Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I have reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book I reviewed for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now focusing on writing reviews and articles, and finding interesting book related news, for this blog. Many of the titles that I will be sharing with you will appeal to adults as well as children. I firmly believe that some of the best writing in the world can be found on the pages of books that were written for young people. I invite you adults to explore these books for yourselves; they will, I am sure, delight and surprise you. I hope what you will find here will make your journey into the world of children's literature more enjoyable. Please visit the Through the Looking Glass Facebook page as well for even more bookish posts

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summertime - a glorious time to read

For many of us June is the first real month of summer. Schools are closed, pools are open, and vacations begin. We pull out our summer clothes and put away shoes in favor of flip-flops and sandals. This is also a time when many of us, especially children, do a lot of reading. Children go to the library and sign up for summer reading challenges. They go to the bookstore and spend a wonderful time figuring out what to read next. Just to get you in the summer mood Through the Looking Glass Book Review has a summer books feature. On this page you will find a list of book titles all of which explore summer days in some way or another.

You will find that Eloise is going on a vacation, and there is the story of two little boys who go on a summer trip which is "the best week ever." You will find a book which explores the sounds of summer - Summer Beat - and in Mayfly you will go on a summer vacation with a family that spends wonderful days staying in a cottage by a lake.
For readers who like something a little more fantastical there is Summer Story by Jill Barklem. In this book readers will get to see a summer wedding between two very charming little country mice. The illustrations in this book are wonderfully detailed and utterly delightful.
I hope you enjoy this feature and do let me know if you have a favorite summer book.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Award Winning Children's Books

I just finished reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C O'Brien - for the third or fourth time - and I was struck, once again, by how wonderful this title is. Every month Through the Looking Glass Book Review features one award winning title and I am having a terrific time reading my way through lists of Newbery winning and honor titles, Caldecott winning and honor titles, E.B. White winners, Kate Greenaway winners, Golden Kite winners, and more. You can see what I have reviewed so far on the TTLG Award Winning Titles page. You will, at the bottom of this page, also find links to the relevant pages on the Internet where you can find out more about these awards.

Many of you may not know this but the daughter of Robert C. O'Brien wrote two additional books about the Rats of Nimh. I am in the process of reading these and will add my reviews to the Through the Looking Glass website soon.

If you don't know which books to buy for the children in your life and don't have the time to look through lots of reviews, choose the award winning books. You can't really go wrong if you do, and you will be giving children some of the best children's literature there is. You will also be giving them such timeless characters as Dr. Dolittle, Charlotte, Ramona, Olivia, Little Bear, and many others.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Favorite Children's Book Characters

I was just reading about Hilary Knight, the wonderful illustrator who helped Kay Thompson bring her infamous Eloise to life. Mr. Knight is so talented and his illustrations of the precocious little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York City are unforgetable. I have always loved Eloise and reading about one of her creators was very interesting. The book, Show and Tell: Exloring the fine art of children's book illustration, is beautifully written and it is really helping me to see children's book illustration in a new way. I highly recommend it.

Not long after reading the chapter about Hilary Knight I came across a blog entry which interested me. The Blog is called The Children's Literature Book Club and the author has created a Children's Literature Alphabet. She has chosen her favorite children's book characters to create an alphabet. Among others Arthur, Eloise, Babar, Babymouse, and Madeline are in the listing. Take a look at the site and share your favorite children's book characters with others.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Tool for a book lover

If you are visiting this blog you are, in all probability, a bibliophile. I am a confirmed book lover and have suffered from a case of too-many-books-not-enough-space my entire adult life. As a reviewer I have a new, additional, problem. Too-many-books-and-I-don't-know-which-books-I-have-no-matter-how-much-I-organize-everything.

A few days ago I got a tool which book collectors of all kinds will love. I got a hand held scanner which can read ISBN numbers and a program which can sort and categorize book collections. All I have to do is to scan the ISBN number of a book and the program figures out what the book is (by checking online bookstores) and adds it to the database of my choice.

