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In 2014 I enthusiastically reviewed Some Bugs, a wonderfully rhyming book written by Angela DiTerlizzi and illustrated by newcomer Brendan Wenzel. Wenzel's playful, colorful style reminded me of Eric Carle and it is a treat to see him at play again in Daniel Bernstrom's magnificently mellifluous One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree.
Bernstrom takes a traditional theme in children's stories - being trapped in the belly of a beast (and getting spit out) and crafts it into an onomatopoetic, adjective packed story that is especially fun to read out loud. The clever little boy (with the toy, a cool little pinwheel) figures out that if he can prod the snake to keep eating and eating he will eventually over eat...
Wenzel's illustrations frolic across the pages of One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, distracting the reader from the fact that cool kids and cute creatures are being eaten by a huge reptile. As the snake is wiggle-waggling and gobbling up a bird, a cat, a bee hive and even a adorable green "sloth covered in fuzzy-wuzzy moss," the art is as colorful as the words Bernstrom uses to tell his story. When the clever boy eggs the snake on to eat one final small piece of "plummy-chummy fruit," the teeny-tiny fly perched on the fruit proves to be the tipping point. "Gurgle-gurgle came a blurble from that belly deep and full" and, well, you know how it ends one day in the eucalyptus, eucalyptus tree.
Wenzel's debut as author & illustrator
and a follow up to Some Bugs!
Source: Review Copy
In 2014 I reviewed the stand out graphic novel Lowriders in Space written by author, artist and librarian Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raúl the Third. I didn't think it was possible, but I love the follow up, Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, even more than the first book! While the ingenuity of the characters, the cars, and of course, space travel were big draws in the first book, the second book manages to pack in even more fantastic features that I know the students in my school will love. Camper ups the usage of Spanish vocabulary in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, including a coyote who puns in Spanish, and weaves characters and themes from Atzec mythology and Mexican folklore into this fast paced, action packed graphic novel with even more of the intensely detailed, superb illustrations by Raúl the Third.
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth starts with Lupe, a master mechanic and "an impala extraordinaire," Flappy, an octopus who wears a deer stalker and often travels in a jumbo popcorn bucket, and Elirio, painter of cars who has a "beak that was as steady as a surgeon's hand, his skill in detailing cars unparalleled, heading out to find Genie, their beloved missing cat. Footprints lead them out of town and into a giant cornfield where their odyssey beings.
It seems that Mictlantecuhtli, which I know is pronounced mick-lan-te-COOT-lee, thanks to the "What Does it Mean / ¿Que Significa?" back matter which also includes definitions of the geological terms used in the text, (but do know that these translations also appear in the story itself, at the bottom of the page) has taken Genie to his raucous underworld lair, which can be reached by way of a volcano. Straightaway, they hear a crying, wailing sound and discover a beautiful, blue weeping cat woman looking for her babies. La Lllorona takes a liking to Flappy and, while her crying can be a bit much, she does prove good to have along for the ride.
The gang have to face Mic's skeleton crew, the Wind of Knives, the challenge of transporting a bucket of water to the center of the earth and back and a wrestling match with lots of wrestling terms and a surprise from little Genie (spoiler!! their pet is really Tepeyollotl, the Aztec jaguar god who is Lord of the Animals) before they can reclaim their pet and return to the surface of the earth. There are so many more details in Lowriders to the Center of the Earth that I haven't even mentioned. I'll leave you with my favorite cameo appearance in the underworld comes when the gang pulls up to a torta shop where they see a familiar face. Perched behind the wheel of a monster truck with massive wheels, looking like a roadie for Mötley Crüe, his arm around a doe-eyed goat and a bottle of sangre de cabra in his hand is . . . the Chupacabra!
Source: Review Copy
Years ago I bought Illustration School: Let's Draw Cute Animals by Sachiko Umoto and loved everything about it, from the simplicity and clarity of the instructions (this is definitely a book kids can use without an adult's help, even if they can't read) to the, well, the cuteness of the animals. My kids have outgrown this book, so I put it on the shelf in my library at school and it is very popular. I am SO excited to be reviewing Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story!
But, before I delve into the very cool format for this book, I want to share some a passage from the letter to readers at the start of the book. Umoto encourages readers to "put your heart and soul into it, and just draw," telling readers that even if they copy the drawings or trace the designs, "each version will be different - it will never be the same story twice!" I LOVE that advice. Kids (and even adults) hassle each other about tracing and copying drawings, but this is in fact one of the best ways to learn how to draw. Tracing and copying are like training wheels and eventually artists will take off on their own. Umoto ends with words I especially like, telling readers that by "drawing your own world, it becomes part of reality and connects it to the world that we all share. . . You can make connections with lots of people by sharing the joy of creating something with your own hands."
Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story begins by getting artists set up, even noting the best way to erase something from the page. Then she covers the basics, with tips like draw larger shapes first, apply different pressure to the tip of your pen and let the colors inspire you. The rest of the book is comprised of a story about a princess who escapes from her story to get help from twins Pen and Rayon and their dogs, Book and Marble. The princess, who is to be named by the artist, begs Pen and Rayon to return order to her world, where the Eraserheads have erased everyone on her island home.
There are 29 scenes in the book, and each one has a similar format. The story unfolds while at the same time artists/readers are invited to engage with the story by adding text and replacing lost illustrations. Artists can trace over existing illustrations, but there is also room for them to add their own artwork to the story.
Umoto's illustrations are in color when she is in storytelling mode and grey and light grey when engaging with readers. Incorporated into the story are spreads where Umoto gives step-by-step instructions on how to draw everything from animals to food to weather to facial expression, all with the clarity and simplicity of her previous books. The story itself travels through many scenes, giving artists experience drawing an array of things, from a desert to a castle to a monster island and a robot island as well as inviting them to decorate a room, draw a meal and draw a costume contest. Illustration School: Let's Draw a Story is the perfect book for any creative kid in your life, but it is ideal for travel, snow days and sick days.
Source: Review Copy
I have definitely enjoyed participating in the Paris in July blog event. Today, I thought I would share my top three French composers.
3. Maurice Jarre (1924-2009) was a composer who did a LOT of movie scores. Most likely, you are familiar with his scores for Lawrence of Arabia
, Doctor Zhivago
, Dead Poets Society
, and Ghost
. Also he did Passage to India
, Is Paris Burning?
, The Man Who Would Be King
, Jesus of Nazareth
, and A Walk in the Clouds
His biggest hit, of course, was "Lara's Theme."
2. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is a popular choice for figure skaters. I'll be honest. That's how I came to know his music.
I'm sharing with you today:Danse MacabreCarnival of Animals
From the Carnival, but for the impatient sort, The SwanSamson and Delilah
, and, for the impatient sort, BacchanaleIntroduction & Rondo Capriccioso Piano Concerto No 2 in G minor
1. Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is definitely my FAVORITE, FAVORITE French composer. He is perhaps best known for Carmen, the opera. And I do love that. Though I prefer instrumental versions for easy-listening. But I really ADORE L'Arlésienne.
