saggingbookshelves

Have you seen this book yet?

Archive for the category “Reviews”

B is for Box: The Happy Little Yellow Box: A Pop-up Book by David A. Carter

I spend a lot of time with my granddaughter, Adelaide, reading books with her. Over Thanksgiving I brought out B is For Box and I wasn’t “reading” to her as much as exploring the book together. It is an interactive pop-up book from the word go and Adelaide wanted to read it with me again and again.

9781481402958_p0_v1_s600-1

Adelaide is 2-1/2 now and this book is perfect for little ones like her. On each page the “happy little yellow box” can be manipulated by turning a dial, pulling on a tab, lifting flaps, and Adelaide’s favorite: pulling the box up and down the slide. The black backgrounds make the white drawings jump off the page and the little yellow box does so even more. Adelaide played and played with all the gadgets all the while chattering away: “up the slide and down the slide” again and again. This book provided Adelaide with an engaging romp through its pages and provided me with her wonderful narration throughout. All of you out there who have preschoolers, put David A. Carter’s B is for Box in their pile under the Christmas tree, on the Kwanzaa table, or next to their driel. They will think Santa is brilliant!

Advertisements

Blizzard by John Rocco

John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor winning picture book, Blackout, captured a moment in time when the lights literally went out in New York City and people were forced to interact with one another. Their phones didn’t work, TVs didn’t, and the computers, streetlights, and neon signs just stopped. We’ve lost those evenings on the front porch where people talked and told stories and connected with their neighbors. It took a blackout to have that happen in New York and Rocco’s book celebrated that moment. It’s a wonderful book.

9781423178651_p0_v2_s600

Rocco’s new one is just as wonderful and it again highlights a specific moment (well, actually a week) when the snow falls up to 4 feet and the town shuts down. The protagonist  moves from sheer bliss that school is closed to being sick of being stuck in the house day after day as the food supplies dwindles. Its such a great tale from a child’s viewpoint. The art is terrific complete with a double gatefold with a map of the trail the boy takes as he ventures out to get groceries wearing tennis rackets as snowshoes. It makes me want to see the snow start falling.

This is a great book to read in class when the first snowflakes fall and the children are looking out the school house windows thinking only of getting out of school early. Pair it with Kevin O’Malley’s Straight to the Pole and Susan Jeffers’ beautifully illustrated version of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening to seize the moment and let the kids know you’re thinking of the days when you were the one looking out the window wistfully. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

 

9780802795700_p0_v1_s260x420

 

9780525467342_p0_v1_s600-2

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, ills. by Gilbert Ford

9780547959221_p0_v4_s260x420

I love picture books! Did you know it is Picture Book Month for all of November? It’s true and more info about that can be found at http://picturebookmonth.com. In the meantime, let’s celebrate all things picture book! Hooray!

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel will interest all children who have ever ridden, or even seen, a ferris wheel. Why is it called a “ferris” wheel? Ah, because the mechanical engineer who designed it was named George Ferris. He created this unusual attraction for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and it was the hit of the show. It was different in some ways and is more like a cross of what we know as a ferris wheel now and the London Eye. There were glassed-in compartments that held seats which is more like the London Eye that what we’re used to. No one thought Ferris could pull off this enormous feat of engineering. He showed them, didn’t he?

On the downside (and I still love the book) the wonderful illustrations would look so much better if the pages were a bit more substantial and a little glossy. They look kind of dull as it is now. As a reader, I also would have liked to know what happened to the ferris wheel when the World’s Fair closed. Did it remain or was it demolished? Did people continue to ride it?

Despite the limitations noted, it is definitely worth getting. Kids will be so intrigued by it and who knows, they might build one out of Legos. 🙂

Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail

I am always drawn to stories from the Holocaust and try to read everything that comes out. It’s odd, I think, to want to read about something so unthinkable but I do. For me it is akin to staring down the devil. While teaching in London back in 2011 I made a pilgrimage to the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. It was a difficult trip but I felt that I wanted to witness what happened to all of the people who died so horribly in those camps. I am glad that I did.

9780763664039_p0_v3_s260x420In Playing for the Commandant, Zail takes a new look at the Holocaust through the eyes of a young girl, just 16, who was an accomplished pianist in Budapest, Hungary when her family was arrested and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the camp she and her mother and sister are spared the gas chamber and sent to a barracks where their daily torture of starvation and back-breaking work begins. Soon her mother begins to lose her faculties and Hannah and her sister try desperately to protect her from the daily “selections.” Hannah is chosen to be the Commandant’s personal pianist and with very mixed feelings she accepts the position. She knows she will be given more food and better clothing that she plans to pass along to her mother and sister. At the commandant’s house Hannah gets to witness close up the abject cruelty in the heart of her captor but she is surprised by his artistic son who despises what is going on in the camps his father oversees. The conflict between playing beautiful music and “selling out” is a wonderful dynamic in this story. I think this book will find a place in the corpus of Holocaust literature for young adults. This book is meant for readers age 12 and up.

