Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Art & Max by David Wiesner

You can count on a David Wiesner book looking fabulous.  This adventure takes deconstructing art to a  whole new level as young Max first tries to copy the master artist, Art, and then when Art suggests Max paint him, the little lizard takes the master seriously.  The student learning from the master and the master learning from the student is playfully explored here with an explosion of colors, textures and styles worked into the adventure.  Fabulous artistic play combines with a light story here to create a picture book that is sure to appeal across the board - parents, children, teachers, and more.

Octavia Boone's Big Questions About Life, The Universe, and Everything by Rebecca Rupp; Read by Ellen Grafton

For Octavia Boone seventh grade starts out well enough but when Octavia’s mother, a life-long seeker of faith, joins the Fellowship of the Redeemer church, her world rapidly changes.  For her artist father, Henry David Thoreau seems to have had all the answers but her mother finds very different answers and wants Octavia to accept them as well.  Then, when her parent’s disparate world views collide and Octavia is forced to live with her mother and a couple of fellow “Redeemers” Octavia’s anger overflows.   Octavia must confront her own prejudices, explore her feelings about God, and discover a way to move forward without her ideal life in tact.  Reader, Ellen Grafton, does an excellent job giving voice to Octavia’s emotional turmoil.  Her pacing will keep readers engaged as will her variety in tone and pitch.  Listeners will quickly connect with this engaging young character and will come away hoping for an encore.

Theodore Boone - Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

Theo is an intelligent, interesting character who helps his friends solve their legal problems.  He tackles everything from helping a girl whose parents are divorcing, to hooking a boy up with a bankruptcy lawyer in an attempt to save his home.  However, when a key witness in a local murder trial comes to Theo for help he finds he is in over his head.  The witness, an illegal immigrant, refuses to come forward but has information that could ensure justice is served.  I really liked the premise of this book and the characters, particularly Theo, are well-drawn.  That said, there just isn't much action here to sustain the reader.  And, the fact that Theo basically solves his greatest challenge by turning it over to the adults feels like a let-down.  I suspect there will be further books following this intelligent hero and hope they better realize the potential of this young lawyer-to-be.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood by David Benedictus

I planned to boycott this book, upset that anyone would touch by beloved A.A. Milne's Pooh.  However, I finally caved in wanting to see how badly it had been hashed.  Within a few pages, I was my little girl self again listening to my mother read a Winnie the Pooh book to me.  I smiled at the animals misadventures, at Christopher Robin's obvious care for them, and at their love for him.  And, as I turned the last page I almost teared up at the gentle reminder that Christopher Robin is, after all, a boy and a boy must grow up.  Not Milne, but not bad... I can still here Pooh going "bump, bump, bump" up the stairs behind me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

This is the promising first book in an intriguing new series.  Miss Penelope Lumley, age fifteen, is both excited and nervous about her first job.  Having been raised in the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope is confident of her knowledge and skills but unsure of this first experience on her own.  The animal-loving girl soon finds that she is the perfect fit for her astonishing new role.  The Lady and Gentleman of the house have discovered three wild children on their property - possibly raised by wolves.  Penelope is expected to teach them the basics (how to dress, how to say their names, and so forth) in addition to the more complicated topics of reading, geography and Latin.  When she is told to have the children ready for a fancy Christmas Party, the young governess is more worried than ever.  And, when that party takes a disastrous turn, Penelope is left wondering if the gentleman of the house has the best interest of the children at heart.  On top of questions about his motives there is another mystery  - what is that mysterious howling and is there something living in the walls?  This excellent book is part Jungle Book, part Sherlock Holmes, part Mary Poppins, and a nice touch comedy.  Maryrose Wood has created a truly entertaining outing with this title and I am personally wishing number 2 were published yesterday!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer; Read by Nathaniel Parker

I just finished listening to this 7th volume in the Artemis series.  When I read the first book a few years I really disliked Artemis and I find it interesting how much that has changed over time.  Colfer has done a nice job creating a unique, intriguing, not-at-all perfect character that has changed for the good without changing to the boring.  In this episode, Artemis is facing the greatest challenge of his life.  He has developed Atlantis Complex, a disorder generally found in guilt-ridden fairies.  The Complex leads to obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia and, worst of all, the development of an alternate personality named Orion.  The Orion character lends itself to plenty of humorous moments as he constantly declares his unending love and devotion to Captain Holly Short of the fairy police.  Of course, throughout the book, the usual cast of characters are battling a dangerous foe - this time a maniac determined to escape from fairy prison at all costs.  Holly, Foaly, and Butler get a little more play time in this outing as Artemis struggles with his illness and the fear that he will lose his mind completely.  I always enjoy the fast pacing of this series and especially liked this episode as it added some new dimensions to Artemis Fowl.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

In somewhat of a departure for me, I just completed Mockingjay, the final book in Suzanne Collins gripping Hunger Games trilogy.  Along with scores of others, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for this installment to come out.  I really wanted to listen to the audio as I did with the previous titles in the series.  However, I was too far down on the waiting list at the library and couldn't bear to wait for 2 or 3 months.  So, I checked out the book and finished it in two days.  Like the other titles, this one left me feeling breathless and plenty horrified.  The reality of war cannot be denied in Collins dark tale.  While reading, I often found myself asking if humans could really sink to such lows and sadly realized, in many ways we already have.  As soon as I turned the last page, I rushed to find someone to talk to about the experience.  My co-workers all agreed that this is not a title to read and close without another thought.  It begs for thoughtful discussion - and maybe a little group therapy.  Excellent from the beginning of the series to the final page of Mockingjay (a final page that I re-read several times before I could let the book go), this is one of the top Science Fiction novels I have read.

