Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eleanor, Quiet No More: the Life of Eleanor Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by Gary Kelly

A nearly impossible task to sum up the life of a true heroine in a picture book for children, but Rappaport has done a superb job. By using Roosevelt's own words alongside brief descriptions of her life, Rappaport guides the reader through her early childhood, education, marriage to FDR, teaching and political careers. There is certainly enough information for a student to use the book for a project, but more importantly, the books reads like a story. It is engaging and stands up to several readings. There is end matter that leads those interested to other sources for additional information. Another excellent picture book biography by Rappaport.

Seymour and Henry by Kim Lewis

Seymour and Henry are duck brothers who never want to stop playing. Mommy duck tells them it is time to go home, but Seymour and Henry are not done playing. Instead the run off to chase each other and play hide and seek. But when it starts raining they want their Mommy again and have to run home to find her. The difference with this book than so many others like it, is that the ducks are not scared when it starts to rain and mommy isn't around. Instead they simply retrace their steps back home. While hard to give cloth stuffed ducks facial expressions, the ducks' actions speak for their feelings.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Dessen, S. (2009). Along for the Ride. Viking: New York. ISBN 978-0-670-01194-0

Another Sarah Dessen that delivers. Auden finds herself spending the summer with her recently divorced Dad whose new wife has just had a baby. Auden is prepared to dislike her annoying new step-mother and sister and spend the summer preparing for college in the fall; after all, if she's anything like her mother, she'll be the best at everything she does. But while Auden wants to show disdain for everyone around her, she begrudgingly starts to make friends and even meet a few boys. It's too bad the first two she meets are brothers: Jake, the player and Eli, the one who has suffered a secret loss. But it's Eli she's drawn to, and they soon realize they are both insomniacs and are spending evenings together drinking coffee and exploring the night. Good things don't last forever as somone is bound to screw up and it does. Can they overcome their past to make their love work? A fun novel perfect for summer reading. Ages 12 and up.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Cashore, Kristin. (2009). Fire. Dial Books: New York. $16.99 ISBN 978-0-8037-3461-6

Part human/part monster, Fire is the unusual beauty who has the power to control the minds of everyone around her. She lives in the Dells, but in King City the ruling King Nash is battling enemies from all fronts who want to overtake his throne. Because Fire is the last remaining human monster alive, her life is frequently in danger. For protection, she depends on Archer, her devoted lover and childhood friend. But as war beckons, they leave for King City in hopes of fighting to help the King retain his power. Treachery is everywhere, and Fire must choose who she should trust, not only with her life, but her love as well. Intricate plots, dazzling imagery, and fantastical characters make this companion novel to the popular Graceling a magical good vs. evil novel difficult to put down. Ages 14 and up.

Marcel in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Stork, Francisco. (2009). Marcelo in the Real World. Arthur A. Levine Books: New York. $17.99 ISBN 0-545-05474-5

Seventeen-year-old Marcelo hears music in his head—“internal music” or IM has he refers to it. This music is a result of his Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, which is the reason he is able to attend Paterson, a private school for kids with disabilities. Marcelo is comfortable there and is looking forward to spending the summer working in the school stables. However, Marcello’s father feels it is time for Marcelo to spend some time in the “real” world and makes a deal with him: If Marcello spends the summer working at his father's law firm, he will allow him to finish out his senior year at Paterson. At the firm, Marcello meets the beautiful Jasmine and Wendell, a son of another partner at the firm, who introduce him to real world feelings: jealousy, competition, anger, and desire. However while researching a case, Marcelo stumbles upon a photo of girl with a half a face that leads him into an investigation that will change his life forever. Poignant and thought-provoking, this book is for older readers 14 and older.

