Wednesday, September 26, 2012

55. 12.21 - Dustin Thomason

2012, Dial Press
328 pgs.
HC $27.00 TPPL
Goodreads rating: 3.52
my rating: 4 or maybe even 4.5, it was very good
1st line/s:  "He stands silently in the moonlight against the wall of the temple, the small bundle held tightly under his arm."

During the last two weeks before the Mayan Long Count (and the end of the world, some say) a deadly, uncontrollable disease with no antidote is unleashed on Los Angeles.  Dr. Gabriel Stanton, a brilliant researcher and Center for Disease Control authority on prion diseases and Chel Manu, a Mayan historian and linguist from the Getty, team up to try to find the origination of the disease in order to try to stop it AND cure it.

This was an interesting and suspenseful story, different than those I usually choose.  I enjoyed the entire book.

POETRY PICTURE BOOK - Book Speak! - Laura Purdis Salas

Poems About Books
illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
2011, Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin)
32 pages
Goodreads rating:  4.31
cag:  5
21 poems - all about books and words!
Endpapers:   Plummy, purple gorgeous
Illustrations:  mixed media, collage, washes and paper cuts - a REAL mix of media!

One of the poems is a poem for 3 voices - about the beginning, middle, and end, from each point-of-view.  A class could present - but I need to get my hands on two more copies of the book!

The author's from Minneapolis, the illustrator's from Quebec.


I'll tell you a story.
I'll spin you a rhyme.
I'll spill some ideas ----
and we'll travel through time.

Put down the controller.
Switch off the TV.
Abandon the mouse and
just hand out with me.

I promise adventure.
Come on, take a look!
On a day like today,
there's no friend like a book.


Describe your desires and they become mine.
I'm a treasure box where feelings can shine.
All thinkers need pages where dreams can take flight.
Reveal all
Your secrets, one entry per night.


I don't need your napkin.
I'm not your soup bowl's mate.
I don't want your peas or bread.

I'm not that kind of plate!

Write your name upon me.
I'm a paper love tattoo.
Paste me in your book to show

That I belong to you.

POETRY - Hallowilloween - Calef Brown

(Nefarious Silliness by Calef Brown)
2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
HC $16.99
TPPL 811.54
32 pages
Goodreads rating:  3.82
My rating:  3.5
Endpapers:  Red thick-lined drawings for spooky faces on yellow and orange.
Title page:  A great green spectacled Frankenstein with the title and author across a space that the head has become detached from the body. Completely in color, with the facing page a deep velvety purplish-black.  Cool.
Illustrations:  Colorful acrylics, no white, really fun.

14 poems relating to Halloween (Jack, Lone Star Witches, Hallowilloween, The Oopmachupa Loompacabra, the Vumpire, Cat Battle, Grim Supper, Duncan, Old Napoleon, The Poltergeyser, Not Frankenstein, Scarecrows Epitaph, Mummy Unhappy, The Portrait of Gory Rene - great titles!)


The Witches of Texas
are practicing hexes
in comical conical ten-gallon hats.
They live under bridges
with thousands of bats.
Slobbering bloodhounds
are chasing their cats.

The Witches of Texas,
with cackles and hoots,
are doing a two-step
in lizard-skin boots
while filling a cauldron
with truffles and newts.
A sinister potion
is brewing in Austin
to fire up the feud
with the Witches of Boston.


An ancient tree
with one dead branch
standing alone
on a tarantula ranch.
This is the home
and humble haven
of Old Napoleon
the hungry raven
who gorges on spiders
each day at lunchtime.
Munch munch munch.
He calls it "crunch time."


A word of advice
to my replacement,
now standing guard
in the pumpkin patch:

Never scratch an itch
with a kitchen match.

POETRY - Autumnblings - Douglas Florian

Illustrated by the author
2003, Greenwillow Books (Harper Collins)
HC $15.99
TPPL 811.54
48 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.95
my rating: These are really super poems, I like them hugely! (4.5)

Endpapers:  Bright orange
Title page:  2 x 3 tangerine-colored rectangle of a boy somersaulting
in the leaves.

