that isn't full. I had to park quite a distance away, but the walk through campus was gorgeous. There's weren't a lot of students around, since it was the first day of break. But the campus was immaculate and green and budding. And when I reached the mall all I could see were white tents and milling people, I could smell lovely scents floating from the many food vendors and I could hear a low murmur of voices. Dogs on leashes (and being carried!) everywhere. And the sights of those hundreds of parasols!

My first two hours were spent "manning" my school's booth, which was great fun. There's a new consortium of private schools in Tucson, and we're one of the five. Our booths were all together in the children's section. The booths and names on the booth are all provided by the Festival, which makes it orderly and easy to find the venue you're looking for. I enjoyed a Sonoran hot dog for lunch and then went wandering. And thinking. And saying hi to friends, students, parents. And gathering ideas for my blog and for my classroom.

Some of the highlights for me:

Finding out there is a National Jane Austen Society with a large Tucson branch!

Meeting young adult author Jillian Cantor (The September Sisters and The Life of Glass) a lovely local author whose first adult novel is coming out in November.

Spending some time in the WOW booth (World of Words, a U of A College of Education invention), talking to one of their articulate volunteers and checking out a huge basket of books about China.

Talking with past participants in the Southern Arizona Writing Project and feeling their great enthusiasm.

Watching kids participating in the dozens and dozens of activities provided for them. This was indeed the perfect family venue! ! !

Today I hope to catch a few author talks. So many authors here! I can't believe such a huge event, in only its second year, was so organized, so cram full of great "stuff," and so well attended. Hurray, U of A and festival committee! And thanks!

The Wonder Book - Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrated by Paul Schmid
Harper, 2010
80 pgs.
Grades 1-4
Endpapers: Bright yellow

Lots of play-on -words and silly poems here. It really is perfect for fourth graders. Whether you're reading PALINDROMES or how to say "fart" in other languages, there's something here to entertain one and all. I particularly enjoy the Mary Mack poems, becuase I realize how much fun it would be to write some of my own.

Miss Mary Mellow Mellow Mellow
All dressed in yellow yellow yellow
Slept til noon noon noon
And then ate Jell-O Jello-O Jell-O

She watched her TV TV TV
All 50 channels channels channels
She was so comfy 'omfy 'omfy
In her flannels flannels flannels ...

Illustrations are black and white line drawings. Fun.

My Garden - Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow, 2010
32 pgs.
For: ages 3-6?
Endpapers: Navy with round white (actually light blue) sunflower covering the page

A girl helps her mother in the garden - and with great imagination thinks about what her own garden might be like - no weeds, flowers that change colors or instantly reappear when they've been plucked, chocolate bunnies to eat vs. real bunnies eating, jelly bean trees - and on we go.

Each two-page spread has one full white page with sage blue font, facing Easter-colored pastel illustrations with lots of sage blue. I'm not sure if sage blue is a real color, but it's the best way I can describe it.

Lots of imaginating.
Cute story, lovely illustrations. Love love love Kevin Henkes, but this one just didn't jump out at me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stuck in the mud

I've spent three weeks coughing. Three weeks reading three different books that I just couldn't get into. No movies with this cough. I've only been to the library once in all that time. And it's rained. And rained. Gray. Chilly. Overcast. Burst water connection gushing a river down my front yard into the street. And report cards are due. I need a vacation, some warmth to get rid of this cough, some SUNSHINE, and a book that I can get into. Bring it on!

Okay, I read half of The 39 Clues Book 2, One False Note. Nobody trusts anybody. I don't like a single character. I've made the big decision to not read this series. Why spend all that time when I just don't like it?

I got about halfway through White Picket Fences, a Novel (Susan Meissner), and have decided to put it aside, too. The premise of the book really attracted me - a Holocaust connection to an "average" contemporary American family, and a mystery related to the 16 year old son, who happens to be a pretty decent filmmaker. A niece who's father has disappeared somewhere in Poland. And a Tucson connection. It was sooooo slow, though. So why bother?

And the third book seemed to have so many possibilities - Chicks With Sticks, It's a Purl Thing by Elizabeth Lenhard. Got to page 100 in this one, but found myself making choices to wash the dishes instead of reading -- that should have clued me in immediately that I had to pick up another book instead. Every book is not going to pull in every reader, right?

I haven't even read any good picture books lately. Can't seem to find any 2010 titles, where are they?

The rain is supposed to stop by the end of the week. Grades are due on Wednesday. I'm hoping I wake up Thursday morning to sunshine, optimism, and a good story. Think I need that the most!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stormy Weather - Debi Gliori

Walker & Co. 2009
for preschoolers
Endpapers: see below

First glance at the cover - a snuggly appliqued quilt under which a mother/child fox share a book. Window curtains frame a starry sky. When you open the cover the endpapers show the two foxes romping through the winter woods. Trees are bent, it feels windy - but safe.

"Pull up the quilt, turn out the light,
dear child, it's time to say good night.
In darkness black and soft and deep,
I'll watch beside you while you sleep."

Yes, it's stormy - in the ocean, in the forest, in thunder and lightning, animals from snails to bears snuggle with their young. They are safe and warm and happy. Then we get to the final endpapers and see a calm outside winter world with a big tree. Within the openings of the tree are content aninmals living their lives - and the curtained window where the foxes reside.

Lovely book - perfect to give with a baby quilt at a shower!

Full page illustrations - stormy yet tranquil and safe. They're wonderful.