The Red Blazer Girls by Michael D. Bill

Beil, Michael. (2009). The Red Blazer Girls. Alfred A. Knopf: New York. ISBN 978-0-375-84814-8

Sophie, Margaret, and Rebecca are three seventh-grade girls who attend St. Veronica’s, an all-girl Catholic school on the Upper East of Manhatten. When our narrator, Sophie, spots a mysterious face in the window of the school church during English class, the girls decide to investigate. But instead of solving that mystery, they discover another that involves the loss of an ancient piece of jewelry: The Ring of Rocamadour. They must solve tricky riddles, puzzles, and math problems to reclaim the prize, but with danger and intrigue around every corner, the girls decide they need help. They find it in their childhood friend, the very cute Rafael and the new girl Leigh Ann, who might be just too pretty for her own good. Quirky characters, hilarious situations, and characters with a pitch perfect middle school voice make the Red Blazer Girls one you will want to share with a friend. The first of a series, this book is for ages ten and up.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis

Tarshis, L. (2009). Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love. Dial: New York. ISBN 978-0-80377-3321-3

Emma-Jean Lazarus is back. In a follow up to Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, this story finds Emma-Jean and her seventh-grade friends in the midst of spring fever and its aftereffects, most notably “love”. Normally pragmatic Emma-Jean can’t stop thinking about Will Keeler and wondering whether she should ask him to the Spring Fling—against the advice of her girlfriends. And what happens when Emma-Jean’s friend, the normally shy Colleen, finds a secret admirer note in her locker? Everyone seems to be acting out of character in this humorous account of girls, their crushes, and how friendship can often save the day. Grades 4 -8.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Silly Tilly by Eileen Spinelli; illustrated by David Slonim

Tilly really is a very silly goose. She bathes in apple juice, kisses fish, and tickles frogs. It seems that her silly ways have finally annoyed the barnyard creatures too much and together they all ask her to stop. Until the day they realize how boring the barnyard has become and reminisce on Tilly's silly ways. Together they apologize and Tilly is thankfully back to her old ways. Truly a delightful rhyming picture book. Kids will giggle at Tilly's goofiness and delight at the illustrations full of expression and fun. Bravo Eileen, another great accomplishment.

Good Night, Baby Ruby by Rohan Henry

Ruby's parents want her to go to bed but she keeps coming up with new ways to delay bedtime. The line drawings are simple but the faces lack expression. Kids will likely enjoy the varied ways Ruby stalls. While not destined to be the next Goodnight Moon, this will certainly finds its intended audience.

Two at the Zoo: a Counting Book by Danna Smith; illustrated by Valeria Petrone

A boy and his grandfather visit the zoo and count the animals from 1 to 10. Most of the animals have serene smiles, but a few variations give them personality and keep the it interesting. The grandson/grandfather relationship is nicely portrayed. A good addition to any counting collection.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tillie Lays an Egg by Terry Golson with photography by Ben Fink

Tillie and her six henhouse mates share three nesting boxes. The other chickens are content to lay their daily eggs in the nesting boxes and scratch in the yard for corn. Not Tillie. A true free range chicken, Tillie searches for better places to lay her eggs and along the way finds better meals than the same old corn. The other chickens peek in on each spread from the side. The detail in each photo make this a great I Spy book also. Children can figure out which chicken is spying on Tillie and find the chicken memorabilia on each page.

Monkey Monkey Monkey by Cathy MacLennan

Following up on "Chicky Chicky Chook Chook" is the story of a monkey swinging through the jungle searching for monkey-monkey-monkey nuts. Monkey has a similar rhythm to Chicky but doesn't quite read as well aloud. MacLennan plays with alliteration, assonance and rhyme. There is a lot of sound play going on in the story. A few readings would be necessary for the reader to figure out the rhythm and accents. Still, the monkey illustrations are delightful. Good for use in storytime to highlight Phonological Awareness.

The One and Only Marigold by Florence Parry Heide; illustrated by Jill McElmurry

A little bit Ramona Quimby, a little bit Olivia. Marigold is a spunky little monkey with her own way of doing things. Follow her in four short chapters as she shops with her mother for a new coat, develops a new hobby of bugging her best friend Maxine, creates a rival "lemonade" stand and creatively dresses for school. This is a fun new look at the always popular quirky girl protagonist genre.

