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October 2011

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8


 


Chasing Demons: 10/31/11

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Chasing Demons by R.L. Geerdes right around the time when I first became unemployed in the summer of 2009. Although I read the book that year the review got lost in the shuffle of finding work, working a whole bunch of odd jobs and going back to school.

Chasing Demons is the second in the Mistress of Beasts series. I haven't read the first book. The book opens with Katrina waking in a hospital room. She's been in a coma ever since her car accident. She's told that all of her experiences in Acorna were dreamed up while she was unconscious.

Now usually I'm all for getting the plot rolling but this book had the plot on fast-forward to the point of pulling me right out of an initially interesting set up. Katrina should need physical therapy and some time to get her strength back after waking up. No; she's sent immediately home!

I just couldn't get around that plot point. I tried three times to finish the book but couldn't connect with Katrina or the plot in either Acrona or on Earth. If Earth is supposed to be an illusion to trick Katrina, that point needs to be made more obvious and concrete.

One star

Comments (0)


What Are You Reading: October 31, 2011: 10/30/11

What Are You Reading?

Two things happened last week. I've finished cataloging most of the picture books. I don't want to start reading a chapter book that will just be shelved the next day. Second, my children have taken to reading themselves bedtime stories. That cuts off my other big source of weekly reads.

That leaves me to what I'm reading for my own fun. My favorites were an excellent Tony Hillerman mystery, The Wailing Wind and the newest volume of xxxHolic. I plan to preorder volume 18 which comes out in December.

My current review book is Tankborn by Karen Sandler. I've only just started it so I don't have much to say about it.

I'm halfway through How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner but I am enjoying it. I tend to read the books I love slowly. The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier is my new purse read.

Afterwards I plan to start Schenectady by Don Rittner.

Finished Last Week:

  1. Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig (library book)
  2. The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman (personal collection)
  3. Wing on a Flea: A Book about Shapes by Ed Emberley (library book)
  4. Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick (review copy)
  5. xxxHolic, Volume 17 by CLAMP (personal collection)

Currently Reading:

  1. Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (personal collection)
  2. The Hole in the Wall by Lisa Rowe Fraustino (library copy)
  3. How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  4. The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (library book)
  5. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (library book)
  6. A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks (personal collection)
  7. Tankborn by Karen Sandler (review copy)
  8. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (personal collection)
  9. White Cat by Holly Black (audio) (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Boo to You! by Lois Ehlert (library book)
  2. The Crocodiles by Steven Popkes (FSF May/Jun 2010) (personal collection)
  3. I Am Invited to a Party by Mo Willems (library book)
  4. Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano (library book)
  5. Ranma 1/2 Volume 01 by Rumiko Takahashi (library book)
  6. The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine (library book)
  7. Monster Hunt by Rory Storm (library book)



Comments (20)


The Crocodiles: 10/30/11

FSF

"The Crocodiles" by Steven Popkes is told with a clinical sterility until the very end when the true horror of what was done is revealed.

The Crocodiles are a special force of Nazis meant to tip their hand in war. They are like the creations coming out of Lab 5 in Fullmetal Alchemist. Both of course are sadly drawn on the actual experimentation that was done under the Nazi regime.

Here though the most simple way to sum up the story is "Nazi zombies." Undead creations though can't be controlled and one of the scientist behind their creation learns that the hard way.

"The Crocodiles" is a perfect Halloween short story, especially for zombie fans.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


Ranma 1/2, Volume 01: 10/29/11

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Ranma 1/2 was my re-introduction to anime as a college student. I had watched some, untranslated and unsupervised as a preschooler on a local public access TV. As they were in Japanese I was watching only for the imagery not knowing what I was watching or even what language it was.

Flash forward about eighteen years. My new boyfriend and his two best friends were nuts about anime. In order to hang out with him and his buddies, I had to bite my tongue, get over some prejudices from my boredom with Robotech.

Among my first lessons in anime were Macross Plus, Ah! My Goddess!, El Hazard and Ranma 1/2. Flash forward another eighteen years and my son has discovered the Ranma 1/2 anime. As he was also getting into manga, I decided to bring home a copy of Ranma 1/2 volume 1 by Rumiko Takahashi.

Ranma 1/2 is for lack of a better description, a long running situation comedy with a paranormal twist. When most of the characters get wet they turn into something else. For Ranma he turns into a red haired and well endowed woman. His father turns into a panda.