29 poems about Autumn and the time leading up to winter and colder weather.  This includes lots of poems that can be used as examples of poems that kids can write:


Apple picking
Frisbee flicking
Falling leaves
Bracing Breeze
Flying kites
Cool crisp nights
Trick or treat
(Sweets to eat)
Pumpkin pies
Clear blue skies
Relay races
Football games ---
I love that autumn has two names.


Summer's done
Not much sun
Back to school
Air's too cool
Winds that gust
Rains that rust
Chilly nose
Woolen clothes
Birds don't sing --
I hate that autumn's far from spring.


When summer's seams
Have come undone,
Then greens to reds
And purples run.
A palette falls
To forest floor,
And autumn leaves
Leave me in awe.


And Owl.
Screech owls screech
Horned owls scowl.
Guess the others
Flew away.


Kick them.
Catch them.
Pick them.
Snatch them.
Romp them.
Stomp them.
Hurl them.
Heave them.
If you want to,
Even leave them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

54. Following Grandfather - Rosemary Wells

illustrated by Christopher Denise
2012, Candlewick Press
HC $14.99
58 pages
not really an Early Reader, more of a read aloud, I think....
Goodreads rating:  3.46
cag:  3.5 (the writing is gorgeous, much of the storyline is exquisite, but the premise of her "seeing" her grandfather a couple of times after his death almost seemed thrown in....some changes here would have made it a 5 for me.....

Setting: mid-20th century Boston
First Line/s:  "Down at the very end of Revere Beach, where the people never go, the mice of Boston spread their towels and plant their beach umbrellas in the sun.  Grandfather and I were among them every summer Sunday."

Ah, the snobbish Henry Cabot Lodge and Saltonstall mice, the Swan boats and other Boston locales, the truly lovely writing....just wonderful.  Yummy vocabulary, some even unknown to me (which isn't saying much, believe me)....ummmm, crenallated?  What a cool word.  However, this is a simple book written in large font, looking like the perfect book for an early reader.  Wrong.  This is one to be read aloud.  I'm going to do just that to my fourth graders and will add comments afterwards.

53. The Day Before - Lisa Schroeder

2011, Simon Pulse
Goodreads rating: 4.00
cag: 4
for: YA
309 pages
paper $9,99

Setting:  Contemporary Oregon coast
First line/s:  Some mornings,/it's hard to get/out of bed.

Written in verse, the story pulls you right in and along. Easy-to-read in one two-hour sitting, leaves a lot to think about. Two young people head to the beach for one last day before some pretty major events will change their lives forever. Very likable teens, Cade and Amber.  They meet when their eyes meet at the jellyfish tank at the aquarium.

Beautiful writing:

I like

the memories

because they remind me
I haven't always been
this girl,
mad or scared
or confused.

I don't like

the memories

because the tears
come easily,
and once again I break
my promise 
to myself for this day.

It's a constant battle.

52. Bad Business - Robert B. Parker

# 31 in the Spenser series
audio read by Joe Mantegna
2004, Random House Audio
5 unabridged cds (6 hrs.) $29.95
Goodreads rating:  3.74
My rating:  4 (out of 5)
paper 336 pgs.

There's something about Spenser.  I never tire of him, having read most of his adventures.  I've gotten used to Joe Mantegna becoming his voice, though that's not the voice of Spenser I hear in my head.  In this investigation, Spenser is hired to do some checking-up on spouses that may or may not be cheating. What he uncovers is a group of people that may or may not be ummmm...spouse swapping....or who knows what, because there are several couples of a high-profile business that are beginning to be murdered.  Actually, they start dropping like flies.  Who knows who's a good guy and who's a bad guy?  Most of the characters that Parker's introduced are mentioned or appear, with lots of Susan Silverman and Hawk.  Spenser's humor, his cooking, his philosophising, are all present as well.  A good, quick read.

MOVIE - Robot and Frank

PG-13 (1:30)
Limited opening 8/17/12 (NY 8/24/12 (LA)
I saw it at El Con on Thursday, 9-20-12
RT Crit:  89 Audience:  86
cag: It was okay, had a stellar cast (2.5)
Director:  Jake Shreier
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Frank Langela, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler

This is set in the "near future." Worried about his father's encroaching dementia/Alzheimers, a son gives him a robot to help him with chores, keeping a schedule, and life in general.  The father, Frank Langela, doesn't think he needs help, but quickly becomes "friends" with the robot.  The kicker, the thing that isn't shown in any of the previews of the movie is (SPOILER ALERT) that Frank's past included a stint in prison for robbery, and he's still really good at that particular craft.  So together, they plan
 a heist.

Super cast.  Nice setting, small town America.  Depressing probabilities for our future. Libraries no longer needed .Aging.  Two things that I don't want to think about at all.

The ending was flat, dull, boring, lacking creativity.  Made a somewhat decent move go downhill fast.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

MOVIE - Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I forgot to blog about this, I saw it at the end of the summer and am just now trying to remember what I wanted to write.

Rating & Length:
RT Critic:     Audience:
Film Co:

Major Players:


POETRY - Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up - Lisa Westberg Peters

Illustrated by Cathie Felstead
2003, Greenwillow Books
HC $16.99
32 pages
Goodreads:  3.94
cag:  okay (art check +, poetry OK)

22 poems
Endpapers:  navy blue
Title page:  Light blue watercolor, 3/4 inch border, collage map globe, lots of colors
Auxiliary:  end notes give information about concepts covered in each of the poems
Author:  loves geology, lives with family in St. Paul, MN
Illustrator:  A resident of Hertfordshire,England, where she lives with her husband, 2 kids, and 6 cats.

I particularly liked these poems and will use them within my geology/rocks & minerals unit:

Recipe for Granite

Melt a chunk of continent.

Heat at a million degrees,
long enough for the world
to spin a trillion times,
long enough for the Milky Way
to make it partway to infinity.

slowly enough for crystals
to form like pink and white stars,
slowly enough for the dinosaurs
to go extinct.

Makes one mountain range.
Serves a whole entry.


We are surrounded
by quartz.  It’s in the
crystals of our watches, It’s
in the flint of our arrowheads, it’s
in purple amethysts, it’s in the sand of
our beaches and our sandpaper, it’s in the
granite of George Washington’s chin and
Crazy Horses’s nose in South Dakota, it’s
in the concrete of our sidewalks
and in the white pebbles we
throw on them when we
play hopscotch.

MOVIE - Ruby Sparks

R (1:44)
Limited Opening 7/25/12
Viewed at Crossroads Theater Monday 9/17/12 (by myself)
RT Critics 80 Audience 82
Director:  Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Fox Searchlight

Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

This movie sparkled.  It was clever and totally believable, even though its premise was that of a magical fantasy.  Calvin Weir-Fields is Mr. Average American young man, nothing spectacular to look at (sorry Paul), shy, a writer living in LA whose first (and only, so far) novel was a huge, HUGE hit.  Now he's finally got a new idea, one that came from dreams he has of a girls that he considers perfect for him, and he begins to write on an old typewriter.  And magically, this dream girl becomes real and enters his life.

He has a brother who, although married and with a baby, is always around to help and lend advice. Hmmm.  I love the scenes that include his funky mother and step-father (played by Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas) who live in extremely cool digs in Big Sur. Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the screenplay, is Dano's real-life girlfriend and their chemistry is huge and really impacts the film.

It was a blast.  I'd go see it again. There's a great NYT article here.

MOVIE - Hope Springs

PG-13 (1:40)
Wide release 8-8-12
Thursday 9-13-12 at El Con with Sheila
RT Critics 74 Audience 67
I liked it a lot.  I laughed a lot.  Much needed.
Director:  David Frandel
Sony Pictures

Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carrell

This movie was a riot...also sweet and poignant and fun.  How Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep could do some of those scenes without guffawing out loud is totally beyond me.

They play a married couple who have slept in separate bedrooms for a number of years.  There relationship is caring but anonymous.  They are devoted to each other, but there's no "relations" in relationship.  Kay coerces a very negative Arnold into accompanying her to Maine to a psychologist who specializes in helping put "oomph" back into marriages.  And what follows is just wonderful.