MV5BMjAzNDg3ODM1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ1MzA1MDE@._V1_SX214_AL_

This book brought a documentary film to mind as I read it. Called The Lady in Room 6 it tells the story of Alice Herz Sommer, a 109 year-old survivor of Terezin. Ms. Sommer was an extraordinary pianist who secured a place in the Terezin orchestra and, through the music, was able to survive the Holocaust. This documentary is absolutely fantastic. Ms. Sommer had a joie de vivre that was unbelievable given what she had been through. The documentary won the Oscar for best documentary in 2014. Sadly, Ms. Sommer died just before the Oscar was awarded. She died at 110. Treat yourself to this documentary which is available in numerous places online. It was the most uplifting true story I have ever seen. Her story had a lasting effect on my life.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

One of my favorite books last year was Katherine Rundell’s novel, Rooftoppers. I have book talked it all over the place and when I do I have come to describe it as a cross between Mary Poppins and Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl because of the quirkiness of his characters and their eccentric lives in England. In Rooftoppers we find baby Sophie in the English Channel sailing in a cello case following the sinking of a ship. She is found by an eccentric professor, Charles, and he decides to raise Sophie himself since she is clearly an orphan. And their life together is wonderful to them – but to, say, a child welfare clerk, maybe not so much. It is just different but we all know what different can lead to! The welfare agency threatens to take her away from Charles and the two of them head for Paris. Sophie has always felt that her mother is still alive and is convinced she is living in Paris. Charles and Sophie make it their mission to find out. It is there in Paris that Sophie meets Matteo and joins him on the rooftops of Paris looking down at the city. It is this foray onto the rooftops that helps the three of them figure out what happened to Sophie’s mom. It is an adventure, it is a little wacky, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful read. I haven’t had anyone say they weren’t crazy about it – quite the contrary – it’s a huge hit. It would make a great classroom read aloud for kids ages 8 and up.

9781442490598_p0_v1_s260x420

I couldn’t figure out how Rundell could pull off such a distinctive book again but she did it in Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms which came out in August. Twelve year-old Will (short for Wilhelmina) is in heaven on her family’s farm in Zimbabwe. she loves the wide open spaces, all of the different animals, and the new adventures that pop up every day. Her dad loves her to pieces and leaves this idyllic farm to a friend of theirs to keep for Will until she is grown. Enter the wily woman who tricks him into marrying her and the farm is gone in no time. The wicked stepmother packs Will up and sends her off to an English boarding school where she will be out of her hair. Will hasn’t a clue how to act with all these girls wearing the same outfit and mocking her every chance they get. When she can take it no more, this n]brave and gutsy girl decides to strike off on her own and takes off into London. She has survived the wilds of Zimbabwe – can she survive London? This is such a great read and, like her first book, wonderfully imaginative and fun.

9781442490611_p0_v3_s260x420

You’ll enjoy every minute of this story!

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

In an attempt to read all the books from the National Book Award long list, I have just finished 100 Sideways Miles. From the flap copy I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it. A teen thinks he just might be caught in his father’s science fiction novel? Generally not my taste. But that goes to show how sticking to the safe books can mean missing out on a lot of those quirky, risky (and wonderful) novels.

9781442444959_p0_v3_s260x420

And this one is very quirky and also hilariously funny. Finn, our protagonist and also the protagonist in his father’s book, is 16 going on 17 who has a best friend named Cade. Cade is legendary for things, well, best not said. 🙂 He’s a star athlete and says exactly what is on his mind whenever it comes into his mind. No filter there! Finn is kind of a loner and that’s likely down to his epilepsy. Ever since the accident that killed his mom and injured him (did I mention a dead horse fell on them? I told you it was quirky!), he has suffered with seizures. Smith writes them so that we can see, feel, and almost touch them. They’re that wild. But Julia, the new girl in school, sees beyond that and despite the  damage they both bring to their relationship, they begin seeing each other all the time.

Cade and Finn set off on a road trip to visit a college in Oklahoma and it is on that trip that Finn begins to see that he is not predestined by his father’s book; he is Finn the friend, boyfriend, son, protagonist of his own story. Despite all the wild and crazy trappings, this is a coming of age book. It’s deeply satisfying to see Finn come out of the whole experience all in one piece.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Honestly, this graphic novel is one of the most engaging and creative books I have read all year. It’s just astonishingly good and I think kids are going to absolutely love it.

