Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book review written for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now moving in a different direction, though the columns that I write are still book-centric. Instead of writing reviews, I'm offering you columns on topics that have been inspired by wonderful books that I have read. I tell you about the books in question, and describe how they have have impacted me. This may sound peculiar to some of you, but the books that I tend to choose are ones that resonate with me on some level. Therefore, when I read the last page and close the covers, I am not quite the same person that I was when first I started reading the book. The shift in my perspective might be miniscule, but it is still there. The books I am looking are both about adult and children's titles. Some of the children's titles will appeal to adults, while others will not. Some of the adult titles will appeal to younger readers, particularly those who are eager to expand their horizons.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Picture Book Monday - Gem

Many of us like to imagine what it would be like to be a wild animal. How easy life would be if we didn't have to worry about homework, sports practices in the snow, and other similarly unpleasant things. The truth is that being a wild animal is no picnic in the park. Meet Gem, a toad who faces many dangers as he moves from place to place.

Holly Hobbie
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Little Brown, 2012, 978-0-316-20334-0
   Gram is experiencing a particularly cold winter, and while the snow piles up around her house, and the north wind howls, she starts to think of spring. She remembers the day when her granddaughter Hope found a toad, “a small wonder,” in the garden. Gram decides to create a book about the journey made by  the toad, who was called Gem.
   On a warm spring day Gem pushed his way out of the ground and he set off to explore. He crossed the wide expanse of a road and he almost got flattened by a passing car, which was a terrifying experience.
   Up a dirt road he hopped until he came to a pond, where he set about singing his spring song. His melody attracted the attention of a pretty little toad lady, and it wasn’t long before Gem was surrounded by many little toad children. One would think that this would be more than enough of an adventure for a toad, by Gem’s journey was not yet over.
   In this truly beautiful picture book, two letters serve as a frame for a wordless illustrated tale. We share in a toad’s adventures as he copes with cars, birds of prey, and other dangers. It is thrilling to see the world from the toad’s point of view, and we come to appreciate was a gem he is.
   At the back of the book Holly Hobbie provides readers with some facts about toads.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Out of this world

Many children are fascinated by space, eagerly devouring books about stars, planets, and space exploration. In today's poetry title, space fans will find wonderful poems that take them off our home planet and out into the unknown. The poems are accompanied by sections of interesting and informative text.

Amy E. Sklansky
Illustrated by Stacey Schuett
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Random House, 2012, 978-0-375-86459-9
For many people, space is an exciting and intriguing place, a place full of mysteries and unknowns. Though we have explored much of our own planet, we humans have not ventured far out into space yet. Getting there is part of the problem, and we have had to invent very specialized vehicles to get us off Earth’s surface and out into space, where there is no up and no down, and no gravity. Distances are so enormous, that we still haven’t figured out how to traverse them in a timely manner.
   In this delightful title the author pairs her clever poems with sections of factual text to give readers a unique reading experience. She explores what zero gravity might feel like, and what the Earth looks like from space, a colored “marble” hanging in the blackness. We find out what three famous astronauts took with them when they were “Packing for the moon,” and we are challenged to think about what we would take with us if we were going to make that journey. Would you take lucky charms with you like Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins did?
   Later in the book, we find out about satellites, which make life easier for us by “making phone calls / loud and clear” and by helping us “surf the Web / with ease.” If you want to know about meteors, comets, stars, the sun, the moon, and the planets then you are in luck because all of these things and more are explored in this title.
   Throughout this clever book, the poems and factual sections of text are paired with wonderful illustrations that capture the beauty and wonder of space.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Amelia’s Are-We-There-Yet Longest ever Car Trip

I began reading the Amelia journals created by Marissa Moss many years ago. I love the format that the author uses, and I also love the way in which she addresses issues that are important to young people. Today's fiction title is another Amelia story, and it is perfect for summer because it is about a road trip that Amelia takes with her mother and big sister.