This is a very valuable tool for someone like myself who receives several boxes and packages of books every day of the week except Sunday. I will no longer have to look through every book on the shelf to figure out if a requested book has arrived. If it is there I will know it because everything that comes in will be scanned into the new system. And, in time, everything that is here already will also end up in the system. With every blessed beep of my scanner my sense of knowing what is and what isn't grows. Who would have thought such a simple thing could give a person such peace of mind. Just in case you are interested, this is the website where I got my scanner and program. You can also use this program to keep track of your CD and DVD collections. Whoever invented this program, I thank you from the bottom of my much booked heart.

Contest From Lobster Press

I wanted to let you know that Lobster Press, a marvellous independent publisher based in Montreal, Canada, is hosting a contest. For those of you who have youngsters who like food and cooking this might be a perfect opportunity for you to share one of your favorite recipes with others. The winner of the contest will recieve Yum: You're Ultimate Manual for good nutrition and four other Lobster Press books. For more information visit the contest page on the Lobster Press website. A review of Yum will be appearing on the Through the Looking Glass website in due course.

Piggy love

To continue with the animal theme I seem to have started here, there is another animal that I have a great deal of affection for - pigs. For eight years I had a wonderful pig in my life called Gracie. She was a potbelly who loved most kinds of food, tummy rubs, and company. She did not like cabbage, barking dogs, and strangers. Before my daughter was born Gracie lived in the house. In record time she learned how to open the fridge and she enjoyed stealing empty plastic containers which she played piggy soccer with. She liked to sit on the sofa with us and talked in soft grunts as she moved about the house Alas, Gracie had to move outdoors when it became clear that she might not be too enthusiastic to share her home with an infant. After my daughter was born Gracie lived in a luxurious insulated pig house and had the run of our Virgnia farm.

When we moved to Oregon last September Gracie was found a new home. She just could not safely make the long journey from Virginia. It was hard to leave her behind and I still think of her every time I have a tasty morsel in the house which I know she would have liked. I was delighted therefore to come across a wonderful piggy book called Hogwood Steps Out: A Good, Good Pig Story.

This is a book which really captures the intelligence and loveable nature of these wonderful animals. In the story Christopher Hogwood, a large and amiable pig, takes a walk on a spring morning. He leaves chaos in his wake as he munches and roots his way around the neighborhood. Thankfully the local humans are too fond of Christopher Hogwood to stay angry with him for long. This is definately a book which pig lovers of all ages will enjoy and appreciate.
Just like Chistopher Hogwood's owners, I give thanks that I had the opportunity to have a pig in my life

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Fondness for Blue-Footed Boobies

I suppose, considering the fact that I studied zoology, one should not be surprised that I love animals. I have quite a few living in my home, and I often go out of my way to make friends with animals that I meet. Just like with any other field of interest, there are certain areas of zoology that I like better than others. I find insects fascinating and think the relationships that sometimes develop between different species are fascinating. And, I have a great fondness for blue-footed boobies. Every since I first read about the Galapagos Islands, these funny looking birds have been steadfast favorites of mine. They have such a silly look about them and those blue feet are priceless. Then I saw a film of their little mating dance and that sold me on these birds. As you can see they lift up their big blue feet and wave them around.

There is even a picture book about a blue-footed booby who builds a career for himself as a dancer. Blue-footed Booby Dance is a charming title and anyone who has dreamed of becoming a star will enjoy it.

Vampires, Werewolves and teenage love

For those of you who can't resist tales peopled by magical, and often dark, creatures, the Mortal Instruments series is a must. For the June issue of Through the Looking Glass Book Review I reviewed the first book in the series, City of Bones. I have just finished reviewing the second book , City of Ashes. the review will be posted in the July issue of the journal. This second book continues the story of Clary, a teenage girl who discovers that she is a Shadowhunter, a human destined to rid the world of demons. Both her parents are Shadowhunters and to Clary's horror she discovers that her father is the kind of person you would really rather disown. Valentine was not a part of her life until recently and she dearly wishes he wasn't a part of it now. Alas, this is not to be. Valentine is here to stay and he is determined to make everyone's life miserable.

Clary's life is complicated further when she discovers that the boy she rather fancies, Jace, is none other than her long lost brother. The problem is that one can't just switch one's heart into reverse when you make a discovery like this. Desperately Clary tries not to feel anything special for Jace, with very little success.

