Wild Romance: The True Story of a Victorian Scandal. Chloe Schama. 2010. Walker & Company. 249 pages.
Loved the first half of this nonfiction book on the life of Theresa Longworth, but, the second half which chronicles her world-travels after her oh-so-famous trials left me bored.
I picked up Wild Romance: A Victorian Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman because I'm a fan of Victorian literature. I've read a handful of novels that fall into the "inspired-by" category. Authors whose works deal with irregular marriages--Irish, Scottish, etc. Marriages whose legitimacy was sometimes called into question. Since in some cases, just saying "We're married" with no paperwork, no witnesses, no priest or clergyman could do the job. At the time, there was definitely debate about what made a marriage or union legal or illegal.
In the case of Theresa Longworth, she "married" allegedly married on two different occasions in two different countries, a man named William Charles Yelverton. In the moment, I suppose, he was willing enough. The couple traveled together as man and wife for a short time at least. But when the two separated, I believe he was in the military, he changed his mind. He found someone new, someone with money to marry. And marry he did. Theresa finding out after a very difficult illness that "her" husband was now married to someone else...and he was claiming that they'd never, ever been married. Furthermore, he started saying that she was chasing him, had been chasing him for years and years, and that she was the one who wanted a more intimate arrangement.
The first half of this one follows their "courtship" and "marriage" leading up to a handful of trials in a handful of countries. And these court cases meant big, big, big publicity. Especially for her, she had a way of winning the public's support...but not so much anyone else. Some thought his new wife was much, much classier mainly because she stayed quiet and stayed at home.
So the book gives readers very detailed accounts of their correspondence. And in a way, the book encourages readers to make up their own minds. Was Theresa Longworth pursuing him? Was she going above and beyond what was allowed of ladies of the time? Was there something indiscreet and shameful in her letters to him? Was she ever grounded in reality? Was William Charles Yelverton a jerk? Did he ever mean to do right by Theresa? Was lying to her about being married the only way he saw of getting her into bed?
The second half of the book, for better or worse, lets readers know what happened next in her life. And what happened next is that she started traveling the world. All over the world. She wrote about her travels and had them published. (She also wrote two novels, though reviews were mixed at best.)
The book concludes by discussing how this real-life court case inspired dozens of novels of the time.
My Dad is the Best Playground. Luciana Navarro Powell. 2012. Random House. 26 pages. [Board Book]My dad is the best playground, the most fun of all. He's the highest swing and a great climbing wall.Dad is the longest tunnel I've ever crawled through.Monkey bars, seesaw, and a bouncy trampoline, too.
These two little ones just LOVE their Dad. He does make the best playground, after all. Where big sister goes, baby soon follows, as you'll notice as you read this fun and playful new board book by Luciana Navarro Powell. The text is fun, playful, spirited, definitely matching the energy of the characters. The rhyming works for me, for the most part. I would definitely recommend this one!Higher! Higher! Leslie Patricelli. 2010. Candlewick Press. 30 pages. [Board Book]Higher! Higher!
How high can a father push his little girl on the swings? Read Leslie Patricelli's oh-so-delightful book Higher! Higher! and see for yourself. A little imagination goes a long, long, long way you'll see. For she goes higher and higher and higher, and she just might make it all the way to outer space! The illustrations are at the heart of this one, it is in paying attention to the illustrations that you'll find delight. The text of this one is extremely simple: just one word "Higher!" repeated again and again and again...as one little girl has a very fun time playing with her Dad. Faster! Faster! Leslie Patricelli. 2012. Candlewick Press. [Picture Book]Faster! Faster!
I really LOVED Leslie Patricelli's Higher! Higher! I've loved all her baby books really. Faster! Faster! is no exception. In this playful follow-up, readers see a little girl and her Dad at the park once again. She wants a ride on his back, this time. (The swings are occupied, did you notice?!) She wants him to go faster! faster! Can Dad go faster than a dog chasing a ball? faster than a rabbit? faster than an ostrich? faster than a horse? Read for yourself and see!!! Just how long can he keep up this fast pace?! It is imaginative, fun, playful, spirited. And very, very simple!!!
Read My Dad is the Best Playground; Higher! Higher!; and Faster! Faster!
