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, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Picture Book Monday - A review of Brontorina

All too often people are told by others that they cannot do something because they are not suited to doing that thing. We are told "you are too small," or "you are too old," or "you are too young," or "you are too large," or "you are too small," and so on. It is very tiresome to be told these things, and often one is better off if one ignores such negative thinking. In today's picture book you will meet a dinosaur who wants to be a dancer, and who is told that she is just too large. 

Illustrated by Randy Cecil
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Candlewick, 2010, 978-0-7636-4437-6
Brontorina the dinosaur has a dream; she wants to be a dancer. So, she goes to Madame Lucille’s Dance Academy for Girls and Boys and she tells Madame that she “wants to dance.” Madame Lucille has never had a dinosaur for a student before and she is concerned because Brontorina is very large and she does not have the right shoes for dancing. Luckily for Brontorina, Clara and Jack believe that Brontorina should be allowed to join the academy and they ask Madame Lucille to let the dinosaur join their classes.
   Madame Lucille soon sees that Brontorina is a very graceful dancer with a natural ability for dance. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that Brontorina is just too big for the school. When she does her releves and jetes the poor dinosaur’s head goes through the roof. Madame Lucille reluctantly has to tell the dinosaur that she cannot accommodate a student who is so large.
   In this splendid story readers will meet a character who is incredibly sweet and loveable, even though she is two stories tall. Children will see how problems can be solved, even enormous ones, if you are willing to make changes, and if you think about the problem in a different way. The story wraps up with an ending that is perfect and funny. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Got Geography

When I was a kid I loved geography. It was one of my favorite subjects in school, and whenever my father's copy of National Geographic arrived in the mail, I eagerly tore off the mailing wrapper to find out what new adventure I was going to take to distant places on its pages. My father had a large, rather battered, copy of the Times World Atlas, and he and I would spend hours looking at the maps. Dad would tell me about the countries we were seeing, and we would get out volumes of our encyclopedia to find out more about Mongolia, Chad, Tasmania, and other countries.

Today's poetry title explores geography through poems, and readers will be enjoy seeing their world through the eyes of some of America's most beloved poets.

Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Philip Stanton
For ages 7 to 10
HarperCollins, 2006, 978-0-06-055601-3
These days, thanks to the internet, email, text messaging, telephones, cars, fast ships, airplanes and other technology, the world seems to be smaller than it was, say, in Magellan’s time. We often forget to think about the fact that the geography of our planet is such that places on opposite sides of the Earth vary greatly and often have little in common, and that great forces beneath the Earth’s crust, powers we cannot control, shape the surface of our planet. We forget that the forces that build mountains and move continents are more powerful than all the technology that we have created. Our geographical location is something that affects our lives every day, and the study of geography is not only important, but it is also fascinating.
   In this splendid selection of poems, poets J. Patrick Lewis, Marilyn Singer, Jane Yolen and others take us to far off places and into the minds of those who created maps and explored foreign lands. The collection begins with a poem about “Mapping the World.” As an artist creates a map of the world, he almost feels as if he is journeying to the lands he is laying out on his canvas. For example, as Africa’s outline takes shape he thinks about the fact that it is the place where the River Nile flows “past ancient folk.” It is where the Serengeti lies and where people can see Victoria Falls. For the artist, “Geography is like our own / Room with a view we can’t forget.”
   In another poem Kathryn Madeline Allen imagines what she would do if she were the equator. One thing she is sure of, and that is that she “would have an attitude,” and why not? After all, the equator is the only line that runs from east to west for nearly 25,000 miles. It is the line that “splits the globe in half” and it is the “only one” to do so.
   Marilyn Singer tells us about explorers that we often forget to think about. In Antarctica, “where whole mountains are hidden / under ice” humans were not the first ones to arrive in that freezing place. Long before explorers set foot there, penguins “laid shambling tracks” in the snow. Similarly, hot and steamy jungles were explored by creatures with wings or feet long before humans got there.
   In this splendid collection, the poems chosen truly capture how intriguing and fascinating geography is.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Ruby Redfort: Look into my eyes

These days, when I want to relax and give my brain a break, I read a mystery novel. I have always loved mysteries and read (and reread) all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books when I was young. There were also the Famous Five and Secret Seven series, books that were published in England. I remember feeling rather disappointed that there weren't more mystery titles being published for young readers.

