Thursday, September 12, 2019

The new issue of Through the Looking Glass Book Reviews is online

Happy September dear book loving people! The new issue of the journal is online and it contains some wonderful bookish treats for you all.

The special feature is Writers and Writing and I got to review several books about writers and the writing process. Start with a Word by Peter H. Reynolds (of Dot and Ish fame) is the perfect book to give to someone who loves to write but who needs a little help getting into the writing groove (yes there is such a thing).

For the Series Spotlight I chose The Paper Magician trilogy. These books take readers to a wonderful place where magicians are (mostly) well respected members of society, and where magic is (mostly) used for the betterment of all. The main character is utterly delightful and the touch of romance in the story is charming. Mind you, these stories are not all sweetness and light. There are some very low points that I have to confess left me feeling rather shaken. Magic must be taken seriously and it needs to be treated with respect, and of course there are always those who will use it to hurt others. Many thanks to Charlie N. Holmberg (the spotlight author in this issue) for creating these books.

Just last month the wonderful poet and anthologist, Lee Bennett Hopkins, left the stage and he will be greatly missed. He was such a dear, funny, and generous man, and it was a privilege to call him a friend. In his honor I chose to review one of his newest poetry anthologies in this issue, and I also featured a book that won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, poetry prize that he brought into being and that carries his name.

For this issue I also chose to include some reviews of a few older, classic books. Ballet Shoes, George's Marvelous Medicine, Nurse Matilda, and The Railway Children, have all been around for a while and getting to read them again, as an adult, was a real treat.

I hope you enjoy this issue and look forward to hearing from you.





Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Review of She Persisted Around the World - Celebrating Strong Girls Strong Women

Not long ago I met a young woman who announced that she was not going to vote in the next election. I admit that I rather lost my temper. I proceeded to tell her how disappointed I was that she was throwing away all that our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers did to get men to treat them as equals. She said that none of that was relevant any longer. It is all "cool," I was told. I promptly lost my temper again and told her the story of a Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head because she defied those who wanted her to be silent about what was happening in her country. "What does that have to do with me?" she asked. I told her that she, and I, have to carry on the fight so that all women can get an education, can vote, can work where they want, and can get a fair wage. Our vote is one of the tools that we have to make this happen. Yes, I really got on my soapbox that day.

Today I bring you a review of a book in which we can read the stories of thirteen women and girls who were told "NO!" by the societies they lived in, and who said "YES!" in response.


Chelsea Clinton
Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Penguin, 2018, 978-0-525-51699-6
Being a girl can be challenging no matter where you live in the world, but there are some places where it is particularly difficult. For example, for many of us going to school is something that we do without even thinking about it. It is a requirement, and we often consider it a bore. There are some countries where girls are not allowed to get an education, and for them this is a terrible deprivation; for without an education how can they get a job and live a life of their own choosing? How can they be financially self-sufficient and make their own choices?
   One such girl was Juana Ines who lived in Mexico at a time when most girls did not get to go to school. Juana wanted to learn, and so she studied at home. When she was told that she could not go to university she found people who were willing to tutor her. Juana went on to write poems and plays that are still read today, and she wrote a paper arguing that it is a women’s right to get an education in the Americas; the first of its kind to get published.
   In New Zealand Kate Shepphard was told that women are not suited to play a role in political decision making. She refused to accept this argument and fought hard to get women the vote in her homeland. Her hard work paid off, and in 1893 New Zealand was the first country in the world to give all women the right to vote.
   Sisleide Lima do Amor lived in Brazil and at that time it was actually illegal for girls to play soccer. Sissi desperately wanted to play, and so she did so in secret playing with anything that could be kicked across the ground. Eventually Sissi’s parents got her a proper ball to play with. Two years after the law was repealed, when she was fourteen, Sissi began to play professionally. She went on to become a soccer star and an inspiration for girl soccer players in Brazil and beyond.
   This splendid picture book presents readers with the stories of fourteen women and girls who insisted on pursuing their dreams, even when the societies that they lived in tried to deny them those dreams. Their stories are inspirational, and they give us a picture of how far we have come; and how far we still have to go to make sure that all women and girls are given the same opportunities that men and boys have.
  


