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Books, Celebrations and Illustrations: A blog about books for young people, the authors and illustrators of those books, and little-known holidays.
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March 1st is quite the celebratory day as Little Known Holidays go - and in 2013, there are eight of them (that I know of at this time). Every one looks like a ton of fun, but with only so many hours in a day and only so much space in a blog post, let's split the difference and choose exactly half, and celebrate accordingly.
Let's start things off with National Pig Day. Created in 1972 by two sisters - Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave - the purpose of the day is "to accord the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man's most intellectual and domesticated animals."
Next on the list is Peanut Butter Lover's Day. And Share a Smile Day. Not sure what the backstory is on either one of these, but the porcine fellow below sees no reason why he shouldn't celebrate both - from ear to ear and elbow deep:
Last, but most certainly not least, March 1st is the day chosen by the National Education Association to observe 2013's Read Across America Day. (The official date for Read Across America Day is March 2nd - the birthdate of the late Theodor S. Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss.)Well. Not wanting to be outdone by a multitasking pig (clever though he may be), I thought it would be fun for us to celebrate not just two, but three of March 1st's holidays, all at once:
Books for Young People
Why not all four? Um, well, I think we have to draw the line at mixing books and peanut butter in the same celebration. That just does not end well. (The last time I tried, I ended up with peanut butter on the cover of one of my favorite books. And do you know, a little bit of that peanut butter is still there? True story!)But enough about my peanut-buttery past. Let's get to those books. Below, you'll find five pig-populated books that I've very much enjoyed reading and/or sharing with my kids over the years. For each one, I've listed the title, author and illustrator, reading level, and the book's Piggy Connection. If I've reviewed or posted in some way about the book, the title will be a clickable link that takes you directly to that post.Pete & PicklesWritten and Illustrated by Berkeley BreathedAges 4-8 Piggy Connection: Pete is a very orderly pig, whose orderly life takes a sudden disorderly turn.Arthur, For the Very First TimeWritten by Patricia MacLachlanIllustrated by Lloyd BloomAges 9-12 Piggy Connection: Bernadette, Uncle Wrisby's beloved pet pig, will soon give birth to a litter of wiggly piglets. And when she needs some help, it comes from a very unlikely source.Charlotte's WebWritten by E.B. WhiteIllustrated by Garth WilliamsAges 6-11
Piggy Connection: Wilbur the pig is the runt of the litter, destined for a very short life, indeed. But then Fern the farm girl steps in to save him, and Charlotte the spider helps him find his way in this world.PiggiesWritten by Audrey Wood and Don WoodIllustrated by Don WoodAges 5 and up Piggy Connection: Fingers and toes. Who knew these "piggies" could be so much fun?The Three PigsWritten and Illustrated by David WiesnerAges 4 and upPiggy Connection: The classic tale of the Three Little Pigs gets a not-so-classic retelling. Because this time, the pigs are taking charge of their story.
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And that concludes our little celebration. But the fun doesn't have to end here. Go on, enjoy March 1st in your own creative way, in all its piggy, peanut-buttery, smiley, book-filled glory. (But remember, you might want keep the peanut-buttery parts separate from the book-filled parts...)
"Be sure of it," said Lovelock. "This is the last time Mousebeard gets the better of me." Emiline shrank back into the passageway, the word 'Mousebeard' circling endlessly through her thoughts. He was the pirate of pirates: bigger, nastier, and hairier than any other. Ever since she was tiny she'd heard horrible tales of him and the infamous mice that lived in his beard. With her heart beating heavily, Emiline checked the mouse in her care. It was snoring sweetly, and making occasional sleepy squeaks. Something exciting was happening – something bigger and greater than anything that normally happened to a mousekeeper. She wanted to be part of it..." Overview:Twelve-year-old Emiline Orelia is mousekeeper for Isiah Lovelock, Old Town's most famous mouse collector and one of its wealthiest citizens. Emiline cares for her own Grey Mouse, named Portly, as well as all of the mice in Lovelock's vast collection. It's not a glamorous job, but Emiline is very good at it, and hopes one day to become a mousehunter, so she can go out and discover new and interesting mice.
In Emiline's world, collecting and trading mice is valued above all else - but these are no ordinary field mice. There is the Sharpclaw Mouse: a sneaky, mischievous mouse with huge, dagger-like claws on its front paws that can slice through even wood and metal with ease. Or the Magnetical Mouse: prized by sailors for their bulletlike nose that always points due north. Or the Howling Moon Mouse: best known of all the howler mice, it howls only on nights with a full moon. And this is only to name a few.
When Mousebeard, the most feared pirate on the Seventeen Seas, sinks Lovelock's merchant ship, Lovelock hires Captain Devlin Drewshank to hunt him down and capture him. Emiline overhears the deal and, seeing this as the chance of a lifetime, runs away and boards Drewshank's ship, excited to be on the adventure. The journey is a dangerous one, filled with pirates, and battles, and even sea monsters. And Emiline soon comes to realize that all is not exactly as she thought it was, and that no one she's met is exactly who she thought they were. For Teachers and Librarians:The Mousehunter is a book your students will love reading, and a book you will love for the many ways you can use it in your classes.How about a character study? Have your students - either individually or in groups - create character trading cards for each character in the book, with an illustration of the character on one side, and on the other, list the character's motivations, personality traits, and the events in which the character has important roles, etc.
Have any map geeks in your students' midst? This story lends itself perfectly to some cartography fun: have them research maps and mapmaking from early times, and the beliefs of those who made the maps. Discuss how the cartographers' and society's beliefs dictated to some extent what went on a map (i.e. sea monsters, indications of the edge of the earth, etc.) Then have your students create a map of the world of The Mousehunter, complete with markings consistent with the beliefs of the characters and their society, notations of the places where important events occurred, and indications of the journeys taken in the book.Pirates! No study of a piratey book is complete without some piratey lessons, now is it? Have your students compare/contrast Captain Drewshank with Captain Mousebeard, maybe presented with a skull-and-crossbones motif, or drawings of their respective ships. Complete a mini-unit on the seafaring life: types of pirate ships, parts of the ship, ship's crew and the duties of each (with special mention of the specialized crewmen created for this book's pirates), and maybe even some fun discussions/research concerning the naming of a pirate ship. And what about a quick discussion on pirates vs privateers? Cap off this mini-unit with small groups creating labeled models of Drewshank's and Mousebeard's ships, complete with crew. And of course, there's a curse. Great stuff can be found on pirates and their curse beliefs, given even a cursory bit of research. (Sorry. Couldn't help myself there...)I'm running out of room, but there are so many more ways to go with this book: a unit on island life and its impact upon people who live there (great anthropology and/or societal connections here); the habits and behaviors of hobbyists and collectors; animal classification (Illustrated mouse trading cards! Or go one better: clay models of the mice, along with accompanying description cards.); science/scientific study of animals; animal classification/care/study; evolution/adaptation of animal species; politics and how it impacts people and society. So many ways to go. Which will you choose?Other ideas? Feel free to list them in the comments.For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:Your kiddos will have a blast reading this book, and so will you. Besides being an exciting, mysterious, pirate-and-mouse-filled adventure, The Mousehunter has lots to think about. For example, the book has several characters who have various contradictions about them. Some are good guys with bad intentions, some are bad guys with good intentions. What is it that causes a person to be seen as "good" or "bad?" Actions? Behavior? Does how the person is perceived by others influence what/who they are? Or is it the other way around?This book also explores themes of friendship, enemies, trust, and betrayal. How do you tell the difference between an enemy and a friend? Or is it not that black and white? Can a person be a little bit of both? What do you do when a friend that you trust lets you down? How do you feel, and what can you do about those feelings?The Mousehunter is fun to read, with its pirates and unusual mice and such, but it also explores the sometimes complicated ways people relate to each other, and it hints that sometimes, people are not completely what they seem - which can be both good and not-so-good, depending on the situation. And don't we face things like that in real life every day? (Well, maybe not the pirates and the unusual mice...)
For the Kids:If you like adventure on the high seas, and pirates, and mice, then this is the book for you. OK. I know what you're thinking: Did she just say high seas and pirates...and mice? Yes. Yes I did. But the seas and pirates and mice in The Mousehunter are not your average, run-of-the-mill seas and pirates and mice. Nope. See, there are seventeen seas in Emiline's world, for one thing. And for another, the pirates are mouse-obsessed - though in their defense, so is practically everybody else in their world. And the mice? Well, they're like no mice you've ever seen before - some are older than old, some are almost four feet tall, some are bloodsuckers, some have wings, and some even have magnetic noses. Throw into the mix a couple of clashing pirate captains, a very wealthy dude who isn't quite the upstanding citizen people believe him to be, and a mysterious long-ago curse, and you've got a book you will not want to put down. (So why are you still sitting here reading this? Shoo! Go find yourself a copy of The Mousehunter and get reading. Adventure awaits!)