Most/much of the film was set in Hope Springs, Maine (which, I think, was actually Connecticut).  When they were out and about on the streets of this quaint little town, I wanted to be there, too.

I've always known that Meryl Streep is an awesome actress, and I've always enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones.  I MORE than enjoyed him in this film.  A Steve Carrell played the straight-man-psychiatrist really well.  Very cute and sweet movie.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

POETRY - Please Bury Me In the Library - J. Patrick Lewis

illustrated by Kyle M. Stone
2005, Gulliver Books
Goodreads rating:  4.03
My rating:  3.5
32 pages, 16 poems
Endpapers:  Pale yellow

Illustrations:  Cover the page from edge to edge with color (though many facing pages, with the poem, are on white. Acrylic paint and mixed media.

16 poems about the library, and books.  Many are based on poems of others (similar rhyme, rhythm).  Of them all, the two following most speak to me...I really love "Acknowledgements"

Necessary Gardens



Whose book this is I hardly know,
Considering the debt I owe

To Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.
To X. J. K. - a toast (root beer)!

To Shel and Jack, and Myra Cohn,
Who always give this pup a bone.

To those word wizards I've left out,
The only thing to do is shout:

Who book is this?  The bottom line . . .
It's partly theirs.  It's partly mine.

POETRY - A Chill in the Air - John Frank

Nature Poems for Fall and Winter
illustrated by Mike Reed
2003, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
32 pgs.
Endpapers:  Mustardy-gold

Simple late-fall and winter poems for kids, some with rhyme, many with humor, and all describing a coldness or northern falls and winters.


In the dawn

that chills my bones
and numbs my face
from ear to ear,
I see each word I speak
take flight,
a whiff of fog,
then disappear.

A Cold October Night

If any witches plan to ride

their broomsticks through this cold night air,
they'd best make sure beneath their gowns
they're wearing thermal underwear.

A Sprinkling of Snow

It hardly snowed at all last night

although I hoped it would.
I wished for lots and lots of snow,
but wishing did no good.
With so much snow my snowman
would have grown and grown and grown.
But now he's scarcely bigger than
a three-scoop ice-cream cone.


As I am walking

in the snow
my footprints follow
where I go,
and make a long
and winding track
that leads me home
when I turn back.

POETRY - The Ancestors Are Singing - Tony Johnston

Illustrated by Karen Barbour
2003, Farrar Straus Giroux
Goodreads rating 3.25
My rating: 4
64 pages
Illustrations:  pen & ink

Poems of Mexico, past and present, with references to Mayans and Aztecs, so fits in perfectly to my 4th grade studies. Some great examples follow:

Storms in Oaxaca ( pronounciation: Wuh-Hah-Kuh)

The great saguaro shivers

in the cold.
It holds out its thick and prickly arms
to feel slivers of shining
Tall and alone it stands
and gathers light from strikes of raving
When the land is dry, the saguaro remembers

Rabbit in the Moon

Old and clever one,

how I wish I had been there
on the night that you leaped
into the sky.
How I wish I had seen you spark
your silver trail
like a comet with long ears
across the dark.
Oh, how I wish I had been there ---
and looked up.

Old Palaces

Beneath the jungle canopy of trees,

old palaces fill the silence with old dreams,
alone except when splendid golden gleams
of jaguars come to rest upon their bones ---
or when bats, velvet gods of long ago,
cluster in their crumbling roof combs.
The ancient trees stand, green as quetzal plumes.
The fearsome kings are gone.  Stones speak to stones.

Museum of Anthropology

(for Pedro Ramirez Vazquez)

In the silence of the splendid galleries

Ethecatl, god of wind,
stands forever entwined
with a slender snake.
Alongside a mute clay
a wooden Aztec drum
rests, stilled
as if it had never
Mezcala figurines 
carved in green stone
sit gazing at old starts beyond 
the ceiling.