I'm curious if anyone will see the connection between these pieces of music and a certain children's television program. Bizet must be a big favorite of the LITTLE EINSTEIN folks.
Carmen Suite #1 and #2 Playlist
L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1 & Suite No. 2
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
The Heir. (Selection #4) Kiera Cass. 2015. HarperCollins. 346 pages. [Source: Library]
I have very mixed feelings on The Heir by Kiera Cass. That isn't a huge surprise. I had mixed feelings about the first three books as well. The first three books in the series focused on Princess Eadlyn's parents--America and Maxon. I found the books both silly and irresistible at the same time. If I found the books on the silly, ridiculous, predictable side, why did I care so much about what happened and who ended up together?! That was the question then, and, to some extent that remains the question. The difference being I am less attached to Princess Eadlyn than I was to her father, Prince (now King) Maxon.
So. America and Maxon have four children together: twins Eadlyn and Ahren, and two younger boys that barely enter into the story, or, perhaps are completely forgettable no matter how many times their names are dropped. Eadlyn being born seven minutes before her brother is the heir to the crown. She's about eighteen or so when the story opens. And readers are led to believe that she may become Queen much sooner than anyone thinks. Conveniently perhaps America and Maxon have not aged well it seems. Though young when they married, and though their oldest is just eighteen, they are talked about as if they're closer to sixty or sixty-five than forty! Granted, we don't know for sure how long they waited after marrying to have children, but, even if it was five or six years--they still shouldn't be over forty-five! The fact that they are presented as so decrepit and ancient--their health so fragile--frustrated me. And I did not like the ending at all. Trust me on that.
So is Princess Eadlyn likable? I don't think she's meant to be. I think we're supposed to struggle with liking her perhaps? She struggles with being an actual human being.
So "to save the monarchy" the parents are strongly-strongly encouraging their daughter to hold a Selection and get married. Thirty-five young men will be coming to the palace just for her. One of the selected is not a stranger at all, but, someone she's a little too familiar with on the surface, someone who has grown up in the palace, someone who's always been friendlier with her brother than herself. His name is Kile. And he gets the first kiss, though it is staged. Other men of note, Henri (Swedish cook who needs an interpreter) Eric (the interpreter and not really an option for the selection, at least not officially), and Hale (he doesn't seem as obvious a choice as the others, but, he isn't as forgettable or as obnoxious as the others, so, I wouldn't be surprised if he makes it to the top six or seven at least). Since Eadlyn struggles with, you know, actually being human herself, it's hard for her to talk with others and be herself. I don't know that I have a favorite-favorite, but I'm leaning towards Henri.
The world Cass has created still doesn't seem fully fleshed out and lived in, like it makes sense logically. And the political, social, cultural side of it still seems a bit flimsy, but this book like the other is just oddly readable and entertaining.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
I'm happy to say I have the opportunity to once again present "How Do You Manage THAT?!? Issues in Youth Services Management Part 1
", October 17-November 11 for UW-Madison SLIS CE. This course was originally offered in fall 2014 so I'm pumped to examine the issues in this first version of the course.
What are we covering?
- Collection Development Mojo – savvy selection, weeding, confounding conundrums (bindings, salespeople, cold calls, awards, earning a place on the shelf)
- Strategic Planning Power – big picture visioning; outcomes and goals; balancing services; statistics power
- Room Management and Space Issues- from chaos to calm; involving your public; creative space-making; managing behaviors
- Leadership from Within – fostering relationships with other library staff; dealing with reluctant administration/board/patrons/co-workers/employees;
- Zen Balance and Creative Engagement – partnerships/collaboration; PLNs
Active participation in discussion, a short paper that helps you identify a goal to work on and presto! You've earned CEUs and valuable insight from this crowd-sourced course where we all help each other examine these issues. Problem-solving and sharing are hallmarks of this learning opportunity.
Write a post. Share your link. Give at least 3 comments to other Slicers! Children’s author and writing teacher, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, has an amazing site called Sharing Our Notebooks. If you are feeling… Continue reading
Recently, I came across a delightful new book -- The Toad by Elise Gravel. I exclaimed to my coworker – “I love toads! Toads are my childhood!” This was met with much merriment. But, it is true. Tadpoles and toads were a big part of my life when I was growing up in Massapequa Park. We lived near a storm basin, filled with water, and we would look for and easily find tadpoles and baby toads and grown-up toads. At night, we would hear them sing. It is one of my favorite sounds. These days, I rarely see toads anymore. Sadly, they are disappearing due to pollution and loss of habitat. But when I am lucky enough to come across one or if I hear them sing, it always makes me happy. It evokes wonderful memories of summers past.
Toad booklist (this is a very short list --- these are not all the books the library has on toads; for more titles, please ask one of the librarians. Preferably one that has an appreciation for toads. Probably not Miss Amy):
The book that inspired me -- The Toad by Elise Gravel (it is part of a series called Disgusting Critters but toads are NOT disgusting. At all). It is filled with interesting information about these creatures and is very entertaining:
This beautiful book, Gem
by Hollie Hobbie, is aptly titled:
Posted by Miss Sue Ann, certified toad lover.
By: Stacy Dillon,
The girls are back! It's their last summer together before heading off to their various colleges and Jess (and her mom) have convinced the girls that a summer being counselors at Camp Lovejoy. Jess had gone there when she was younger, as had her mom and her aunt. Most of the girls were up for it, but Megan needed some convincing. She did have her offer of a fashion internship, but she has been reassured that she will be able to take advantage of it another time. So, here they are, piled in the minivan, driving through the pouring rain to New Hampshire.
The girls are excited because they have figured out that Jess and Emma are going to be co-counselors to the youngest girls, Becca and Megan will be co-counselors for the eight year olds, and Cassidy volunteered to be a co-counselor with another girl named Amanda to the nine year olds. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. It turns out that there has been a change. A counselor who had planning on coming to camp had a family emergency, and now Jess is moving up and Emma is going to be co-counselors with...Felicia! Felicia Grunewald, Jess' cousin. Immediately Emma knows that this is going to be one disastrous summer.
And summer certainly has its' bumps. The youngest campers are beyond homesick, Emma is still heartbroken over breaking up with Stewart, and Cassidy seems to be rubbing stalwart head counselor Marge Gearhart the wrong way. Plus there is Felicia with her sackbut (look it up!) to contend with.
The shenanigans you'd expect in a summer camp novel are all here, complete with a boy's camp across the lake, pranks and competitions. The girls bring their bookclub to their campers as a way to ease their homesickness. The book of choice this time is Understood Betsy
, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.
All in all this is a fun ending to a great series. The girls are put in the mothering role and rise to the occasion. Their parents make appearances midway through camp as well as through letters and phone calls. Readers will be able to figure out that Vogel Frederick was a camper herself, and many of the happenings at Camp Lovejoy were mined from her own experiences. I do have to say, I think that a few of the traditions that are at Camp Lovejoy would not actually fly at a camp today -- specifically the one involving the peanuts. That said, these things weren't make or break moments for me.