Wrapping Up:The Mousehunter is full of danger, intrigue, mystery, adventure, and tons of mouse-collecting, swashbuckling fun. It is a book not to be missed.Title: The MousehunterAuthor and Illustrator: Alex MilwayPages: 448Reading Level: Ages 10-12Publisher and Date: Little, Brown and Company, February 2009Edition: First US EditionLanguage: EnglishPublished In: United StatesPrice: $15.99ISBN-10: 0316024546ISBN-13: 978-0-316-02454-9
Children's author and illustrator Alex Milway was born in 1978, in Hereford, England. After entering art college in Shrewsbury at the age of 16, and then continuing to Cheltenham art college, he earned a degree in fine art.Though he now writes and illustrates children's books full time, Mr. Milway has previously tried his hand at a few other vocations. He worked for several years in magazine publishing, once had a summer factory job building air conditioning units for Range Rovers, and worked for a time in a WHSmith.His books to date include the Mousehunter trilogy, and the Mythical 9th Division series. In addition to creating children's books, Alex Milway runs school events and workshops. He lives in London, England, with his wife and family and Milo the cat. Sources:Alex Milway official siteAlex Milway author page - Faber and Faber official siteAlex Milway - Laura Cecil (literary agent) client pageInterview with an Author: Alex Milway - tall tales & short stories blog
Today marks the last day of the First-Ever Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons. Time sure flies when you're celebrating dragons.Confused? Check out the three bulleted links below, and they will bring you up to speed. Then come on back here to join us for the final festivities of Chez Wheedleton's 2013 celebration of Appreciate a Dragon Day:All caught up? Alrighty then. Off we go:
Even More Dragon Book Revelry!
Since this is our last celebratory post, we've filled this list with four books that are completely full of dragons, dragons, dragons. Enjoy:Seraphina
Written by Rachel Hartman
Ages 12 and up
In the kingdom of Goredd, distrust between dragonkind and humans runs high, despite a forty year peace. Tensions have been stretched as the anniversary of the treaty approaches. And upon discovery of the suspiciously dragon-like murder of the beloved Prince Rufus, relations are even more strained.It is in this atmosphere that sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh comes to live at court. Seraphina's new position highlights the unusual musical talents that her father has desperately tried all of her life to keep hidden, and that Seraphina has stubbornly pushed all of her life to be free to share. But despite her stubbornness where her musical talents are concerned, she does all she can to conceal another secret part of herself - a part that, if ever discovered, would mean her end.
Despite great risk of exposure, Seraphina helps Prince Lucian Kiggs - captain of the Queen's Guard, heir to the throne, and Glisselda's intended - to investigate Prince Rufus' murder. Glisselda becomes involved, as well, as the three of them uncover what they fear is a secret plot to destroy the peace. All the while, Seraphina struggles to keep her own personal secret. Yet the more she tries to protect herself, the more she stumbles upon new and confusing parts of herself - parts which may hold the key to foiling the plot and preserving the peace. Unless Seraphina can find a way to understand and control these new self-discoveries, she cannot hope to be able to use them. Should she fail, the tenuous peace between dragonkind and humans is doomed to shatter, and the awful fate her father has fought all of her life to prevent is doomed to come true.
Eragon Written by Christopher Paolini
Ages 12 and upWhen fifteen-year-old Eragon comes upon a polished blue stone deep in the forest of a mystical mountain range known as The Spine, he is wary. It is not like any polished stone he has ever seen before. Was it meant for him, or had he found something he shouldn't have?He eventually decides it would make a good trade for enough meat for the winter. When he is unable to make a trade, he takes it home. And then one day the "stone" cracks, and soon a beautiful, sapphire-blue creature emerges from within - a dragon he comes to name Saphira. Eragon is astonished - the race of dragons were believed to have become extinct long ago, at the hands of the evil King Galbatorix.
Eragon keeps Saphira hidden in the forest, where he cares for her in secret, and the two soon form an inseparable bond. With the help of an old storyteller named Brom, Eragon discovers the responsibility he now bears - he is the last Dragon Rider. Together with Saphira, they are the only hope of the Varden, dwarves, and elves, who have joined forces in the coming war against the evil King Galbatorix, to try and unseat the king and take back the Empire.
The Discovery of Dragons
Written and illustrated by Graeme Base (a.k.a. Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc.)
Ages 8 and up
From the "notably undistinguished Victorian scientist," Rowland W. Greasebeam, B.Sc. (Serpentology) F.R.Aud., comes this beautifully fully illustrated collection of rare historical documents which the good scientist asserts prove not only the discovery of dragons, but also the existence of the dragons' discoverers themselves.Said discoverers, who are three in number, include: Bjorn of Bromme - Viking pillager of 9th century Europe; Soong Mei Ying - youngest daughter of a Chinese silk trader, and traveler on the Silk Road in the 13th century; and mid-nineteenth-century Prussian cartographer Dr. E. F. Liebermann - whose letters were typed on the world's very first typewriter from within the confines of the African jungle.These letters Mr. Greasebeam has collected - some hand-written, some typed, all presented alongside wonderfully detailed sketches, drawings and paintings - chronicle the writers' fabulous adventures and heart-pounding encounters with dragons they came upon in their respective travels. A must-read for any true dragon enthusiast! But, are these tales fact? Or fantasy? Ah, well, that we must leave up to the discretion of the reader, mustn't we?
Dr. Ernest Drake's Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons
Edited by Dugald A. Steer, B.A. (Brist), S.A.S.D.
Illustrated by Wayne Anderson, Douglas Carrel and Helen Ward
Ages 8 and up
Dugald A. Steer, B.A. (Brist), S.A.S.D., presents a collection of the long-lost dragon research of nineteenth century dragonologist Dr. Ernest Drake. But, are these presentations legend, or fact, or a mixture of both? Whatever the answer, there is an abundance of information for one to sift through in order to make one's own determination: drawings, sketches, paintings, maps, scale samples, scientific name designations, and page after page of written material.Dr. Drake discusses differences between dragon species, examines dragon legends, and lists characteristics of various dragon types as well as possible related creatures. He details the life cycle of a dragon, dragon behavior, and how to track and find dragons. And once you've found them, Dr. Drake provides suggestions on how a dragon might be tamed. He even includes a set of three quite interesting appendices at the end, one of which contains "Useful Spells & Charms."
Interesting? Most assuredly.
A fascinating tome that even the most discriminating of dragon enthusiasts will treasure? Incontrovertibly.
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Welcome to the second day of the First-Ever Bugs and Bunnies Literary Appreciation of Dragons, which is in turn part of our Appreciate a Dragon Day celebration here at Chez Wheedleton.Not sure what this is all about? Click the following two links to get caught up, and then come on back here so we can continue the festivities:Ah! You're back! Best get to it then, shall we?
More Dragon Book Revelry! We have four more books to share today. Just like Part One's list, each book below deals with dragons on its own terms: in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so, but reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to celebrate Appreciate a Dragon Day:Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWritten and illustrated by Grace LinAges 9-12
Minli, her parents and the rest of the villagers who live in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain spend long, hard hours tromping about in the mud, backs bent as they tend their rice fields each day. But for Minli, each evening holds a bright spot, for it is then that her father tells her wondrous tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Her mother, who has grown weary of their poor life, admonishes her father against filling Minli's head with nonsense, but Minli not only enjoys the tales, but believes them to be true.
One day, Minli buys a goldfish from a goldfish man who comes to their village. But there is not enough food to go around, and Minli realizes she cannot keep it. When she goes to the river to set the goldfish free, Minli makes a startling discovery, which sends her off on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon from her father's stories. He is said to know the answers to all of life's questions, and Minli intends to ask him how her family's fortunes might be changed. Minli meets many interesting and sometimes magical folk along the way, including a dragon who decides to join her in her quest. But can they find the Old Man of the Moon? And even if they do, will he help?
The Dragon of Cripple CreekWritten by Troy HowellAges 8 and upWhen twelve-year-old, gold-loving, adventure-seeking Katlin Graham takes the tour of the old Molly Kathleen Gold Mine, she can't resist stepping past a barricade to get to what she thinks may be a bit of real gold. And that's when things go very wrong. The lights suddenly go out, the planks beneath her feet give way, and Kat falls deep into the pitch-black mine, in a part most certainly not on the tour. Injured and afraid, she has no choice but to feel her way through the unknown tunnel she's fallen into, and hope it leads to a way out.
When she finally sees light up ahead, it's not the way out she was hoping for. It's the lair of an ancient dragon named Ye. Ye is the last of his kind. And he is dying. But he can show her the way out. Before he does so, Ye tells Kat of the extraordinary truth about gold, and about the one cure that keeps a dragon from dying. Despite what he's told her, Kat can't resist swiping a nugget of gold as she follows Ye to the way out of the mine.