Today, young readers have a much bigger selection of mystery novels to read. In several of them the main character becomes a secret agent of some kind. Today's title is just such a book. In it a tween girl, Ruby Redfort, is asked to help a secret agency to solve a problem. The writing is clever, often humorous, and it is full of thrilling moments and interesting situations.

Lauren Child
For ages 10 to 13
Candlewick Press, 2011, 978-0-7636-5120-6
Ruby Redfort looks like a rather ordinary tween girl, but she is not in the slightest bit ordinary. She is extremely intelligent, can learn new things very quickly, and she has superlative observation skills and problem-solving skills. Ruby loves mystery and crime stories, movies, and television shows. She also loves to figure out puzzles, ciphers, and codes.
   Until now, other than winning a Code-Cracking Championship and creating a code that took Harvard scholars two weeks to break, Ruby has had a quiet life. She lives with her rather uninteresting parents, spends time with her friend Clancy, and goes to school. Then, one day, she comes home from school to find out that someone has stolen everything in her house. Everything is gone including Mrs. Digby the housekeeper. On that day Hitch, a household manager (butler), arrives to work at the Redfort home, and Ruby is immediately suspicious. Something about Hitch is off, but Ruby cannot figure out what.
   Then Ruby gets a very odd phone call. An unknown person tells Ruby that he or she has heard that Ruby is good at noticing things and that she is also a good code cracker. The person talks some more and Ruby agrees that she “can crack a code.” After saying “Good,” the person hangs up. Ruby is very puzzled by the call. If the person on the phone wants her to crack a code why didn’t the person give her a code to crack?
   Some time later Ruby figures things out. The code was in the conversation itself. She analyses what the person said and soon she is following clues, each clue leading her to another one. The final clue leads her to a manhole cover. She opens it and reluctantly goes down the drain and into a tunnel, which then opens into a very large room. It is in this room that Ruby meets a woman called LB who just happens to belong to the voice on the telephone.
   LB explains that she works for a secret agency called Spectrum, and she invites Ruby the join the agency to help them deal with one problem and one problem only. If she is willing to take on the challenge, Ruby will first have to pass a test and get cleared by security. If she gets through these, she will be told about the problem, which she will hopefully be able to solve. After the task is complete, Ruby will go back to being an ordinary schoolgirl and her association with Spectrum will be over.
   Not surprisingly, Ruby agrees to the terms. She passes the test and security check without any trouble, and then she finds out that she has been recruited to break a code. Someone is apparently planning to steal an enormous amount of gold from a local bank. A former Spectrum code breaker figured out something important about the plan, but she died before she could tell LB about what she had found. LB wants Ruby to go through the deceased code breaker’s papers to figure out what it was she was going to reveal.
   Lauren Child has delighted countless children by creating Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean, wonderful characters who appear in picture books, novels, and in television programs. Now she gives us Ruby Redfort, and readers will have a splendid time sharing Ruby’s adventures and trying to figure out the codes and puzzles Ruby encounters. Who can resist a story that is packed with colorful characters, unsolved mysteries, cool gadgets, and challenging puzzles.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Happy Christmas Eve folks! I hope you are having a splendid day surrounded by friends and family members. For today's picture book I have chosen a title that would make a wonderful gift - just in case you need a last minute idea. Or, should you get a gift certificate or a gift of money tomorrow, you can buy this book for yourself.

This is the kind of book that children and adults alike will enjoy. It's message is universal in nature, and every reading makes one think about stories, books, and what they mean to us. The story in the book won an Academy Award for best animated short film in 2012.

William Joyce
Illustrated by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm
Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2012, 978-1-4424-5702-7
Morris Lessmore loves words, stories, and books. He loves to write about his “joys and sorrows” in a book every day. Unfortunately, just like most stories, Morris Lessmore’s story has an “upset.” A terrible storm blows Morris Lessmore and everything around him through the air, and when Morris finally comes to earth, he has no idea where he is. Even worse, the storm has clean blown the words off the pages of his book.
   Feeling quite lost and not knowing what to do, Morris begins to wander. Then Morris sees a pretty lady drifting by. She is being carried across the sky by “a festive squadron of flying books.” Morris wishes his own book would fly, but it refuses to do so. The pretty lady knows that Morris needs a flying book of his own so she gives him one of hers.
   The flying book leads Mr. Morris to a building that is full of flying books, and he decides to stay there. Mr. Morris is delighted with his new home, and he spends time repairing the books that are damaged. He also reads the stories in the books, gives the books to people who need them, and he once again writes his own story. Little does he know that one day his story will play an important role in the life of another book lover.
   William Joyce started writing this story many years ago. It began as a tribute to a book lover, and then evolved over time to become an award winning animated short film, a fabulous story app, and now this book.
   The story of Morris Lessmore takes readers on an extraordinary journey, one that they will never forget. It will remind readers that books are treasures to be loved and treasured. How grim and lonely our lives would be without them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Book Speak!

I have reviewed several books of poetry that are full of poems about books and reading. Today's poetry title is special because in it the author gives books (and not people) the opportunity to speak. Instead of reading about how people feel about books, we get to find out what it feels like to be a book. Or an index. Or a book cover. The idea might sound strange, but I found it to be delightful, and I think you will too.

Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 11
Clarion, 2011, 978-0-547-22300-1
If a book could talk, what would it say? Perhaps it would ask the reader not to fold page corners and to be careful not to break its spine. Maybe it would describe, in an excited whisper, the story that lies on its pages.  It might brag, loudly, that it is the best book to read if you want to know about a certain subject.
   In this deliciously clever collection of poems, Laura Purdie Salas gives books, and parts of books, a voice. We hear from an index, who tells us to “Forget that pretty picture on the cover.” Instead, it tells us how it, the index, “can tell you the page number / of anything you are looking for.”
   A book plate explains very firmly that it is not the kind of plate that requires a napkin. It is not a “soup bowl’s mate,” nor is it a receptacle for “peas or bread.” No, a book plate should be pasted in a book and used to show who it belongs to.
   A book is a very brave thing, just in case you didn’t know. Yes indeed, it can “swallow up dragons and /cannons and /wars.” It does not fear the dark at all. There is only one thing that it is really frightened of. Water. Water and books simply don’t mix.
   Vacations offer books the opportunity to have grand adventures. You get to visit exotic places, fly on airplanes, and lie on beaches. A book never quite knows where its “reader is bound / and hundreds of times I’ve been lost and then found.”
   Though this is, of course, a children’s title, book lovers of all ages are going to enjoy reading these skillfully crafted and often unusual book-centric poems. Throughout the book, colorful multimedia illustrations provide a perfect backdrop for the poems.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Zelda and Ivy: The Big Picture

Some years ago I read a delightful beginner chapter book about two little foxes who have everyday adventures. There was something about the characters, Zelda and Ivy, that I found very appealing. I was therefore delighted the other day to receive a new Zelda and Ivy book to review.

Zelda and Ivy: The Big Picture
Laura McGee Kvasnosky
For ages 5 to 7
Candlewick Press, 2010, 978-0-7636-4180-1
  Zelda and Ivy and their friend Eugene are going to the movie theatre, and Zelda and Eugene are really looking forward to seeing the movie Secret Agent Fox. Ivy is worried that the movie is going to be too scary and she is not comforted when her sister and friend tell her that what takes place in a movie is not real.
   When the movie starts, Ivy soon forgets to be afraid. In fact, she is captivated by the action that she is watching on the screen, as is Eugene. Both of them are so interested in the movie that they fail to notice that Zelda, who not long ago said “the scarier, the better,” is not actually watching the movie.  
   Some time later, inspired no doubt by the movie they saw, Ivy, Zelda, and Eugene decide to be secret agents and “spy on people.” They each choose a secret agent name, they decide on a code word, and then they proceed to spy on Mrs. Brownlie. In their opinion, Mrs. Brownlie is behaving in a suspicious manner. She is wearing goggles while she is mowing her yard, and the three friends are eager to find out why.
   In this delightful Zelda and Ivy story, there are three chapters, and in each one Zelda, Ivy and their friend have delightful adventures that children will be able to identify with. The characters are charming, and the stories are perfect for children who are starting to read on their own.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of The Christmas Quiet Book

I really enjoy the holiday season but I must confess that sometimes the often frantic preparations one feels compelled to make are rather tiresome. When I read today's book I was reminded that the Christmas season can be a gentle, quiet, happy season if we just stop, notice and enjoy the good times, and let some things go. Ahhhh, much better.

Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by Renata Liwska
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012, 978-0-547-55863-9
For many people the Christmas season is a busy, even frantic time. It is a time full of noise and bustle, to do lists and what-did-I-forget moments. Thankfully, Christmas does not have to be this way if you slow down, take a deep breath, and savor the moments. If you do this, you might even be able to have a Christmas that is quiet.
   Perhaps you don’t know what a quiet Christmas is. A quiet Christmas is a Christmas season that is full of quiet moments. There are those searching for presents quiet moments that are all too often followed by “Getting caught” quiet moments. There are those quiet moments when we look out of the window and dare to hope for a snow day. There are the soft quiet moments that come when you are making a snow angel or when you are gliding across the ice. Then there is that delicious quiet that comes when the lights on the Christmas tree are lit for the first time. Sometimes this happy quiet moment is followed by a “Blown fuse quiet.” And what about that Christmas Eve quiet when children listen for sleigh bells, and when they fall asleep trying to stay awake.
   In this delicious holiday book Deborah Underwood’s simple text is beautifully paired with Renata Liwska’s lovely soft illustrations to give readers of all ages a bookish experience that is sweet, funny, and as comforting as a warm hug and a cup of hot cocoa. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of If you were a chocolate mustache

One of the things that I love about poetry is the fact that it comes in so many 'flavors.' When I was little, I had no idea that poetry had so many forms. I had never seen a haiku or a concrete poem. I am delighted that children today can enjoy all kinds of poetry early on. They can see and hear that one can be delightfully creative when one writes a poem.

Today's poetry title shows to great effect how one poet plays with words to create poems that are incredibly varied.

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache
If you were a chocolate mustache
J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
For ages 7 to 10
Boyds Mills Press, 2012, 978-1-59078-927-8
Poems come in many forms, more forms perhaps than most of us are aware of. J. Patrick Lewis, the Children’s Poet Laureate, loves to play with these forms, and this is what he has done in this collection. In this book readers will find riddles, limericks, haiku, story poems, concrete poems and more. The only thing that the poems have in common is that they are all serve to amuse the reader, to make the reader smile or even laugh.
   On the pages of this title you will find a poem that describes dragon dinner etiquette. If you are a dragon, never accept a dinner invitation “If St. George is the guest of honor.” If you are going to eat Chinese food use “chop stakes,” and nights when you have pizza delivered “Spare the delivery boy.”
   In another part of the book you will encounter another dragonish poem. In “Dragon vs. Girl” we meet a dragon who is complaining about a girl who sprayed him with water using a squirt gun. The dragon’s mother points out that the dragon has got “a flame to throw,” which should make short work of the girl and her squirt gun. Unfortunately, the mother dragon fails to take one very important fact into consideration; that water puts out fire.
   Some of the poems are riddles that are both amusing and challenging to solve. There are the Haikus that are “City/State Riddles.” If you know your US geography you should be able to solve these riddles, some of which are quite tricky. In addition there are three book riddles. If you know your fairy tales you should have no problem figuring them out. For all of the riddles, readers will find that the answers written in small looking glass type next to the poems. All you need to read the solutions is a mirror.
   This is a splendid collection that young readers are going to enjoy dipping into. It is likely that they will discover some poetry forms that they have never seen before.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A Review of The Dragon's Eye

I love dragon stories, and today's fiction title is a wonderful book about the adventures that two children have when they find themselves in the company of a dragonologist. This book is a companion to the Dragonology books, a series of novelty titles that have delighted dragon fans of all ages for ten years now. 