Ranma and his father went to China (on the cheap) to train in karate. They go to a famous spring but not speaking a word of Chinese, they don't realize that the pools are cursed by the people or animals who died there. Both fall in and both are cursed.

The series sets up situation after situation to make Ranma (or the other characters) transform in the most embarrassing or dangerous way possible. There's a lot of sophomoric humor, much of which went over my son's head.

As the manga predates the recent popularity in the U.S., the translation is flipped to read left to right. That means all the artwork is flipped too. It feels wrong to read the manga backwards and unlike more recent books, there are no translation notes and a concerted effort to remove most Japanese cultural references.

Ranma 1/2 the anime has similar translation issues, being dubbed. So the anime and the manga in translation are a fair comparison. Neither is probably an accurate representation of the original but they are similar enough to each other for comparison.

Of the two versions, I prefer the manga. It goes into more detail of the curse and the family histories of the different characters involved. The anime episodes jump from joke to joke without much time for set up. I like the slower pace of the manga. My son, though, prefers the anime.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


Monster Hunt: 10/28/11

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Last year when I was walking the shelves of the library looking for resources for the paper that would be come "Patron 2.0" I came across Monster Hunt by Rory Storm. I wasn't looking for a compendium on mythological beasts but mythology happens to be near the library science and computer science books in the Dewey Decimal Classification system.

Since my son is interested in monsters and more recently, Greek mythology, I brought the book home for us to read. Monster Hunt by Rory Storm is presented as an explorer's notebook of all the monsters he's studied. Each entry has a picture of the featured monster, a description of its history and some other trivia.

For a quick reference the book is adequate. The coffee stained journal pages design for the book though gets old. Everything starts to look the same after a while.

Three stars.

Comments (0)


The Runaway Wok: 10/27/11

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The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine is a retelling of the Dutch story The Talking Pot. The story is moved to China and set around the Chinese New Year. Ming is sent to town to buy some food but comes home with a beat up but magical wok instead.

In previous magical pot stories I've read, the pot is always full. This one, though, has a life of its own and goes in search of food from those who can spare it but don't want to share. The wok seeks out a rich man's table and comes home with a feast for Ming's family.

The Runaway Wok includes a recipe for fried rice. We didn't try it but it's there for families who want to.

The book was a big hit with both of my children. They read it for Chinese New Year first at school and then at home. It was in their re-read pile for about a month.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


Boo to You!: 10/26/11

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Boo to You! by Lois Ehlert is about a group of mice trying to scare away the big bad cat who is terrorizing their pumpkin patch. The mice work through out the story to build the perfect thing to scare away the big bad cat. Their project has the desired results.

Ehlert wrote and illustrated the book. She used photos of fall time crops: gourds, pumpkins, summer squash, corn and so forth, as well as cut paper. The cat's teeth, for example, are pumpkin seeds. It's whiskers are twine.

The final pages of the book include all the items used to make the collages. This visual appendix is frankly better than the book. There's not enough contrast in color between the different collage items to make the illustrations pop.

The kids liked the story for a first time read but it didn't make it to the re-read pile. They agreed that the details were hard to make out in the illustrations. They also found the mice's attitude unsavory.

Three stars.

Comments (0)


Madeline at the White House: 10/25/11

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Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano began as a collaboration between Ludwig Bemelmans and Jacqueline Kennedy. Marciano decided to finish the book as he did with Madeline in America.

Miss Clavel and the girls are invited to the White House. The president has a daughter who is about the girls' age and is in need of friends and fun. Madeline and the others are sure to come through.

The girls arrive for the annual Easter Egg hunt and roll. They quickly make friends with Candle, the first daughter, and soon find themselves invited to stay over night.

It's a cute book done in the style of the original Madeline books with the same rhyming scheme. While it's a good edition to the Madeline series, it's not quite as tightly constructed.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


I Am Invited to a Party!: 10/24/11

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I Am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems would make a nice companion book to Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan. Piggie has been invited to a party and asks Gerald to help her prepare. Fortunately Gerald knows parties!

Gerald goes through all the different possibilities for the party. It might be formal. It night be a costume party. It might be a swim party. Gerald and Piggie (though less enthusiastically) decide its best to prepared for every eventuality.

It's cute for its absurdity and even better for how it ends. I would add it as a companion to Khan's books to show how trends are changing and siblings or friends are more and more being invited to parties, especially those held for children. It's no longer usually just the one on the invitation who is invited.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


What Are You Reading: October 24, 2011: 10/23/11

What Are You Reading?