- If you've got little ones, energetic little ones that love to play and bounce and imagine
- If you're looking for books that encourage play, time spent with Dad
- If you're looking for fun books to read out loud
- If you're a fan of Leslie Patricelli
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
There are a lot of misfit-boy stories out there. There are a lot of misfit-boy-who-likes-comics-or-some-other-formerly-outsider-interest out there. It's a scenario that I probably liked the first few times I saw it, but, you know me. My tolerance for familiarity isn't all that great. The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To
by D.C. Pierson
is very well done, but I almost gave up on it early on, because even though it is funny and poignant, lots of those misfit-boy stories are funny and poignant. I felt I'd read it before.
I stuck with it, though, and the payoff was that Pierson has mashed up that well known misfit-boy story with a science fiction tale. The science fiction aspect actually comes right out of the comic book world the main character, Darren, and his friend, Eric (the boy who couldn't sleep), have been creating. This is what gives The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To
a feel of the new. That's what kept me reading.
Pierson is a subtle and impressive writer. An example: Darren, our main character, has an older brother who is like something out of A Clockwork Orange
, which is mentioned at one point. (The brother is probably modeling himself on Fight Club
, but I haven't seen that, so I can't be sure.) Big Bro' really is repugnant. Yet, he goes to Outback with his father and younger brother every week. The three of them take off at Christmas time. In what passes as a generous act, he gives his younger brother drugs and doesn't make him pay for them. In this chilling guy is something rather family oriented. A reader can feel that if he doesn't get killed or imprisoned, he could turn out okay.
I found The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To
in the YA section of my local library. Yet it appears to have been published as an adult book
. It seems a YA book to me. Yes, Darren is telling his story after it occurs--a couple of years after it occurs, when he's a freshman in college. We're hardly talking a whole lot of adult perspective on the experience here. Yes, there's a lot of rank language and drug use and some real sex, not just the thinking about it kind. I can't recall having read a YA with drug use, but certainly rank language and sex appears in the genre. I can't think of a real reason why this couldn't have been published as YA. I do think it can be viewed as coming-of-age--"Oh, I had a life-changing, grown-up experience." Personally, I think adult readers like that kind of thing more than teenagers do, so maybe these kinds of books get published as adult because that's where their biggest fans may be.Plot Project
: I don't think Darren's story is about something he wants
and struggles to get. It's much more about a disturbance to his world--he finds out that his new friend never sleeps, is sort of a living and breathing science fiction character. What possibilities does that open?
I have to admit that I don't have a lot of interest in Albert Einstein. I picked up Albert Einstein
when I saw it at the library because I recognized the author, Kathleen Krull
's, name. I remember her picture book Fartiste
, and I liked what I thought was the novelty of her book Lincoln Tells a Joke
. Plus, I believe Kathleen is a Facebook friend. My point being, that name is definitely filed away in my mind, and when I saw it on a book cover, the metaphorical equivalent of a bell rang.
I found Albert Einstein
, part of Krull's Giants of Science
series, to be a very
book. Seriously, on a couple of occasions I looked forward to going back to this book over some other ones I was reading at the time. The text seemed as if it could have come from one of those well done magazine profiles that often grab me.
I can't say that I have a better understanding of what Einstein actually did, though I think I do have a grasp of his process. I have a much better understanding of the significance of his work in the bigger scheme of things. I am left, after reading Albert Einstein
, not liking him very much. That was an interesting aspect of this book. I felt that Krull put out details of Einstein's personal life (his treatment of the women in his life, for instance) without making any value judgments, herself. I, however, felt free to do so. I also felt she did a good job of placing him within his time period and showing historical events' impact upon him. In one case, in particular, she showed the impact he appears to have had on a historical event.
This book includes a list of sources, but no citations in the text. I am seeing this in nonfiction books for adults, as well as children, and don't know what the significance is. The absence of citations wouldn't keep me from encouraging a young person to read the book.
Bink & Gollie. Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Tony Fucile. 2010. [September 2010] Candlewick Press. 96 pages. "Hello, Gollie," said Bink.
"What should we do today?"
"Greetings, Bink," said Gollie.
"I long for speed."