The Dragon's EyeThe Dragon’s Eye
Dugald A. Steer
Illustrated by Douglas Carrel
For ages 9 to 12
Candlewick Press, 2006, 0-7636-2810-7
Daniel and his sister Beatrice are looking forward to their summer vacation a great deal. Their parents, who live and work in India, are coming to England to visit. When Daniel gets to Waterloo station, his sister is waiting for him with a letter in her hand. The letter was written by their mother and in it is she explains that once again, for the fourth year in a row, she and her husband cannot come to England after all. Instead of spending the summer with their parents, the children are to spend it with Dr. Ernest Drake.
   Following their mother’s instructions, the children get themselves to Wyvern Way, a small street near Trafalgar square where Dr. Drake has a shop, which is called Doctor Drake’s Dragonalia. When they arrive, Dr. Drake is deep in conversation with someone, and the children have no choice but to wait until he is free. Feeling bored, Daniel explores one of the basement rooms beneath the shop, which is where he comes to face to face with an honest to goodness dragon. Dr. Drake catches the boy snooping and he makes it clear that Daniel should not tell anyone about what he has seen.
  Later that day the children travel with Dr. Drake to Castle Drake, his country home, and the following morning Beatrice goes into the woods with Dr. Drake while Daniel studies Charles Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species. While the doctor is away, Daniel cannot help snooping again, even though he was told to stay in the house, and he finds out that the dragon that he saw in the London shop is now at Castle Drake. Once again, the doctor catches Daniel doing something that he shouldn’t be doing.
  Daniel and Beatrice soon learn that Dr. Drake is a dragonologist, a scientist who studies dragons. The young people learn that dragons are found in many countries around the world, but there are not a lot of them left and they need to be protected. Every summer, Dr. Drake trains a few select young people to become dragonologists, and this summer Daniel and Beatrice will be his pupils.
   The children’s studies do not progress very far before they find themselves caught up in a very unpleasant situation. A man called Ignatius Crook has decided that he should be the next Dragon Master and he is doing everything that he can to get his hands on some artifacts, in particular the Dragon’s Eye, to achieve this goal. Since Ignatius Crook does not truly care about dragons, Dr. Drake has to do everything that he can to stop the man before it is too late, and Daniel and Beatrice end up joining in his adventure.
   This companion to the now famous Dragonology books will delight readers who have an interest in dragons. The author not only gives us an action-packed tale full of adventure and misadventure, but he also helps his readers to understand the scientific process of study and why all creatures (including dragons) should be protected. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of How do dinosaurs say Happy Chanukah?

Hanukkah (Chanuka) began over the weekend and I know that millions of families around the world are enjoying the traditions that are a part of this Jewish holiday. Sometimes, when one gets caught up in the excitement of a holiday, one forgets to remember to behave nicely; one forgets to appreciate the simple joys of the holiday season. In today's picture book, which is another of the wonderful How do Dinosaurs... titles, Jane Yolen helps young readers to remember that Hanukkah is a time for reflection, for being grateful, and for sharing. With gentle humor she shows children how Hanukkah should be celebrated.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?
Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Picture Book
For ages 3 to 6
Scholastic, 2012, 978-0-545-41677-1
It is Chanukah, a time for remembering, giving thanks, and sharing with others. At least that is what the holiday should be about. Of course, there are some young (and naughty) dinosaurs who forget this. Instead of being helpful, kind, and well behaved, they “act up,” “fuss and fidget” when the candlelight prayer is being said, and blow out the candles when no one is looking. They also refuse to let anyone else play with the dreidel, and swipe all the gelt so that no one else can have any.
   In this splendid book, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague have once again joined forces to create a picture book that combines verse, gorgeous illustrations, and splendid touches of humor. They help children to see what is and is not acceptable behavior during Chanukah, and best of all, thanks to their wonderful dinosaur characters, they manage to do this without being overbearing. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Forgive me, I meant to do it

Long ago I had a friend who would do naughty things and then apologize profusely when he was caught. He was convinced that apologizing for his naughtiness was enough to get him off the hook, even when it was obvious that he wasn't in the least bit sorry for what he did. In today's poetry book you will encounter some delicious apologies that are delightfully funny, and completely insincere. 

Gail Carson Levine
Illustrated by Matthew Cordel
For ages 7 and up
HarperCollins, 2012, 978-0-06-178725-6
All too often people make apologies for their actions that they really don’t mean. In 1962 the poet William Carlos Williams wrote a poem called “This is just to say,” and in the poem the narrator apologizes for eating the plums in the fridge. Though the words “Forgive me,” are there in the poem, readers can tell that the narrator really isn’t that sorry for eating the plums. In fact, perhaps he or she is feeling rather pleased that he or she got to the plums first.
  For this funny and clever collection of poems, author Gail Carson Levine has created her own “This is just to say” poems where a person says “Forgive me,” though we can tell that the apology is a sham. In fact, the narrators in these poems are quite unrepentant for the things that they have done.
   We begin with a man driving a bulldozer who has flattened the thorny hedge around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The driver knows that the princess “expected to sleep behind” the hedge “until the prince came,” but he wants to charge tourists for the privilege of visiting the princess’s castle, which is why he got rid of the hedge.
   Further on in the book we meet Snow White. She ‘apologizes’ to the dwarves for “making myself ugly / and leaving / with the witch,” but explains that she is only doing so because they have appalling manners and refuse to make an effort to “be at your best.”
   The author even writes a false apology from herself. She slips the introduction to the book after the table of contents and several pages of poems. Clearly she is doing her best to irritate her editor who “excruciatingly loudly / screeched” that the introduction does not belong in such a place. The author apologizes for her behavior and then mentions that she shredded the editor’s red pencil and “stirred / the splinters into” the editor’s tea. I think we can tell that the author is not in the slightest bit sorry for what she has done.
   The out-of-place introduction explores William Carlos Williams’ poem and it also invites readers to try writing their own “This is just to say” poems. The form to use is very simple, there is no punctuation, and you don’t even need to come up with a title. Plus, the ninth line is always “Forgive me.” The one thing Gail Carson Levin thinks is necessary is that the writer needs to be in a “grouchy mood.” One cannot write a false apology poem if one is happy and light of heart.
   This is the perfect book to read when one is feeling disgruntled and annoyed with someone. The reader is guaranteed to find that he or she will not be able to stay disgruntled for long because the poems are just too clever and too funny. A smile or a laugh will be unavoidable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of I survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941