I Love Bugs! by Emma Dodd

Emma Dodd's celebration of bugs is just right for sharing with large groups.  The large, bright, colorful illustrations are full of kid-appeal and easy to follow.  for the bug-loving child this is just right and for the child who isn't so sure about creepy crawly critters this is a fun introduction to their positives.  Everything from slimy slugs to "flouncy frilly flutter bugs" to "eight-legged scary bugs" are saluted with Dodd's inviting pictures and rhyming bouncy text.  I love to share this title with our Bugs storytime and it is even brief enough for our little Book Baby guests at the library.

Drum City by Thea Guidone; illustrated by Vanessa Newton

"Drum.  Drum.  Boy in the yard drumming so hard, calling all kids to come drum in the yard."  From one little boy banking on a pan, to an entire city drumming on anything they can find, this ode to drumming is a catching jubilee.  Packed with action and fun, I think it would be a great addition to a Noisy Storytime or one celebrating instruments.  The illustrations nicely capture the joy that the children feel as the DRUM!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan; illustrated by Peter Sis

This is the fictionalized biography of Neftali Reyes who grew up to be the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.  I realize that this will likely not fly of the shelves and that it may not have a wide readership among children.  That said, for the child who does find it and connect with it, the experience will exceptional.  Ryan has done a beautiful job capturing life through young Neftali's eyes.  He perceives the world in a different way than anyone else.  His brutish father sees this as only a weakness and constantly pushes Neftali to leave his day-dreaming behind and become a more active, physical boy.  Angry words like "idiot", "worthless", "absentminded", "dim witted", and "fanatic" fill the boy's world.  But even his father's harshness cannot stop Neftali from seeing the exquisite words in the world all around.  Peter Sis's illustrations capture the struggles of Neftali and enhance the stunning beauty of this work.  One touching illustration depicts the father's figure as an ocean with Neftali and his little sister bobbing lost on the waves. Lovely and touching this is a treat for the reader who enters its pages.

Clementine: Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker - AUDIO BOOK

Clementine is going to have the greatest week ever! She has been chosen as Friend of the Week for her class. She'll get to do all kinds of fun things like feed the fish, collect the milk money, serve as line leader, and tell her autobiography. But, best of all, at the end of the week, all of the kids will write in a notebook about everything that makes Clementine the best friend. Acting on suggestions from her friend, Margaret, Clementine sets out to make a big impression on her classmates so they will write extra-nice things about her on Friday. However, when Clementine's kitten, Moisturizer, goes missing, "Friend of the Week" glory is quickly forgotten and the sad little girl devotes herself to finding her beloved pet. This story carries readers to the highest highs of third grade and the lowest lows of a young girl fearing she has lost something she loves forever. Narrator Jessica Almsay convincingly captures all of these emotions in her telling. As Clementine joyfully tells Margaret of her Friend of the Week appointment, Almsay picks up the pace, elation filling her own child-like voice. Then, as Clementine realizes she may never see her beloved kitten again, Almsay slows down, at times pausing between each word to help the listener genuinely connect with the young girl's sorrow. Fans who already adore Clementine will be transfixed by this reading and those who don't will come to love her through Almsay's pitch-perfect telling of Clementine's latest adventures.

Friday, August 20, 2010

No T.Rex in the Library by Toni Buzzeo; illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

A little girl's bad behavior in the library costs her a timeout.  However, when she tangles with a T-Rex pulled from a book, the chaos grows beyond even her wishes.  knights, pirates, squid and more begin to trash the library.  Soon, Tess takes control of the situation in a completely satisfying manner.  The action-packed, bright mixed media illustrations bring the action to life in this fun library romp that should appeal to young library goers - I am looking forward to a try in storytime.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer

I picked up Sea of Trolls, the first book in this trilogy, simply because I have historically enjoyed reading Nancy Farmer.  By the time I turned the final page, it had become my favorite book written by her (and that's saying a lot!).  Then, I read The Land of the Silver Apples with some trepidation - could it live up to the original with a boring title like that?  When the last page came, I was more hooked than ever.  Finally, the concluding volume arrived.  But my stacks of books were huge and I just didn't get it read until this month.  Jack and Thorgil's final adventure did not disappoint.  This time around Jack, Thorgil and the Bard set off to rid Jack's village of a vengeful, restless spirit that is set on settling a score regardless of the innocents that get hurt by her wrath.  The journey finds them teaming up with the violent Northmen, a giant albatross, fin folk, and even the dead.  Jack and Thorgil's tempestuous relationship adds some fun to the tale as do the many quirky mythical characters introduced along the way.  In the tradition of grand epics, this story has it all - action, adventure, an undercurrent of possible romance, wild beasts, terrifying spirits, and so much more.  And, at the conclusion of this satisfying saga, one final line that made me laugh out loud.  Check it out!

Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig; illustrated by Marc Brown

"Tippity!  Tippity!  LIttle black Feet!  Who is dancing that tippity beat?"  As it turns out the ladybugs are dancing, then the elephants, ducks, bears and more.  This is an action-packed romp that is just right for an active preschool storytime.  I especially like Marc Brown's texture rich collage illustrations.  He has used beautiful hand painted papers to create illustrations that make you want to reach out and touch every page.  I am still certain I should be able to feel that caterpillars bumpy body!

Saffy Looks for Rain by Paola Opal

The other day I stumbled across a bright board book with an adorable giraffe on the cover. It caught my eye with it's solid simple colors and inviting story. It's a little small to share with a group but I decided to give it a try in my Book Baby program at the library. The results were unexpected! During the typical Book Baby day, a few of the babies will look at the book, some will look all over the place and others will be wandering around the room while mom's try to gather them up. Not this day!! Saffy was a hit. Every baby in the room was transfixed by the story - possible attracted by the bold lines and solid colors. It was a great day and I plan to try others by Paola Opal in the near future!!