"Let's roller-skate!" This chapter book contains three stories starring two friends: "Don't You Need a New Pair of Socks," "P.S. I'll Be Back Soon," and "Give a Fish A Home." I liked the two friends--one very short, one very tall--almost from the start. But while I like the characters, none of the stories really wowed me. The first story, "Don't You Need A New Pair of Socks" comes closest, perhaps. In this adventure, Bink discovers super-super bright socks at a bargain price. She loves her new socks so, so much. Gollie, however, is not a fan. At all. Bink later wants pancakes, Gollie, is happy to oblige, if and only if, Bink removes her offensively obnoxious oh-so-bright socks. Bink is hungry, very, very hungry, but she LOVES her socks. What is needed is a compromise, Bink removes one of her socks so she can have half a plate of pancakes. The second story is about wanting some alone-time. The third story is about a fish. The third story was probably my least favorite.
I did like the characters. I liked the friendship. I liked seeing the two contrasting personalities find ways to make it work.
Bink and Gollie: Two for One. Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Tony Fucile. 2012. [June 2012] Candlewick Press, 96 pages. Bink and Gollie are back for three more stories: "Whack a Duck," "You're Special, Aren't You?" and "Without Question." All three stories are set at a carnival or fair. In the first story, the poor man at the "Whack a Duck" booth gets more abuse than he bargained for. Poor Bink has terrible aim. She doesn't mean to keep hitting him with the ball--she really doesn't. But she WANTS to win the world's largest donut. In the second story, Gollie gets stage fright when she enters a talent show. In the third story, the two girls visit a fortune teller and hear about how they are going to be great friends always.
I definitely like the two characters Bink and Gollie. I like the characters more than I like the actual stories. Though the writing is good, I like some of the phrasing, for example.
"Whack something?" said the duck man.
"I fear this can only end in tragedy," said Gollie.
"Did I win?" said Bink.
"Oh, Bink," said Gollie. "There are no winners here."
"Don't worry, Bink," said Gollie. "I'm sure the Whack-a-Duck man will be just fine."
"But I've never seen a grown man cry before," said Bink.
"Three bags of donuts, please," said Bink.
"I didn't win," said Bink.
"But we're all still alive," said Gollie.
"Duck a whack," said the duck man. "Step right up."
Read Bink & Gollie
- If you like Kate DiCamillo
- If you are looking for new early readers/chapter books to share with young readers
- If you are looking for stories that emphasize friendship
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Chloe and the Lion. Mac Barnett. Pictures by Adam Rex. 2012. Hyperion. 48 pages.This is me, Mac. I'm the author of this book. This is my friend, Adam. He's the illustrator of this book. And this is Chloe. She's the main character of this book. Wherever Chloe went, she looked for loose change.
Poor Chloe, she's really not the star of this book. What is this book really about? Well, it's about the tug-of-war between the creative spirit of the author and the creative spirit of the illustrator. This adventure starts off okay, they agree that Chloe is a fun-loving girl who saves up all her coins, her money, so she can ride the merry-go-round in the park every Saturday. The fight starts with what happens one Saturday on Chloe's way back home....
The author feels that Chloe should meet a LION. The illustrator thinks it would be cooler if Chloe met a DRAGON. The two cannot settle their differences, so the author writes the illustrator out of the book....but is that the end of this story?
Chloe and the Lion is a very quirky book. It celebrates writing, drawing, storytelling, and teamwork. While I didn't personally love it, I do think it's a very unique book.Extra Yarn. Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. 2012. HarperCollins. 40 pages. On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled yarn of every color. So she went home and knit herself a sweater. And when Annabelle was done, she had some extra yarn. So she knit a sweater for Mars, too. But there was still extra yarn. And when Annabelle and Mars went for a walk, Nate pointed and laughed and said, "You two look ridiculous." "You're just jealous," said Annabelle. "No, I'm not," said Nate. But it turned out he was. And even after she'd made a sweater for Nate and his dog, and for herself and for Mars, she still had extra yarn.
Annabelle LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to knit. And since her supply of yarn seems to be never ending, there's a good chance that her whole town will soon be covered in sweaters, scarves, and hats. But while many people welcome Annabelle and appreciate her special gift, there is one person who is very, very jealous...and he's willing to go to great lengths to get what he wants....
Extra Yarn is very quirky; it's definitely unique! For example, readers meet Mr. Crabtree.