This will be a treasured series for many, many years to come. I have had students read through all of them as well as the books that the girls read in their book club. We *never* have the full series on the shelf at once and this is a series that kids recommend to each other all the time. If your kid didn't take this book to camp, mail it on out!
Big Bad Ironclad (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #2) Nathan Hale. 2012. Harry N. Abrams. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: If you've got a story, you'd better tell it, Nathan Hale. This is a hanging, not a children's story hour.
Premise/plot: Nathan Hale, the spy, continues to outwit the British in this second graphic novel. (The first book in the series is ONE DEAD SPY.) Though he's due to be hanged any minute, his tales from the future (all taken from American History) are so entertaining that the British officer and hangman are delaying a bit. In his conversational style, the focus shifts from the current war (Revolutionary) to the Civil War. These stories concern the NAVY and the Civil War sea battles. Specifically, the race to build the best ironclad ships and create an indestructible navy. The South had the U.S.S. Merrimack. The North had The MONITOR. Of course, it isn't just the two ships that are the subject of this one. So many people are introduced, some of them quite fascinating and 'new to me' at that.
My thoughts: I enjoyed this one even more than the first book in the series. I really found this to be a quick, absorbing read. I may have thought it pushed a little too far to the absurd side when Gustavus Fox was illustrated as a fox to satisfy the whim of the hangman, but, I overlooked that in the end!
Even if you don't "love" graphic novels, if you love history you should give one of the books in the series a try.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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The Mighty Odds
By Amy Ignatow
Amulet Books (an imprint of Abrams)
Ages 10 and up
On shelves September 13th
If you could have one weird superpower, what would it be? Not a normal one, mind you. We’re not doing a flight vs. invisibility discussion here. The power would have to be extraordinary and odd. If it’s completely useless, all the better. Me? I think I’d like my voice to be same as the voice you hear in your head when you’re reading something. You know that voice? That would be my superpower. A good author can crank this concept up to eleven if they want to. Enter, Amy Ignatow. She is one of the rare authors capable of making me laugh out loud at the back covers of her books. For years she’s penned The Popularity Papers to great success and acclaim. Now that very realistic school focus is getting a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy kick in the pants. In The Mighty Odds, Ignatow takes the old misfits-join-together-to-save-the-world concept and throws in a lot of complex discussions of race, middle school politics, bullying, and good old-fashioned invisible men. The end result is a 21st century superhero story for kids that’s keeps you guessing every step of the way.
A school bus crashes in a field. No! Don’t worry! No one is killed (that we can tell). And the bus was just full of a bunch of disparate kids without any particular connection to one another. There was the substitute teacher and the bus driver (who has disappeared). And there was mean girl Cookie (the only black girl in school and one of the most popular), Farshad (nicknamed “Terror Boy” long ago by Cookie), Nick (nerdy and sweet), and Martina (the girl no one notices, though she’s always drawing in her sketchbook). After the accident everything should have just gotten back to normal. Trouble is, it didn’t. Each person who was on or near the bus when the accident occurred is a little bit different. It might be a small thing, like the fact that Martina’s eyes keep changing color. It might be a weird thing, like how Cookie can read people’s minds when they’re thinking of directions. It might be a powerful thing, like Farad’s super strength in his thumbs. Or it might be a potentially powerful, currently weird thing like Nick’s sudden ability to teleport four inches to his left. And that’s before they discover that someone is after them. Someone who means them harm.
Superhero misfits are necessarily new. Remember Mystery Men? This book reminded me a lot of that old comic book series / feature film. In both cases superpowers are less a metaphor and more a vehicle for hilarity. I read a lot of books for kids but only once in a while do I find one enjoyable enough to sneak additional reads of on the sly. This book hooked me fairly early on, and I credit its sense of humor for that. Here’s a good example of it. Early in the book Cookie and a friend are caught leaving the field trip for their own little side adventure. The kids in their class speculate what they got up to and one says that clearly they got drunk. Farshad’s dry wit then says, “… because two twelve-year-olds finding a bar in Philadelphia that would serve them at eleven A.M. was completely plausible.” Add in the fact that they go to “Deborah Read Middle School” (you’ll have to look it up) and I’m good to go.
Like I’ve said, the book could have just been another fun, bloodless superhero misfit storyline. But Ignatow likes challenges. When she wrote the Popularity Papers books she gave one of her two heroines two dads and then filled the pages with cursive handwriting. Here, her heroes are a variety of different races and backgrounds, but this isn’t a Benetton ad. People don’t get along. Cookie’s the only black kid in her school and she’s been very careful to cement herself as popular from the start. When her mom moved them to Muellersville, Cookie had to be careful to find a way to become “the most popular and powerful person in school.” Martina suggests at one point that she likes being angry, and indeed when the world starts to go crazy on her the thing that grounds her, if only for a moment, is anger. And why shouldn’t she be angry? Her mom moved her away from her extended family to a town where she knew no one, and then her mother married a guy with two kids fairly fast. Cookie herself speculates about the fact that she probably has more in common with Farshad than she’d admit. “He was the Arab Kid, just like Cookie was the Black Girl and Harshita Singh was the Indian Girl and Danny Valdez was the Hispanic Guy and Emma Lee was the Asian Chick. They should have all formed a posse long ago and walked around Muellersville together, just to freak people out.” Cookie realizes that she and Farshad need to have one another’s backs. “It was one thing to be a brown person in Muellersville and another to be a brown person in Muellersville with superpowers.” At this point in time Ignatow doesn’t dig any deeper into this, but Cookie’s history, intentions, and growth give her a depth you won’t find in the usual popular girl narrative.
For the record, I have a real appreciation for contemporary books that feature characters that get almost zero representation in books. For example, one of the many things I love about Tom Angleberger’s The Qwikpick Papers series is that one of the three heroes is Jehovah’s Witness. In this book, one of the kids that comes to join our heroes is Amish. Amish kids are out there. They exist. And they almost never EVER get heroic roles in stories about a group of friends. And Abe doesn’t have a large role in this book, it’s true, but it’s coming.
Having just one African-American in the school means that you’re going to have ignorant other characters. Cookie has done a good job at getting the popular kids in line, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is suddenly enlightened. Anyone can be tone deaf. Even one of our heroes, which in this case means Nick’s best friend, the somewhat ADD, always chipper Jay. Now I’ve an odd bit of affection for Jay, and not just because in his endless optimism he honestly thinks he’ll get permission to show his class Evil Dead Two on the field trip bus (this may also mark the first time an Evil Dead film has been name dropped in a middle grade novel, by the way). The trouble comes when he talks about Cookie. He has a tendency to not just be tone deaf but veering into really racially questionable territory when he praises her. Imagine a somewhat racist Pepe Le Pew. That’s Jay. He’s a small town kid who’s only known a single solitary black person his entire life and he’s enamored with her. Still, that’s no excuse for calling her “my gorgeous Nubian queen” or saying someday they’ll “make coffee-colored babies.” I expected a little more a comeuppance for Jay and his comments, but I suppose that’ll have to wait for a future book in the series. At the very least, his words are sure to raise more than few eyebrows from readers.