In the courtyard 

beneath a stone pillar
with musical water,
the Ancestors are

51. Criminal - Karin Slaughter

Will Trent #7 - but certainly a stand-alone
read (beautifully)  by Kathleen Early
2012, AudioGo
13 unabridged cds (15:35)
$29.95/ TPPL
448 pages
Goodreads rating:  4.22
My rating:  5

Setting:  1975 AND contemporary Atlanta, Ga
First impressions:  I listened to the audio version, which was read beautifully.  The plot switches between two periods, current day and the summer of 1975, same characters...more or less.  Really nicely crafted, delving not only into a series of murders of prostitutes in Atlanta, but the minds and thinking and attitudes between the perbitrator/s and the investigators.  The segregation/discrimination between females and blacks in the Atlanta police department in the mid-1970's is also an eyeopener!  Couldn't put it down.

Will Trent is beginning to discover some of the truth about his past, the past that has been kept hidden from him.  Will's a nice guy despite lots of baggage.  He's smart and has made the best in a world that gave him a pretty lousy start.  He was raised in an orphanage in the poorest part of Atlanta, went into the police force, and now works for the George Bureau of Investigation.  This is his backstory, a story he learns about in bits and pieces.  He has a not-yet-ex wife and a new girlfriend, a female boss and a female partner, a dog and a porsche. Nice twist at the end that you only get hints at throughout the book.  This is a good one!

Friday, September 14, 2012

50. Shut Your Eyes Tight - John Verdon

Dave Gurney #2
2011, Crown Publishers
509 pgs.
Goodreads Rating 3.88
My rating:  I liked it a whole lot (4)

First sentence:  "He stood in front of the mirror and smiled with deep satisfaction at his own smiling reflection."
Setting:  Contemporary New York state, in the Catskills near Albany.

First impressions upon finishing:  Another great, complicated mystery from John Verdon. It did seem a little extra long (509 pages), and the weird tension in Gurney's marriage is a little difficult to picture. High-level vocabulary, especially at the beginning kept me on my toes. I've definitely become a John Verdon/Dave Gurney fan.

Dave Gurney, retired NYC homicide detective, is pulled into his second "consultant" investigation since his retirement at age 48.  This does not please his wife, Madeleine, who wants him to stay completely retired.  However, he has an uncanny ability to sniff out the questions that need answering and putting pieces of weird, seemingly unsolvable puzzles together.

This weird, unsolvable puzzle begins with the murder of a brand-new wife, beautiful Jillian Perry, at her own wedding reception.  The wedding was at her new husband, Scott Ashcroft's, lavish country estate.   She went into a small cottage on the premises to encourage their gardener, Hector Flores, to attend the reception.  When she didn't reappear her husband entered the cottage and discovered his decapitated wife sitting at a small table with her head staring back at her body.  

The investigation takes Gurney back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth once again between his own home in Walnut Crossing to the site of the murder in 

Tambury, into Manhattan, and to meetings with police and the DA in Albany.  

Complicated, interesting, and thought-provoking.  It took me a lot of 30-40 page sittings, but was very worth it.  One word I can associate with this author: CLEVER!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Red Knit Cap Girl - Naoko Stoop

Illustrated by the author
2012, Megan Tingley Books/Little Brown Co.
32 pgs.
HC $15.99
Goodreads: 3.87
I liked it a lot (4)

Endpapers:  Blue wash on wooden board, speckles of white paint - NIGHT SKY
Illutstrations:  Acrylic, ink, and pencil on plywood.  No white.  Simple.  Beautiful.  Eyes are dots.  Backgrounds are gorgeous washes of color..
1st sentence/s:  "In the forest, there is time to wonder about everything.  Red Knit Cap Girl wonders about flowers, butterflies, leaves, and clouds."

Red Knit Cap Girl wonders about the moon and how to talk to her.  She tries different way,s appealing to Mr. Owl ,and with the help with animals friends, discovers that if the night is dark enough, the sky is gorgeous.

I wasn't completely enchanted with the story, but the premise -- and the illustrations -- are just lovely.  What a nice book to share with a young child at bedtime, then, with the lights off, gaze out the window at a clear sky.