Friday, March 15, 2019

A review of Aim for the skies - Celebrating Strong Girls, Strong Women

One of the things that I love about reviewing these Strong Girls, Strong Women books is the fact I am learning so much. When I first got today's book I had never heard of these two amazing women who, within days of each other, set out to fly solo around the world.It would appear that we are surrounded by the stories of women who did, and are doing, amazing things.


Aimee Bissonette
Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018, 978-1-58536-381-0
Jerrie Mack is only seven years old when she takes her first ride in an airplane. She is so taken with the experience that she decides there and then that she is going to be pilot.
   Joan Merriam is fifteen when she takes her first plane ride in 1952. When the plane lands Joan tells her mother that she wants to learn how to fly a plane, and she ends up getting her pilot’s license before she even learns how to drive a car.
   Both women dream of becoming a record-breaking pilot like Amelia Earhart, and when Joan is twenty-three and Jerrie is thirty-seven they both decide that what they want to do next is to fly around the world.
   Jerrie and Joan set about preparing for their epic journeys. Maps have to be studied and flight plans have to be drawn up. Permission has to be granted by the governments of the countries that they will be visiting. The interesting thing is that the women do not know each other. Joan does not know what Jerrie is planning, and Jerrie has no idea what Joan is up to.
   Then, just a few weeks before they are supposed to set off on their epic flight, the women hear about each other. It looks as if their dreams to complete the journey that Amelia Earhart was not able to finish have been turned into a race.
   On March 17th, 1964 Joan’s plane takes off from an airport in Oakland, California. Just two days later Jerrie takes to the skies. The women have different planes and they are taking different routes. Truly remarkable adventures that are full of problems and dangers lie ahead of them.
   This is the fascinating true story of two women who both greatly admired Amelia Earhart and who both decided, independently, to follow in the footsteps of the famous aviator. The narrative gives us a picture of what the two women were like, and we come to appreciate how difficult and dangerous their journey was. This story is a tribute to the two aviators, and it is also a tribute to the woman who inspired them.


Friday, March 8, 2019

A review of Lights! Camera! Alice! The Thrilling True Adventures of the first woman filmmaker - Celebrating Strong Girls Strong Women

Happy International Women's Day. Today I bring you a review of book that tells the story of an extraordinary woman. I confess that I had never heard of Alice Guy-Blache until I read this book. I was therefore delighted to learn that such a colorful and determined woman played such a big role in the early years of the moving picture industry.

Mara Rockliff
Illustrated by Simona Ciraolo
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle, 2018, 978-1-4521-4134-3
When she was a little girl, Alice loved stories. She loved the tales that she found in the books that her papa sold, and the narratives that her grandmother and her nursemaid shared with her. Stories were the stuff of life and she could not wait “to find out what happened next.”
   Unfortunately for Alice, what happened next was not pleasant at all. Papa’s business failed, and then he died, leaving Alice in dire need of a job. She ended up getting a position at a camera shop, and through her job she found out about a new innovation: cameras that could create moving pictures. Alice and her employer went to see one of the new moving pictures and they were astounded by it, even though the subject matter of the film was not all that interesting. The young woman began to think that moving picture cameras might be “put to better use.” Why show mundane scenes in moving pictures when you could tell stories instead.
   Alice decided that she would try making some moving pictures of her own, and so she set about looking for costumes, she made sets, and found people to play the roles in the stories. At first her films’ sole purpose was to demo the cameras, but people liked her films so much that they were even willing to pay to see them.
   Alice’s films were full of clever innovations that made them interesting and engaging. She became so successful that her competitors spied on her to steal her ideas. Alice and her young cameraman decided to go to America, thinking that the country that epitomized innovation would be the perfect place to build a new life. Little did they know that no one had even heard of Alice on the other side of the Atlantic. Little did they know that both success and heartbreak awaited them in the land of opportunity.
   Most of us have never heard of Alice Guy-Blache and yet she was one of the first filmmakers in the world. She was also the first woman to make films, she made the first talking movie, and some even think that she was the first to make films that showed made up stories.
   As was so often the case at that time, being female meant that Alice did not get the recognition that she deserved. Thanks to this book a new generation of girls will grow up knowing that Alice was a tour de force in the early years of film making.
  