Funny is good. Great even. But funny doesn’t lift a middle grade book out of the morass of other middle grade books that are clogging up the bookstores and libraries of the world. To hit home you need to work just a smidgen of heart in there. A dose of reality. Farad’s plight as the victim of anti-Muslim sentiment is very real, but it’s also Nick’s experiences with his dying/dead father that do some heavy lifting. As you get to know Nick, Ignatow sprinkles hints about his life throughout the text in a seamless manner. Like when Nick is thinking about weird days in his life and flashes back to the day after his dad’s funeral. He and his mom had “spent the entire day flopped on the couch, watching an impromptu movie marathon of random films (The Lord of the Rings, They Live, Some Like It Hot, Ghostbusters, and Babe) and eating fancy stuff from the gift baskets that people had sent, before finally getting up to order pizza.” There’s a strong smack of reality in that bit, and there are more like it in the book. A funny book that sucker punches your heart from time to time makes for good reading.
Lest we forget, this is an illustrated novel. Ignatow makes the somewhat gutsy choice of not explaining the art for a long time. Long before we even get to know Martina, we see her in various panels and spreads as an alien. In time, we learn that the art in this book is all her art, and that she draws herself as a Martian because that’s what her sister calls her. Not that you’ll know any of this for about 125 pages. The author makes you work to get at that little nugget of knowledge. By the way, as a character, Martina the artist is fascinating. She’s sort of the Luna Lovegood of the story. Or, as Nick puts it, “She had a sort of almost absentminded way of saying things that shouldn’t have been true but probably were.” There is one tiny flub in the art when Martina draws all the kids as superheroes and highlights Farshad’s thumbs, though at that point in the storyline Martina wouldn’t know that those are his secret weapons. Other than that, it’s pretty perfect.
It’s also pretty clearly middle school fare, if based on language alone. You’ve got kids leaving messages on cinderblocks that read “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” or “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” That may be the most realistic middle school detail I’ve read in a book in a long time. The bullying is systematic, realistic, and destructive (though that’s never clear to the people doing the bullying). A little more hard core than what an elementary school book might discuss. And Cookie is a superb bully. She’s honestly baffled when Farad confronts her about what she’s done to him with her rumors.
A word of warning to the wise: This is clearly the first book in a longer series. When you end this tale you will know the characters and know their powers but you still won’t know who the bad guys are exactly, why the kids got their powers (though the bus driver does drop one clue), or where the series is going next. For a story where not a lot of time passes, it really works the plotting and strong characterizations in there. I like middle grade books that dream big and shoot for the moon. “The Mighty Odds” does precisely that and also works in some other issues along the way. Just to show that it can. Great, fun, silly, fantastical fantasy work. A little smarter and a little weirder than most of the books out there today.
On shelves September 13th.
Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.
The sands of time are quickly running out for putting in program proposals for the exciting national conference on youth leadership and management coming in spring 2017. This is a perfect opportunity to pitch your thoughts and ideas relating to that topic.
The audience will be be both staff and managers, leaders and those who want to become more effective leaders. It promises to be a thought-provoking two days that hone in on the power that youth librarians hold!
Here are the details. But don't wait. The deadline is Sunday July 31.
Power Up: A Conference in Leadership for Youth Services Managers and Staff Keynote address by Gretchen Caserotti, Library Director, Meridian Library District (Idaho) Closing address by Deborah Taylor, Coordinator of School and Student Services, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Do you have ideas about management and leadership in Youth Services? UW-Madison, School of Library and Information Studies is pleased to offer Power Up, a brand new conference to share your exciting ideas! The conference will be accepting proposals until July 31, 2016. Topics may include, but are not limited to: strategic planning, collaborations, ethics, leadership pathways, advocacy, mentorship, managing change, work/life balance, staff motivation, and innovation. Youth services librarians and staff from all over the country are invited to attend! Please submit a 200-250 word description of your proposed session to Meredith Lowe, firstname.lastname@example.org, by July 31, 2016. Sessions at the conference will be one hour (45 minutes of presentation, 15 minutes of discussion). Panel presentations are accepted. All selected sessions will receive one complimentary conference registration and a discount for staff members they wish to join them at the conference.
The Knife of Never Letting Go. Patrick Ness. 2008. Candlewick. 479 pages. [Source: Library]
I have been meaning to reread Patrick Ness' The Knife of Never Letting Go for a couple of years now. It is the first book in the Chaos Walking series. I really did EXPERIENCE the next two books in the trilogy. (I was going to say enjoy, but, can you ENJOY a book that is so dark and suspenseful and emotional.)
Here are a few things you should know before picking it up.
1) It is science fiction. It is set on another planet, aka "New World." The planet has a handful of small settlements, including Prentisstown, the hometown of our narrator/hero. The planet's biggest settlement is Haven.
2) Todd is our narrator. He is a few weeks away from his thirteenth birthday. He "becomes a Man" on his thirteenth birthday. He is an orphan being raised by two men, Cillian and Ben.
3) There are NO WOMEN in Prentisstown. Todd has been taught all his life that there was a plague or virus that killed all the women of the settlement.
4) A virus (perhaps the same virus that allegedly killed all the women?) has made it so that all the men can hear one another's thoughts all the time. This is called NOISE. It isn't just men, though, they can hear thoughts of animals too. Manchee is Todd's dog. And he's a bit too forthright to say the least!
5) The book is thriller-esque. It's essentially one big action-sequence from cover to cover. Well, perhaps it takes three or four chapters to get him on his way. But once he gets started...he stays going. It's an intense, action-packed book.
6) He doesn't go alone. Manchee, his faithful dog that he once didn't even want, is with him....but more importantly he meets Viola.
7) Viola basically "dropped from the sky" and right into his path. Viola is the sole survivor of the settler's scout ship. Her parents died in the crash. The ships with thousands of more settlers is about seven or so months behind the scout ship. Todd cannot hear Viola's noise. Viola is the first female he can remember seeing--apart from reading the memories of the men in his settlement--which is not the same thing I think you'll agree.
8) Both Viola and Todd are in GREAT DANGER. Why?????? Well, it has to do with SECRETS and SCHEMES and PLOTS. The mayor of Prentisstown is ambitious and manipulative....to pick two of his tamer qualities.
9) Todd has some internal conflict going on inside....he cannot bring himself to kill. So while I might have spent a good deal of time emphasizing the ACTION, ACTION, ACTION aspect of this one, that doesn't mean it is without characterization and complexity.
10) Be warned it doesn't really have an ending.
11) It has profanity. A good deal of profanity. For some people it may be off-putting enough to pass on the book. For others that might be a big non-issue.
12) Poor grammar is part of the world-building. This may or may not bother readers!