In just a few days it will be the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. When I moved to the United States in 1991, I didn't really know much about this event. Since then I have read a number of books for both adults and young people that describe what took place in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. Today's book describes the events of that fateful day through the eyes of a boy, and it also looks at what took place after the attack was over.

Lauren Tarshis
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 10
Scholastic, 2011, 978-0-545-20698-3
Not long ago, Danny came to live on the lush and beautiful tropical island of Oahu, and now all he wants to do is to go back to New York City, which is where he used to live. Though his apartment was in a dirty, crowded, ugly, and sometimes dangerous neighborhood in the city, it was his home and his misses it. More than anything he misses Finn, his best friend. Danny’s mother decided that they had to move after Finn had an accident when he and Danny were exploring an abandoned building. She wants her son to have a better life in a new place, but all he wants it to have his old life back, which is why Danny plans on stowing away on a ship.
   Danny is just about to start packing when he hears a horrible squeal and a scream coming from his back yard. When he goes to investigate, he finds a little boy, Aki, who is holding a baby pig. Aki offers to show Danny his “puppy,” which is when the piglet’s mother arrives on the scene. Danny is just able to get Aki out of the way before he is injured by the furious wild boar.
   Danny and Aki go to Aki’s house where the little boy’s mother invites Danny to lunch. She tells Danny that his mother is “lucky to have a boy like you.” The next morning, on December 7th 1941, Danny has a hard time motivating himself to get onto a ship that is bound for San Francisco/ He keeps thinking about how his mother will feel if he abandons her.
   Then Japanese airplanes start to bomb Pearl Harbor and Danny forgets all about trying to get onto that ship. Hickman Field, where his mother works as a nurse, gets hit and Danny runs there to find out if his mother is all right. Suddenly Danny’s dreams of going back to New York City seem ridiculous, and he focuses of surviving and getting to his mother.
   In this excellent I Survived title we see what it might have been like to be in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed in 1941 through the eyes of a young boy. We see how Danny is changed by the experience, and how he learns to have a new appreciation for the life that he has.
   This is one in a series of historical fiction titles.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Picture Book Monday - A review of The Day Louis got eaten

Though I strongly believe in not judging a book by its cover, I must confess that some book covers grab my attention and I feel compelled to read them straight away. Today's picture book title, The Day Louis got Eaten, is just such a book. The title made me immediately want to find out what happened on the day Louis got eaten. Trust me, you too will want to know the answer to this question!

John Fardell
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Andersen Press USA, 2012, 978-1-4677-0315-4
One day, Louis on his scooter and his big sister Sarah on her bike go into the forest. They don’t get very far before a large Gulper, a furry monster with a long tongue, eats Louis. Being a well-informed girl, Sarah knows that Gulpers eat their food whole. For at least a while Louis will be safe in the Gulper’s stomach. She quickly grabs something and then she sets off after the Gulper.
   Sarah almost catches up with the Gulper when a huge black feathered Grabular swoops down out of the sky and gobbles up the Gulper. The Grabular then flies out to sea. Sarah quickly converts her bike into a water bike and she peddles after the Grabular as fast as she can. She is just about to reach the Grabular’s nes, when the bird is eaten by an Undersnatch. Now she has to chase a beast that swims underwater!
   Children are going to love this deliciously bizarre adventure. Full of fantastical monsters that have splendid names, it is a picture book that is full of surprises and a perfectly perfect ending. Children will enjoy looking for clues in the art that indicate that a monster might be in the offing!
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