A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis

Can it get better than "Not a Box" and "Not a Stick"? Yes it can! On my list of favorite picture books of 2009 is this gem. Edna the penguin only knows three colors: white for snow and ice, black for night and blue for the sea. She decides there must be more and so she goes looking. Edna finds the color orange. Scientists have come to her cold home and they brought orange coats, orange tents and an orange plane. Edna runs and brings all the other penguins. Now her world contains four colors, could there possibly be any more? As Edna stands with an orange glove on her head, you can almost see your audience pointing at the small boat entering from the right and yelling, "green!"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

St. Crow, L. (2009). Strange Angels. Razorbill: New York. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-59514-251-1

Dru Anderson is not your normal 16-year-old girl. She and her father travel around the country in the relentless hunt for ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and reanimated corpses. But this is a dangerous business and death comes calling, leaving Dru to battle the monsters by herself. Heroes come in unlikely forms as Dru happens upon Graves, a goth boy who lives in a mall who suffers a wulfen bite while protecting Dru from attack. Dru and Graves are attacked again, and this time they are saved by the handsome, blue-eyed Christopher who just happens to have razor-sharp fangs. Graves starts to show signs that he's turning into a wulfen, and Christopher seems to know more about Dru than he's letting on; who can Dru trust to get her out of this alive? Nonstop action, mysterious characters, and a little romance will make this series popular with teens. Ages 12 and up.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Lincoln Said by Sarah L. Thomsom; illustrated by James E. Ransome

A short, easy, picture book biography of Abraham Lincoln. Using his own words as inspiration for the text, the author shows Lincoln as a boy, a young lawyer and eventually President. The majority of the book covers Lincoln's own views of slavery, the outbreak of the civil war, and his signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Picture books about historical events are always hard to present to our youngest readers because they haven't yet developed a sense of themselves in the larger world and in history. That said, this is a good and simple view of one of our most important historical figures.

Adventure Annie Goes to Work by Toni Buzzeo; illustrated by Amy Wummer

Every Saturday is Annie's adventure day. On this particular Saturday, there will not be any jungle adventure or mountaintop adventure. No, Mommy's important report is missing at work. Adventure Annie will have to don her cape and help her mother out at the office. Annie explores, creates a map, makes a mess and eventually find the important report. While it may not have been the author's intention to make this a single parent picture book, this is one of those hard to find picture books showing normal single parent households. A book that isn't strictly about a single mother and her child.

Faith by Maya Ajmera, Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon

A beautiful photographic depiction of faith throughout the world. With the photos, the authors show how our world's many faiths are really much more similar that they are different. All those of faith pray, sing, celebrate holidays, read holy books, etc. A summary of each element of faith is described in greater detail at the end and a glossary is provided. The simple text and photos are truly engaging.

Bella and Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten

Bella is a studious poet, Bean is a whimsical, fashion conscious gardener. They are, however, bestest mice friends. The story takes place over a single day and evening. Bella only wants to write poems. Bean keeps bothering Bella with requests such as walks to the pond, and planting a snow bush. Bella is annoyed and eventually shuts Bean out completely. Bella realizes that her best friend is truly a part of her artistic process. In the end, the two friends come together to write a poem together. A nice illustration of the poetic/artistic process. A bit text heavy. Best for elementary aged children.

Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms by Julia Rawlinson, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Fletcher the fox is enjoying his first days of spring when he thinks he sees snow falling to the ground in the orchard. He is concerned for his friends and starts by warning the birds and encouraging them to fly south again. The birds join him in warning Porcupine and then together they all warn Squirrel and so on. At the end, all the animals figure out it wasn't snow, but apple blossoms falling to the ground. If you read the title, you'd probably already have figured it out. Having already featured Fletcher in a book about autumn, it looks like Rawlinson will complete a whole year of seasons.