Men lie, and they lie to theirselves worst of all. (22)
But a knife ain't just a thing, is it? It's a choice, it's something you do. A knife says yes or no, cut or not, die or don't. A knife takes a decision out of your hand and puts it in the world and it never goes back again. (84)
The knife is alive. As long as I hold it, as long as I use it, the knife lives, lives in order to take life, but it has to be commanded, it has to have me to tell it to kill, and it wants to, it wants to plunge and thrust and cut and stab and gouge, but I have to want it to as well, my will has to join with its will. I'm the one who allows it and I'm the one responsible. But the knife wanting it makes it easier. If it comes to it, will I fail? (341)
"War is a monster. War is the devil. It starts and it consumes and it grows and grows and grows. And otherwise normal men become monsters too." (392)
I can read her. Cuz she's thinking about her own parents also came here with hope like my ma. She's wondering if the hope at the end of our road is just as false as the one that was at the end of my ma's. And she's talking the words of my ma and putting them into the mouths of her own ma and pa and hearing them say that they love her and they miss her and they wish her the world. And she's taking the song of my ma and she's weaving it into everything else till it becomes a sad thing all her own. And it hurts her, but it's an okay hurt, but it hurts still, but it's good, but it hurts. She hurts. I know all this. I know it's true. Cuz I can read her. I can read her Noise even tho she ain't got none. I know who she is. I know Viola Eade. I raise my hands to the side of my head to hold it all in. "Viola," I whisper, my voice shaking. "I know," she says quietly, pulling her arms tight around her, still facing away from me. And I look at her sitting there and she looks across the river and we wait as the dawn fully arrives, each of us knowing. Each of us knowing the other. (420)
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Interrupting Chicken. David Ezra Stein. 2010. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: It was bedtime for the little red chicken.
Premise/plot: Little Red Chicken wants her Papa to read her a bedtime story. She promises to not interrupt. She promises to be good. But. Little Red Chicken can't help getting involved in the stories and interrupting. The stories she interrupts? Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little. After three attempts at a bedtime story, she's still not asleep. What are they to do?!
My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. I do. I love seeing Little Red Chicken interrupt the stories. I love the story that Little Red Chicken writes to "read" to her Papa. I love the last few pages of this one especially. I think the illustrations are great fun.
Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
I will admit that a couple of things have really slowed down my reading this summer.
First of all, Stranger Things on Netflix completely captivated me. I binged on that really hard this week.
Secondly, I am playing Pokemon Go. I adore this game, but my very favorite thing is that my son will ask me to drive him and his friends around to play. When your 18 year old, about to go to college son wants you to go out and play a game with him, you go out and play that game!
Anyway, I am going to focus on some reading this weekend. These are the two books I am currently reading. I am participating in a blog tour for The Secret Sea
in August. I like the alternate reality aspect of this book. I also received The Gallery
in the mail and this cover is so gorgeous I bumped it to the top of my TBR. I love the feel of this book in my hands.
(I am also going to Star Trek this weekend, can't wait!!)
What are you reading this weekend?
This year, in 2016, a conversation has sprung up around the picture book There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith. The discussion has occurred primarily on blogs and listservs with the occasional mention on Twitter. I would like to summarize the points here and explain what’s going on, since, unlike A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington, I suspect this debate may likely remain within the children’s literature sphere and not branch out into the larger media. That means that of my readership, perhaps only a small percentage is aware of what’s going on.
Here then are the facts about what’s gone down with There Is a Tribe of Kids, as we know it today.
Published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan, the book was released this year on May 3rd. Due to the fact that the author was Lane Smith, it got a serious publicity push. Smith hadn’t written and illustrated a picture book in this illustration style since his Caldecott Honor winning Grandpa Green, so hopes were undoubtedly high on the part of the publisher.
The book garnered five starred reviews (if we count Shelf Awareness). On May 5th a review appeared in The New York Times by picture book author and blogger Minh Lê in which he made the following statement:
“Acceptance finally comes with the discovery of a diverse group of other leaf-clad children, kindred spirits who form their own “tribe of kids.” Within the confines of the book, this is a heartwarming finale. Unfortunately, for me the juxtaposition of the word “tribe” with the woodland utopia conjured uncomfortable associations. For example, in the final scene, as the child describes his journey to his new friends, he wears feathers in his hair to re-enact his stint among an “unkindness of ravens.” It’s a whimsical visual in isolation, but some readers may detect something ill-advised, if not sadly familiar, in its echoes of the longstanding trope in children’s literature that uses Native imagery or “playing Indian” to signify wildness, especially since the word “tribe” is so central to this often captivating book.”
Months passed. On July 8th Sam Bloom wrote about his similar concerns on the site Reading While White. It led to about 128 comments and counting. This was followed up with two different blog posts by Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children’s Literature. The first was posted on July 9th. After it came out there was some discussion on the child_lit listserv. This led to a response by author Rosanne Parry where she defended the book. Debbie’s second response came on July 14th in direct response to Parry’s. Roxane Feldmann offered her own two cents at her fairrosa blog, which also offers a good encapsulation of the debate.
Meanwhile, on the listservs, discussions have raged at both child_lit and alsc-l though the conversation changed slightly on both sites. For example, on child_lit folks were finding themselves compared to Trump. On alsc-l the topic turned to collection development in libraries and where this book fits in when librarians decide not to buy it for their systems.
And yet, for all the discussion, the wider world has been left largely unawares. As of this post the book has only one critical review on Amazon, and that’s from a grandmother who thinks the title is too advanced for children to comprehend. On Goodreads it has 510 ratings and 125 Reviews, but few if any mention this debate. It’s too early in the season for Calling Caldecott to discuss it seriously. So in many ways the book discussion is contained entirely within a very small area online.
And that would be that.
My opinion then? Hm.
Well, the fact of the matter is that I’m far more interested in the discussion surrounding the book than the book itself. I’m particularly interested in how different opinions are being treated by both parties.
Because of the nature of the disagreement over the title, the book is currently garnering comparisons to A Fine Dessert and its subsequent criticisms. And as with A Fine Dessert I included it in my Spring Caldecott prediction post and removed it for my Summer prediction post. Why the removal this time? Because at this point it’s clear that this book is going to be the Caldecott committee’s most interesting point of debate and with 2016 such a shockingly strong Caldecott year (it’s kind of frightening how strong it is) it’s entirely likely that the book isn’t going to go very far. For my part, I didn’t notice the implication of the word “tribe” on an early read and would have missed it entirely if Minh hadn’t written his article.
I’ll say this much. It takes guts to write about this topic. No one likes to be the subject of flame wars and in-fighting. In our current age of social media, blogging has changed significantly. There was a time before the rise of Twitter when it took a little longer for blog posts to catch fire. Now bloggers watch what they say with great trepidation. The people I’ve mentioned above are brave, all of them, whether you agree with them or not.
I have read every opinion, comment, and question about this book that I could get my hands on. I see the concerns at work here. I don’t agree with some of the critics. I agree with some of the others, or at least can see their point of view. More than anything, I’m interested in hearing a wide range of opinions, both pro and con. In the end, I suspect that the discussion may die down and then reignite as we get closer to the award season. When that happens, I’ll watch the new debates with equal interest.