Back above ground, Kat finds herself in the midst of a media frenzy. In all the commotion of cameras and interviews, the gold falls from her pocket - right in plain view. The sight of that little bit of gold sets off a whole new gold rush in the rowdy western town of Cripple Creek, Colorado. It also sets off shame in Kat that she's taken Ye's gold despite the truth she's learned. So she determines to set things right. But can she find a way to return Ye's gold? And if she does, can she save him not only from discovery, but from death, as well?
Dragon RiderWritten by Cornelia FunkeAges 7 and up
Firedrake lives in the valley of the dragons with his dragon kin. But Rat has come to sound the alarm: humans are making their way to the valley, with plans to flood it for their own purposes. The dragons' home will be lost. If the dragons are to survive, they must leave.
Yet, there is hope. The oldest dragon in the valley, Slatebeard, has memories of another home. One safe from humans - the Rim of Heaven. If they are to save themselves, this is where the dragons must go. Only Slatebeard doesn't remember exactly where it is. So he tells the assembled dragons what he can: that its mountains are the highest in the world, with moonstone caves amongst its slopes, and that there is a valley floor in the middle of those mountains that is covered in blue flowers.
Young Firedrake volunteers to make the journey to find the Rim of Heaven. He is accompanied by his constant companion, a young brownie named Sorrel. Rat has a map-maker cousin who she feels sure can point them in the right direction, if only they can get to him undetected - for he lives in a big human city. Can Firedrake and Sorrel get to Rat's cousin undiscovered? Will Rat's cousin have a map that will lead them to the Rim of Heaven? And if they find the Rim of Heaven, can they get back in time to save the others?
The Kingdom of Fantasy (Geronimo Stilton)Written by Geronimo StiltonAges 7 and up
Geronimo Stilton, spectacle-wearing, mild-mannered mouse, and best-selling author and publisher of The Rodent's Gazette newspaper, has once again found himself the reluctant hero in the middle of an adventure he was in no way trying to find.
This time, the trail of a shooting star beams right through Geronimo's open attic window, lighting up a glittering crystal music box at his feet - one Geronimo has never seen before. As he's examining that music box, he hears a sound, and turns to find that the star trail has turned into a staircase made of golden dust leading up and up and up. So Geronimo does what any self-respecting, scared-yet-curious mouse would do: He grabs a bag of supplies, and he climbs that staircase.
At the top of the staircase is a golden door. Behind the door is a crystal cave. Within the cave is a Literary Frog named Scribblehopper, who believes Geronimo is nothing less than a Fair Knight in Shining Armor. From Scribblehopper, Geronimo learns that he is in the Kingdom of Fantasy, that Blossom, Queen of the Fairies is in terrible danger, and that Queen Blossom believes only Geronimo can save her. Geronimo sighs. What else can he do? He raises his paw and solemnly promises to save the Queen of the Fairies.
Sir Geronimo of Stilton and Scribblehopper the Literary Frog journey through (and face many dangers in) six different Kingdoms - including the Kingdom of the Dragons - before they reach the Kingdom of the Fairies. But, once there, will Sir Geronimo have what it takes to save the Queen?
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Please come back on Tuesday, January 15, when we present Part Three: Even More Dragon Book Revelry, with not three - as I previously stated - but four more books, since I found one more dragon book hiding amongst the other books on our shelves. (And isn't that a wonderful bit of serendipity?)
If you've been visiting Bugs and Bunnies for at least the past two years, you may already be familiar with Appreciate a Dragon Day. If you've forgotten, click on the link at the end of that first sentence to get re-familiarized. Then come on back to see what's in store for this year's celebration.If you're new here, first of all: Welcome! And second: If you didn't already click on the Appreciate a Dragon Day link, here's a brief description of what the day is all about: Celebrated annually on January 16th, the day was created in 2004 by author Donita K. Paul to celebrate the release of her novel DragonSpell (WaterBrook Press, 2004). For the more in-depth description, click on the link in the first paragraph, but don't forget to come back to this one to join in this year's festivities.Appreciate a Dragon Day is a big hit here at Chez Wheedleton. At least one of us is a very big dragon enthusiast, and we all enjoy celebrating the day. In past years, we've made pipe cleaner dragons. We've made dragon cookies. We've drawn and colored pictures of dragons. We've checked out dragon books from our local library. We've purchased a fair share of dragon books. We've watched dragon movies. We've even ridden more than a few dragon-themed roller coasters.This year, we're celebrating by sharing some of our favorite dragon books here at Bugs and Bunnies. We've quite a list, so I've broken it into three parts. Part One is right here, right now, with a list of four dragon books that we've loved and that I've reviewed here before. Part Two will post on Monday, January 14, 2013, featuring four more dragon books we've read and loved but that I haven't shared here before. Our celebration will conclude with Part Three, which will post on Tuesday, January 15, featuring the final three dragons books we've read and loved but not yet shared here.Now that all the explanatory stuff is out of the way:
Let the Dragon Book Revelry begin!Each book below deals with dragons on its own terms: in some, dragons are central to the story, and in others, less so, but reading any or all of these books is a wonderful and fun way to celebrate Appreciate a Dragon Day:
How to Train Your DragonWritten and illustrated by Cressida CowellAges 8-12Hiccup is the son of the Hairy Hooligans' Viking chief, and destined to take over that leadership from his father. But first, he - along with all the other boys his age in the tribe - must successfully complete an important rite of initiation: climb up into the dragon cave, locate the dragon nursery, bag a sleeping juvenile dragon for his lifelong companion, and get out. All without waking up the rest of the hundreds of dragons slumbering there, who will surely pursue the boys and ensure a rather grisly end to their quest. And then, he has to prove his mastery over this dangerous creature by training it. The problem is that Hiccup is not very much like his mighty Viking father, and not very like a typical Viking, for that matter. In fact, the other boys have dubbed him Hiccup the Useless, all except his loyal friend Fishlegs. Can he complete this quest, fulfill his destiny, and earn the respect of the tribe? Or will he end up a charbroiled dragon snack? Kenny & the DragonWritten and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizziAges 8 and upKenny is a book-loving rabbit who lives with his farming mother and father. One day, his father bursts in from the sheep field in a panic, announcing that they must pack their things ASAP and light out of there, because he just saw a real, live, dragon! At the top of their very hill! After consulting his borrowed copy of a bestiary, Kenny persuades his parents to let him go check it out. Once he finally meets the dragon, he realizes the bestiary isn't entirely accurate concerning his new friend. But then the townspeople get wind of the dragon, and are so frightened that they prepare to rid themselves of it. Can Kenny show the townspeople that the dragon is not what they think? Or, will he have to make the impossible choice of saving a new friend, or saving an old one? The Shamer's DaughterWritten by Lene KaaberbolAges 9-12
Ten-year-old Dina Tonerre has very special eyes, but no one wants to meet them. Even her own friends gradually stop looking directly at her, and don't play with her anymore. She inherited those eyes from her mother, The Shamer. A Shamer is a person with the gift of reading a person's soul, of being able to see everything a person is ashamed of. But as Dina soon learns, it is a gift that is both blessing and curse, and she's not at all sure she wants it.
Her mother is sentenced to be fed to the dragons because she won't condemn a boy accused of murder - a crime that, after looking into his eyes, she is adamant that he did not commit. Dina is tricked into joining her mother at the castle where she is being held, by the very man who has decided her mother's fate. But when she meets the accused boy, she sees what her mother did - that he is innocent.
With the help of unlikely allies, Dina embarks on a perilous journey to discover the true killer, and to save her mother and the boy. Along the way, she learns about trust and friendship, and finds the courage to accept who she is.Dragon's KeepWritten by Janet Lee CareyAges 12 and up Princess Rosalind longs to be free of her golden gloves, to feel the breeze blow through the fingers of her bare hands. But she cannot. Her mother, Queen Gweneth, forbids it until such time as a cure can be found. For the gloves conceal a terrible secret - one known only to the two of them. If any other in their dragon-plagued kingdom were to discover her flaw, how could Rosalind become Wilde Island's twenty-first queen, and fulfill the wizard Merlin's 600-year-old prophesy?
When the dragon wrenches Rosalind from her home and wings her away to Dragon's Keep, the destiny she has known of all her life - yet never fully understood - unfolds in ways she never saw coming.
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"Clara slept. Never in her life had she known so dense a sleep; a sleep without dreaming, without the slightest twitch of finger or eyelid. She was as lifeless as a pressed flower. If she had been awake, she could not have said whether her eyes were open or shut. Her mind was empty, freed from guilt and terror and grief. Only the night before, she had spoken of her fear of cold and darkness; now darkness and cold claimed her, and she was not afraid." Overview: It is November the sixth, in Victorian London, and Clara Wintermute is turning twelve. To her delight, her father has reluctantly consented to hire the mysterious street performer, Professor Grisini and His Venetian Fantoccini, into their home as her party entertainment.Yet when the puppetmaster finally arrives, it is his two orphaned assistants, almost-fourteen-year-old Lizzie Rose and probably-eleven-year-old Parsefall, that Clara is most excited to see. Clara thinks their lives must be grand - free from studies, able to perform marionette shows for people out in the open air. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall think Clara's life must be grand - only child of a wealthy household, indulged by her parents, provided with a fine education. But all three children soon find that all is not as they supposed.
Clara vanishes late that evening, with the dark and secretive Grisini pegged as her probable kidnapper. When Grisini suddenly goes missing not long after, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall fear he does indeed have something to do with Clara's disappearance. And soon, they find themselves on an unexpected and dangerous quest to find her. For Teachers and Librarians:Splendors and Glooms is a book that will both hold your students' interest, and provide you with plenty of ways to incorporate the book into a variety of lessons.It fits nicely into a lesson on literary genres - take your pick of gothic novel, historical fiction, mystery, dark fairy tale, and/or even thriller. And with the magic aspects, vivid dreams, and Lizzie Rose's uncanny sense of smell, you could even argue it touches just a bit if not more so on the edges of paranormal.The book contains two overlapping stories that eventually converge at a crucial point: after discussion, have your students demonstrate their understanding of this graphically, via Venn Diagram.Another idea: the author's favorite writer is Charles Dickens, and the book is often described as Dickensian - which leads nicely into a lesson on characteristics of a Dickensian novel, and identification of those characteristics in this book.During an interview in the Baltimore Sun, the author discusses her interest in Faustian bargains as part of a novel: have your students research and define the term, and then identify the Faustian bargain(s) in this book - who made one, what were the terms, how did things turn out for that character, etc.You could include the book in a unit on Victorian London: compare/contrast life for rich vs poor, discussing how children fared in each; talk about Victorian mourning customs; have your students research diseases and treatments from that era, with a focus on cholera (which touches Clara's family in a heartbreaking way); plan a lesson on types of entertainment enjoyed during that time period, with a mini-unit on marionette shows and puppetry.If you have other lesson ideas, feel free to share them in the comments section below. For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:Make sure your kiddos don't have anywhere to be before you hand them Splendors and Glooms, or when it's time to go, you may hear repeated cries of, "Wait! I just have to finish this part first!" It is a book full of mystery, suspense and magic that will keep them wanting to turn pages - but not too quickly. There is much to take in, and they'll want to take their time to make sure they experience it all. Your young readers will feel for the characters as they navigate the well-meaning yet at times very misunderstood bonds of family, as they work to establish and maintain friendships, as they learn to recognize and trust those people in their lives who prove themselves true and genuine, and as they struggle to find their true place in the world. For the Kids:Splendors and Glooms isn't your average, run-of-the-mill book with magic in it. Nope. It has the kind of magic that you have to really pay attention to see. It hides from you, but hints at you. It peeks out from behind the corners, or ducks behind the couch just as you catch a glimpse of it, so that you can't help but chase it around because you just have to know what's going on. At the same time, maybe you're a teensy bit scared to catch up to it - though you'd never admit it - because that magic may or may not be evil. So you read the book. And you keep reading, shivering a little sometimes, peeking through the cracks between the fingers you've clamped over your eyes at other times, and giggling here and there in between, 'cause you just have to know what's going on, and how it all turns out. No matter how long it takes.Clara is a twelve-year-old rich girl living in Victorian London who seems to have it all in the eyes of almost-fourteen-year-old Lizzie Rose and probably-eleven-year-old Parsefall. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are assistant puppeteers who seem to live a free and easy life in the eyes of Clara. Each longs for the life of the other, for different reasons. But each of them has secrets and griefs and guilt and fears that none of the others know about. Throw in an evil puppetmaster and a doomed and vengeful witch, and you've got the makings of a book that you Will. Not. Put. Down.For Everyone Else:What can I say about Splendors and Glooms that I haven't already said? Probably plenty. But no matter what your age, if what I've said so far isn't enough to entice you to read this thoroughly wonderful novel, maybe the section below is: Wrapping Up:Splendors and Glooms is the type of book a reader wants to linger over. With an abundance of rich description, many twists and turns, suspense, mystery, touches of humor, a goodly dose of good vs evil in many forms, and variety of very real and strong and relatable emotions, to rush the read means to miss far too much. And not to read it at all would just be a terrible shame. So go. Get the book. Then grab a blanket, curl up on the couch, and start reading. Title: Splendors and GloomsAuthor: Laura Amy SchlitzJacket Illustration: Bagram IbatoullinePages: 400Reading Level: Ages 9 and upPublisher and Date: Candlewick Press, 2012Edition: 1st EditionLanguage: EnglishPublished In: United StatesPrice: $17.99ISBN-10: 0763653802ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-5380-4
Laura Amy Schlitz is a true creative soul. She loves to make things (bread, marionettes, quilts, watercolors, and origami animals), and write things (books, plays and stories). She has been by turns and/or simultaneously: a playwright, a storyteller, a costumer, an actress, a children's author, and a children's librarian.Born January 1, 1956, in Baltimore, Maryland, Ms Schlitz graduated from Goucher College with a B.A. in aesthetics in 1977. She spent three years in the 1980s as an actress touring with the Baltimore-based Children's Theater Association. She has been since 1991 - and continues to be - a children's librarian at Park School in Baltimore, MD. And all the while, she writes.Ms Schlitz has so far written six books for children, all published by
Candlewick Press. In 2008, she won the Newbery Medal for Good Masters, Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, illustrated by Robert Byrd (2007). Her most recent work is Splendors and Glooms (2012). Her other titles include: Bearskinner: a tale of the Brothers Grimm (2007); Hero Schliemann: the dreamer who dug for Troy (2006); Night Fairy (2010); and A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama (2006).
In addition to her children's books, Ms Schlitz has written children's plays, which have been produced by professional theaters around the USA.
Ms Schlitz, whose favorite author is Charles Dickens, lives in Maryland.Sources:Bios: Laura Amy Schlitz - Candlewick PressLaura Amy Schlitz - freshfiction.comLaura Amy Schlitz - BTSB BookstoreNewbery Winner Laura Amy Schlitz publishes her magnum opus - Baltimore Sun articleQ&A with Laura Amy Schlitz - PW Weekly
Not the most inspiring of epitaphs, is it?* Yet that, or something worse, may be exactly the type of thing you get if you leave the writing of your gravestone epitaph up to whomever gets pressed into doing the job upon your untimely demise. (Because all demises are untimely, aren't they?)
Sometimes, your epitaph writer has your back. The mother of the outlaw Jesse James (1847 – 1882) did. She had this put on his tombstone:
In Loving Memory of my Beloved Son,
Murdered by a Traitor and a Coward Whose
Name is not Worthy to Appear Here
Ellen Shannon's epitaph writer did as well, putting this inscription on her tombstone:
Who was fatally burned
March 21, 1870
by the explosion of a lamp
filled with "R.E. Danforth's
Non-Explosive Burning Fluid."
And sometimes, your epitaph writer cares very much for you, as Sylvia Plath Hughes' husband seems to have done for her. He had this inscribed on her tombstone:
Even amidst fierce flames
the golden lotus can be planted.
But it's hard to know for certain that the words chosen to grace your grave will be as flattering as you'd like. How, then, to ensure the "dearly" in "dearly departed" for the stone that marks your eternal resting place?
Lance Hardie knows just what you should do: write your own epitaph, and plan it well before the Grim Reaper pays you a visit. In fact, he found a way to turn the planning process into an official holiday (Mr. Hardie, that is; not the Grim Reaper). He persuaded the folks at Chase's Calendar of Events to accept Plan Your Epitaph Day, celebrated annually on November 2nd, into their listing of holidays. Why November 2nd? Because it appropriately coincides with the more well-known, but equally important holiday, the Day of the Dead.
So: write your own epitaph. Pompously presumptuous? Or seriously strategic? Let's examine this further, shall we?
Here are a few things you may want to consider before you decide to just leave the whole thing up to chance:
Your epitaph may be written by folks who didn't like you much, as seems to have happened to this poor soul:
In memory of Beza Wood
Departed this life Nov. 2 1937 – Age 45 yrs.
Here lies one Wood
Enclosed in Wood;
The outer wood
Is very good:
We cannot praise
You may not have been the model spouse you believe yourself to be. Here's what poet H.J. Daniel wrote for his own wife's tombstone:
To follow you I'm not content.
How do I know which way you went?
Your epitaph writer may choose to simply record for eternity your cause of death, as was the case with the unfortunate Mr. Smith:
Harry Edsel Smith
Born 1903 – Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft
to see if the car
was on the way down.
Maybe mere damage control isn't enough motivation for you to get that epitaph written, pre-demise. In that case, perhaps these points will sway you:
Writing your own epitaph gives you the very satisfying opportunity to get in the final word, a last laugh, or an unrebuttable parting shot, as these folks did:
I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.
There goes the neighborhood.