Thirteen of the eighteen books last week were picture books. I'm reading with my children at night and they are reading to me in the car. Also there was a day at the internship where the cataloging application was going really slowly so I had time to kill. The only thing I had on hand were the books I'd cataloged. So I read some of them.

I finished two review books, Enter, Night about vampires in rural Canada and The Train about refugees fleeing the German occupation at the start of WWII. My current review book is Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick. I have actually read Moby Dick and loved it. I want to see what Philbrick has to say about the book — what reasons does he give.

I still haven't finished How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner but I am enjoying it. I hope to finish it and The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman. I finished and loved Worldshaker by Richard Harland but I had to send back two other library books unread. They are back on my wishlist.

Finished Last Week:

  1. Arthur's Nose by Marc Brown (library book)
  2. Chicken Big by Keith Graves (library book)
  3. Clive Eats Alligators by Alison Lester (library book)
  4. Crow Boy by Taro Yashima (library book)
  5. Don't Forget the Bacon! by Pat Hutchins (library book)
  6. Elsie's Bird by Jane Yolen (library book)
  7. Enter, Night by Michael Rowe (review copy)
  8. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (library book)
  9. A Friend for Einstein, the Smallest Stallion by Charlie Cantrell (library book)
  10. Heroes!: Draw Your Own Superheroes, Gadget Geeks & Other Do-Gooders by Jay Stephens (library book)
  11. Madlenka by Peter Sis (library book)
  12. Miles to Go by Jamie Harper (library book)
  13. Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets
  14. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (audio) (library book)
  15. Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt by Lisa Campbell Ernst (library book)
  16. Tiger Trek by Ted Lewin (library book)
  17. The Train by Georges Simenon (review copy)
  18. Where Is Tippy Toes? by Betsy Lewin (library book)
  19. Worldshaker by Richard Harland (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  2. The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (library book)
  3. A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks (personal collection)
  4. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (personal collection)
  5. The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman (personal collection)
  6. Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick (review copy)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater (library book)
  2. Bait by Robin Aurelian (personal collection)
  3. Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 10 by Hiromu Arakawa (library book)
  4. The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr (library book)
  5. Impossible by Nancy Werlin (library book)
  6. Magpie Magic by April Wilson (library book)
  7. One Halloween Night by Mark Teague (library book)



Comments (24)


The Great Turkey Walk: 10/23/11

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I grew up in a post World War II suburb. It was built over the course of twenty years (give or take). My house was finished in the mid 1960s and my grandmother's house was finished the year I was born. If I wanted to see nature I had to either hike into the canyons that separated the different neighborhoods or I had to go the beach or the mountains. Nature wasn't something that showed up in our backyards except for the odd rattle snake, opossum or skunk.

Where I live now, I'm in an area that defies categorization. It has urban elements, suburban elements and huge expanses of rural areas. Living right on the edge of where things to rural we share our yard and roadways with nature.

We have deer, owls, raccoons, turkey vultures and turkeys. The turkeys are the creatures we see the most often. There's a flock that lives behind the local elementary school.

So you can understand my interest in reading The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr. It's a historical fiction about a young man who buys the excess turkeys to walk them across the prairies to Denver where there was a high demand for fresh meat and poultry.

I've read other stories like this but usually the animals being herded to market are cattle. Reading about the special tenacity needed to convince a flock of turkeys to walk that distance was fascinating. It was also funny and heart warming.

Along the way the main character meets up with an escaped slave and a young woman left orphaned after her entire family died from fever caught out on their prairie homestead. Each person who joins the walk has a unique skill to help make the enterprise a success.

Four stars.

Comments (4)


One Halloween Night: 10/22/11

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I've mentioned before how much I love Mark Teague's 1940s style of paintings. He's the sort of illustrator whose books I will read regardless of the subject or the author. I have also mentioned that my children love Halloween books. One Halloween Night by Mark Teague was a must read book when we saw it at the library.

The book takes the sort of what-if worries of Stinky Face in Happy Halloween Stinky Face and plays them straight. Wendell, Floyd and Leona all have costume problems. They also have to drag along Floyd's baby sister Alice. Then there's the bad or weird candy. To make matters even worse, they're spotted by the bullies! Sounds like a typical Halloween for me as a kid.

But this is a Mark Teague book. He tends to put magic in the least expected places, like the lost and found or in a short cut to school (review coming). Here, it being Halloween, the costumes give their wearers new powers: invisibility potions, swashbuckling, fairy magic. It's just what they need to defeat the bullies and save the night.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


Impossible: 10/21/11

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Impossible by Nancy Werlin was on my wishlist because I love the song "Scarborough Affair." I was curious to see how it could be expanded into a YA novel.