Please welcome author C.C. Payne to GreenBeanTeenQueen! She's here to talk about her latest novel, The Thing About Leftovers
and her favorite books featuring food.
About the Book: (From Goodreads): Fizzy is a good Southern girl who just wants to be perfect. And win the Southern Living cook-off. The being perfect part is hard though, since her parents’ divorced and everything in her life has changed. Wary of her too-perfect stepmom and her mom’s neat-freak, dismissive boyfriend, she’s often angry or upset and feels like a guest in both homes. She tells herself to face facts: She’s a “leftover” kid from a marriage that her parents want to forget. But she has to keep all of that to herself, because a good Southern girl never yells, or throws fits, or says anything that might hurt other people’s feelings—instead she throws her shoulders back, says yes ma’am, and tries to do better. So Fizzy tries her best, but it’s hard to stay quiet when her family keeps getting more complicated. Fortunately, the Southern Living cook-off gives her a welcome distraction, as do her new friends Miyoko and Zach, who have parent issues of their own.
My Top Five Food-Themed Books:
1.) The Thing About Leftovers
by C. C. Payne (that's me!): In the South, we love you with our food. In this novel, 12-year-old Fizzy Russo does just that—
attempting to love her parents, new stepparents, and new friends with fried chicken, cheese grits, Kentucky Hot Browns (an open faced sandwich with Texas Toast, turkey, ham and bacon, covered with Mornay sauce, smothered in cheese, topped with a slice of tomato and baked until gooey and browning at the edges) and the like, and to win their love in return—
not to mention The Southern Living
Cook-Off. Fizzy believes that winning the cook-off that will cause everyone to forgive her and love her more. (I listed my own book first because if you stop reading here, I hope it's to go buy my book, and because I can't yet afford to be the kind of author who humbly never mentions her own work—
but I TOTALLY aspire to be that kind of author, so please buy the book!)
2) Close to Famous
by Joan Bauer: 12-year-old Foster McFee is making the world a sweeter place one cupcake at a time! She makes some unlikely friends with her fabulous cupcake creations (I told you food is love!) including a retired, reclusive movie star, a would-be documentary filmmaker, and the folks down at Angry Wayne's Bar & Grill who sell her cupcakes for her. I love the way Foster overcomes, pushing herself, practicing, and persevering . . . in baking and in life.
3) Ramona Quimby, Age 8
by Beverly Cleary: I wouldn't dare make a list without including this classic, Newbery Honor Book. Most chefs say they can tell a lot about another chef simply by what he or she does with an egg. And so it is with Ramona Quimby, who cracks an egg on her head in the school cafeteria. Plus, the food at her family's favorite restaurant, Whopper Burger, sounds delicious—
I'd definitely like to have my next birthday party there!
4) For a younger crowd, I recommend Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
by Judi Barrett because . . . mashed potato snow? Hamburger storms? Pancakes floating down from the sky? Sign me UP for that! This imaginative picture book, with detailed, delightful drawings, and great humor, remains a fave in my family—
it's one that you truly never tire of reading aloud.
5) For older readers, I recommend Eat Cake
by Jeanne Ray, because when the going gets tough, the tough get baking! Ruth's first step to dealing with any problem is baking a cake—
"sweet potato bundt cake with rum-plumped raisins and spiced sugar glaze" or "apricot almond pound cake" and the like. And she shares her recipes—
as well as humor, warmth, and wisdom—
as she deals with her teenage daughter, college-student son, out-of-work husband, live-in mother, estranged father, and financial strain.
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth
Written by Cathy Camper
Illustrated by Raúl the Third
The impala - Lupe Impala, master mechanic
The mosquito - Elirio Malaria, the finest detail artist around
The octopus - El Chavo Flapjack Octopus, washcloth-wielding polisher of the Lowriders in Space Garage
If you think lowriders are impractical, think again. When the three amigos from the Lowriders in Space Garage go in search of their missing cat, their rocket-powered lowrider is just what they need. In this second book in the series, the three friends journey to the center of the earth and face off against a trickster coyote, an Aztec God, and other legendary Mexican and Aztec foes. As in the first book, they do it with humor, brains, and style—lowrider style—bajito and suavecito (low and slow).
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth is so visually cool, that it looks more like an older brother's indie comic book than a middle grade graphic novel. Raúl the Third uses red, black, and blue ink on sepia pages, and creates expressive faces, wild action, and hidden humor. The illustrations have a distinctly Mexican flair and invite the reader into the culture. His art is a perfect complement to Cathy Camper's hilarious wordplay. It's difficult to imagine that kids can learn Spanish, geology, ancient Aztec culture, Mexican culture, and the virtue of teamwork by reading a book that screams divertido (fun) but they can! Camper's dialogue is sharp and witty, and even features bilingual puns, as in this exchange between Lupe and the trickster coyote.
"Have you seen our cat?"
"Señor cat? I don't think so."
¡Ja, ja, ja!
This book may be even better than the first!
My copy of the book was provided by the publisher at my request when my LibraryThing copy went missing in the mail.
Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Summary: In a future where the seas have risen, Cassandra has been training to control Reckoners, genetically engineered sea monsters that keep the pirates at bay for merchant vessels crossing the ocean. But when she's captured by pirates on her very first voyage and forced to train up their own stolen Reckoner pup (all the while reluctantly falling for a pirate girl), she despairs of ever getting home or of regaining the self-respect she's lost by giving in to the pirates.
First Impressions: Strong complex love story (with absolutely no lesbian despair) and an interesting premise. I liked the training sequences, but the end sort of fell flat for me. A little sequelitis I think.
More: Rich in Color
Title: Of Better Blood
Author: Susan Moger
Summary: After polio leaves her disabled in the 1920s, Rowan is abandoned by her upper-class family and reduced to performing as a cautionary tale for a eugenics group. In spite of this, she still believes in the eugenic principles that her father taught her, until she sees first-hand the cruelties and prejudices of the movement.
First Impressions: Explores the horror of the eugenics movement, which is something you never hear about in school. Although Rowan is sixteen, this would work content-wise for older tweens. Also: wow, did I get a lesbian vibe off Dorchy and Rowan, enough that I was surprised when a male character arrived to be a convenient love-ish interest for Rowan. Unfortunately, most of the victims we're shown are white, when eugenics often targeted people of color, which I feel was a missed opportunity for this book.
Title: Allie, First at Last
Author: Angela Cervantes
Summary: Allie Velasco has spent her whole life overshadowed by her overachieving family. When is she ever going to get the chance to bring home a gold trophy? The Trailblazer contest might be her opportunity, but is she going to ruin all her friendships in the process?
First Impressions: This was very sweet, and very readable, and I liked that Sara actually had some reasonable gripes with Allie and vice versa. Also Victor was adorbs. And yay for Latino characters that aren't going through some kind of immigration or assimilation conflict!