Eric W., Jr. Mar 13, 1922 – June 15, 1982
I made a lot of deals in my life
but I went in the hole on this one.
Or, writing your own epitaph can send just enough of a shiver down the grave visitor's spine to ensure that your eternal resting place remains undisturbed, as William Shakespeare did:*translated into Modern English:
Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
After all that, if you're still intent on leaving your epitaph up to chance, perhaps you'll get lucky, having done so many things in life that brought so much joy to so many, that your epitaph writer has no trouble finding the perfect words to memorialize your life:
*Ok, so I'm the one who composed that pitiful epitaph up there in that illustration at the top. To my family and friends: For the love of Pete, do not put that on my gravestone. I'm sure I can come up with something better. Eventually.
Sources:MTWorld.com: Funny Grave Epitaphs
Write Your Epitaph - More than just R.I.P. (Rest in Peace), by Chris Raymond
I've got the blog re-design bug, so regular readers will notice a few changes here at Bugs and Bunnies over the next couple of weeks and months. The last time I did any major tweaks to the design was summer of 2008, so I figure it's due for a new look. Though the design will change, the content will not. Reviews of books for young people, author and illustrator spotlights, and posts about little-known holidays will all still continue, as will the occasional post of illustrations I've been working on.
By the time the dust has cleared, you'll be greeted by a less cluttered page, with hints of the current color scheme, but a lot less dark and a lot more light. After that, watch for a re-vamped blog header, and even a custom favicon (that little picture next to the web address in your browser address bar).Please come back often to visit, and to check out what's new.
...which is this: 87MRZE2NN5JFSplendors and Glooms, by Laura Amy SchlitzAges 9 and up The Crowfield Curse, by Pat WalshAges 8 and up The Giver, by Lois LowryAges 12 and up
...which is a bit of administrative weirdness.
...which you can ignore, Dear Readers.
But, so this awkward bit of a post isn't wasting your valuable web browsing time, how about a trio of quick book recommendations?
Have you read these books? I have, and they're just wonderful! Hopefully, you'll see full reviews here at Bugs and Bunnies for each of these sometime in the coming months, but until then, go find them and read them. It will be time well-spent.
Today is the fourth and last Friday of September 2012, which means it is the last post for the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series. But take heart: We get to do this all over again in just 12 short months - with a whole new pile of books about wonderfully weird characters!If you're new here, just click on the link in the paragraph above, and that will get you all caught up on the wonderful literary weirdness that has been an annual celebration here at Bugs and Bunnies since 2010. Then come back to this post to continue the fun.
* * * Back now? Great! Let's get going, shall we? So far, we've celebrated with three different categories:Today, we wrap up with:
Activism, Or: Something to Believe In
These are characters who know what's right, and they know what's needed, and by golly, they're gonna find a way to make it happen.CLICK, CLACK, MOO Cows That Type, written by Doreen Cronin, pictures by Betsy LewinAges 5 to 7
Farmer Brown's cows found his old typewriter in the barn. He heard them click-clacking on the keys all day long, and he couldn't believe it. Cows that type? Impossible! He went down to check it out, and found a typed note on the barn door. The cows had a request: electric blankets, to ward off the cold of the barn at night.
When Farmer Brown read the note, he was incensed. First they're in there click-clacking on a typewriter all day, and now this? He typed out a note of his own: no blankets!
And that's when the cows went on strike...That Girl Lucy Moon, by Amy TimberlakeAges 9 to 13Lucy Moon has always been unafraid to fight injustice. Back in elementary school, she swooped in to save ants from magnifying-glass-wielding assassins. She supported animal rights...during hunting season. She wore her signature green-and-yellow, made-of-hemp hat every day to call attention to the plight of third world workers. She started petitions. She even organized protests. Lucy had gumption.But when she got to junior high, Lucy didn't feel any of that gumption. Being different in elementary school made a kid cool, but being different in junior high made a kid a misfit. Lucy didn't it understand it at all. Then came the afternoon of October 3rd. A wind tried to lift the hemp hat from her head. Her best friend Zoë Rossignol called Lucy out on her uncharacteristically meek response to a punishment they both knew was unfair. And two kids got arrested for sledding down Wiggins Hill. Rumor had it that it was Miss Ilene Viola Wiggins herself who demanded the arrests.When the Turtle Rock Times refused to run the arrest story, Lucy and Zoë smelled a cover-up – and Lucy's gumption came roaring back. But this fight for justice lands Lucy the label "bad influence," and soon her support system feels like it's falling apart. And then Lucy begins to wonder: Is the fight worth it?Neversink, by Barry Wolverton, with drawings by Sam NielsonAges 8 to 12
On the small island of Neversink, Lockley J. Puffin lives with his wife Lucy and his fellow auk colony, along with his two best friends: Egbert – a know-it-all walrus, and Ruby – a snarky hummingbird. It's a pleasant life, with plenty of fish and beautiful views.
But to the south, on the mainland of Tytonia, Rozbell has just been crowned king of the Owl Parliament. The owls face a dwindling food supply, and to solve the problem, the scheming Rozbell sets his sights on taking over Neversink. When the owls come, they embark on a path certain to destroy the auks' way of life. After several attempts to defeat the owls, it becomes clear that it's up to Lockley to save the colony.
But, can he?Chomp, by Carl HiaasenAges 10 and up
Wahoo Cray's dad, Mickey, is a professional animal wrangler in the Florida Everglades who's been unable to take any jobs since a frozen iguana fell from a palm tree and landed on his head. Wahoo helps keep things going, caring for the animals that live in the zoo that is the Cray's backyard.
Then along comes Derek Badger's reality TV show crew. They want to hire Mickey to wrangle animals for the show, "Expedition Survivial." Their offer is enough to cover the mortgage payment and then some, and Wahoo convinces his dad to take the job.
Derek shows himself to be far less than the survivalist he makes himself out to be on the show. Mickey's disgust for the man and his poor treatment of the animals, threatens to lose Mickey the job – and therefore the mortgage money – and it's left to Wahoo to smooth tensions.
Along the way, Tuna comes into the mix – a girl from Wahoo's school needing a place to hide from her abusive dad. Wahoo convinces Mickey to let them take her on the job with them. Then, when Wahoo, Tuna and Mickey are on location in the swamp with Derek and the crew, Derek gets chomped on the nose by a wild bat and goes missing – right as a huge storm is brewing.
And then as the search for Derek gets underway, Tuna's dad shows up...Here Lies the Librarian, by Richard PeckAges 10 and up
it's 1914, and fourteen-year-old Peewee McGrath lives with her big brother Jake. Their parents gone, they live on their own, running a struggling garage, and fending off the sabotage attempts of a rival garage in town run by the underhanded Kirbys. Peewee loves her independence, preferring to wear overalls and help Jake build his racecar to wearing dresses and doing "girl" things.
But then four female library students pull up to their station, their car in need of repair. When they return later to reopen the tiny town library that's been closed since the previous librarian died, Peewee gets to know the young women better. And soon she comes to discover that being female and being independent don't have to be two different things.
* * *
Leave a comment or drop me an email – bugsandbunnies (at) verizon (dot) net – if you have suggestions for books to include in next year's series.
Remember Merriam-Webster's definition of weirdo? "A person who is extraordinarily strange or eccentric." There is a wide range of Weird in this world. Some of us are more so than others. We Weirdos may be different, but always remember: we are extraordinarily so.
Welcome to Installment #10 of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series! Wondering what this is all about? Click the link above, and that will get you all caught up. Then come on back here, and we'll continue the wonderful literary weirdness.Ah, there you are. Back for more? Fantastic!
For the past two Fridays, we've celebrated two installments full of books with wonderfully weird characters:This week's theme:
She Marches to the Beat of a Different Drummer
That's right: Girl Power! The girls/ladies in these books may not fit what other folks around them would call "normal," but they don't let that stop them from being who they are and doing things their own way.
Lucky Trimble never goes anywhere without her survival-kit backpack, to try and be prepared for anything. Having lost her mom in a freak accident, she has been abandoned by her dad, who left her in the care of his French ex-wife, Brigitte. They live in three aluminum trailers, connected by soldered passageways, in the hardscrabble town of Hard Pan, California: population 43. Life is not easy there, and money is scarce.
Lucky worries that Brigitte will tire of her and of life in Hard Pan and move back to France, making Lucky have to move to a foster home, because "The difference between a Guardian and an actual mom is that a mom can't resign." To ward off this situation, Lucky spends her time eavesdropping on the 12-step meetings of the "anonymous people" at the Found Objects Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, hoping to discover the key to finding her Higher Power, so she can take control over her life.