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A beautiful poster from Rachel Ignotofsky that tells the story of Strong Girl, Strong Women activists from around the world.

Rachel Ignotofsky is an author and illustrator who creates gorgeous and enlightening nonfiction picture books that readers of all ages will enjoy. I will be reviewing her book about women in science soon. She has created a poster that I think is just marvelous, and I would like to share it with you today. Take a close look at the poster to meet some of the world's women activists.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

A review of I can be anything! Don't tell me I can't - Celebrating Strong Girls and Strong Women.

I don't know how many of you have had people tell you that you cannot not do something because of who you are. That, because you are what you are, something that you really want to do is out of your reach.

Like so many girls and women, I have experienced this kind of thing many times in my life. I was told that I could not play the saxophone in the school orchestra because girls don't play saxes. I was told that young women don't travel to India on their own because it simply isn't done. I was told that, because I was female, I could not ride a motorcycle. Some of these battles I won; I did go in India and I did ride a motorcycle. Some of them I lost; I never got to play the sax.

This month is Women's History Month in the U.S, and in honor of this event I have chosen to focus on Strong Girls, Strong Women in the new issue of TTLG, which I published this morning. Every week this month I will be posting at least one review of a book that celebrates girls and women who have chosen to pursue their dreams, even when people have tried to prevent them from doing so. They have turned away from the people who have said NO! They have held their heads high and kept on trying in spite of the barriers that have been placed in front of them.

On this first day of March I bring you a wonderful picture book that is empowering and thought-provoking. Many of us have a little voice inside us that tells us that we can't do this, or that we can't do that. For many girls this voice is reinforced by the loud voices of people in society who say the same thing. In this book a little girl fights against her little voice, choosing to say "I can" when it says "You cannot."

Diane Dillon
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Scholastic, 2018, 978-1-338-16690-3
One day Zoe stretches her arms out wide and she thinks that she can be “anything I want to be.” She can even be a bird that flies “way up high.” Then that little negative voice of doubt pipes up and asks, “What if you fall?”
   Zoe does not let the annoying little voice take way her dreams. She responds by saying that she won’t fall because she will have wings, and if her wings get tired she will travel to a planet far away in a rocket ship. There she will have tea with the aliens that she meets on the planet before she heads for home. The little voice speaks up again and asks Zoe what “if you can’t get home?”
   Zoe knows better than to listen to the voice, the voice that wants to discourage her from doing things that are adventurous and interesting. In fact, she ignores the voice completely and announces that she could become an archeologist who travels around the world seeking out dinosaur bones and buries treasure.
   The voice tries to tell Zoe that she is “too little” to embark on such travels, but she refuses to accept this. “I’m bigger than you,” she tells the voice, and then goes on to talk about how she might become a scientist who discovers things or an inventor.
   Again and again the voice tries to crush Zoe’s dreams, and again and again the little girl finds an answer that affirms that she is strong and “smart,” brave and talented.
   This wonderful book shows children that they are not the only ones to have a voice of doubt whispering in their ear. In fact, we all have a version of that voice that tries to convince us that we can’t be anything we want to be. Children will appreciate the many ways that Zoe responds to her voice, and how she never loses hope in herself and her future. They will see that with knowledge, learning, skills, and courage they too can “be anything” that they want to be.
  

New Issue of Through the Looking Glass

Dear Bookish Friends:

As I am sure some of you have noticed, I have not been blogging for a while. The reason for this is that I have been very sick for months and my work and music, my life as a whole, really suffered. Thankfully, I have managed to crawl out of the hole of darkness that took over my life for so long. I am back, and I am eager to read, write, play music, dance, run, and hike once more. I am eager to be a part of the world again.

Image result for women's history month 2019This morning I posted the new issue of TTLG, which is for March and April. Please take a look at the Welcome Page to see what is new. I am particularly proud of the Strong Girls, Strong Women feature, which ties into March's Women's History Month. In addition to what is already in the TTLG library, I will be posting here, every week in March, at least one new review of a book that celebrates women and girls. The first of these posts will appear on this blog later today.