She made sweaters for everyone, except Mr. Crabtree, who never wore sweaters or even long pants, and who would stand in his shorts with the snow up to his knees. "No sweater for me, thanks," said Mr. Crabtree. So she made Mr. Crabtee a hat. And even then Annabelle still had extra yarn.
The characters, the story itself, the illustrations--there's just something very unique, very distinctive, very quirky about this one. Jon Klassen is the illustrator, and readers may notice that the animals from Klassen's I Want My Hat Back make an appearance in this one. Oh no! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed The World). Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Dan Santat. 2010. Hyperion. 40 pages.Oh no...Oh man...I knew it. I never should have built a robot for the science fair. Everything was going so well...Until the rampage started, that is.
Our narrator is a young girl who was a little TOO excited, a little TOO ambitious with her science fair project. Can she find a solution to the problem? Can she use her smarts to save the day?
This one was funny, in my opinion. The story was a little over-the-top, but in a good way. The text is simple, which gives the illustrations plenty of room. The illustrations do steal the show, perhaps. But the text is brilliant in its simplicity. "I probably shouldn't have given it a superclaw, or a laser eye, or the power to control dogs' minds" and "I should have given it ears. I should have taught it how to read."Oh No! Not Again! (Or How I Built A Time Machine To Save History) (Or At Least My History Grade). Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Dan Santat. 2012. Hyperion. 40 pages.Oh no. Not again. What a disaster. This is even worse than that time I built a gigantic rampaging robot. I didn't get a perfect score on my history test. I can't believe I missed the first question. Luckily, there's a simple solution. I just need to build a time machine and change history so I am right. Let's get this show on the road.
She's back. And this time the subject is history. When she misses the first question on her history test: "In what modern country do we find the oldest prehistoric cave paintings?" inspiration strikes again. She'll just build a time machine to make sure that Belgium has cave paintings that predates those in France. The problem? Well, you might guess that changing the past isn't that simple and definitely has dozens of consequences. I won't spoil this one for you, I really think you should read this one for yourself, but let's just say it's good...and she'd have been better off being happy with her A.
Read Mac Barnett
- If you're looking for quirky, fun, funny, humorous, unique, distinctive picture books on a wide range of subjects.
- If you're looking for books that celebrate creativity, art, and problem-solving.
- If you're looking for books that celebrate storytelling.
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Little Brown for Young Readers, May 1, 2010
4 Comments on Book Review: Ship Breaker, Paulo Bacigalupi, last added: 4/10/2011
Matched. Ally Condie. 2010. Penguin. 369 pages.Now that I've found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night? My wings aren't white or feathered; they're green, made of green silk, which shudders in the wind and bends when I move--first in a circle, then in a line, finally in a shape of my own invention. The black behind me doesn't worry me; neither do the stars ahead.
Cassia, the heroine of this dystopian YA novel, is on her way to her Match banquet. This is THE night where she will learn the identity of the man she'll spend the rest of her life with. It's also the day Cassia turns seventeen. Just one of many coincidences, perhaps, of Ally Condie's Matched.
For it is revealed that her match is her best friend, Xander. Usually, one's match is a complete stranger. The fact that she knows him--that she knows
him--well, it's a strange coincidence. But that's just the beginning. For when she looks on her microcard, a microcard that should be full of pictures and background information on her match--she catches a glimpse of another friend, Ky. For a moment, only a moment, it appears that Cassia has two matches. This kind of mistake should NEVER happen. And it's corrected by a visiting Official who tries her best to convince Cassia that it was a mistake, nothing more. Ky could never, ever, ever be her real match. Because he's not good enough to be anyone's match.
Any guesses which young man Cassia starts to fall in love with?
I enjoyed Matched. I wouldn't say that I loved it absolutely. But I enjoyed it. I found it entertaining and satisfying. I liked Cassia. I liked Ky. I liked Xander. I liked Cassia's family. Her brother, Bram, her father and mother, her grandfather. I was interested in the world Condie created. I liked the role poetry played in this one. How forbidden poems were used to help reveal some of the mysteries. It just worked for me.
