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!!