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.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Lorax has a Giveaway for you!

Enter for a chance to win Lorax-themed prizes! Click here for the link!

Random House Children’s Books is hosting a daily giveaway through Friday, March 9th
on its “Dr. Seuss Books” Facebook page in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday and NEA’s Read Across America.

Thank you for celebrating with us!

For more Seuss fun and games, visit http://www.seussville.com/.

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day

Monday, February 13, 2012

Books for Valentines Day

Valentine‚Äôs Day is... Valentine's Day is tomorrow, and I have reviewed some wonderful titles for younger readers that explain what this special day is all about and how it came into being. There are also some stories that have a Valentine's Day theme. You can view my reviews of these books on the Valentine's Day Feature Page.

Picture Book Monday - A review of Marching with Aunt Susan

On February 15th, 1820 Susan Brownell Anthony came into the world. She grew up in a home that was strongly anti-slavery, and as a teenager became active in the anti-slavery and temperance movements. A few years later, Susan read about a speech that Lucy Stone gave at the first National Women's Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. From this moment Susan devoted her life to the cause of women's rights.

In honor of this great lady's birthday, I have a picture book for you that is about how one little girl in California was affected by Susan's words and deeds. 

Claire Rudolf Murphy
Illustrated by Stacey Schuett
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Peachtree, 2011, 978-1-56145-593-5
   Bessie is very annoyed because her father and brothers won’t take her hiking with them. They think that girls belong at home, and that “strenuous exercise is not for girls,” which is nonsense of course.  After all, she can ride her bicycle faster than everyone who lives on her block, including her brothers. It is very irritating to be thus excluded because of her sex, and Bessie complains to her mother.
   Bessie’s mother invites Bessie to help her get the house ready for Susan B. Anthony’s visit that afternoon. Bessie looks at Susan B. Anthony’s photo in the newspaper and thinks that she looks like a “crabby old lady.” Bessie soon finds out that the old lady in question is a force to be reckoned with, but she is also a willing to listen to Bessie’s problems
   The next day, Bessie goes to hear Susan B. Anthony speak at the Golden Gate Auditorium, and she begins to understand that getting votes for women is important for many reasons. Bessie and her friend Rita decide to help with the cause. They learn that there are children all over the country who have to work instead of being able to go to school. Perhaps, if women could vote, laws would be put in place that would help “adults and children.”
   This book is based on the real story about Bessie Keith Pond and the 1896 suffrage campaign in California. Just like the Bessie described in the story, the real Bessie’s family members were strong supporters of the suffrage movement, and Bessie was close friends with Susan B. Anthony.
   As they read this book, young readers will come to realize why gaining the vote mattered so much to so many. Through Bessie’s eyes they will see how women and girls were discriminated against, and what they had to put up with as they fought for the right to vote.
   At the back of the book, the author provides her readers with further information about Bessie Keith Pond, the California suffrage campaign, Susan B. Anthony, and the history of the American suffrage movement with a timeline.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Twosomes: Love poems from the animal kingdom

In a few days time it will be Valentine's Day. Though I know some people consider this to be a 'holiday' that was manufactured by card companies, I happen to enjoy Valentine's Day. I like to do something special for my family members, and it is always fun to see how excited by daughter gets, and to look over all the Valentines she comes home with.

In honor of this festive day, I have a selection of love poems that are fabulously silly and amusing. If you have ever wondered what a love lorn porcupine would say to his sweetie, then you need to read this book. The answer lies within.

Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Lee Wildish
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House, 2011, 978-0-375-86710-1
   We humans celebrate Valentines Day by telling, and showing, the people we love how special they are. We give people cards, boxes of candy, flowers, balloons, teddy bears, and jewelry. Some of us even write poems to declare our love, admiration, and devotion. Of course, such declarations are not limited to Valentine’s Day. Love poems are sent via email, and in envelopes, every day of the year.
   Imagine if you can what a love poem written by a dog would be like. What would a dog say to his beloved? Perhaps he would tell her how “delish” she smells and invite her to “share my water dish.” A porcupine might write to his love telling her about how he hugged a cactus to get “some practice.”
   With clever punnish word play, Marilyn Singer gives her readers a wonderfully silly and funny collection of poems to share on Valentine’s Day, or on any other day for that matter.
   To compliment the fifteen two-liner rhymes, Lee Wildish has created comical pictures that will tickle funny bones, and give readers something to chuckle over.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A letter from Lynelle Woolley, the creator of Flower Girl World

The season for weddings is not far off, and for many girls the next few months will be spent being fitted for dresses and helping brides to get ready for the big day. Being a flower girl is such a special experience that Lynelle Woolley decided to create a series that would allow all girls to take part in a wedding. Here is a letter from Lynelle. 

Hello Marya and Friends,

Welcome to my world – Flower Girl World! I have to say that it’s such a happy place to be.

Like many mothers who are writers, my inspiration for the Flower Girl World book series was my daughter. During her pre-school years, she was asked to be in three different weddings. By the third marriage, we both were pros! Each experience was so different (beach wedding in Hawaii, garden wedding in Napa Valley, non-denominational church wedding in Salt Lake City), yet one thing remained constant: the exuberance and pride my daughter felt before, during, and after the events.

So that got this flower girl mom thinking…wouldn’t it be great to spread that joy to all girls in the flower girl age range, whether they are in a wedding or not?

I started by telling my daughter some flower girl stories set at different types of weddings… and now it’s grown into a picture book, chapter book and plans for more! For me, it was important that the stories feature positive themes like acceptance and friendship, and characters of diverse backgrounds and talents.

Let me introduce you to my flower girl friends:
Willow – the fashion model flower girl from New York, NY
Poppy – the cowgirl flower girl from Big Sky, MT
Camellia – the ballerina flower girl from Chicago, IL
Rosie – the detective flower girl from Washington D.C.
Iris – the arts and crafts flower girl from Philadelphia, PA
Starr – the performer flower girl from San Antonio, TX

All the girls make an appearance in the first two books.  

In the picture book, Camellia the Fabulous Flower Girl, Cami believes she’s an expert flower girl. But when she meets fellow attendants Willow and Poppy (who have cool moves of their own), Cami discovers how much fun sharing the aisle – and the spotlight – can be.

In the chapter book, Rosie and the Wedding Day Rescue, Rosie, Iris, and Starr must use their special talents to save a wedding from total disaster!

Presently, I am working on the next two books in the chapter series, Iris and the Aloha Adventure and Starr and the High Seas Wedding Drama and have 16 more stories on the way (a few more characters too)! Beyond the books, our website, www.FlowerGirlWorld.com, is the destination for everything flower girl, including fun activities for girls.

Writing about flower girls is such a joyous way to spend my day. Thank you for letting me share my experience with you.

Lynelle Woolley

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Mercy Watson: Something Wonky this way come

I know that I have talked about the fact that I have a deep fondness for pigs before. I make no apologies for this strange proclivity. One cannot have a pet pig (which I did) and not fall in love with the entire species, perhaps with the exception of those bad tempered animals that like to bite. Being fond of pigs as I am, it should come as no surprise that I love the Mercy Watson books. Like so many of her relatives, Mercy Watson is a single-minded creature who will NOT be put off when she makes up her mind to do something. As you will see when (not if) you read this book.

Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2009, 978-0-7636-3644-9
   One afternoon, Mr. Watson is sitting on the porch reading the paper when he sees that there is a movie showing at the Bijou Drive-In called When Pigs Fly. Not only does the movie sound interesting, but the Bijou prides itself on serving “real butter” on their bottomless “all-you-can-eat” buckets of popcorn. Now, the Watson’s have a pet pig called Mercy, and when she hears her people talk about butter and all-you-can-eat, she becomes very excited. Butter is one of Mercy’s favorite things in the world.
   On their way to the Bijou Drive-In, Mr. and Mrs. Watson meet some of their friends, and by the time they get to the outdoor movie theatre, Baby and Eugenia Lincoln, and Stella and Frank are in the pink convertible sitting in the back seat next to Mercy.
   The movie is popular that evening, or maybe it is the bottomless popcorn bucket with real butter that is popular. Whichever it is, there are plenty of other cars parked in front of the big screen. Police Office Tomilello is there with his wife, and Animal Control Officer Francine Poulet is there with her date. Both couples are looking forward to watching the movie, little realizing that their evening is not going to go as planned.
   The reason for this is quite simple. As soon as the pink convertible is parked, Mercy Watson notices that there is a delectable aroma in the air. Mr. Watson and Frank go to get some popcorn, but Mercy decides that she needs to find out where that delicious smelling buttery smell is coming from, and she needs to do so now.
   Readers who have encountered Mercy Watson in her other books are going to love this deliciously funny story. Once again Mercy creates chaos as she steadfastly pursues food. Though she is, without a doubt, a very troublesome animal, Mercy is ridiculously loveable, and one cannot help laughing as one reads about her misadventures.
   What makes this book - and the other titles in this series - so special is that they have something to offer children and adult readers. “Wonky” characters and clever tongue-in-cheek humor makes this a series that will keep on giving for years to come. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Picture book Monday - A review of A boy called Dickens

Two hundred years ago, on February 7th, Charles Dickens came into the world. In honor of his birthday, I have a new book that I would like to share with you that describes what a part of Charles Dickens' childhood was like. Some readers may be surprised to find that some of the events described in his books were based on things Dickens himself witnessed or experienced.

Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by John Hendrix
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Random House, 2012, 978-0-375-86732-3
   We are in a London that existed many years ago, and it is a foggy winter’s morning. There, standing in a doorway, is a thin twelve-year-old boy called Charles Dickens. We can tell that he is poor and hungry from his threadbare clothes and “hungry eyes.” What we might not realize at first is that this boy is special because he is not only hungry for food; he is also hungry for books and an education.
   Charles cannot go to school though. Instead, he has to work in a boot polish factory. To pass the time as he does his monotonous work, Charles entertains himself and his friends by telling stories. The characters in these stories accompany him as he walks home in the evening, and he escapes into his stories as he lies under his threadbare blanket.
   On Sundays, Charles goes to visit his parents and siblings who are locked up in the debtor’s prison. Charles’ father could not pay one of his debts, and so he and his wife and their three young children must spend their days in the horrible prison, and Charles has to work.
   Finally one May morning Mr. Dickens is set free. Unfortunately, he insists that Charles should keep on working at the factory. Will Charles ever be free of his miserable existence? Will he ever be allowed to go to school?
   Based on the true story of Charles Dickens’ childhood, this captivating picture book shines a light on a part of the writer’s life that he kept very private. Young readers familiar with Charles Dickens’ stories will discover that many of the characters and events described in his books were based on people he saw and experiences that he had when he was a child.
   Throughout this book, the author weaves fact and fiction together to give readers a memorable story about one of the world’s most famous authors. An author’s note at the back of the book provides readers with further information about Charles Dickens’ life. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Poetry Friday - A review of Winterberries and Apple Blossoms

I have to tell you that today's poetry title delighted me. I think part of its charm is that it tells a story. Each poem can stand alone, but when the twelve poems in the book are put together, they give readers a strong overall picture of a place and a people that is very compelling.

Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections of a Mennonite year
Nan Forler
Illustrated by Peter Etril Snyder
Poetry Picture Book
For ages
Tundra, 2011, 978-1-77049-254-7
Winterberries and Apple Blossoms: Reflections and Flavors of a Mennonite Year   Naomi is a child who is being raised in an Old Order Mennonite community. Her life is a lot simpler than yours or mine. She does not have access to a television or computer, a cell phone or a car. She lives on a farm with her family, connected to the rhythms of the seasons, and working alongside her family members. This is the story, in poetry form, of one year of her life, and there is one poem for each of the twelve months.
   It is cold and snowy outside on a January day when Naomi attends her first proper quilting bee. She works side by side with the women, listening to the talk and laughter “while hungry needles scoop up fabric” as the little even stitches make their way across the quilt top. One day the quilt they are working on will keep someone warm on a cold winter night, just like the one that lies on Naomi’s bed at home.
   In May, Naomi takes a huge risk. While the boys are busy elsewhere, Naomi decides to try riding one of their bikes. The rule is “Boys on bikes, girls on foot,” but Naomi wants to know what it feels like to ride a bicycle. Even though she knows her mother would be appalled to know that Naomi tried to do such an unseemly thing, the girl mounts the bicycle anyway, and for a moment or two she revels in the joy riding a bicycle gives her.
   In August, the family is invited to attend a barn raising. Lucinda has a fever so Mam will stay home to tend to her. After the cart has left for the barn raising, Mam remembers the pies. Someone is going to have to take the pies to the barn raising, and that someone is going to have to be Naomi. She is going to have to drive the buggy all by herself for the first time. Though she has “longed for this day,” Naomi is scared. She knows what to do though, and soon enough she, Jonah, and Esther are travelling down the road, the clopping sounds of Pepper’s hooves soothing them.
   This wonderful book will give readers a sense of what it is like to be a member of a Old Order Mennonite community. They will see how Naomi and the other children have to help the adults to do many of the chores around the farm. Though it is hard at times, there is much satisfaction to be gained in the doing of a job well, especially when one can see the fruits of ones labor. There are simple pleasures to be enjoyed, and we can see how Naomi has a close connection with the land and nature.
   In addition to the twelve poems, the author has included twelve recipes, all of which “are inspired by Mennonite tradition and call for fresh, seasonal ingredients.” Young people will enjoy trying the recipes, perhaps sampling the treats they make as they read the poems and find out about Naomi’s life. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Mr Putter and Tabby spill the beans

There are some series that I have a particular fondness for, and the collection about Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby is one of them. Written by Cynthia Rylant, an award winning author, these stories describe the everyday kind of adventures that a retired gent, Mr. Putter, has. Often the cat he adopted, Tabby, is his companion. In this particular title, Mr. Putter agrees to attend a cooking class with his friend, even though he would prefer not to. He discovers that taking pets to such a class might not be such a good idea.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill the BeansMr. Putter and Tabby Spill the beans
Cynthia Ryland
Illustrated by Arthur Howard
For ages 6 to 9
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, 978-0-15-205070-2
  Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby live next door to Mrs. Teaberry and her dog Zeke. They are all the best of friends, and they enjoy trying new things together. One day Mrs. Teaberry calls Mr. Putter, and she says that she has a “new and fun” activity that she wants them to try; she wants to go to a cooking class. Mr. Putter is not at all sure that a cooking class is going to be fun, but he agrees to go with her anyway.
   In the class, they are going to learn “one hundred ways to cook beans.” Mr. Putter does not like the sound of this at all. To be honest, all he really wants to do is to have an ice cream soda, but he is willing to learn about cooking beans because he is fond of Mrs. Teaberry. Who knows, maybe the class will be one of those new things that is enjoyable.
   At first, all goes well in the class. Zeke and Tabby sit under the table and behave themselves, Mrs. Teaberry takes notes about bean recipes, and Mr. Putter listens to what the teacher is saying. By the time they get to the fourteenth recipe, Mr. Putter and Tabby are asleep, and Zeke has discovered that one of the students has a granola bar in her purse. Which is when things start to go wrong.
   Young readers will find it very hard not to laugh out loud when they see what happens at Mr. Putter’s first cooking class. With great skill Cynthia Rylant builds up the tension, showing her readers what is literally going on under the table while the cooking class is taking place. They will see how Mr. Putter goes along with Mrs. Teaberry’s idea because he is her friend, and they will also appreciate that perhaps it is not such a good idea to take a dog to a cooking class.
   This is just one in a delightful series of books that were written for young readers who are ready for stories with chapters. 
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