Savvy, by Ingrid Law
Ages 8 and up
Thirteenth birthdays are a big deal in the Beaumont family, because that's the day their savvy first shows itself. For Mibs Beaumont, that day was nearly here. Her oldest brother, seventeen-year-old Rocket, could spark electricity. Her fourteen-year-old brother Fish could control the weather. And Grandpa Bomba could move mountains! Mibs is sure her own savvy will be something just as wild and wonderful as theirs, and she can't wait to find out what it is. But just before her big day, Poppa is in a serious car accident. Mrs. Beaumont and Rocket rush to the hospital to be with him, leaving Mibs, Fish, and their seven-year-old brother Samson at home. The preacher's wife, Mrs. Meeks, finds out what's happened, and comes over to take charge. When she realizes Mibs' birthday is nearly here, Mrs. Meeks is determined to throw her a very public party - not a good thing for a Beaumont about to turn thirteen. But Mibs is determined to find a way to get to the hospital. She's given up thinking her savvy will be something big and powerful, and instead is convinced that it will be something that will save Poppa.Silly Sally, written and illustrated by Audrey WoodAges 4 to 7
Silly Sally is on her way to town, but she has a funny way of getting there. She walks, yes, but Silly Sally walks backwards...and upside down. Along the way she meets a few new friends, and together, they dance, leapfrog, sing and even sleep on their way to town. Wait. Sleep? Oh my! How will Silly Sally ever get to town sleeping backwards, upside down?The Amelia Bedelia Treasury: Three Books by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel and Barbara Siebel ThomasAges 5 to 7
Amelia Bedelia is Mr. and Mrs. Rogers' new housekeeper. Before going out for the day with her husband, Mrs. Rogers gives Amelia Bedelia a list of things to do. Wanting to do something nice for her employers, Amelia Bedelia first makes a special surprise for them. And then, she reads Mrs. Rogers' list, and follows it precisely as written.
When she sees, "Change the towels in the green bathroom," Amelia Bedelia grabs some scissors, and she changes those towels. When she sees, "Dust the furniture," she grabs a box of dusting powder from the bathroom counter, and Amelia Bedelia dusts that furniture. And she keeps going until she's finished every job on the list.
When Mrs. Rogers gets home and sees just how precisely Amelia Bedelia followed her instructions, she is ready to fire this new housekeeper on the spot. But just as Mrs. Rogers opens her mouth to say so, Mr. Rogers pops a spoonful of a most delicious dessert in his wife's mouth. It is the special surprise Amelia Bedelia had made for them that morning. But is it delicious enough to make Mrs. Rogers change her mind?The Mousehunter, written and illustrated by Alex MilwayAges 10 to 12
Twelve-year-old Emiline Orelia is mousekeeper for Isiah Lovelock, Old Town's most famous mouse collector and one of its wealthiest citizens. Emiline cares for her own Grey Mouse, named Portly, as well as all of the mice in Lovelock's vast collection. It's not a glamorous job, but Emiline is very good at it, and hopes one day to become a mousehunter, so she can go out and discover new and interesting mice.In Emiline's world, collecting and trading mice is valued above all else - but these are no ordinary field mice. There is the Sharpclaw Mouse: a sneaky, mischievous mouse with huge, dagger-like claws on its front paws that can slice through even wood and metal with ease. Or the Magnetical Mouse: prized by sailors for their bulletlike nose that always points due north. Or the Howling Moon Mouse: best known of all the howler mice, it howls only on nights with a full moon. And this is only to name a few. When Mousebeard, the most feared pirate on the Seventeen Seas, sinks Lovelock's merchant ship, Lovelock hires Captain Devlin Drewshank to hunt him down and capture him. Emiline overhears the deal and, seeing this as the chance of a lifetime, runs away and boards Drewshank's ship, excited to be on the adventure. The journey is a dangerous one, filled with pirates, and battles, and even sea monsters. And Emiline soon comes to realize that all is not exactly as she thought it was, and that no one she's met is exactly who she thought they were.
* * *
Until then, I'll leave you with this:
We could learn a lot from crayons; some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, while others bright, some have weird names, but they all have learned to live together in the same box.
- Robert Fulghum
All caught up? Great! Let's get going, shall we? Last week, our theme for Installment #8 was Classics...And Classic Twists. This week's theme is:
To Catch a Mermaid, by Suzanne Selfors
Boom Broom is a twelve-year-old with a lot on his shoulders. Ever since a freak twister touched down in Fairweather Island a year ago right in the Broom's front yard, and carried off Mrs. Broom, the family had never been the same. Mr. Broom refuses to leave the attic except for bathroom breaks, or to grab food prepared by the hired cook. The cook is a proud Viking descendant named Halvor who only prepars fish, fish, more fish, and thick black coffee. Mertyle, Boom's little sister, refuses to leave the house, inventing one sickness after another so she won't have to go to school. Boom refuses to let the twister alter his life and tries to carry on, but he still has to deal with his family's eccentricities, and with neighborhood bully Hurley Mump and his equally bully-ish family.
Then one day, Boom is sent out to get fish for dinner. He brings home a very odd fish salvaged from a reject seafood bucket down at the docks. When he and Mertyle discover the fish is no fish, but a real, live merbaby, things start to get interesting... The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, with illustrations by Ian Schoenherr
It's 1952. February. With only a week to prepare, the Scott family makes a sudden move from Los Angeles, California to London, England. As her parents get started in their new jobs writing for a television show, fourteen-year-old Janie Scott finds herself trying to navigate her new school - and not feeling very good about it. But then she meets Benjamin Burrows, a boy with a defiant streak and dreams of becoming a spy someday. Benjamin's father is the local apothecary who had given Janie a curious homesickness remedy the day they'd arrived - a remedy which, to Janie's surprise, actually seemed to be working. When she and Benjamin go out on one of Benjamin's self-assigned spying missions, they soon discover that his father is no ordinary apothecary. Just before Benjamin's father goes missing, he charges them with protecting his mysterious book, the Pharmacopoeia, from falling into the wrong hands. But whose hands are those? What secrets does the book hold? And, can it help Janie and Benjamin find his father, before it's too late?
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Jacob Portman loved listening to his grandpa's stories. And when he was just six years old, he decided to become an explorer, figuring it was the only way to have a life even half as exciting as his Grandpa Portman's had been. Soon, though, Jacob came to realize that most of Grandpa Portman's best stories couldn't possibly be true - especially the ones about his childhood. Those stories were about awful monsters he said were after him in Poland, where he was born; and about the Welsh children's home he was sent to when he was twelve, to escape those monsters. It was an idyllic place that kept kids safe from those monsters, he'd told Jacob, and that was protected by a wise old bird. Even more fantastic were the photos he'd show Jacob of the peculiar children there - an invisible boy, a levitating girl, a boy with two mouths, among others. The older Jacob got, though, the less he believed Grandpa Portman's stories, until eventually he stopped asking him to tell them.
When Jacob was fifteen, something terrible happened, and his world was turned upside down. Then, when he turned sixteen, Jacob received an unexpected gift from an unexpected giver, which contained an even more unexpected - and mysterious - item within. Soon after that, he found himself halfway across the world, on a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovered the ruins of a place called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Jacob did some investigating, and very soon Grandpa Portman's "stories" began to take on a whole new - and ominous - meaning.
The Twits, written by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
Mr. and Mrs. Twit live in a house with no windows - the better to keep out prying eyes. They're smelly, nasty, ugly, and mean spirited, and they play horrible practical jokes on each other. They smear HUGTIGHT sticky glue on the branches of their Big Dead Tree each night to capture birds for their Bird Pie supper, but consider having Boy Pie instead when they find four little boys stuck to the branch one morning. They keep a family of monkeys in their home, forcing them to do everything upside down, in case their idea for an upside down monkey circus ever comes to fruition. And no one has ever been able to stop them from doing the dastardly things they do.But one day, a new bird comes around. And the monkeys get bold. And soon, the monkeys and birds work together to turn the tables on those terrible Twits.Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, written by Judi Barrett, and drawn by Ron BarrettIn the tiny town of Chewandswallow, the weather came three times a day: at breakfast, lunch and dinner. But what fell from the sky wasn't rain or snow. Juice might fall at breakfast time, followed by some eggs and toast. For lunch, a storm of hamburgers might blow in. Dinner weather might bring lamb chops with peas and baked potatoes.
People watched the weather on morning TV to know what would be on the menu the next day. And if they were going to be outside, they carried a plate, cup, napkin, and silverware with them, so they were always prepared for whatever the weather brought. They even had a system for dealing with any leftovers. Everything was very orderly and well-run.
But one day, the weather changed. Sometimes, only one type of food fell - the whole day. Other times, a full meal fell, but none of it went together, and it ended up very unappetizing. Eventually, the food that fell began to get bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And soon, the town became overrun with giant food, and too much of it - way too much for them to handle. What's a town to do?
* * *
Before you go, I'll leave you with this:
Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything's different.
- Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes comics)
Come back next week for Installment #10, for some characters who have their own ways of doing things...