The almost-snow reminds me of a line from a poem we studied this year in Language and Literacy: "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." It is one of my favorites of all the Hundred Poems, the ones our Society chose to keep, back when they decided our culture was too cluttered. They created commissions to choose the hundred best of everything: Hundred Songs, Hundred Paintings, Hundred Stories, Hundred Poems. The rest were eliminated. Gone forever. For the best, the Society said, and everyone believed because it made sense. How can we appreciate anything fully when overwhelmed with too much? (29)
Every minute you spend with someone gives them a part of your life and takes part of theirs. (65)
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Getting the kids to bed on time sometimes seems like an impossible task. By the time we eat, finish with the baths, brush teeth and read a few books, it's already time for bed. Then the creative delays begin. "I need a drink of water. I need to say good night to the cat." Both kids have even tried to hide their blankies in an attempt to postpone bedtime. We're pretty firm parents and stall tactics don't work long here, but the minutes still add up and invariably time sneaks by. Author Janet Halfmann, with four kids and four grandkids, knows about all the bedtime tricks. In her newest book, a cute little sea otter tries to delay his bedtime, but eventually he drifts off to sleep. ♈ ♈ ♈ ♈ Sea Otter and Kelp Craft ♈ ♈ ♈ ♈
Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Wish Williams. Star Bright Books (September 2010); ISBN 9781595722546; 32 pages
Book Source: Review copy from publisher
"Then it was bedtime, but Little Sea Otter wasn't ready to sleep."
Against a colorful sunset sky, Little Sea Otter and his mama prepare for bedtime. But before he falls asleep, Little Sea Otter must say goodnight to all the creatures above and below the ocean. First he speaks to the harbor seals, sea lions and a seagull and then he dips his head below water and wishes fish, sea urchins and others a good night. As the stars twinkle above and the sea sings a soft lullaby, Little Sea Otter says his final "Good Night" while his mom wraps them both in ribbons of kelp, anchoring them safely for the evening.
Reading this gentle and sweet story to a child is the perfect way to end the day. Little Sea Otter's pleasant waves of goodbyes, one after one, will relax and comfort readers like the murmur of sea waves. Wish Williams surrounds Little Sea Otter in a dreamy rainbow of sea colors. At one point, kids get a chance to point out orange, yellow and purple fish. His illustrations provide a lovely backdrop for the story. The beautiful sunset sky gradually darkens and eventually stars appear. The sea looks quiet and calm. I especially love that Janet Halfmann briefly mentions how Sea otters use kelp as anchors while sleeping. The brief educational moments paired with images of the adorable mama and baby sea otter make this a worthwhile and enjoyable bedtime read perfect for toddlers to early elementary-aged children.
Janet Halfmann - Author Website
Sea Otter Facts, Video and Sound on Defenders.org
Earth Day is a good time to consider the consequences of our daily actions and to learn abou
Every now and then I go through the new picture books at my local library. Recently I found two very clever ones by Melanie Watt.
As soon as I saw the "Place My Award Here" spot on Chester, I knew to expect some attitude. The book delivers. The publisher describes it as a story told "by dueling author-illustrators." In fact, Melanie Watt becomes a character in the story, a character who is trying to write and illustrate a book that keeps being hijacked by a cat named Chester. I guess a child reader could either consider him to be a real cat who wants to write this book or a character who wants to take over. Either way, Chester is, as he himself says, "Charming Handsome Envy of Mouse Smart Talented Envy of Melanie Really Handsome."
He returns in Chester's Masterpiece in which the two author-illustrators continue to duke it out on paper. This time, though, Chester's creative struggle "illustrates" plenty about the writing process. A nice addition to a grade school writing program, perhaps?
Chester made a third appearance in 2008 in Chester's Back!, though I haven't read it.
Plot Project: After thinking about plot these many months for my Plot Project, I have decided that some plots are "organic" in that they grow out of situation, rather than falling into the "What does your character want? How can you keep it from him?" format. The plots for these books are organic. They come out of the basic situation of the author fighting with a character.
The Boss Baby. Marla Frazee. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious that he was the boss. He put Mom and Dad on a round-the-clock schedule, with no time off. And then he set up his office right smack-dab in the middle of the house. He made demands. Many, many demands. And he was quite particular. If things weren't done to his immediate satisfaction, he had a fit.
Thus begins The Boss Baby a charming, oh-so-delightful look back at the early days of parenthood written by Marla Frazee. I loved this one from the first spread. The art had me at hello. (It was very retro.) And the text, well, the text was clever and fun. The joke--the 'office' humor--could have gotten old perhaps in the hands of another author. But. I found this one to be so true-to-life, so charming, so funny--in a clever, grown-up way--that it worked from cover to cover.