Marissa Moss
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2006, 978-1469-0906-4
   Amelia, her mother, and her big sister Chloe are driving from their home in Oregon to the Grand Canyon, stopping along the way to see a ghost town, Death Valley, Manzanar, Mono Lake, and Yosemite. Though Amelia is looking forward to seeing these places, perhaps most of all she is looking forward to visiting her friend Nadia, who lives in California. Amelia will be staying with her for a few days on the way home.
   The first few days of the trip are a trial. Being in close quarters with Chloe is a challenging under the best of circumstances. Being in close quarters with her when she is being car sick is almost unbearable. Amelia cannot help wishing that Chloe was somewhere else, anywhere else in fact.
   Despite Chloe and her annoying habits there are a few bright moments during the journey to the Grand Canyon. When they stop for dinner at a diner, Amelia not only gets to eat some fantastic food, but she and Chloe have fun listening to real records that are being played on the old fashioned juke box. Staying at motels is fun too, but all the driving is driving Amelia “crazy.” Can the Grand Canyon be worth all this boredom?
   Amelia soon discovers that the Grand Canyon is definitely worth visiting. She is amazed at how huge and how beautiful the place is, and she makes friends with a nice boy from Japan who is visiting America. She buys gifts for her friends and sends them postcards.
   One thing that Amelia cannot help worrying about is whether Nadia will still be the Nadia that Amelia was best friends with a year ago. What if Nadia has changed, and what if they don’t have anything in common anymore?
   In this splendid Amelia journal, Marissa Moss gives her readers a perfect picture of Amelia’s summer vacation road trip. We get to experience the high and the low moments. We share in Amelia’s enthusiasm for the things she sees, and the anxiety she feels about her upcoming reunion with her former best friend.
   Written in the chatty vernacular of a ten-year-old, the journal is handwritten, and it is packed with Amelia’s drawings and doodles, many of which are amusing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of Gator

Being alone and in a situation where you are not touched by the warmth of other people's happiness can be dreadful. Your life feels very empty, and seems to lack meaning. In today's picture book you are going to meet a carousel alligator who, when his carousel falls out of favor, goes off looking for new friends and the sound of children's laughter. He is, without a doubt, one of my heroes.

Randy Cecil
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2007, 978-0-7636-2952-6
   Gator is a carousel animal, and there is nothing that he likes more than hearing the laughter of the children who are riding the carousel. For years, children line up to have a turn on the carousel, and Gator and his friend Duck are always busy. Then, over time, fewer and fewer children come to the carousel for rides. Finally, one day, the carousel lights are turned off, the music stops playing, and Gator is forgotten.
   For a while Gator sleeps, but then he wakes up and he decides that he should leave the park and go out into the world. Gator walks through a scary dark forest, he sees some real ducks and finds out that they can fly. Then he comes to a place where people are laughing and clearly enjoying themselves. Gator dares to hope that he has found “some sort of amusement park,” and he goes to investigate. Perhaps this place can be his new home.
   When we first meet Gator, he does not give us the impression that he is all that special. Then he dares to leave the only home he has ever known to find a new life for himself. This is a truly brave thing to do, and children will see that heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Gator head out into the unknown to look for a new future for himself, and he does something wonderful in the process.
   This a tale that has a charming main character, beautiful illustrations, and a story that will resonate with readers of all kinds. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Some kind of love

In summertime, many families get together to reconnect and catch up. My family members have always been spread all over the world, so this was never something we did. This coming winter my cousin is getting married in California, and many of my family members will be travelling long distances to celebrate this event with her. It will be the first time many of us will be meeting the new babies, and I am really looking forward to it.

Today's poetry book is about an annual family reunion that a family share. Though the gathering is not fancy, it is an event that is special for everyone.

Traci Dant
Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Marshall Cavendish, 978-0-7614-5559-2
Every summer, in “purple lilac time,” the members of Grandma’s family leave their homes and drive to Missouri for a family reunion. Without fail, no matter what is happening in their lives, the aunts, uncles, and cousins come to spend some precious time together, and when the members of the family arrive there is “an avalanche of hello / hugs and kisses.”
   No one stays at a motel. Instead, everyone is given a place to sleep at one of the aunt’s houses. No one minds having to share a bed. No one minds having to sleep on a sofa or on the floor. All that matters is that they are all together.
   The family members go fishing, and the happiness that they are share is so great that even when Joley eats the dough that is supposed to be used for bait, he doesn’t get scolded. The love that the family members have for each other seems to have a magical quality because somehow Aunt Lois’s little house is able to accommodate one hundred family members who come together for a fish fry that evening.
   This same magic makes the family stories so funny that even Daddy, who works so hard all the time, laughs as if he hasn’t a care in the world. It makes cousins, even the ones you don’t know each other well, great friends.
   In this heart-warming and unique picture book, Traci Dant uses a series of poems to tell the story of an annual family reunion, an event that brings people together for shared good times. Throughout the book we are reminded that “some kind of love” must be present that is making this reunion full of love, goodwill, friendship, and good spirits. Readers will find themselves wishing that they could join the members of this family who are able to create something so precious even though their homes are small and their means are modest.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of The Magic Finger