9781419712173_p0_v3_s600Cece Bell already has a reputation for producing great books. She won a Geisel Award in 2013 for Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, a wonderful beginning reader that she wrote and illustrated. She also has a number of strong picture books. Among them are Sock Monkey in the Spotlight, Itty Bitty, and Crankee Doodle which her husband, Tom Angleberger, wrote and she illustrated. It’s not surprising, then, to see her tackle something as unusual and personals  El Deafo.

9781435119505_p0_v1_s600

9780763636166_p0_v1_s600

9780547818542_p0_v1_s260x420

El Deafo is Cece’s story , plain and simple. When she was four years old she contracted spinal meningitis and life was never the same for her. She lost her hearing and as much as we think we all know what that would be like, it takes Cece to tell us how baffling it really was. Why couldn’t she hear the TV, her Mom, her friends? When you are four years old how do you know that you are deaf? Cece had to adapt to a quiet world (pros and cons, she says) and especially to being different. She had something called a Phonic Ear which was a very large amplification system that hung around her neck on her chest. She wore it under her clothes to hide it but the ear buds were always visible. I have seen her Phonic Ear, by the way, and it really was unbelievably gargantuan! Cece’s art is perfection in this graphic novel. Her characters are bunnies which distances her a bit from her own story. By the time you finish this book you will have a whole new way of looking at all people and realize that each of us is different – some more obviously than others. This is a tale worth telling and I am so glad Cece has shared her experiences with all of us. This is an awesome book in every way!

 

The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine

I pulled this book from my sagging shelves yesterday because I really liked both of Kristin Levine’s previous books. I often do that – find an author I like and read everything they’ve written. I particularly liked The Lions of Little Rock. Set in Arkansas, this story of segregation takes place about a year after the Little Rock Nine crisis when the ugliness of segregation rears its head again. Two girls become good friends until one leaves school abruptly. Marlee finds out that Liz left their school because she was found to be black, not the white girl she pretended to be. The friendship endures through an awful time of white vs. black violence and all the ensuing unrest. Will Marlee and Liz be able to be friends in this polarized society? It’s really a marvelous book.

9780399163289_p0_v1_s260x420The Paper Cowboy is a multi-layered novel. It’s the story of a bully named Tommy whose occasional bullying initially seems to be more like pranks. It’s also the story of his mother’s mental instability following the birth of her 4th child.  It’s the story of rumor and innuendo as well.

This book is set in the McCarthy era when people became suspicious of one another being associated with Communism. Just as McCarthy ruined the careers of many people who he accused of being communists (without proof), Downers Grove is torn apart when a copy of The Daily Worker is found in town.

On the surface, life in Downers Grove in the 1950s seems as calm and staid as any other small town. Tommy’s family, however, is struggling. In the months following the birth of her 4th baby Mom is becoming more and more out of control. Wild mood swings, violent behavior, and depression turn her into someone he doesn’t know. His eldest sister, Mary Lou, protects him until she has an accident that puts her in the hospital for months. The pressure on Tommy is enormous and his behavior goes from mild bullying to out and out meanness. Relationships change in town when The Daily Worker surfaces bringing the reality of the McCarthy witch hunts front and center. Tommy is smack in the middle of it all. This is a beautifully written story of a bully whose behavior spirals out of control as his life in small town, post-war America  unravels before him.

This is a novel well worth reading. Kids from 10-13 is the targeted audience.

 

Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton

Rex is a bull in a china shop. Well, he’s actually just a high energy, active little dinosaur but he breaks things just as much.  His friends Gizmo, Sprinkles, and Wild are getting pretty tired of building things only to have Rex knock them all down. He’s not mean; he just seems programmed to knock things down. The three friends try to build a Rex-proof structure but somehow he manages to knock each and every one down.

9780763665012_p0_v2_s600

Rex finally understands that he is wrecking all the fun for his friends when Gizmo suggests they build something WITH Rex. The arch they build is fantastic – even Rex likes it. They built together and it will fall together. All four knock it all down together and have a blast doing it. I particularly like the last word Rex says: “Again?!”

This makes a great read aloud if you read it with some feeling. It is reminiscent in that regard to Dinosaur vs. Bedtime where the dinosaur repeats again and again: rawr, rawr, rawr! One of the characters, Wild, looks almost too much like Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Despite there being some derivative things in the book, it is a book that pre-K through 2nd will love.

Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney

This board is definitely a treat! Made for little hands who will have them outstretched for candy on Halloween, this rhyming, lilting story follows little Llama as he and his mother prepare for Halloween. The lead up to Halloween is almost as much fun as the holiday itself, isn’t it?

9780698156463_p0_v1_s600

Llama has to decide on a costume, of course, and little ones will wonder what he will choose. They pick a pumpkin, they carve it, they get their candy ready to give to trick-or-treaters, and before you know it, it’s time to don the costume. This will delight preschoolers who know well that Halloween = candy. Now that’s a holiday I can get behind!!!!

Post Navigation