Illustrator:  Naoko Stoop grew up in Japan and now lives in NYC.  She participated in "Earth Hour" (shutting off the lights for one hour), realizing how easy it is to enjoy the beauty around us.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Little Owl's Night - Divya Srinivasan

Illustrated by the author
2011, Viking
HC $16.99
Goodreads rating:  3.77
My rating:  5 - I really loved it
32 pages

Endpapers:  Both are different - FRONT:  raccoon and squirrel in tree, huge black sky, BACK: raccoon sleeping and squirrel gathering acorns, both at the base of the tree, daytime.
1st Line/s (Actually, 1st three double-page spreads):  "Little Owl was having a wonderful night./He watched the funny possum family waddle along in a neat row./By the river, beavers gnawed at trees.  turtle hid in her shell as fireflies danced all around."
Illustrations:  Dark black sky - paper cuts and paint? - hard to say.  I really love ' was the cover illustration that forced me to pick ut up in the first place.
Illustrator: . This is her first book.  She loves nighttime and lives in Austin, Texas.

I was just going o take a quick flip through this book to peek at it, but slowed down to admire the illustrations.  Then I went back to read it and discovered some beautiful language.  Font is white on black (which I love).

MOVIE - The Amazing Spider Man

PG-13 (2:16)
Wide Release  7-3-12
Crossroads, by myself, Tuesday 9-4-12
on DVD 11-9-12
RT Critic 73% Audience 81%
cag; it was okay 2
Director:  Marc Webb
Sony Pictures
Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field, Martin Sheen

I kept asking myself, "When will this be over?"  It was okay, but dragged on and on and on, it seemed. Andrew Garfield was adorable, and I love Emma Stone and Martin Sheen in absolutely everything.

49. Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot - Anna Branford

Illustrated by Elanna Allen
2012 Atheneum (2010 original text)
103 pgs.
Goodreads Rating: 4.12
My rating:  5 (A real charmer!)

Violet Mackerel is 7; a precocious, clever 7, who is part of an interesting family.  Single-mom knits and sells her wares every Saturday at a sort of farmer's market, where her middle-school son, Dylan, teenage daughter, Nicola, and Violet accompany her for the day.  Dylan and Nicola, both trying to earn money to purchase something special, have figured out their own ways of doing so.  When Violet decides she want to purchase a lovely blue china bird, she must think "outside the box" to come up with her own way of earning money.

The font is very large, the book quite short, and the protagonist is 7.  However, the vocabulary tends to lean a bit older, so I'm going to encourage my fourth grade girls to try this one.  Theory, precisearchaeologist all show up in the first two or three pages.  My kindergarten granddaughter is reading short chapter books, but would probably need help with these concepts (though she'd love this book).

When I went looking for reviews of this book and information about the author and illustrator I discovered that the original book - written in 2010 and probably published in Australia - had an entirely different illustrator (Sarah Davis).  You can take a look at that cover and those great teaching ideas here.

From there, I discovered that Violet Mackerel has her own website with activities and fun ideas of things to do.  It's the Sarah Davis' Violet Mackerel, not the Elanna Allen Violet Mackerel that I just read. I also noted that they talk about thinking outside the "square," while in this newer, US edition, it's thinking outside the "box."  Check out this activity website here.

Read for Australia also has a lovely website for the book (find it here).

So now my interest was really piqued, so I looked to see if the author, Anna Branford, had a blog.  Of course she does!  And there have been THREE different editions, with THREE different illustration!  The UK illustrator is Sam Wilson.

Click here to go to Anna Branford's site.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

MOVIE - Safety Not Guaranteed

This was a good one!
Limited release 6/8/12
Viewed at Kolb Century cheap theater Sat., 9/1/12
R (1:24)
RT Critic 92 Audience 89
cag:  really loved it! (5.5)
on DVD 10/30/12
Director:  Colin Trevorrow
Film District

Mark Duplass plays Kenneth, a disheveled, likable 30-something oddball who desires a partner to accompany him back in time.  Aubrey Plaza plays Darius, the mid-twenties magazine intern with her own foibles who "applies" for the job.  Jake Johnson and Karan Soni are wonderful as the other two magazine reporters that accompany her.  Lots of laughs, some very sweet moments, and a great script that keeps you wondering and wondering made this movie pass in the snap of the fingers.  It was really good!

48. The Year of the Book - Andrea Cheng

with illustrations by Abigail Halpin
2012, Houghton Mifflin
160 pgs.
HC $15/99
Goodreads rating:  3.85
my rating:  It was a very good book/4

1st sentence/s:  "Ray, the crossing guard, is waiting at the curb in his orange vest the catches the sunrise."
Setting:  A small city or large town, somewhere in the US, where's there's some winter and ice. Contemporary.
OSS:  Anna's 4th grade year is spent dealing with being alone, discovering what it means to be a friend, reading, and beginning to learn Chinese.

Quick, good read for 3rd or 4th grade girls.  Anna, American-born although her mother was born in China, puts up with a mean friend and a friend who is being pulled and manipulated by the mean one.  The good friendship wins out, and Anna survives quite well because she's enjoying books so much, reading is way for her to help cope.  She's also, somewhat reluctantly, going to Chinese School for the first time to learn the language, but meets a new friend there.  Anna easily makes friends with adults and is a wonderfully thoughtful, creative young person.  A good side-story is that her mother is studying to be a nurse while still struggling with the English language.  On Saturdays Anna accompanies her to a cleaning job....she enjoys spending time with her mother's elderly boss, but is embarrassed to be seen with her mother carrying a bucket full of cleaning supplies.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pablo's Tree - Pat Mora

Illustrated by Cecily Lang
$17.95 HC
1994, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
32 pages
Endpapers:  red
Illustrations:  Cut paper
Goodreads rating:  3.68
I liked it - nice story.

When his daughter adopts a tiny baby boy, his grandfather/abuelito plants a tree.  Every year he decorates it, as a surprise, in a different, colorful way.  Pablo and his namesake spend the day after his birthday playing under the tree.  They reminisce about the different years and we see how much the tree has grown.

Brother Sun Sister Moon – Katherine Paterson

Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures
Illustrated by Pamela Dalton
Handprint Books/Chronicle, 2011
28 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.07
My rating:  4  (The illustrations are a 5+, Paterson's words are beautiful, just a little too religious for me....I know, I know, that shouldn't impact my rating, but it does....)
Black background instead of white, cut paper and watercolor!  Magnificent illustrations.

Truly one of the most gorgeous books I know.  And they’re all watercolored PAPER CUTS !  All on a black background.  All spectacular.

The words, based on Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures, written around 1224, translated from the Umbrian text of the Assisi codex by Bill Barrett and now “reimagined” by Katherine Paterson, are extremely religious.  They praise god as creator, caretaker, comforter, and sustainer.  Although this is not at all my own personal cup-of-tea, removing some of the words and referring to the air – winds – sun, moon, stars – water – fire – earth – courage … and death ---as brothers and sisters, suits me just fine.

“We praise you that in this world of hatred and war, you still give us courageous brothers and sisters who offer their lives to the making of peace.  They are indeed your beloved children.”

47. Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

2011, Viking
306 pgs.
Adult Historical Fiction
Goodreads rating: 3.77
My Rating:  3

Setting:  1660's Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
OSS:  Bethia Mayfield tells of her life's travails from the time her twin brother was killed at age 7, through the friendship she made with Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, and following both their lives 'til the end of each.
1st sentence/s:  "He is coming on the Lord's Day.  Though my father has not seen fit to give me the news, I have the whole of it."

I stopped reading this at page 150, saying enough is enough...death, sadness, pompous Puritanism. But I picked it up the next day and then the next and finished it. The second half was much more interesting and intention-holding than the first part, though there was still plenty of death, sadness and pompous Puritanism. I'm glad I finished it, though.

This is the fictionalized story based on historical records of two native Americans who made in through Harvard College in the late 1660's.  One's American name was Caleb.  However, this is the story of Bethia Mayfield, daughter of Martha's Vineyard's Puritan preacher in the 1660's.