Today is the first Friday in September, and that can only mean one thing: it's time for the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series!So, you might be thinking, what's a Wonderful Weirdo of Literature?And, If this is Installment #8, where are Installments #1-7? And, Where did I put my jelly doughnut? If you're indeed having such thoughts, then fret not. I can help you out. The short answer to your first question is:Every Friday in September, I post a round-up of kids' books I just love, with characters who are, well, characters. You know: the misunderstood, the eccentric, the quirky, the unique, the weird, the wacky. Those books might be picture books, or chapter books, or middle grade books, or young adult books.
The more detailed answer to your first and second question is:Visit the bulleted links below:
As for your third question? I'm afraid you're on your own with that one. But once your curiosity is satisfied (about the weirdo things, not the jelly doughnut thing), come on back to this post, so we can get things started for 2012.
- Wonderful Weirdos Day - In this post, you'll learn about the Little-Known Holiday that sparked the idea for the Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series here at Bugs and Bunnies. There's a genuine, dictionary definition of "weirdo," information about the holiday's founders, and some suggestions for how to celebrate the day, held annually on September 9th.
- Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series - This is the main page for the series. Here you'll find a brief explanation of how the series works, and links to Installments #1-7 from the previous two celebrations.
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Back now? Wonderful! Let's get right to it, shall we?
In honor of all the Wonderful Weirdos among us, I present to you, Installment #8 of the Third Annual Bugs and Bunnies Wonderful Weirdos of Literature Series. Since it was so much fun last year, I'm going with themes again this year. This week's theme:
Classics...and Classic Twists
Kenny is a book-loving rabbit who lives with his farming mother and father. One day, his father bursts in from the sheep field in a panic, announcing that they must pack their things ASAP and light out of there, because he just saw a real, live, dragon! At the top of their very hill! After consulting his borrowed copy of a bestiary, Kenny persuades his parents to let him go check it out. Once he finally meets the dragon, he realizes the bestiary isn't entirely accurate concerning his new friend. But then the townspeople get wind of the dragon, and are so frightened that they prepare to rid themselves of it. Can Kenny show the townspeople that the dragon is not what they think? Or, will he have to make the impossible choice of saving a new friend, or saving an old one?
This is the story of a particular Nile crocodile, told by the crocodile himself. He lives a contented life in Egypt, a life of crocodilian leisure, until one day a famous stranger arrives, and his idyllic life is uprooted. He finds himself one of the objects Napoleon wishes to take back home to France. Once there, he lives a new life of leisure, with some celebrity thrown in, and he comes to love this life as well. But when Napoleon's interest wanes, the crocodile is in danger of being dinner, instead of eating dinner. What is a captive crocodile to do? How will he possibly escape this culinary fate?
Frog and Toad Together, written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel Frog and Toad are the best of friends. They do things together. They help each other when things go wrong. They have cookies together. They read together. They even have heart-pounding adventures together. And they definitely don't always do things the way you or I would. But in the end, their unusual ideas somehow end up working, even if it's not the way they expected those ideas to work. And isn't it more fun that way?
The House on East 88th Street, written and illustrated by Bernard Waber
The day Mr. and Mrs. Joseph F. Primm and their young son Joshua move into the house on East 88th street, they hear an unusual sound coming from somewhere in the house: SWISH, SWASH, SPLASH, SWOOSH. So Mrs. Primm goes to investigate. When she takes a peek in the bathroom, she finds the source of that sound: A crocodile! In their bathtub!
Then, an oddly dressed man arrives at the door, hands Joshua Primm a note, and leaves. Hector P. Valenti's note explains that the crocodile's name is Lyle, that he will only eat Turkish caviar, and that he can perform tricks. Will the Primms to welcome Lyle into their family?
The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be, written and illustrated by Mini Grey You know this story, right? Of course you do: Prince must find princess to wed. Prince just can't find the Right Girl. Prince's mother the Queen gets frustrated with Prince's fickleness. Queen devises a test: only the princess who can feel a tiny pea hidden at the bottom of a gargantuan pile of mattresses is worthy of marrying her son. Many princesses try and fail, until finally, one special princess passes the test. But, have you ever heard this story...from The Pea's point of view?
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I never set out to be weird. It was always other people who called me weird.
- Frank Zappa
Come on back next Friday, for Installment #9. There's gonna be some mighty strange goings on...
…and you can too. To sign up, go to DL Hammons' website and enter your name and website/blog address in the Magical Linky Tool at the end of the WRiTE CLUB 2012 post. Then you submit your (up to) 500 word sample (under an alias of your choosing) to the email address listed in the post, and that's it! Three times a week, two samples are posted for head-to-head voting by entrants of WRiTE CLUB. Winners move on to new rounds, until eventually an overall winner is crowned. A new twist for this year's contest is, the winner of the final round will be chosen by a panel of publishing industry professionals. (You can see who they are by visiting the website.)
Thanks to Joanne Fritz, over at My Brain on Books, and Elle Strauss (whom I follow on Twitter), for calling it to my attention. If it wasn't for these ladies posting about WRiTe CLUB, I might never have found it and tried it.
There's still time to join - who else wants to try?
Evaine turned to face the wizard. "Have you read my destiny in the stars?" "Not your destiny, Evaine, but one that will come long after." "What shall her name be?" Merlin shook his head. "Names are not written in the stars, but destinies. The signs all point to the twenty-first queen of Wilde Island." He stepped to the window and peered into the night. "Three things the stars say of this queen. She shall redeem the name Pendragon. End war with the wave of her hand. And restore the glory of Wilde Island." He tilted his head. "And yet I see darkly in the stars...a beast." Overview:Princess Rosalind longs to be free of her golden gloves, to feel the breeze blow through the fingers of her bare hands. But she cannot. Her mother, Queen Gweneth, forbids it until such time as a cure can be found. For the gloves conceal a terrible secret - one known only to the two of them. If any other in their dragon-plagued kingdom were to discover her flaw, how could Rosalind become Wilde Island's twenty-first queen, and fulfill the wizard Merlin's 600-year-old prophesy?When the dragon wrenches Rosalind from her home and wings her away to Dragon's Keep, the destiny she has known of all her life - yet never fully understood - unfolds in ways she never saw coming.For Teachers and Librarians:Dragon's Keep has a king's ransom of ways it can be used in your classroom. How about as a launching pad for a unit on early Medieval England? You can develop lessons on the battle for the throne between Empress Matilda and King Stephen, typical castle life/peasant life of the time, modes of travel, and how medical care was administered and by whom, for starters. You can even do a fun mini-lesson on superstitions held during early medieval times.Or how about a language arts unit? Do a few lessons centered around medieval England myth and legend: Merlin, King Arthur and his court, dragons, and prophesy. Delve into the book's story structure and genre: discuss and itentify items such as plot twists, mystery elements, adventure elements, and fantasy elements, and how they work.You could even touch on some science, working the book into a unit on endangered species. How? Dragons are nearly gone from the world in Dragon's Keep. Use this fantasy endangered animal to connect kids to our own endangered animals, and what makes them that way: loss of habitat, misunderstandings of the animal by humans, changing environments that threaten its existence, etc. You could also get a really interesting discussion going about accidental advocacy for an animal. Rosalind comes to Dragon's Keep with a firm set of beliefs about dragons - most of them not pretty. But soon, her forced situation shows her a very different picture of dragons, and it changes her perception, as well as her actions. Perhaps your students could do some research, presenting what they discover about people in the real world who've become unlikely champions of a much-maligned or negatively-perceived animal.But most importantly, Dragon's Keep is a great story, and one your students will have a hard time putting down. For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:Dragon's Keep explores the bonds of family, and the different dynamics that come into play. Some parents will do almost anything for the success and future happiness of their children. But if they're not careful, what starts out as well-intentioned acts can quickly devolve into ones not nearly so noble. Or right. Rosalind's bond with her mother is strong, and at first she believes her mother capable of no wrong. But as the story progresses, Rosalind begins to see that that is not quite so, even as she realizes the Queen does what she does in large part for love of her daughter. Families sometimes have complicated bonds, and navigating those relationships can often be confusing. This book does a balanced job of showing many facets of family relationships, both good and not so good, and how one young girl finds a way to navigate them while not losing her own sense of right and wrong. And equally as important, she learns a lot of things about herself in the process. For the Kids:Dragon's Keep. I know. The book totally had you at "Dragon," didn't it? And when you go out and find this book, and read it, you will pat yourself on the back for your excellent judgement. It not only has dragons, but also kings, and queens, and a princess, and mystery, and adventure, and secrets, and an age-old prophesy, and magic. Here's the deal: Rosalind is a princess with a secret - one her mother believes would cause the kingdom to turn its back on her and her family if anyone were to find out about it. So her mother forces her to hide her flaw with a pair of golden gloves until a cure is found.