For the most part I loved the book but it takes a couple chapters to find its voice. The book starts out like a typical YA novel with a pair of girls in high school chitchatting about boys and other mundane stuff. Unfortunately this part is weakly written, including a laughable scene involving too many people stuffed into a Mini. Had the book continued on these lines, I would have tossed it aside. You can easily skip all these wasted pages and go to the prom scene.

The rest of the book unfolds from Lucy coming to terms with what happened at the prom and trying to break the curse she is now under. While the curse is a very real threat to Lucy and has been a curse passed down through the generations, it's also a dark, metaphorical look at teenage pregnancy.

Like Bumped, Impossible would do well in a high school English course. The way the folk song is interpreted can be one approach to analyzing the book. Date rape, teenage pregnancy and single parenting can also be discussed. As with Bumped I suggest putting it alongside The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawtorne.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 10: 10/20/11

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Volume 10 of Fullmetal Alchemist resolves the Barry the Chopper story and answers the question of what happened to Maria Ross. More importantly, though, the book expands the world and the history beyond that of Amestris.

This history and world building helps to put the story so far into perspective. It also helps to explain, or rather, refine, the rules of Alchemy as we know them. So far it's been all about equivalent exchange and knowing the Truth. Now, though, there's a second type, called Rendanshu (or Alchehistory in Brotherhood).

At the heart of all of these revelations is Cselkcess, a ruined city mentioned early on in the series. Ed gets a chance to see the ruins for himself and his knowledge of advanced alchemy brings to light some clues behind the city's destruction.

Comments (0)


Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl: 10/19/11

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"Incidentally, I don't know how late you were planning to stay, but there is an excellent film this evening The Snake Pit. It's a wonderful comedy. I've seen it several times." p. 40.

Big Audrey has her own quest in Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater. She hitches a ride from Los Angeles to Poughkeepsie, New York and there she finds clues to her true identity.

This book is like the Shutter Island for middle graders and tweens. What appears to be real isn't necessarily real and what appears to be a hallucination might actually be the real deal. And it was for this back and forth between the real and unreal that I so love the book.

Audrey meets a professor who has voluntarily checked himself into the local insane assylum because it seemed like the thing to do. She also meets Molly, the psychic who can see things for what they really are. Molly ends up being her best source of clues for learning her true identity.

The search though takes her up river to see a scary monster, through time to the town's past and to a parallel plane of existence. It would take too long to explain everything.

It was a fun read and made me laugh as much as The Neddiad did.

Comments (6)


Bait: 10/18/11

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I am the type of reader who associates locations with books and stories read. For instance, "Bait" by Robin Aurelian from the January / February 2010 Fantasy and Science makes me think of the library. Or more specifically, the library parking lot where I read the story while waiting for the library to open.

"Bait" can be described as a warning to all big sisters. If you torture your baby brother, he's likely to find his revenge. If you're like Spike and live in a world where one can hunt for magical creatures in the wood, that revenge might taken on a paranormal form.

The story is also another warning about "be careful what you wish for." If you use your brother as bait and let him get bit and cursed and whatnot by who knows what as part of the hunt, he may very well end up turning into something stronger and more vicious than you are!

As a big sister who was once not so nice to my much younger brother, I laughed at the story. But I also felt a little grateful that I didn't grow up in a magical world.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


Magpie Magic: 10/17/11

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Around the start of third grade my son discovered wordless picture books. Previously he had been embarrassed to read them when he was struggling to catch up with his reading proficiency. By third grade though he was back on track and moving towards being an advanced reader. With those new skills came a new found confidence, one that allowed him the chance to enjoy the art of wordless books without feeling like he was cheating.

One of the first books he found and fell in love with was Magpie Magic by April Wilson. A young looking hand draws a magpie and does such a masterful job of it, it comes alive. The rest of the book is the unnamed artist's interactions with the bird, including trying to cage it and trying to erase it.

The bird though usually wins these artistic battles with his creator. When he's caged, he finds a way to erase some of the bars. When he's nearly erased he finds a way to redraw himself.

Throughout the illustrations are delightful, rendered in colored pencil. My son and daughter both went through the book about a half dozen times each, including having some one on one debates about what was happening the different pictures.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


What Are You Reading: October 17, 2011: 10/17/11

What Are You Reading?

It was another normal week of reading... mostly picture books either at my internship while the computer crunched out reports or with my children. I'm currently listening to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. So far I'm liking it less than I did Mansfield Park.

My favorite book finished is Pirate King by Laurie R. King. It's the best and silliest of the Russell and Holmes series. It mixes up The Pirates of Penzance, Sherlock Holmes and silent film history into a wonderful new thing.

This week I want to finish How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner. She's talking at my library on Tuesday and I'd like to have a good chunk of the book finished before then. Also coming up: lots and lots of library books I have been ignoring. Specifically: Worldshaker by Richard Harland and Outside In by Maria V. Snyder.

Finished Last Week:

  1. ABC Book by C. B. Falls (library book)
  2. A Cache of Jewels and Other Collective Nouns by Ruth Heller (library book)
  3. Apt. 3 by Ezra Jack Keats (library book)
  4. Crictor by Tomi Ungerer (library book)
  5. Dog Days: A Year in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile by Dave Ihlenfeld (library book)
  6. Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems (personal collection)
  7. Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola (library book)
  8. Pirate King by Laurie R. King (personal collection)
  9. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (personal collection)
  10. Tell Me the Day Backwards by Albert Lamb (library book)
  11. The Three Pigs by David Wiesner (library book)
  12. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (library book)
  13. Who's Seen the Scissors by Fernando Krahn (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Enter, Night by Michael Rowe (review copy)
  2. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (library book)
  3. How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner (personal collection)
  4. The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (library book)
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (audio) (library book)
  6. A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks (personal collection)
  7. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (personal collection)
  8. The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. F U, Penguin: Telling Cute Animals What's What by Matthew Gasteier (personal collection)
  2. Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox (library book)
  3. Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley (library book)
  4. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (library book)
  5. Sea Gifts by George Shannon (library book)
  6. A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry (library book)
  7. xxxHolic Volume 04 by CLAMP (library book)



Comments (34)


xxxHolic Volume 04: 10/16/11

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XxxHolic Volume 3 by the CLAMP uses a humorous Valentine's day story to reintroduce the shared connection with Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle.

In Japan girls give chocolates to boys with the hopes of receiving something in return for White day. Watanuki desperately wants chocolate from Himawari but it looks like it's Dômeki who's getting it all.

Yûko for reasons revealed in Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle volume 5, suggests to Watanuki that he make his own chocolate to give to Himawari. But things go awry for him and in the process, Watanuki ends up having to get back Dômeki's soul.

The second part introduces the theme of twins, a theme that will become more dominant at the series continues. There is a strong, confident twin, and a shy, unlucky twin. Watanuki wants to help the shy one overcome her troubles. In the process he learns about the way words can bind people together and how especially tight those binds can be for twins.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: 10/15/11

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Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig won the 1970 Caldecott Medal but I didn't read it until my son recommended it to me last year.

Sylvester, the young donkey protagonist, loves to collect pebbles. While out one day he finds a wish granting pebble. Before he can take it home a lion comes and tries to eat him. He ends up making a wish to save his life but at a great cost.

Most of the story though is about the aftermath of Sylvester's wish. He's stuck just up the hill from home but can't call for help. His parents think he's lost and go on with their lives morning the loss of their son. As a parent I was more distressed over the book than my son was.

Five stars.

Comments (2)


F U, Penguin: Telling Cute Animals What's What: 10/14/11

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I took F U, Penguin: Telling Cute Animals What's What by Matthew Gasteier from a recent BookCrossing meeting. The book was introduced with a story of misunderstanding and embarrassmen. Being somewhat of an addict of cuteness on the internet, and a firm believer that the web is made up of cats (and possibly penguins, for those running Linux), I had to take the book home.

It became my just before bed book for about a week. My husband can attest to the fact that I laughed at nearly every page and read about a third of the book out loud to him. I don't think he quite appreciated the ridiculousness of this book but I adored it.

I wish the Fuck You, Penguin blog was still being updated but that stopped in 2009. As an alternate, I suggest Cats Where They Do Not Belong. I suggest reading FU Penguin after reading Expletive Deleted by Ruth Wajnryb.

Four stars.

Other posts and reviews:

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Comments (0)

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Sea Gifts: 10/13/11

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Sea Gifts by George Shannon and illustrated by Mary Azarian is a single poem about a man who lives along the Alaskan coast and walks the beach for gifts he can use. During his morning stroll he finds some driftwood, takes it home and carves it into a little statue for his mantel.

Mary Azarian's detailed woodcut illustrations drew me into the book and kept me hooked. They balance Shannon's thoughtful poetry perfectly. The woodcuts are black and white, catching the starkness of the fog encroached rocky landscape.

The book was reissued in 2000. It's sadly not currently in print and copies can be pricey. If you're lucky enough to find a copy at your library or a used book store, take the time to read it. It's beautiful.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


Older Than the Stars: 10/12/11

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Older Than the Stars by Karen C. Fox and illustrated by Nancy Davis and illustrated by Nancy Davis uses the cumulative rhyming to teach children about the Big Bang Theory. I read it as part of my astronomy themed grad school project. It was the only Big Bang book I found for the 5 to 8 year old range.

The text is in two parts: a "House that Jack Built" style rhyme written into the illustrations and a block of typed text that elaborates on the introduced concepts. Children will learn about the universe, how stars and planets are formed and some basic theories behind chemistry.

The wild illustrations could serve as a inspiration for a science related art project. Children could paint stars or other elements from nature and make their own rhymes.

I read this book originally for my astronomy project in the materials for children ages 5 to 8 class.

Four stars

Comments (0)


Red-Eyed Tree Frog: 10/11/11

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My son and I are fans of nature photography. He brought home Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley and Nic Bishop from school mostly because of the gorgeous photograph on the cover.

Cowley's text is pretty basic, but was easy enough for Sean and Harriet to share together as she is just beginning to read. The text covers things like what frogs eat and what creatures eat frogs. It's repetitive with few words and a small vocabulary, good for young children curious about exotic animals.

But what really makes this book shine is the photographic work by Nic Bishop. His shots are full of detail, even the action shots. They are worth a second or third look after finishing the book.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


A Tree is Nice: 10/10/11

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A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont won the 1957 Caldecott medal. It's a celebration of trees and why they are nice.

The reasons listed are simple things like "they fill up the sky" to fun ones like you "can roll in its leaves." They provide shade for animals and homes for bird nests. And so forth.

The illustrations in each page spread alternated between line drawings and one watercolor illustrations. It's an usual but eye please combination. See the blog post at No Big Dill for examples of both.

As there's not much in the way of plot for this book, Harriet and I read the book once. Then we went back and looked at the illustrations and talked about the trees around we live.

Four stars.

Comments (0)


What Are You Reading: October 10, 2011: 10/10/11

What Are You Reading?

I guess it was a pretty normal week of reading for me. The longest book I finished was Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. It was a 12 disc audio book and took me three weeks of commuting to and from my internship to complete.

The next longest book I read was a review copy of Spectra by Joanne Elder. It's basically a mystery / thriller with a science fiction setting.

Of course I had some manga in the mix: two volumes of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. I should read xxxHolic Volume 17 soon. All three of these books are by the mangaka group CLAMP.

The picture books are either ones I read while waiting for the computer to process my spine labels or were ones my children read to me.

Coming up: lots and lots of library books I have been ignoring. Specifically: The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat, Worldshaker by Richard Harland and Outside In by Maria V. Snyder.

Finished Last Week:

  1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (audio) (library book)
  2. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and Lois Ehlert (personal collection)
  3. Day and Night by Teddy Newton (library book)
  4. The Paper Crane by Molly Bang (library book)
  5. Pinkalicious and the Pink Pumpkin by Victoria Kann (personal collection)
  6. Reading by Jan Ormerod (library book)
  7. Six Chinese Brothers: An Ancient Tale by Hou-Tien Cheng (library book)
  8. Spectra by Joanne Elder (review copy)
  9. Thirteen by Remy Charlip (library book)
  10. Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Vol. 14 by CLAMP (library book)
  11. Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Vol. 15 by CLAMP (library book)
  12. The Wolves of Wiloughby Chase by Joan Aiken (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Dog Days: A Year in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile by Dave Ihlenfeld (library book)
  2. Enter, Night by Michael Rowe (review copy)
  3. The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (library book)
  4. Pirate King by Laurie R. King (personal collection)
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (audio) (library book)
  6. A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks (personal collection)
  7. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (personal collection)
  8. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (personal collection)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Banana by Ed Vere
  2. The Best Birthday Ever by Me (Lana Kitty) by Charise Craighead
  3. Coco the Carrot by Steven Salerno
  4. I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed by Lauren Child
  5. LMNO Peas by Keith Baker
  6. Once I was a Cardboard Box, Now I'm a Book About Polar Bears by Anton Poitier
  7. Shape Me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen

Comments (30)


Once I was a Cardboard Box, Now I'm a Book About Polar Bears: 10/09/11

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I've read a handful of metafiction but I think Once I was a Cardboard Box, Now I'm a Book About Polar Bears by Anton Poitier is the first meta-nonfiction I've read. It is exactly about what the title says it is.

The book is a picture book with parallel information running in two columns. The first column which takes up two thirds of the page contains facts about polar bears and how the melting arctic ice is impacting their survival. The remaining third of the page goes through the timeline of recycling a box and printing a book.

The book itself has no plastic and unbleached paper pages, meaning they are a light brown. It's nice to see that the book is what it claims.

My son recommended the book to me.

Five stars.

Comments (0)


Shape Me a Rhyme: 10/08/11

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Shape Me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen with photographs by her son, Jason Stemple, is the third in a poetry series. The other two books are Color Me a Rhyme and Count Me a Rhyme. I haven't read them but I plan to.

In the introduction Yolen explains it was the most difficult one to complete because nature's shapes aren't always as regular as one would want for teaching basic geometry. Nonetheless the photographs work well with the poetry to express different geometric ideas.

While I am a fan of Yolen's work, I have to admit that Stemple's luscious photography, especially the snail shell on the cover, was what roped me in. This book was one of those that I read once through and then went back through just for the photographs.

Three stars.

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Coco the Carrot: 10/07/11

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Coco the Carrot by Steven Salerno was one of Harriet's more unusual but delightful finds at the library. Coco is a carrot with an eye for fashion. She escapes the refrigerator and decides to set out for Paris to accomplish her dream of becoming a hat designer.

Along the way Coco runs into trouble, including becoming a cast away. It's here that she hones her craft, working with whatever is available and making a name for herself from her tiny island in the middle of the ocean.

As a read-aloud book, it's a hard one. It's long with lots words. My daughter though had the patience to sit through the entire book. I think now that's getting better at reading, it will become a favorite of hers to re-read.

Five stars.

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I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed: 10/06/11

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I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed by Lauren Child is a book Harriet chose for herself at a recent trip to the book store. When the parents are busy, Charlie's put in charge of getting younger sister, Lola, to bed. Charlie has to use gentle persuasion and humor to get the rambunctious Lola to listen. She would rather bounce, play with stickers, and chatter than go to bed.

As a parent and an older sibling I could completely relate to Charlie's Herculean task. The youngest child needs exta sleep and the oldest child needs time alone. Unfortunately the youngest child often wants to do what the oldest one is doing, including staying up as late. We went through this with Harriet but Sean, just as Charlie does with Lola, came up with a compromise. He goes to bed and reads until he's tired. It's enough of a motivation to get Harriet to go to bed when she needs to.

Lauren Child uses a mixture of line art and collage in her illustrations. The energy in the artwork lends itself perfectly to Lola's unbridled enthusiasm for all things (expect going to bed). Fans of Victoria Kann's artwork (Pinkalicious) will like I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed.

Five stars.

Comments (4)


LMNO Peas: 10/05/11

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LMNO Peas by Keith Baker is a traditional alphabet book. It walks children through the alphabet with the aid some anthropomorphic peas who illustrate all sorts of different occupations and hobbies.

For children still learning the alphabet it would be a good re-along book. It can also be used with older classes to get children thinking about their hobbies and different occupations they might be interested in.

While the book isn't my favorite of the recent alphabet books I've read, my daughter has recently purchased a copy for her own bookshelf. She re-reads LMNO Peas every month or so. She likes all the different little peas doing things on each page.

Readers who enjoyed LMNO Peas might also enjoy Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal

Three stars.

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Banana: 10/04/11

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Bananas have been a running joke in my family since my son started calling them banoonoos when he was two. Then came Harriet's fascination with "Banana Phone." So when I saw Banana by Ed Vere at the library, I had to check it out.

A young, energetic monkey finds a banana. He's so excited about discovering it that he doesn't get a chance to eat it. By the time he's ready, another monkey has appeared and wants the banana too. Can the two learn to share?

Banana uses a very limited vocabulary and bright and humorous illustrations, both ideal for early readers. It was the first book Harriet read completely on her own. And read it she did, about a dozen or more times before it was due back at the library.

Five stars.

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The Best Birthday Ever! By Me (Lana Kitty): 10/03/11

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The Best Birthday Ever! By Me (Lana Kitty) by Charise May Harper follows Lana around as she prepares for and then hosts a birthday party. Through out the book Lana shares some dos and don'ts with her readers.

There are some humorous points, like the advice to not invite bees to the party. And there are some heavy handed bits, like the advice that goodie bags are a must for birthday parties now. The goodie bag is a relatively new invention and I'm not sure it's established well enough yet to warrant such sternness.

The Best Birthday Ever! falls into that weird educational category of books for children. It's basically the picture book equivalent to the adult self-help books. In either form, I find most of them cringe-worthy.

The book ends with a party craft suggestion: birthday crowns. There are some suggested crown themes along with the basic instructions. This page alone sold my daughter on the book as a whole. She had fun after reading the book with putting together her own birthday crown.

Two stars.

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What Are You Reading: October 03, 2011: 10/03/11

What Are You Reading?

It was a quiet week of reading for me. I have been concentrating on finishing my longer books. I have this growing collection of books stuffed between the slats of my futon and the wall. It's getting out of control. I need to finish the ones I have going!

My kids and I finished Ottoline and the Yellow Cat but haven't done much reading in the way of picture books. The picture books I have listed are ones I cataloged at my internship. I read them while I wait for the remote computer to run the reports so I can print out the spine labels.

My reading has been slow for a number of reasons. The first is, of course, school. I have a term paper I'm researching. I also have a lot of other smaller assignments that keep me busy.

At home, now, we also have a small kitten. She entered our life unexpectedly last Friday. It was either give her a home or trust her fate to an over crowded shelter. We gave her a home and named her Tortuga. She's gone from a small, malnourished, scared ball of fluff to a slightly larger, playful and snuggly ball of fluff.

I'll either start Schenectady by Don Rittner or The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat.

Finished Last Week:

  1. The Crows of Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley (library book)
  2. Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky (library book)
  3. No and Me by Delphine de Vigan (library book)
  4. The Old Woman and Her Pig by Paul Galdone (library book)
  5. Someday by Charlotte Zolotow (library book)
  6. Spot's Magical Christmas by Eric Hill (library book)
  7. The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (library book)
  8. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst (library book)
  9. Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Vol. 13 by CLAMP (library book)

Currently Reading:

  1. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (audio) (library book)
  2. The Mermaid's Mirror by L.K. Madigan (library book)
  3. Pirate King by Laurie R. King (personal collection)
  4. A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks (personal collection)
  5. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (personal collection)
  6. Spectra by Joanne Elder (review copy)
  7. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan (personal collection)
  8. The Wolves of Wiloughby Chase by Joan Aiken (library book)

Reviews Posted:

  1. Ambient Findability by Peter Morville (library book)
  2. Belinda the Ballerina by Amy Young (library book)
  3. Collective Intelligence by Pierre Levy (library book)
  4. How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim (library book)
  5. Librarian on the Roof by MG King (library book)
  6. Virtual Worlds, Real Libraries by Lori Bell and Rhonda Trueman (library book)
  7. Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Professionals by Ellyssa Kroski (library book)
Comments (28)

How You Got So Smart: 10/02/11

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How You Got So Smart by David Milgrim is a book that celebrates the milestones of childhood. It follows a baby boy as he grows and learns and goes through school and becomes "so smart".

My daughter liked the book, especially Milgrim's complex and often times silly illustrations. For instance, there's typically a pink doughnut on the page. I don't know if this is something he does in every book but it certainly caught our attention in this one.

The only think Harriet wanted to be different with the book was the main character's gender. She wanted it to star a smart girl instead of a smart boy.

Four stars.

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Belinda the Ballerina: 10/01/11

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>Belinda the Ballerina by Amy Young is the first of a series about a young woman who has big feet but loves to dance. The others in the series include: Belinda in Paris, Belinda Begins Ballet and Belinda and the Glass Slipper.

So Belinda is a girl who loves to dance. But she's not the typically petite ballerina. She's too tall and with her height comes big feet. She ends up setting aside her dream to wait tables. At the restaurant though she's given the chance to dance for the customers.

In true musical fashion, Belinda is discovered at the restaurant. She's at long last given a chance to dance ballet. The book closes with her on stage much as the original Angelina Ballerina book does (review coming).
I'm going to close with an observation my daughter made about Belinda's feet: "All ballerinas look like they have big feet when they're wearing pointe shoes."

My daughter picked out the book because she's taking ballet and tap. I'm not sure which type of dance she prefers but she loves to pick out books about dancing. She's also starting to discover the old MGM musicals. She likes the dance sequences in Daddy Long Legs, for instance.

Four stars.

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