More: Ms Yingling Reads
Latinos in Kidlit
Waking Brain Cells
White Fur Flying. Patricia MacLachlan. 2013. 116 pages. [Source: Library]
I really enjoyed Patricia MacLachlan's White Fur Flying. I loved Zoe and her family. Her mom rescues dogs--Great Pyrenees--fostering them until they can find forever homes. Her dad is a veterinarian, I believe. He brings home a parrot one day that is in need of a home. The parrot was--and this is very surprising to me--one of the highlights of the book. In fact, without the parrot, I don't think this novel would work as well, be as emotionally moving. She has a sister, Alice, who is always talking, telling stories, writing poems and stories, etc. Zoe's own character is revealed slowly throughout the book. Kodi, the other "family member" is a dog--Great Pyrenees, of course. He likes having other dogs around, and doesn't mind them coming and going.
So. The novel opens with the family watching the new neighbors move in. They haven't officially--or even unofficially--met the new family yet. And so some are quite busy making up stories about who they are, and why they're moving. Phillip is a boy around 9 or 10 that is moving in next door. He's the quiet type. The really-super-quiet and choosing-not-to-talk-at-all type. But that doesn't keep Kody and Alice and the other dogs from wanting to make friends with him....
Why is Phillip so silent? Will befriending dogs "save" him and help him reconnect with the world again?
This one is predictable enough--if you're an adult reader especially. I can't say honestly whether or not I would have found it predictable enough as a child. For one thing, if a book had a dog on the cover, I wouldn't read it because I was afraid the dog might die. Even though it might be on the slightly-predictable side. I found it very high on the feel-good side. I liked the way the book made me feel, especially at the end when Alice shares her poem. I think that is worth noting. Predictable does not always equal "bad."
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Roaring Brook Press, 2016
Today I'm taking part in the Coyote Moon blog tour. The book officially hits shelves tomorrow. As part of the blog tour, I'm giving away one copy of Coyote Moon donated by the publisher. The details and entry form can be found at the bottom of this page.
The engaging narrative of Coyote
If you want to follow along with this project, all related posts are tagged George Strait Project
. This post will cover the years 2003-2008.
Honkytonkville is George Strait's twenty-second album. From that album, three singles were released: "Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa," "Cowboys Like Us," and "Desperately."
The other songs on the album include: "She Used To Say That To Me, " "Honkytonkville," "Look Who's Back From Town," "As Far As It Goes," "I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor," "Honk if You Honky Tonk," "Heaven is Missing an Angel," "Four Down and Twelve Across," and "My Infinite Love."
I would not rate the three singles as being the best songs on the album. In fact, I much prefer some of the other songs on the album. I really, really LOVE some of these songs. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE "Honk If You Honky Tonk
." And I LOVE "I Found Jesus on the Jailhouse Floor
," and "She Used To Say That To Me
," and "Look Who's Back From Town
Well, I got a bumper sticker
On the back of my truck
There ain't another like it
'Cause I had it made up
I can tell who's behind me
They give themselves away
Lay on their horn when they read this phrase
Honk if you honky tonk
Don't if you don't
But, if you do
Don't you love to
Honk if you honky tonk
In 2004, George Strait released 50 Number Ones, an album featuring 51 songs. It included one new song in addition to all his number one singles. The new song was "I Hate Everything
," and it became his fifty-first number one hit.
Somewhere Down in Texas is George Strait's twenty-third album; it was released in 2005. Three singles were released from this album, "You'll Be There," "She Let Herself Go," and "The Seashores of Old Mexico."
Other songs from the album include: "If The Whole World was a Honky Tonk," "Somewhere Down in Texas," "High Tone Woman," "Good News, Bad News," "Oh, What a Perfect Day," "Texas," "Ready for the End of the World," and "By the Light of a Burning Bridge."
My favorites from this album include: "If the World Was a Honky Tonk
." "Somewhere Down in Texas
," "Oh, What A Perfect Day
." One song that grew on me was "Ready for The End of the World
If the whole world was a honky-tonk,
And it revolved around an old jukebox,
We'd tell our troubles to the Bar,
Over cryin' steel guitars,
And soon, they'd all be gone.
Yeah, if you asked me what I thought,
I'd say: "We'd be better off,
"If the whole world was a honky-tonk."
An' oh, what a perfect day for lovin' you.
When you're in my arms, I've got sunshine,
An' the sky's always blue.
Couldn't ask for better weather,
To do what I do:
Oh, what a perfect day for lovin' you.
I know the end is near
I've seen the warning signs
Been preparin' myself
Layin' in supplies
I bought a case of Jack
A boxed-set of Merle
I'm gettin' ready
Ready for the end of the world
I'm gettin' ready for the end to come
That final hour it all comes undone
An' she drops the bomb
An' says he ain't my girl
George Strait's twenty-fourth album, It Just Comes Natural, was released in 2006. From this album, four singles were released: "Give It Away," "It Just Comes Natural," "Wrapped," and "How 'bout Them Cowgirls." There are fifteen songs in all.
Other songs on the album include: "She Told Me So," "That's My Kind of Woman," "He Must Have Really Hurt You Bad," "A Heart Like Hers," "Why Can't I Leave Her Alone," "One Foot In Front of the Other," "I Ain't Her Cowboy Anymore," "Texas Cookin'" "A Better Rain," "What Say," and "Come On Joe."
It is harder to find favorites on this album perhaps. It is not my favorite or best. It is a good thing this one has fifteen songs, that's the only way I was able to find ten songs that I'd want to listen to over and over again.
My favorites include: "A Heart Like Hers
," "How 'bout Them Cowgirls
," and "Texas Cookin'
In 2007, George Strait released the album 22 More Hits. These are the hit songs that didn't quite make it to #1. But so many of these songs are iconic and essential. Songs that come instantly to mind when you think 'George Strait.' Songs like "Amarillo by Morning" and "The Cowboy Rides Away." It featured no new songs.
George Strait's twenty-fifth album, Troubadour, was released in 2008. From this album, three singles were released: "Troubadour," "River of Love," and I Saw God Today."
Other songs on this album include: "It Was Me," "Brothers of the Highway," "House of Cash," "Give Me More Time," "When You're In Love," "Make Her Fall In Love With Me Song," "West Texas Town," "House with No Doors," and "If Heartaches Were Horses."
From this album, I really love "It Was Me
," "I Saw God Today
," "Make Her Fall In Love With Me Song
," and "Give Me More Time
The first time I met her
She walked right up to me and said you're who I've wanted to find.
There was a man she had seen in her dreams and it was me.
She said I can't believe it cause I've never been in here
And I've passed this so many times.
It was her night to find destiny and it was Me
And we danced every song that they played, and talked until closing time
The closer I held her, the more I knew her destiny wasn't that far from mine.