This is a picture book that I found myself reading and rereading just so I could take in every detail.
© 2011 Becky Laney of Young Readers
By: Stacy Dillon,
I am always on the look out for books that support the curriculum at my school. I am always on the look out for good books. So imagine my delight when I found the perfect combination of the two while browsing my local public library shelves.
First off, Trickster
is gorgeous. It has shelf appeal and format appeal coming out the wazoo. And then comes the content, which does everything else all kinds of justice.
As you can imagine, what lies within is a collection of trickster tales that are haunting, beautiful, humorous and clever all at once. There are 20 tales in all, and readers will find some common threads between tales. Azban and the Crayfish
(Bruchac, Bruchac, & Dembicki) tells the story of a clever raccoon and a lying crayfish, while How Wildcat Caught A Turkey
(Stands With Many & Sperry) tells a similar tale about a tricky rabbit and some not-so-lucky turkeys. Not all of the stories feature animals alone as some may assume. The tall tale of Moshup's Bridge
(Perry, Piers & White), and When Coyote Decided to Get Married
(Thorsgard & Arrington) are just two of the stories that feature human characters along side a cast of animals.
Stylistically, the art runs the gamut from hauntingly realistic illustrations to cartoon, yet the collection never feels disjointed. Each story is like a fresh new breath, and the art simply compliments the feeling.
End-notes feature a statement from Matt Dembicki speaking of his inspiration to get this collection together. After reading American Indian Trickster Tales
, by Ortiz and Erdoes he realized how little he knew of Native American culture and wanted to put together a collection of tales in sequential format. Dembicki wanted to make sure that the stories were all written by Native American storytellers and that he had the support of the community. The end product is this collection. There are also mini biographies of all of the storytellers and artists involved in the creation of Trickster
, and these are sure to give inspiration to budding storytellers and artists alike.
While I will be returning this collection to the library, I will also be going out to purchase it to live on my book shelf at home.
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Jennifer Trafton. With illustrations by Brett Helquist. 2010. Penguin. 352 pages.
From the prologue: There is a very good possibility that you will not believe a word I say. Alas, it is the risk all historians take. The truest things are often the most unbelievable.
There is an island in the world, a small but lovely piece of earth, which its inhabitants call (rightly or wrongly) the Island at the Center of Everything. On the day before my story begins, it was as nearly perfect a place as an island in the world could reasonably expect to be.
From the first chapter: On a dark night in a dense forest while the great wide wonder of the stormy sky threatened to burst through the trees and swallow her up, a girl lost her hat.
This would not be an event worth recording in the annals of history, except that the girl not only lost her hat, she lost her head. Which is to say, she panicked. When a gust of wind swept off her hat and sent it flying above the trees, she left the path she had been so carefully following to run after the vanishing blue speck. It is not surprising that when she finally recovered her head and sat down to think, she realized that she had now lost both her hat and her way home.
I loved The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. I just LOVED it. For me, at least, it falls into the practically-perfect-in-every-way category of books. The kind of book that you read and instantly fall in love with. The kind of book that you want to reread again and again. The kind of book that you want EVERYONE to know about so they can read it themselves and discover how wonderful it is.
Persimmony Smudge, our heroine, lost her hat and thus saved the world. For if she hadn't lost her hat, she wouldn't have gotten lost. And if she hadn't gotten lost, she wouldn't have been chased. And if she hadn't been chased, she wouldn't have sought refuge in a hollow tree. And if she hadn't been hiding in that tree, she wouldn't have heard the conspirators talking about digging for the king's gold. And if she hadn't heard about the gold, she wouldn't have known to warn the King. And if she hadn't warned the King, she would have never been sent on her quest. And that quest turned out to be oh-so-important. To the king, it was a joke. But some dangers shouldn't be laughed at! Especially when that danger is...
Well, of course, I'm NOT going to tell you!!!