The characters are amazingly credible considering the fact that so many of them are creatures you would not like to meet after night falls. Vampires, werewolves, and crafty faeries abound and blood and body parts splash the pages frequently.
I am sure that this series is going to do very well and can't wait for the third book to come out.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer's Back - Maybe

We have been having the oddest weather here in Ashland Oregon. For a week or so we had such hot days that some people decided that bathing suits were the only attire they could stand wearing. Winter clothes were put away and summer clothes were brought out of storage. Then winter came back with a vengeance and we froze for a week or so. After days of rain and low grey skies it feels as if summer may be back again.
It has been a very busy month because both my husband and my daughter celebrate their birthdays in May. There were special dinners to arrange, a party to plan, and gifts to wrap and hide. Like so many children all over the world my daughter is Webkins mad and she was given several to add to her growing collection. I am rapidly running out of names for the additions to her furry menagerie.
Work has been very interesting this month because I was putting together a feature of book reviews about World War II titles. I had to read as fast as I could because I had so many lengthy titles to get through in just one month, but I managed it. Several of the books were about the war from the perspective of German citizens.
In "The Boy Who Dared" the author tells the story of a young man who did not believe the Nazi propoganda he was being fed. He found other sources of information and decided that it was up to him to share what he learned with his fellow Germans. What makes this book particularly powerful is that the story is based on the true story of a young man who dared to fight back against the Nazis.

"Traitor" is a work of fiction about a young girl who has the courage to hide a Russian prisoner of war. If she gets caught the girl, Anna, and her family will be severly punished. Another book which quite frankly blew me away was "The Dead and the Gone" by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is the companion book to her first title "Life as We knew it" which also impressed me, and many other people, enormously. In both books the moon, after an asteroid collides with it, is brought into closer proximity to the Earth than before. As a result there are floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions all around the world and life on Earth changes drastically. In the first book a young girl describes what happens after this catastrophic event. In the second book a young man living in New York tries to hold onto his family when chaos threatens to take over his life. I highly recommend these two books for any reader who is over the age of twelve.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring is here, no it's not, yes it is, no it's not...

Happy belated Earth Day everyone!

I have to tell you that here in Ashland, Oregon we have been having the strangest spring I have ever experienced. On April 11th I was up at the crack of dawn to go to Medford, a town just 20 minutes away from my town. I drove to the downtown area and then proceeded to collect my runner's packet for the Pear Blossom Run. Not being in the best of running shape, I had decided to do the 5K and not the 10 mile. The morning was freezing and I was quite numb as I set off with the other runners.

Later that day I sat on the side of the streets with hundreds of other people to watch the Pear Blossom Parade. It was quite a spectacle and my daughter Elise was particularly taken with the horses and the clowns. After being frozen earlier in the day I was then cooked as I watched the parade.

Since then we have had lovely warm days - and snow. And I don't mean a little snow either. We had stick-to-the ground snow for one day and several flurry filled days as well. On Saturday April 19th my husband and I walked into town to go and see a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was blizzard like outside and we arrived at the theatre covered with snow. I have to say that the production of "Coriolanus" that we saw was superb. I read and studied the play a long time ago and read about it again before I went to the performance. The actors swept me away and by the end of the play (which is very tragical) I was feeling very moved and spell bound. Anyone who loves Shakespeare's plays should try to come to Ashland to see the performances put on by this very special theatre company.

One the work front I have been preparing for the May issue of the Through the Looking Glass Book Review by reading a varied and wonderful collection of books about "Insects and their relatives." Even though I studied entomology in university many eons ago, I found myself learning all kinds of fascinating things about insects, spiders, and other many-legged animals. One book in particular struck me. "A Place for Butterflies" not only describes several lovely butterfly species but it also highlights the rocky future that many of these special creatures are facing. Often we think of endangered Giant Pandas, threatened elephants, and the status of other rare large animals. We forget that there are many smaller creatures which are endangered too, creatures which many of us can do something to help. By planting a garden filled with the kinds of plants that butterflies like, we can make a difference. Best of all this is an activity which children can enjoy. They will see the fruits of their labors when butterflies come to the flowering plants which they so carefully planted in the spring.

Happy Spring!
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