I am so looking forward to sharing books with you again and hope to hear from many you in the days ahead.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of My People

When you are a child you often think that more is better. I have learned over the years that sometimes less is more. Today's poetry book is a perfect example of this. This is not a weighty tome. It is not packed with artwork and text. Instead it is spare, and simple, and incredibly beautiful. In the book gorgeous photos are paired with lines of verse written by Langston Hughes, and the words celebrate people of all kinds.

My peopleMy people
Langston Hughes
Photographer: Charles R. Smith Jr.
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2009   ISBN: 1416935401
In 1923, Langston Hughes, the African-American poet, wrote a poem that later came to be called “My People.” The poem is only thirty-three words long, and in it Langston Hughes invites his readers to see “his people” through fresh eyes. He invites them to see how beautiful they are, comparing them to the night, the stars, and the sun. Not only are their faces and eyes beautiful, but their souls are too.
   Using stunning full page sepia photographs, Charles R. Smith Jr. captures the essence of Langston Hughes’ poem. His photos show people of all ages smiling, laughing, and being themselves. The photos are indeed beautiful, and they give Langston Hughes' poetry a new dimension that readers of all ages with admire.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of Bob's Blue Period

When I was a child I went through a period when everything I drew had flowers on it. Then I drew peace doves and nothing but peace doves. Then I was 'into' doodling with gold, white, and silver pens. Every artistic fad was inspired by something that was going on in my life at the time. Today you will meet an artistic bird who, because he is sad, finds himself going through a blue period.

Marion Deuchars
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Laurence King, 2018, 978-1-78627-070-2
Bob the bird’s best friend is Bat, and the two animals are inseparable. They play games together, dance together, have tea parties, and best of all they paint together. Then one day Bat disappears and he leaves a note for Bird saying that he has to “go away for a while.” Bird is bereft without his friend. He mopes around until he decides to paint. Everything he paints is blue. He paints a blue banana, a blue orange, and a blue tree. For Bird there is “a big blue hole where Bat used to be.”
   When Cat and Owl come to Bird to have their portraits done they are rather disappointed to see that Bird has painted them blue too. Bird’s friends decide that something has to be done to pull Bird out of his state of blueness.
   When a friend goes away our lives can really be turned upside down. Suddenly nothing feels quite right, and we don’t know what to do with ourselves when our bestie isn’t around to share everything. In this sweet picture book Marion Deuchars explores, with sensitivity and touches of humor, what it feels like to miss a friend. As the story unfolds we see how important it is to try to hold onto the good things even when we are feeling sad.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Old Elm Speaks

I love trees. Whenever life gets too hard or when my heart is aching, I head up into the hills to spend some time amongst the tress. Something about their quiet presence comforts and grounds me. I was therefore delighted to come across this wonderful book of poems. What could be better than a book that celebrates trees!

Old Elm Speaks: Tree PoemsOld Elm Speaks: Tree Poems 
Kristine O'Connell George
Illustrated by Kate Kiesler
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Clarion Books, 2007, 978-0618752423
All too often we take trees for granted. We walk pass them without noticing their beauty, forgetting that they witness the many mini adventures that fill our lives. In this very special book we hear their voices, we see things from their point of view. We slow down and notice the small things, the little details in their lives. We come to appreciate them anew and to realize that they are there watching over us as we play, as we work, and as we explore our world.
   For example we come to realize that there is a special magic in the way in which a tiny leaf is "rolled and folded / neatly packed" in a bud. We laugh as we read about the "major tree traffic" that is running along a tree's branches as squirrels carry out their daily chores. We smile as two plump horses find a way to share the shade that one tree gives. We watch as two children plant a baby blue spruce in their garden, a tiny tree that one day will "scratch the sky" with its branches.
   Using a variety of poetry forms including free verse, rhyme and haiku, the author of this wonderful celebratory collection infuses her poems with every possible mood and emotion. She has an obvious appreciation for the way in which language can be used to give a poem rhythm, complexity and imagery.
   This is the perfect book for all those wonderful people out there who love and appreciate trees.