Then I saw a reflection of someone unfamiliar looking back when I looked in her eyes
The happiest man I'd ever seen and it was me
I was a young troubadour,
When I rode in on a song
And I'll be an old troubadour,
When I'm gone
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Polly Faber makes her debut as a children's book author with the story of a girl and her tapir - or maybe the story of a tapir and her girl, Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig. Illustrated by the marvelous Clara Vulliamy, who, with her mother, the venerable British children's book author Shirley Hughes, created the Digby O'Day series, this new series has a similarly charming format that is perfect for emerging readers ready to move on to chapter books. Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane and Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery feature illustrations on every page, great characters with intriguing details, fantastic design and a great story. Vulliamy, who is a very creative person with a website worth checking out (Sunny Side Up) is also a fan of felted animals. She commissioned dolls of Digby, Charlie and Digby's beloved red convertible as well as a cute little tapir - Bambang - which I first saw on her website last year.
My kids grew up going to one of the best zoos in the world. I have known what a tapir is for decades and was so excited to see that someone chose this curious looking animal to be a character in a book! But first, Mango and the rest of the cast, as seen below.
Mango Allsorts (allsorts is a licorice candy that comes in all sorts of shapes and colors . . .) is good at all sort of things, but, as the narrator tells us, "that is not the same as being good." She lives in a big city at the top of a very tall building with her "papa who was also tall and very busy." When his job gets especially tough, she makes him buttered noodles. Mango is also good at karate, jumping off the highest diving board (without holding her nose) using the Sicilian Defense in chess and wiggling her ears while sucking on a lollipop. She is not good at playing the clarinet, but she is practicing. One day, heading home from karate and hoping to cross using the striped crosswalk, she spots a commotion. There, perfectly camouflaged by the black and white stripes is a quivering, crying tapir whispering about a tiger that chased him out of the jungles of Malaysia.
Mango tempts the skittish Bambang, who sees tigers everywhere (construction trucks, cats) with the promise of banana pancakes with whipped cream and syrup and the two become fast friends. They head to the public pool where Bambang has a bit of an embarrassment that ends up with finding another new friend. Next, they meet an enemy. Dr. Cynthia Prickle-Posset, a Collector of the Unusual tries to collect Bambang, but Mango puts an end to that. The fourth and final part of the book finds Mango and Bambang performing on stage, overcoming their nerves, side by side.
Faber's Mango is fiercely confident and the perfect match for Bambang, who is anxious and shy, understandably. Vulliamy brings these characters to life marvelously with her black and white illustrations, accented with lavender in this first book. There is just enough information about tapirs in Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig that readers will know that tapirs are real and hopefully will want to know more about this curious looking animal. I can't wait to know more about the adventures that Mango and Bambang get up to in the next two books in the series!
If you loved Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, or if you think you will, be sure to check out the Digby O'Day series that Vulliamy illustrates, written by her mother!
Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery
The other day I was sitting with a group of talented children’s librarians discussing Dan Santat’s Are We There Yet? Boy, I tell ya, there’s nothing like sitting down with smart people to hear them discuss a picture book in full. I walked out of that room with a lot more knowledge crammed into my cranium than I’d had coming in.
In the course of our talk, it was pointed out that Santat’s latest would actually pair very well with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. There’s something about the tone of both the book and the film, that madcap good-natured energy, that jells. And so, in that vein, I present to you one of my odder posts. Picture book and movie pairings. I have absolutely no idea when you’d actually want to pair the two together. I just like the couplings.
Are We There Yet? + Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Granted, there are a lot less pirates in Bill & Ted. But the idea of traveling through history and gathering a wacky crew of folks along the way . . . that’s awesome.
The Cat and the Hat + Risky Business
Apropos of nothing, the other day a woman in my library mentioned to me that she’d always been discomforted by Seuss’s classic easy reader. There was something about the chaos of it all that really got to her. She likened it to Risky Business, which I thought was a particularly amusing pairing. In both cases a house experiences chaos and clean-up. And in both cases you really don’t want to be in trouble with mom. The big difference between the two is that Seuss’s book ends with a question about what YOU would do if your mother asked YOU what you got up to while she was gone. Tom Cruise suffers no such dark night of the soul.
Are You My Mother + Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
I’ve often gone on record saying that P.D. Eastman’s classic feels like a somewhat post-apocalyptic wasteland. Admittedly this comparison to Thunderdome isn’t perfect because there are no mothers in that movie (nor any sentient machines). Still, in both cases you have motherless children, and some crazy technology, so I’d say the pairing holds.
Frog and Toad Are Friends + Elling
This one makes a lot of sense to me. The nature of the relationship between a laid back frog and an uptight toad pairs just beautifully with this charming if admittedly somewhat obscure 2001 Norwegian film. I just see a lot of parallels between Elling and Kjell and Frog and Toad. For a while there Kevin Spacey was going to remake it here in America. It didn’t work out, but if Spacey ever wants to consider taking the role of Toad instead, I think he’d be perfect for it.
Outside Over There + Labyrinth
Cheating. This one’s cheating. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Labyrinth was inspired, in part, by the lesser known of the Sendak picture book trilogy (the first two books being Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen). Sendak is even thanked at the end of the credits so there’s that as well. I don’t really have to explain why the book and movie are related. Goblins and stolen babies = children’s classics no matter what the media.
The Little House + Up
That’s a good pairing. In both cases the house is moved in the wake of incessant industrialization. However, if I can remember the ending of Up, the house in Burton’s book fares far better.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble + Being John Malkovich
Yes? No? Am I the only one who sees this? I think it’s the idea of being awake and alert and trapped in a situation where you’ll never be able to escape on your own. So maybe I should have said Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and the END of Being John Malkovich.
Blueberries for Sal and Grizzly Man
ACK! That’s no good. Abort! Abort!
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The Hamilton Affair. Elizabeth Cobbs. 2016. Arcade. 408 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: The boy frowned, pressed a folded handkerchief to his nose, and scanned the crowd for the third time.
Premise/plot: The Hamilton Affair is historical fiction starring Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza. The novel has alternating narrators; readers get to spend time with both Alexander and Eliza. The book leans more towards romance than political drama. I think that's something readers should know from the start. Readers expecting the book to perfectly complement the Broadway musical may be a bit disappointed. Angelica is essentially absent from the book. (She's mentioned now and then, mainly because Alexander borrows money from her husband. Her husband seems more developed as a character than Angelica.) This should not be seen as a novelization of the musical--far from it. With the right expectations, readers can delight in it, I'm sure!
My thoughts: The Hamilton Affair was an almost for me. I wanted to love it so much, yet, in the end it wasn't love for me. Reading is subjective, I remember that always and so should you. But for me it felt both slow and rushed. Not an easy combination perhaps, but, in this case I think that's my honest assessment. The parts I wanted to take time in and explore and really just enjoy the moment felt rushed or passed over altogether. And then there were times it felt sluggish and like there was nothing at all happening to move the plot forward.
I also expected Alexander Hamilton to have more charisma on the page. I wanted to feel what Eliza felt--I wanted to feel helpless. I didn't quite get that. It felt more removed than that. Still, I am glad I read it. And some chapters I really did enjoy.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews