Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of What Happened on Fox Street


Today's fiction title is one of the best mid-grade books I have read in a long time. It is not only beautifully written, but it is also full of a very special brand of wisdom that would benefit all readers above the age of 8 or 9.

What happened on Fox Street
What Happened on Fox Street Tricia Springstubb
Illustrated by Heather Ross
Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 2010, 978-0-06-198636-9
   As far as Mo Wren is concerned, Fox Street is the best place in the world to live. Everything she cares about is here, and she is of the opinion that “your every need could be satisfied on Fox Street.” In her little neighborhood, there are people who care about her and who watch over her, and there is an area called the Green Kingdom where The Den is located. Mo has lived here on Fox Street from the moment she came into the world, and she plans on continuing to stay here. The only thing that is missing on Fox Street are foxes and girls
   Thankfully, every summer Mo’s best friend Mercedes comes to visit, so at least for a while there is a girl around. Merce’s grandmother Da lives on Fox Street, and Mo and Merce have known each other forever. Usually Mo and Merce reconnect at the beginning of summer as if they have never been apart, but this year Merce is different. She has been living with her mother’s rich new husband, and for the first time Merce does not think Fox Street is wonderful. Instead, to her, it looks “Used up.”
   What should have been a perfect summer only gets worse when Mo’s father’s behavior suggests that he might be considering selling the family home so that he can open up a restaurant. For years he has been dreaming of having his own place where he can serve good food and beer. Mo cannot bear to imagine that her father would do such a thing, but perhaps it could really happen.
   Then Mrs. Steinbott, the neighborhood crabby person, starts behaving very strangely. She has always ignored Da and Merce, but now she keeps asking Mo to give Merce things on her behalf. Merce, like most of the people on the street, wants nothing to do with the old lady, but something about Mrs. Steinbott’s behavior touches Mo. Somehow she gets the sense that something very important is going on. There are secrets lying just below the surface and Mo is afraid of what is going to happen when they are revealed.
  Fox Street is Mo’s safe place. It is the place where all her memories live and where she can feel close to her dead mother. Da, Mrs. Petrone, the Green Kingdom, The Den, and all the other things she loves are here. She cannot stand seeing that things are starting to change, but at the same time she cannot stop change from happening.
   For children experiencing changes in their lives, this book will help them to see that even painful change can turn out to be a good thing in the long run. We have to have faith, and face the future with courage, just as Mo does.
  Beautifully written and with an incredibly powerful story, this is a book everyone should read.
   

Monday, May 28, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of The Great Sheep Shenanigans




In the real world, the bad guys, or "baddies" as I used to call them when I was a kid, win a lot of the time. It is very depressing. Thankfully, in books baddies often get their just desserts, thank goodness.

In today's picture book, you are going to meet an honest to goodness bad wolf who is determined to catch himself a lamb dinner. He thinks he is clever, and comes up with one scheme after another to get what he wants, with hilarious results.

The Great Sheep Shenanigans
The Great Sheep ShenanigansPeter Bently
Illustrated by Mei Matsuoka
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Andersen Press USA, 2012, 978-0-7613-8990-3
   Lou Pine the wolf fancies having some lamb for his supper. He sneaks up on a flock of sheep and crawls through a hole in the hedge, thinking all the while that he is “stunningly cunning.” Actually, he is not cunning at all because someone is waiting for him on the other side of the hedge. Rambo the Ram is big and tough and he makes it clear that Lou Pine’s presence is not welcome and that he had better “Buzz off” if he knows what is good for him.
   Lou realizes that he is going to have to be smart if he hopes to catch the sheep unawares. He decides that the solution to the problem is for him to get a “sheepy disguise” so that he can give “those dumb muttons a nasty surprise.”
   One would think that a smart wolf would be able to quickly rustle up a sheep costume, but Lone Pine experiences some rather unfortunate technical difficulties. Eventually he decides that he is going to need to help and he goes to Red Riding Hood’s gran’s house. Without wasting any time, Lone Pine threatens to eat Granny if she doesn’t knit him a sheep costume. Now, at last, Lone Pine is going to be able to have the lamb he is craving. Or perhaps not.
   In the real world, the bad guys all too often win, and it is very discouraging. Thankfully, in books, authors can control the outcome of their stories, and they can have a little fun at the expense of the bad guys, which is what happens in this title.
   Readers of all ages will laugh out loud when they see what Lou Pine gets up to, and how he is thwarted again and again. With a clever rhyming text and delightful multimedia illustrations, this is a picture book that will delight readers who need to be cheered up.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Monumental Verses

I have been lucky enough to see a few of the world's man-made wonders including Petra, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Empire State Building. Every time I see pictures of these places, I am reminded of what it felt like to see them in real life, what it was like to look up at the tall spires or the carved rock. When you read today's poetry title, you be able to travel around the globe seeing some of man's most extraordinary creations, and you can share in J. Patrick Lewis' feelings of wonder.

J. Patrick Lewis
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 11
National Geographic, 2005, 0-7922-7035-1
Scattered around the world, there are man-made creations that have been gazed upon by thousands upon thousands of people. As we look at these monuments, we wonder how the people who envisaged them actually went about the business of building them. We marvel at the beauty or grandeur of these structures, and often leave taking some representation of the monument with us so that we can show others what we have seen
   For this poetry collection, J. Patrick Lewis has written some splendid poems that serve as a tribute to some of the world’s monuments and to the people who built them. Our journey around the world begins in Stonehenge. Placed on Salisbury Plain by people some five thousand years ago, this extraordinary collection of stones has been the source of countless stories and theories. How on earth did the Beaker people, without the benefit of machinery of any kind, drag the rocks for many miles and float them on rafts so that they could be arranged in their current location? The people knew that it would take them “one hundred full moons,” to move the stones, and to this day we still do not know for sure how they managed to “stand ten-ton stones upright.”
   Thousands of miles away, and built thousands of years later in the 1930’s, the Golden Gate Bridge in California dazzles visitors who travel long distances to see it. Many of the guests wonder at the odd color of the bridge. Why would anyone want to paint a bridge the color of “Red raspberries,” mixed with “California / Nectarine” and “golden / Grape juice?” It is hard to say, but the orange bridge reminds one of “a sunset/ Neighborhood in a sunshine country.”
   Another monument built of metal is the symbol of France. The Eiffel Tower was put together by three hundred workers in the late 1800’s, and it has delighted tourists ever since. Unveiled by the Prince of Wales, and climbed by a mountaineer, this amazing structure is “hailed” as “a star” by the French people.
   In all, poet J. Patrick Lewis looks at thirteen monuments from around the world. He takes us from Easter Island to Egypt, and from China to New York City, and in each place he uses a different poetical form to show us how lucky we are that people of vision gave us these monuments to explore, admire, and wonder at.
   At the back of the book an epilogue explains how the poet chose which monuments to write about. In addition, there is a world map showing the location of the thirteen monuments, and there is further information about each one.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Jasper John Dooley: Star of the World

Many of us are prone to having huge expectations, and the boy in today's fiction title, Jasper John Dooley, is just such a person. He is going to be the Star of the Week in his classroom, and he imagines how popular he will be, and how he will wow his classmates with his presentations. He is convinced that his Star of the Week experience is going to be fantastic from start to finish. Unfortunately, in real life things often don't work out the way we would like them to work out, and this is just what happens to Jasper.

Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week
Caroline Adderson
Illustrated by Ben Clanton
Fiction
For ages 7 to 9
Kids Can Press, 2012, 978-1-55453-578-1
Jasper John Dooley is so excited he can hardly stand it. Starting tomorrow, he is going to be the Star of the Week in his classroom. All week long he will wear the coveted star pinned to his chest, and on each day he will make a presentation or share something with his classmates.
   On Monday, Jasper arrives at school on time (for a change) carrying his Show and Tell item. He is all primed to tell the class about his lint collection, when his best friend Ori announces that he has a new baby sister. Suddenly (and most unfairly) Ori is the center of attention instead of Jasper. It takes a while for Jasper to get things back on track. Unfortunately, Jasper’s Show and Tell presentation does not go well. When he shows his classmates his lint collection, Jasper is very surprised to discover that they do not think his collection is at all interesting. In fact, they think his is strange for having it.
   The next day, Jasper has to present his family tree to the class. Ori’s family tree is full of people, and of course now the new baby has been added to it. How on earth is Jasper going to compete with a bountiful family tree like that?
   Jasper decides to make a real tree. Actually, it is more of a stick, but it is different at least. Jasper decorates the Family Stick with leaves representing himself, his mother, and his father. Then he adds one more leaf, a purple one, to make the Family Stick look more interesting.
   In class on Tuesday, Jasper’s Family Stick is well received. Then one of the kids asks about the purple leaf, and before Jasper can stop himself, he tells everyone that the leaf represents his brother Earl. The problem is that Jasper doesn’t have a brother, and he has no idea how he is going to undo the damage he has done.
   Many children have little ways that are uniquely theirs. They collect strange things, or play odd games, or have an interesting approach to life. The main character in this delightful book is decidedly quirky, and we love him for it. Whenever he gets himself into a tight spot, he finds a way to fix things, often in ways that are rather peculiar. As a result, he is funny and unpredictable. The good news is that Jasper John Dooley hasn’t finished with us yet. He will be back with more adventures, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Graphic Novel Review: Lou! Secret Diary

I know that Mondays are supposed to be for picture books, but I like to throw a graphic novel into the mix every so often. Since graphic novels are a picture centric form of storytelling, I think Mondays are a good day for them.

Today's title is the first in a series of books that Lerner Publishing (USA) is putting out. The first volume in the Lou collection came out in France in 2004, and since then the books have been translated into fourteen languages. The main character is a tween who struggles with many of the kinds of problems that most tween girls face. She is sympathetic, and she is also wonderfully funny. 

Julien Neel
Translated by Carol Klio Burrell
Graphic Novel
For ages 9 to 12
Lerner, 2012, 978-0-7613-8868-5
Lou is not your typical twelve-year-old. She and her mother Emma have a very close bond, and they often behave as if they are good friends instead of a mother and daughter. Unlike many children who are being raised by their single mother, Lou has no real interest in finding out who her father is. He has never been a part of her life, and she sees no reason to change this state of affairs.
   Lou does not want to be like everyone else, which is unusual for a school girl of her age. She designs her own clothes, and she doesn’t care if the other girls snigger at her behind her back. Let them. Lou is perfectly happy having one close friend, Mina, and she doesn’t feel the need to fit in and be popular.
   One thing Lou does long for is for her neighbor Tristan to notice her. Lou has had a crush on Tristan for years, but she has never been able to muster up the courage to tell him how she feels. Both Mina and Emma have encouraged Lou to speak her mind, but Lou does not feel able to do so.
   Lou isn’t the only one who cannot speak her mind when it comes to boys. Emma is the same way. A very cute man called Richard moves in next door, and Emma really likes him, but she can’t seem to get the words out. On Valentine’s Day, Lou, Tristan, Richard, and Emma arrange to go out for dinner, but then Tristan and Emma start playing a video game and the evening turns into a disaster. To say that Lou is angry with her mother is an understatement.
   Graphic novel fans are going to enjoy the funny, incredibly honest, and poignant stories in this book. For years the Lou comics have delighted readers in Europe, and now they are have been compiled into a series of books for American readers. Many of the situations that Lou finds herself in will resonate with young readers who are experiencing growing pains of their own.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Every Day's a dog's day


Almost every day there is at least one moment when I wish I could understand what one of my dogs is thinking. They give me a look that speaks volumes, clearly trying to convey something that is important. Alas for me. Not speaking dog, I cannot understand what my dog is trying to say. 

In today's poetry title, you will get to experience life through the eyes of four dog friends. The poems are often funny and sweet, and they also remind the reader that it is important to at least try to see things from more than one point of view. You may think that rolling on a dead vole is disgusting, but a dog thinks it is a very smart and delicious thing to do.

Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Miki Sakamoto
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Penguin, 2012, 978-0-8037-3715-0
Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes can be very interesting. We discover that something we think is fantastic, someone else thinks is dreadful, and vice versa. Imagine what it would be like if you could see the world not through another human’s eyes, but through the eyes of a dog. What would the world look like?
   In this clever collection of poems, Marilyn Singer takes us through a typical year with Fizz and his doggy friends Rosalie, Barkley and Buddy. We begin the year with the first freeze. Fizz is out walking with his girl and he peers through Rosalie’s window trying to get his friend to come outside. He reminds her that “We really LOVE this weather” and that the “nippy breeze feels nice.”  Then the first snow arrives, and we find out that as far as Fizz is concerned, snow is “Better than biscuits, / Better than cake, Better than burgers.”
   For Fizz and his friends, spring is not about flowers and birds. Spring is about chewing sticks, getting ticks, and, most of all, it is about getting as muddy as possible. Of course, spring is also a time when Fizz and his chums have to bear a visit to the groomers. Fizz cannot for the life of him comprehend why his mistress wants him to get clean. Why “can’t I smell like a dog / and not a fruit?” he asks.
   Grooming days are not the only days Fizz tells us about. There are also cat-chasing days, vet-visiting days, and hole-diggings days. These dog-centric experiences are mixed in with human celebrations as seen through doggy eyes. For Fizz, the Fourth of July is the day when he is told not to bark, which is very unfair. As for Christmas, well the dog toys are nice, but the day is special because Fizz gets to spend “one whole long day” with his beloved person.
   With humor and an obvious love of dogs, Marilyn Singer uses various poetic forms to take us on a wonderful journey through a dog’s year. Young readers will enjoy seeing the world from a dog’s point of view, and will be glad that they were able to spend some time with Fizz and his friends.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Iva Honeysuckle discovers the world

Many children dream of being an adventurer, a "discoverer" who does something that makes them famous. They play at being an archaeologist who finds the tomb of an ancient king or queen. They pretend that they are travelling through a snake-infested jungle where they find a species of dinosaur. They dig holes all over the garden looking for the lost gold of a pirate.

The main character in today's fiction title is just such a discoverer. She has big and grand dreams, but in the end what she discovers is more precious than the gold she dreams of finding.

Candice Ransom
Illustrated by Heather Ross
Fiction
For ages 7 to 9
Hyperion, 2012, 978-142313173-1
Not long ago, Iva’s father gave her a few things that belonged to her great-grandfather Ludwell Honeycutt. The stack of old National Geographic magazines, the geography bee medal (from 1923), and the tire record book that belonged to Ludwell are some of her most treasured possessions. One day Iva discovers that there two pieces of paper inside one of the magazines. One is a letter that her great-grandfather received from the National Geographic Society in which the secretary of the society says that Ludwell cannot become a member until he discovers something. Now that the summer vacation has begun, Iva decides that she is going to fulfill Ludwell’s dream. She is going to be a discoverer.
   The second piece of paper that Iva found in the magazine is a map. After a little investigating, Iva decides that the map will lead her to where General Braddock buried a stash of gold. The story is that he stopped in her town, Uncertain, when he was on his way to Pennsylvania to fight the French during the French and Indian War. General Braddock died in battle so he never came back to Uncertain to retrieve the gold.
   Iva convinces herself that finding the treasure is going to be “easy peasy,” but she soon comes to the realization that it is not going to be easy at all. Iva’s search for the treasure is made all the more difficult because Heaven, her twice-cousin, keeps messing things up, and Iva’s mother enrolls her in vacation church school.
   Heaven is without a doubt one of the biggest trials in Iva’s life. Iva’s two sisters are very close to their of-the-same-age cousins, but Iva is not. In fact she and Heaven fight all the time. Everything Heaven does irritates Iva. Heaven gets a kitten, she is chosen to assist in vacation bible school, and she even steals Iva’s best friend. Iva feels that it is “not fair” that what should have been a great summer full of adventure is turning out to be such a miserable one.
   It is never easy being different from other people. There are always grownups around who want you to be like everyone else. Iva is quite content to be different, but she cannot help being hurt when people complain about the fact that she chooses to do things in her own way. Being stubborn and single-minded, Iva fights back, which is how she gets into even more trouble.
   With humor, deliciously amusing and colorful characters (some of whom are marvelously eccentric), and a meaningful story, Candice Ransom explores how one girl tries to come to terms with her dreams, expectations, and the needs of those around her. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of C.R. Mudgeon

Many of us like things to stay the same. A change in our routine upsets us, and when we are invited to try something new we decline to do so. The main character in today's book takes this aversion to change to a whole new level. He is practically allergic to new things and new experiences. He is also a first class grouch!


C. R. MudgeonC. R. Mudgeon
Leslie Muir
Illustrated by Julian Hector
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Simon and Schuster, 2012, 978-1-4169-7906-7
   C. R. Mudgeon is a hedgehog who does not like change. In fact, he is practically allergic to it. He likes his routine, and has no interest in trying new things. Every evening he has the same celery root soup and cup of dandelion tea. Every Tuesday he picks a small fig for his dessert. Every night after his supper he sits by the fire and reads his favorite book – Medical Cures from A to Z.
   One Tuesday C.R Mudgeon goes out to pick his fig when he sees that there are red poppies in front of his door, and the sight greatly disturbs him. He discovers that someone new has moved into the neighborhood, and when he knocks on the door of the someone’s house a gaily dressed squirrel called Paprika greets him. C.R Mudgeon tries to complain about the poppies. They are making him see spots and he does not like it one bit. Paprika does not seem to think that this is a problem at all, and a very unhappy C. R. Mudgeon goes home. He consults his medical book and goes to bed.
   At suppertime C. R. Mudgeon has his usual celery root soup. A spicy cooking smell coming from Paprika’s house makes the soup taste “thin” and “pale.” The grumpy hedgehog goes over to Paprika’s house to complain, and her response it to him a bottle of “Volcano Sauce” to spice up his dinner. One sniff of the sauce is enough. C.R. Mudgeon goes to bed with a clothespin on his nose.
  One would think that all this disruption would be more than enough for one hedgehog to bear, but C.R, Mudgeon’s trials are not over yet. Not by a long shot.
   Many people find that a routine gives them comfort. Sameness is easy to deal with and it makes life predictable. Change can be painful and confusing. The problem is that too much routine and sameness can cause problems too.
   In this clever and amusing picture book, Leslie Muir explores the idea that new friends and new experiences really are “the spice of life,” and without them life can be more than a little insipid and uninspiring.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Poetry Friday: R is for Rhyme


Over the years, I have often heard people say, "Oh, I don't like poetry, I much prefer prose." I am willing to bet that these people have not have the good fortune to read Lewis Carroll's The Walrus and the Carpenter or Langston Hughes' My people. Since I started reviewing books for young readers, I have encountered poems that make me howl with laughter, or that are so moving that I get a lump in my throat. I have encountered whole novels written in blank verse, and poetry forms that I had never even heard of, like acrostic poems.

In today's poetry title you will meet and experience a wide variety of poetry forms. You will see how they are written, and discover the many effects that they can have.  

Judy Young
Illustrated by Victor Juhasz
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 10
Sleeping Bear Press, 2006, 978-1585362400
For many of us, rhymes and lines from poems form some of our earliest book memories. Mother Goose, Robert Lewis Stevenson's famous poems, "The Owl and the Pussycat," and many others all give us phrases that we remember well into adulthood. In this unique alphabet book, readers will get to meet a whole new set of poems, each one of which show us that poems come in many different faces and forms. Among others we meet a sonnet, a ballad, a haiku, a jingle, and a limerick. Then there are the parts of poems that give them their unique qualities; their rhymes, rhythms, their metaphors, narratives, quatrains, and free verse elements.
   For every word in this alphabet book, the reader is given a poem to read, to enjoy and to explore. Each poem helps to illustrate the word that is being described. Thus, the reader can actually see what iambic means, laugh at a limerick, and hear onomatopoeic words. The author includes an in depth description of each word, explaining when certain forms are used, what effect they have, and what the history of the form is.
   This book certainly is one of the most creative poetry picture books that has been published because it not only gives us poems to read, but it also helps us to better understand the whole wonderful world of poetry, and to see that poetry can convey a feeling or an impression in an unforgettable way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire

Books that make you laugh are essential, especially on days when things are not going so well. Thankfully, Polly Horvath is a master storyteller who manages to combine humor and poignancy perfectly to give readers a bookish experience that will make them feel so much better in no time at all. Her new book is about a pair of bunny detectives, and it really did make me laugh as I read it. 

Polly Horvath
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 2012, 978-0-375-86755-2
   Madeline is very unfortunate because she has parents who really aren’t much good at being parents. To be honest, she is the most responsible member of her family; she is the one who insists that she goes to school, and she does most of the cooking, cleaning, sewing, and other necessary household chores. When her parents are kidnapped by someone calling himself The Enemy, Madeline once again has to be the one who figures out how to save the day.  Apparently this enemy wants Madeline to tell him where her Uncle Runyon is. Uncle Runyon is a skilled decoder and presumably The Enemy wants to make use of his decoding abilities.
   Madeline tries to get her uncle Runyon to help, but he slips into a coma and is not able to do anything in his nonresponsive state. Thankfully, just when she is feeling desperate, Madeline makes the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny. For some reason, she is able to speak and understand the rabbit language, and she tells the two bunnies all about her parents. Not long ago, Mrs. Bunny decided that she and her husband should try being detectives, so she is thrilled to be able to offer to find Madeline’s missing parents.
   Mr. and Mrs. Bunny take Madeline home with them, even building her a “hutch” to stay in because she is too large to fit into their home. The only clue that Madeline has about her parents’ captor is a file card that is covered in series of “squiggles and whirls.” Try as they might, Madeline and her new friends cannot figure out what the symbols mean, and since Uncle Runyon is unable to help, they are forced to visit The Marmot, a marmot who is apparently an excellent decoder. The problem is that the marmot is not inclined to be helpful, and his behavior is trying to say the least. Madeline is even forced, at one point, to hypnotize the marmot to try to find out what the coded message on the file card says. It doesn’t help that Mr. and Mrs. Bunny allow themselves to be sidetracked by other matters (often), and that they are not terribly good detectives to begin with.
   Polly Horvath is a master storyteller, a writer who has been delighting readers for years with her quirky, often amusing, and frequently touching stories. As they read this unique story, readers will quickly come to sympathize with Madeline. After all, imagine what it would be like to have to parent ones parents, and how frustrating it would be to be dependent on a pair of very nice but rather muddled rabbits.
   With evil foxes who have to be defeated, useless grownups, loveable rabbits, and a garlic bread addicted marmot, this is a story that will delight readers who enjoy Roald Dahl’s books. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of Croc and Bird

Children generally seem to find it very easy to make friends with someone who comes from a different world. Even when they don't share a common language, they manage to make themselves understood, and find ways to play together. Of course, all too often, someone comes along who says that they are too different to be friends, which is ridiculous because they are managing perfectly well, thank you very much.

Today's picture book explores the idea that friendship and family connections should be allowed to form where they will, and should be celebrated.

Alexis Deacon
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House UK, 2012, 978-0-091-89332-3
Two eggs are sitting on the sand together, and under the twinkling stars they break open and two babies come into the world. One of the babies is a parrot chick, and the other is a little crocodile. Together the two parentless youngsters figure out how to get food, and they keep each other warm until the sun comes up. Together they sing and build nests and they grow up. They believe that they are brothers and they are happy.
   Then one day they discover that birds and crocodiles are not brothers after all. The bird joins his kind in the trees, and the crocodile lives with his relatives in the river. One would think that they would be happy now, but they are not. Something is wrong.
   For hundreds of years people have told their children that they should only be friends with their own kind. They have discouraged friendships with children who live in another town, who belong to a different tribe, who practice a different religion, or who come from a different country. “Stay with your own kind” children have been told.
   This wonderful book celebrates families and friendships of all kinds. It shows to great effect that there are no rules when it comes to choosing who is going to be your friend, your sister or your brother, your mother or your father. All that matters is that you love and respect one another, and that you have interests in common that you care about. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Bug Off!

I know that a lot of people dislike creepy crawlies of all kinds. I happen to like them, and had numerous cricket and beetle pets when I was little. Jane Yolen used have an aversion for insects, but she now has come to appreciate that these little animals are really quite fascinating, and some can even be said to be beautiful. Jane  still would prefer that insects keep their distance, but their intriguing ways and looks have inspired her to write a collection of poems that even entomophobic and archanaphobic readers will enjoy

Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems
Jane Yolen
Photographs by Jason Stemple
Bug Off!: Creepy, Crawly PoemsPoetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Boyds Mills Press, 2012, 978-1-59078-862-2
Many people (including the author of this book) do not like insects. They do not like how they buzz, they don’t like their large ‘buggy’ eyes, and they don’t like the fact that so many insects “creep, crawl, bite, sting.” It is true that insects can be a nuisance at times, but they also are vital component in countless ecosystems, and many of them are quite beautiful, if you take the time to look at them.
   The good news is that you don’t have to trot around with a large magnifying glass to see some of this beauty. Jason Stemple has done this for you by taking some extraordinary photographs that he has chosen to include in this book. The author, Jane Yolen (who as I mentioned does not like insects), was so amazed by the beauty of these little creatures that she has decided that perhaps insects are not so nasty after all.
   To accompany each of Jason’s photos, Jane Yolen has written a poem, and a section of text that provides readers with further information about the insects show in the pictures.  In “Oh, fly” Jane Yolen talks about how relieved she is that a fly “flew /onto / my leaf / and not / my food.” She even admits that the fly is quite attractive (on the leaf).
   Later on in the book, we see a photo of a daddy longlegs. In the informative text we read that this creature, a harvestman, is not a spider at all, which is what most people think they are. Instead it is a cousin of sppiders, and it is quite harmless, even though its long legs make it look a little sinister. In her poem, Jane Yolen wonders how the daddy longlegs knows which legs “go forward” and which “help / Pick up the slack.”
   With touches humor, brilliant descriptions, and a clever use of language, Jane Yolen gives her insect subjects a fair shake, showing us that they can be beautiful, interesting, and full of surprises. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The New Issue of the TTLG Journal is online!

Jennie-harbour-illustration

Happy May everyone, the May and June 2012 issue of Through the Looking GlassChildren’s Book Reviews is now online for you to look at.

May and June are the months when summer finally makes itself felt, at least around here in Oregon. Winter coats and sweaters are put into boxes or are tucked away on high shelves, and bathing suits are tried on to see if they still fit. The sun is warm, and children are happy to spend their play time out of doors. There is a delightful collection of books about summer on the TTLG Summer Days page, with books for readers of all ages.

Summer is also a time when many people are very busy in their gardens. If you want to share your love of gardening with the children in your life, take a look at the In the Garden Feature. You will find both fiction and nonfiction titles here that will interest children and young people who are eager to try out their green thumbs.

For this month's special feature I am looking at books that are about music and musicians. The books will include both fiction and nonfiction titles that explore the world of music, and that tell us stories about musicians of all kinds. You will find tales that will inspire you and amuse you, and who knows, you may even decide to try making some music of your own.

For this month's Editor's Choice title, I have selected Above World, by Jenn Resse. This novel will take readers ages 9 to 12 to a futuristic world where humans have new challenges to face if they are going to survive.

Finally, take a look at the new Bookish Calendar. Here you will find reviews about Nellie Bly, Mother's Day, Paul Gauguin, a horse called Seabiscuit, and much more. This calendar is a great tool to use at home and in the classroom to help children incorporate books more fully into their lives.

-:Bookish Events for May and June:-

May 13th - May 19th is Reading is Fun Week (USA)
May is “Get Caught Reading” Month (USA)
Children’s Book Week May 7th - May 13th (USA)

I hope you find a way to celebrate some, if not all, of these bookish events. If I have missed an important bookish event, please drop me a line to tell me about it.

Enjoy!

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Daphne's Diary of Daily Disasters: The name game!

For years I have enjoyed the stories about Amelia. Written and illustrated by Marissa Moss, these stories are presented to readers in a journal format, and they wonderfully chronicle the highs and lows in the life of a young girl. Not long ago Marissa started a new series featuring a girl called Daphne. Once again, the stories are in journal format, and once again the author uses humor and sensitivity to explore the life of a young person.

For today's fiction title I have reviewed the first title in the Daphne series.

Daphne's Diary of Daily Disasters: The Name Game!Daphne’s Diary of Daily Disasters: The Name Game!
Marissa Moss
Fiction
For ages 8 to 10
Simon and Schuster, 2011, 978-1-4424-1738-0
Daphne is in the 4th grade, and it is a her first day of school. She had a new backpack, a new diary to write in, and her best friend Kaylee is in the same class, so things should be all right. But there are not. The teacher calls roll call and says “Daffy” instead of Daphne. Daphne knows full well that her classmates are going to call her Daffy for the rest of the school year, and perhaps for the rest of her life. Sure enough, she gets called names all day long.
   After school, Daphne has to go to the orthodontist, then she has to sit through her little brothers’ soccer practice, which is incredibly boring. It doesn’t help that her parents ask how her first day of school went. Daphne does not want to talk about her dreadful day, she wants to “forget” what happened as soon as possible. She would even prefer to listen to her father’s boring account of his day rather than have to talk about hers.
   Then Daphne’s father mentions how someone mispronounced his name at work that day, and he tells his family about how he was called all kinds of names when he was a kid in school. All of a sudden Daphne feels less alone. Her father went through the same experience that she is going through now. Who knew? Not only that, but Daphne’s father comes up with a solution to her problem. Could it be that she can salvage her reputation after all?
   Dealing with being called names, and having people make fun of you is an unfortunate part of school life. The problem is that it can cause a lot of pain, sometimes unintentionally. Thankfully, Marissa Moss has found an effective and sympathetic way to address this issue. Through Daphne, she shows young readers that they are not alone, and that many of the adults in their lives were teased when they were kids. She helps readers to see how important it is to be sensitive to others, and to have a sense of humor.
   This is the first book in a new series.