But while those golden gloves protect her terrible secret from being discovered, they can't protect her from being snatched by the bloodthirsty dragon that terrorizes the kingdom. He whisks her away to his home, Dragon's Keep. And soon, Rosalind comes to learn that most of what she thought she knew, wasn't quite what it seemed to be.For Everyone Else:Who doesn't love a good story - especially one with connections to the legendary King Arthur? But Dragon's Keep is not just another King Arthur story. It picks up 600 years after Arthur's time, with one of his sister's descendents: a princess with a lofty destiny, but who hides a terrible secret. At least she thinks it is. But when she's snatched away by a dragon, her life takes turns she never thought it would. And then she starts to see her secret, and Merlin's prophesy - and herself - in a whole different way. Wrapping Up:Dragons, a secret, and an age-old prophesy. Mystery, magic, and adventure. Dragon's Keep is full of twists and turns and excitement. It's a book not to be missed. Title: Dragon's KeepAuthor: Janet Lee CareyCover Illustration: Patrick Scullin (dragon) and Cliff Nielsen (hand)Cover Design: Kelly EismannPages: 320Reading Level: Ages 12 and upPublisher and Date: Magic Carpet Books/Harcourt, Inc.Edition: First Magic Carpet Books edition, 2008Language: EnglishPublished In: United StatesPrice: $7.95ISBN-10: 015206401XISBN-13: 978-0-15-206401-3
Janet Lee Carey's desire to become a writer grew from a love of books she had acquired from the time she was small:
"I always loved reading. After school, I'd rush home and settle myself in the high branches of a tree to read all about Narnia or Middle-earth. Every book was a secret door and I wanted in."She began writing poetry in eighth grade. That and her journal writing ultimately led her to write novels beginning in her late 20's. Though she currently writes fantasy fiction for children and adults, she leaves herself open to the stories that reveal themselves to her - fantasy, or otherwise.Ms Carey often fields questions about writing via letters, during presentations, or in emails, and she answers many of these on the FAQ page of her official website. On the subject of where to get story ideas, she offers several thoughts, including this one:
"I think most of the stories wait down inside a person, like a secret storyteller. Things that happen in the outside world awaken the storyteller, and suddenly she begins to speak. So it's not so much a matter of making the stories up, as learning how to sit very still, and listen."In her career, Janet Lee Carey has taught at Lake Washington Technical College, and leads professional writing seminars and workshops for both children and adults. She has written eight novels for kids and teens - each of which is linked to a charitable organization, "empowering readers," she says, "to make a difference in the world." She has won various awards for her novels, including: the Mark Twain Award in 2005 for Wenny Has Wings (published in 2002), an ALA Best Books for Young Adults award for Dragon's Keep (published in 2007), and a Teens Read Too Gold Star Award for Excellence for The Dragon of Noor (published in 2012).Born in New York on July 13, 1955, and raised in Mill Valley, California, Ms Carey now lives near Seattle, Washington. She is married, with 3 sons. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, swimming, canoeing, reading, yoga, spending time with family, and taking long walks. Sources:Janet Lee Carey official site - About the AuthorJanet Lee Carey - WikipediaSeattle Author: An Imagination Gone Wild - Seattle WroteAuthor Interview: Janet Lee Carey - The Magic AtticAuthor Interview: Janet Lee Carey on Dragon's Keep - CynsationsAuthor Janet Lee Carey - Watch. Connect. Read.
Before he started writing for kids, Gregory Mone wrote for adults. And before that, he worked as a paralegal in Ireland. And before that, he did a bit of banking work. And before all of that, he was history major at Harvard University, graduating in 1998.Now, Gregory Mone is a novelist for both kids and adults, a magazine writer, a science journalist, and a speaker. He has written two novels for adults, as well as many magazine articles on a wide variety of topics, including: artificial intelligence, robots, physics, biology, Irish mythology, and cartoons.His first novel for kids, Fish, was published by Scholastic Press in 2010. His second, Dangerous Waters: An Adventure on the Titanic, is scheduled for release in March, 2012, from Roaring Brook.Born on Long Island, New York, into "an Irish-American family of swimmers and storytellers," Gregory Mone now lives in Massachusetts with his wife, two daughters, and one son.Sources:Gregory Mone blog: About pageFish: About the Author - Official site for the book, Fish, by Gregory MoneIn Print: Fish by Greg Mone is a great catch, by CK Wolfson
Uncle Gerry glared, one hand still holding the top of the purse. "This is important." "Yes, of course." "No," Uncle Gerry said, pausing. "This is very important." "I understand," Fish said. "You will deliver this to the Mary, a passenger ship docked in the harbor, bound for America. You will deliver it, specifically, to a certain Reginald Swift, who will be sailing on that ship." "Yes." "He is an uncommonly small man with uncommonly large eyeglasses. Aged about thirty years, a good few less than your father and myself. He is expecting you." Overview: Maurice "Fish" Reidy is eleven years old when Shamrock dies. Without their horse, the family can't afford to feed itself, let alone farm their land. Someone has to go into the city to work and send money home. Since Fish is the worst at farming, it's agreed he should be the one to go. His father arranges for Fish to work for his uncle as a courier. When Fish is entrusted with a mysterious package of coins, he's robbed before he can make the delivery. He tracks down the thief amongst a bunch of pirates, aboard their ship, the Scurvy Mistress. Determined to get that package back and to its rightful recipient, Fish sneaks aboard and joins the pirate crew. He soon learns the coins are more than what they seem, and some of the crew are not as loyal as they'd have their captain believe.As the Scurvy Mistress sets sail, Fish finds himself on an adventure he never saw coming, with friends he never imagined making. It's a journey that promises to change his life - and that of his family - forever.For Teachers and Librarians:Fish has all the action and excitement your reluctant readers are drawn to. It has all the complex twists and turns your stronger readers crave. And? It has pirates. And treasure. And mystery. And did I mention pirates?So beyond being a great story your students will not be able to put down, how can you use this book in your classrooms? Under the umbrella of a full Pirate Unit, there is a treasure chest full of activities and mini-units you can choose from. Create an activity to compare and contrast the life of a farmer with the life of a pirate, or a sailor, or both. That will nicely set up a research activity on the life of a pirate: superstitions of pirates, swimming abilities (or not), ship's politics, the running of a pirate ship (jobs aboard ship, procedures followed), pirate's code, pirate-speak, etc. Present a mini-unit on types of
3 Comments on Book Review: Fish, by Gregory Mone, last added: 11/6/2011
I'm teaching myself how to use the digital drawing tablet Santa left under my tree this year. Two days and a fair amount of hair-pulling-out later, along with a maddening program crash that cost me three-fourths of a near-finished design and forced a do-over, here's what I have to show for it (besides a new-found, life-saving, and near-constant habit of hitting command+s):
I'm training myself to run - without walking in between - for a full three miles. But I wasn't doing well enough on my own. So a while back, I got an app for my phone that said it would help me do this. Once it downloaded, I laced up my hot-pink-and-black sneaks, plugged in my headphones, started my tunes, fired up the app, and out the door I went.
I ran when it said ran. I walked when it said walk. After a couple of weeks, the walks were shorter, the runs were longer, and things were going well. Then one day, about half-way through the session, it told me to run...
...right as I got to the base of a short-but-steep hill.
But run it said, so run I did.
The next morning, Her Highness, My Big Toe rather painfully let me know she had taken entirely too much abuse from that hill. After watching me limp around for a week, my husband C put his own (uninjured) foot down. So I went to see the doctor. X-rays were taken, a referral was made, and then, the verdict was in: I have Turf Toe.
AKA: Her Highness, My Injured Big Toe.
Which means: No Running For Me.
For a while, anyway.
But now, after three weeks of not being able to do much, the doctor raised my toe's rank to Her Highness, My Injured-But-Healing Big Toe, and said I can try biking - if I take it easy.
So I tried that today.
And it was anything but.
See, I thought I would try the local park trail, which is less hilly than my neighborhood. But I'd need to drive to get to it. Which meant getting my bike into my truck. Shouldn't be a problem, right? So I unlatched the front half of the truck bed cover, lowered the lift gate, held up the bed extender cage with one arm, lifted up my ancient-and-therefore-heavy mountain bike with the other, and shoved-scooted-squeezed it underneath the cage and into truck bed. All that was left was to lower the cage back down, and then shut the cover. Except that the bike stretched out underneath the cage. So it wouldn't lower. Which meant the cover wouldn't shut.
Fine, I figured. I'll just take out the cage. But to remove the cage, it has to be all the way down. Which meant I would have to take the bike back out. Well. After all it took for me to get that thing in there, taking it back out was just plain NGH (Not Gonna Happen).
So, several finagles later, I found a way to get the bike wedged in so I could lower the cage. Success!
Until the cover wouldn't close, because the handlebars stuck up too far.
By this time, I was sure my struggles had made an entertaining spectacle for the neighbors, and I was tempted to just shut my garage door and call it a day. But, I had put too much effort into it to quit now. So, I left the cover as it was, grabbed some bungee cords and strapped it down as best I could, fired up the truck, and