I grew up reading the Roald Dahl books, and I still enjoy reading Danny the Champion of the World, The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda. How wonderful it is when the bad guys are defeated and get their just desserts. In today's fiction title, the bad guys get the shock of a lifetime, and they learn a memorable lesson.

Roald Dahl
For ages 7 to 9
Penguin, 2009, 978-0142413852
  I’d like to introduce you to an eight-year-old girl who has a rather unusual gift, if you can call it that. When she gets annoyed at someone, she points her finger at the person and then strange things happen. For example, after the girl’s teacher, Mrs. Winter, tells her that she is a “stupid little girl,” the girl points her finger at Mrs. Winter who then sprouts a cat’s whiskers and tail.
   Apparently the Magic Finger is something she has always had, and she has no idea why or how it works. All she does know is that when she gets “cross,” her finger tingles, “a sort of flash” comes out of her, and the person she points at, the person she is cross with, experiences something unpleasant.
  One day the girl sees her neighbors coming home from a hunting expedition carrying a dead deer. The girl thinks that hunting is a horrible sport and she has tried again and again to persuade Mr. Gregg and his two sons to give it up. Being dedicated hunters, the Greggs ignore the girl’s words. When she sees that poor deer, the girl really loses her temper and she puts the Magic Finger on Mr. Gregg and his sons, and on Mrs. Gregg who didn’t even go hunting.
   At first the little girl has no idea what her Magic Finger has done to her neighbors, but later on she finds out that they have an experience that truly changes their attitude towards hunting. It is an experience that is, at times, quite terrifying.
   Children who enjoy stories about magical happenings are going to love this delightful tale. It is hard not to feel cheered when one sees how things work out for the Greggs after they experience the wrath of the Magic Finger.
   As always, Roald Dahl has crafted a clever and often funny story that perfectly suits a child’s definition of justice. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Olympic Games and a BOOK GIVEAWAY

I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to the beginning of the summer Olympics. I especially like the track and field events. Over the years, I have reviewed several books about the Olympic Games. Some of them tell the story of the games, while others tell the stories of some of the athletes who participated in them. Recently I reviewed a book called G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet. The wonderful people at Sleeping Bear Press have given me FIVE copies of this book to give away. My review of the book is below. To participate in this giveaway send me an email at editor@lookingglassreview.com telling me which Olympic event is your favorite. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics AlphabetG is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet
Brag Herzog
Illustrated by Doug Bowles
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 11
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011, 978-1-58536-462-6
   Long ago in ancient Greece, wars between the city-states were a common occurrence. The only time peace could be guaranteed was every four years, when the citizens of the city-states would lay down their arms for a month and come together to compete as athletes. The games were hosted in the town of Olympia, and the men who won the races and other events were given an olive wreath to wear.
   The modern Olympic Games came into being because Baron Pierre de Coubertin felt that the “a modern version of the Olympic Games would foster peace between nations.” Because of his efforts, there has been a summer Olympic Games every four years since 1896 except in 1916, 1940, and 1944, which were, ironically, all years when the world was being torn apart by war.
   In this fascinating fact-packed alphabet book, Brag Herzog tells us about the Olympic Games from A to Z. Beginning with Ancient Greece on the A page, he goes on to tells us about Baron Pierre de Coubertin on the B page. On the “C is for all the countries page,” we learn that in 2008 two hundred countries sent athletes to the Summer Olympics. Next is D for decathlete. On this page, we learn that for two days decathletes who up to the daunting task compete in ten events. These events include shot put, long jump, high jump, and running.
   For each of the topics explored in this book, the author gives us a poem that introduces the subject. He supplements this with a more in-depth section of text. Young children will enjoy the hearing the poems and looking at the art, while older readers will be interested in reading the longer text sections. This format makes this book suitable for readers of all ages, from age 6 and up.
   This is one of the titles in a series of alphabet books published by Sleeping Bear Press. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of Eight Days Gone

On this day in 1969, a rocket called Apollo 11 blasted off into space taking three men to the moon. It was an incredible journey, one that was watched by millions of people all over the world. Today's picture book tells the story of this journey in beautifully spare rhyming verse that is accompanied by wonderful illustrations.

Linda McReynolds
Illustrated by Ryan O’Rouke
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2012, 978-1-58089-365-7
   It was a hot day in July in 1969 when hundreds of people gathered to watch Apollo 11 blast off into space. Out in space, the three astronauts on board watched the “Shrinking planet” that was their home getting smaller and smaller as they headed for the moon.
   As they got closer to their destination, the three men began to prepare. They donned their “bulky suits,” and the other special clothing that they were going to need, and then they disconnected the lunar module from the command module. While Michael Collins and many people on Earth watched, first Neil Armstrong and then Edwin Aldrin stepped onto the moon leaving their boot prints “on / ashen ground.”
   In this special picture book, Linda McReynolds uses rhyming verse to tell the story of the first moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969. She captures how the astronauts felt as they looked at Earth from the moon, and readers will see how important this event was not only for Americans, but for all people.
   An author’s note at the back of the book provides readers with further information about the moon landing, and Ryan O’Rouke’s artwork provides a perfect backdrop for the author’s compelling and atmospheric rhyming verse.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Water Sings Blue

It is summer at last, and for many of us, this means trips to the seaside. In today's poetry book you can take just such a journey without leaving home. In fact you can do so from the comfort of your favorite reading spot. Throughout the book beautiful illustrations are paired with wonderful poems to give us a salty, wave-filled reading experience.

Water Sings Blue
Kate Coombs
Illustrated by Meilo So
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Chronicle Books, 2012, 978-0-8118-7284-3
   When you go down to the sea, you are presented with a whole new world, a world where there is an open sky, where the seagulls fill the air with their cries, and where boats can take you away from the land. As you sail out to where “the water sings blue and the sky does too” you leave behind the pier, “its pilings huddled and dull.”
   Here the waves have many voices, depending on the weather and the wind. Some days the waves “swell and sigh” while on others they “wake and roar.”
   Beneath the surface, little fish swim, hoping against hope that they are not seen by a hungry shark. Jelly fish drift, their tentacles like a “kimono trialing.”
  In the deep “where the sea feels like a grave,” oarfish and gulper eels lurk in the dark. Perhaps a blue whale will dive down to these places, where shipwrecks sit on the bottom “far from home / under gallons of seas.”
   This extraordinary book takes us from the land, out to sea, beneath the waves, and then back to the tide line. We meet some of the creatures who make the sea their home, and come to appreciate how this watery world is a place full of mystery and contradictions.
   With gorgeous watercolor illustrations on every page, and beautifully atmospheric poems, this is a book readers of all ages will enjoy exploring. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Squirrel's World

Telling stories that are amusing and interesting, and that are also suitable for beginner readers is not easy. I am always keen to find easy chapter books that actually tell a story, and that have characters that have substance. Today's book is just such a title. Children just beginning to read books with short chapters will be charmed by Squirrel and his friends.

Lisa Moser
Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2007, 978-0-7636-2929-8
   Squirrel is perpetually busy and on the go, and he thinks that it is his duty to help all his friends be busy too. When he finds that Mouse is collecting food to store, Squirrel decides to help. He buries Mouse under a mountain of corn cobs, and he shakes so many apples down from the tree that it is “raining apples.” Poor Mouse has more food now than he could ever eat.
   Down by the pond, Squirrel finds Rabbit. Rabbit very much wants to retrieve one of the lily pads, but he does not like getting wet. Busy and enthusiastic Squirrel decides to help Rabbit. He uses a stick to “wack wack wack that leaf” in an attempt to free it. All he manages to do is to soak Rabbit. Squirrel then decides that they should float a log into the pond and “reach reach reach” for the leaf. Though Squirrel is doing all that he can to be helpful, poor Rabbit ends up getting soaked all over again.
   Squirrel is, without a doubt, a very hyper and rather exhausting fellow to be around, but his intentions are good, and he clearly has a kind heart. Young readers will find it hard not to like this well meaning animal, and they will laugh when they see what he gets up to, and how he drives his friends to distraction.
   This wonderful early reader chapter book is perfect for young children who are eager to start reading ‘real’ books on their own.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of 11 Experiments that Failed

As parents and teachers know all too well, children do not like being told that they are wrong. Sometimes the best thing to do is to let them see, for themselves, that they have the wrong idea about something. For example, my husband when he was a little boy, was convinced that one could not eat too much ice cream. So he ate countless servings of soft serve ice cream. Until he turned green.

Today's picture book is about one little girl who sets out to prove eleven very important things, and who discovers that sometimes the theories we are 100% sure are right, are actually 100% wrong.

Jenny Offill
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Random House, 2011, 978-0-375-84762-2
Quite a few children are of the opinion that eating fruits and veggies is not necessary. They believe that a steady diet of pizza, chips, and sweet drinks is just what they need. One little girl who has a fondness for conducting experiments, decides that she is going to prove that “a kid can make it through the winter eating only snow and ketchup.” It isn’t long before she figures out that eating snow and ketchup three times a day is not going to work because this diet causes stomachaches, brain breeze, and it affects her love of ketchup. 
   Though this particular experiment does not work out quite as planned, the little girl continues to conduct experiments that she think will prove that important hypotheses are indeed true. She decides that the best way to “speed up a boring ride” is to yodel. The girl tests her hypothesis in the car on the way to school and, well, she ends up having to walk. Apparently her mother does not appreciate yodeling. 
   Keen to answer some of life’s interesting questions, the little girl decides to find out if the “washing machine washes dishes.” Her hypothesis is that a washing machine can wash anything. After she tries washing some dishes in the washing machine, she finds out definitively that washing machines cannot wash everything. As a result of this particular experiment, the dishes and the washing machine break, and she decides that it might be a good idea to run “away to live in the bathroom.”
   Adults and children alike are going to laugh (and groan) as they read about this girl’s eleven experiments, each one of which fails rather dramatically. Clever multimedia artwork combined with the tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the experiments (and their outcomes) make this the perfect title to read when life is feeling rather dull or sad. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Tap Dancing on the Roof

I have been a fan of haiku for many years now, enjoying the poetry form for its spare simplicity, and because poets find so many interesting ways to use it. Today's poetry book introduced me to a new poetry form from Asia, one that comes from Korea and that is also minimal in nature. I really enjoyed exploring the poems, and I hope you will too.

Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by Istvan Banyai
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Clarion Books, 2007, 978-0-618-23483-7
   Poetry comes in many forms, and these days, people are not only writing poetry in English using western poetry forms, but they are also experimenting with forms that are Asian in origin. Many of us have read or even written haiku, a form of poetry that originated in Japan, but not many people know about sijo, which is a Korean form of poetry. Like haiku, sijo poems are written “using a syllabic structure.” In English these Korean poems have three lines with fourteen to sixteen syllables. Sometimes the lines become so long that they have to broken up, and the poem ends up with six lines instead of three.
   In each of the poems in this book, writer Linda Sue Park follows the traditional sijo pattern so that the first line of the poem “introduces the topic.” The second explores the topic a bit more, and the third wraps things up with “some kind of twist.”
   The collection begins with a poem about breakfast, that first meal of the day that varies greatly, depending on the personality of the person consuming it. For some people breakfast is “Bagel and juice,” while for others it is simpler, and toast and coffee are the norm. Of course, there are some who would forgo an eaten breakfast all together in favor of “a few extra minutes in bed.”
   In the poem titled “October,” the author paints a delightful autumnal picture of the wind playing with leaves. The gusts rearrange the leaves according to its whim. Then there is a clever shift, and the wind “plays tag with a plastic bag” and tugs at the narrator’s hair.
   The topics explored in these poems are ones readers of all ages can respond to. Many of them are familiar situations and things that we encounter in our everyday lives. The author looks at pockets, echoes, frogs, a summer storm, tennis, laundry, bedtime snacks, brushing teeth and more. In each case, she takes a commonplace topic, and she turns it into something special. Sometimes the overall feel of the poem is contemplative and thoughtful, and sometimes it is amusing and surprising.
   At the back of the book, the author provides her readers with further information about sijo peoms, the history of this poetry form, and “Some tips for writing your own sijo.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July


Fiction Wednesday - A review of Saffy's Angel

I love to read books that are about colorful, unique, perhaps even eccentric people. Today's title is full of odd characters whose approach to life is, shall we say, rather unconventional. What thrills me is that this title is the first book in a series. I have many hours to look forward to in the company of the crazy family who features in these stories.

Hilary McKay
For ages 9 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2001, 978-0-689-84934-3
   When Saffron finally learns how to read, she discovers two important things. Unlike the names of her siblings (Cadmium, Indigo, and Rose) her name is not on the color chart that is pinned to the kitchen wall. For some reason, her name is not a paint color and this is a very disturbing discovery to make. Why would her mother, Eve Casson, name all the other children after paint colors and not her?
   The second thing Saffy (this Saffron’s nick name) learns, she finds out by accident. Thanks to the slip of someone’s tongue, Saffy finds out that she was not born into the Casson family. She was adopted. In fact, she is the daughter of Eve Casson’s sister, and is therefore Caddy, Indigo, and Rose’s cousin instead of being their sister.
   Finding out that she was adopted turns Saffy’s world upside down. She has nothing to connect her to her dead mother except Grandpa. After his daughter died in a car crash in Italy, Grandpa was the one who drove all the way to Siena to bring three-year-old Saffy back to England. Even though Grandpa is now elderly and does speak or connect with the world, Saffy loves him and is close to him. Her name is the only thing Grandpa has said since he lost the ability to speak.
   Ten year’s after that dreadful drive from Italy, Grandpa dies. Eve and her husband share his will with their children, thinking that they are all old enough to deal with this. Since most of Grandpa’s earthly possessions were sold or fell apart long ago, Indigo will not be able to have Grandpa’s car, and Caddy will not get his house in Wales. Included with his will is a note saying that he leaves Saffron “Her angel in the garden.”
   At first no one knows what the note is talking about, but then Saffy remembers that there was a stone angel in the garden in Siena, a stone angel she loved when she was little. Her Grandpa knew that Saffy loved the statue and so he left it to her. The problem is that Grandpa did not bring the angel back to England. It is still in Italy, and therefore Saffy will never be able to get it back. She will never be able to reconnect with her past.
   As you read this book it is hard not to fall in love with the decidedly peculiar Casson family. Their lives are full of odd adventures and colorful characters, and at times they all seem to be quite out of touch with reality. Thankfully, this really does not seem to matter very much because the Cassons are a team. They are bound together by the love and the fierce loyalty that they feel for one another.
   This is the first Casson family story. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of Lou! Summertime Blues

I grew up reading the titles in two graphic novel series, the Tintin books and the Asterix books. In both, the stories are entertaining, and in the case of the Asterix titles, they are also full of social and political commentary. One thing the stories in these books do not do, is to explore issues that are relevant to young people today. The stories in the Lou! books do do this, and they do it very well. Tweens will see how Lou deals with her mother's dating woes, how she feels when the boy she likes lets her down, and how she copes with life's daily trails and tribulations.

Today's title is the second of the Lou! graphic novels, and I found it to be both entertaining and thoughtful.

Julien Neel
Graphic Novel
For ages 9 to 12
Lerner Publishing, 2012, 978-0-7613-8869-2
For most people, the summer vacation is a time for fun. For Lou and her mother Emma, anticipating the summer vacation has them singing their version of the blues. Lou is upset because her best friend Mina is not going to be around, and because the boy Lou likes (Tristan) has moved away without even saying goodbye. Emma is unhappy because Richard, her cute neighbor, is going to be gone for the summer and she misses him. Both Lou and Emma are “bummed” because they have to spend a month with Memaw, Emma’s mother, and Memaw is not a warm and cuddly person. In fact, she is often unkind and mean. And she cooks Brussels sprouts every day.
   Reluctantly, Emma and Lou get onto a train, and all too soon they arrive at Mortsville, the village where Emma grew up and where Memaw still lives. In no time at all, Emma and Memaw are screaming at each other, and Lou is wishing that she could go home. In Lou’s opinion, Emma’s situation is not that dire because Richard is writing to her. Lou doesn’t have someone writing to her, telling her how much she is missed. In fact she feels very lonely indeed; until she meets a very strange boy called Paul.
   Almost thirteen-year-old Lou is the kind of person that most tweens and teens can identify with. Combining humor and poignancy, the author perfectly captures the joys and woes of growing up.

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