This book is delightful. It's just a JOY to read this one! Great story! Great writing! Great characters! I loved Persimmony. I loved the characters she meets along the way. Some, of course, are friendly. Others not so much. King Lucas the Loftier, for example, is SUCH a brat when we first meet him. I liked Worvil the Worrier--he reminded me of Puddleglum from The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. And then there is the King's adviser, Professor Quibble. I loved the world she created. I enjoyed getting to know the different inhabitants of the island: the Leafeaters, the Rumblebumps, and the humans (Sunspitters).
It's a fantasy novel and adventure story--complete with quest. It also has a fairy tale feel to it.
A broom. A hat. A girl. A hole. Such small things in a big world. But without the small things, there would be no story to tell, and--most importantly--I would not still be alive to tell it. (14)
"I need more pepper. I can't live without pepper! Don't you know that my thirteenth birthday is less than two weeks away? How can I have a birthday party without any pepper to serve my guests? It would be...It would be...It would be extremely discumbersomebubblating."
"I beg your pardon, Your Highness, but I believe you mean discombobulating."
By: Becky Laney
Blog: Becky's Book Reviews
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The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 477 pages. Eva Nine was dying. The tiny scarlet dots on her hand mirrored the glowering eyes of the snake that had just bitten her.
I didn't love The Search for Wondla. I'm not even sure I liked it. One of the reasons it didn't quite work for me was that the ending left me unsatisfied. I wanted to shout at the book, "That's not an ending!" Then again, maybe it's not fair to judge a first book in a series by the ending.
Eva Nine, our heroine, may just be the last human on the planet. She has spent her whole life underground in Sanctuary. She was raised by a robot--albeit a robot with a mothering program built right in. (Muthr is always, always nagging Eva Nine to do this or that. Little things like picking up her room, etc.) When the novel opens, Eva Nine is in the middle of a test to determine if she's ready to live Sanctuary and venture into the real world above ground. Her muthr isn't convinced that she is ready. But she's going to give her one more chance, if Eva Nine doesn't improve, well, they may just have to go back to the basics.
Six Basic Survival Skills for Humans
1. Trust technology
2. Signal others
3. Find shelter
4. Create fire
5. Procure food and water
6. Know first aid
But ready or not, Eva Nine may be forced into the cruel, ugly world of unknowns. When someone breaks into sanctuary--destroying it in the process--Eva Nine is forced to flee the only home she's ever known. She is taking a few technological items with her, like her Omnipod, but what she soon discovers is that NO technology can protect her now, keep her safe, or guide her. The whole world--the whole planet--is unknown.
But Eva Nine won't be on her own for long, though her companions are not human--not even close.
The Search for Wondla is a blending of so many genres and subgenres. It's both science fiction and fantasy, in my opinion. It's an adventure story--a survival story. And of course it's one big mystery. Where is Eva Nine? What planet is she on? How did she get there? Is she really, truly the last human? Where did all these species come from?
The world Tony DiTerlizzi created is interesting. At times I found it confusing, I had to keep telling myself to keep reading and that it would start making sense eventually if I just read long enough. And that worked, for the most part. It helped when I decided the confusion might just be intentional. Eva Nine, our heroine, is thrust into a world that is completely foreign to her. She doesn't recognize any of the trees or plants. She doesn't recognize any of the life forms. These creatures--animals--speak in their own languages. She doesn't know what's dangerous and what's safe. She's completely out of her element.
Have you read this one? What did you think?
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
By: Becky Laney
Blog: Becky's Book Reviews
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The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (#1 Heroes of Olympus) 2010. Hyperion. 576 pages.
Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day.
I had my doubts. Even though it's Rick Riordan, I had my doubts. How could The Lost Hero hope to compete with The Lightning Thief. It could be good, it could even be really good. But how could it really compare with such a great book?! For me, that was THE best book, the one that was the best of them all. Yes, the series as a whole was a good adventure, but the first one? Well it was OH-SO-MAGICAL!
I was surprised by how much I loved this one. I thought it was a great read. Compelling, exciting, and magical!!! It has multiple narrators. Now practically every book with multiple narrators has me sharing with you how much I really don't like that element in books, but with this one it WORKED and worked well. It didn't feel awkward or silly like it does in Rick Riordan's other series--The Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire.
Our narrators, our heroes and heroines, are Jason, Piper, and Leo. Two have been under the protection of Coach Hedge, the third appears out of nowhere on a school field trip. The mist effecting everyone's memories--even Piper and Leo. (Piper just KNOWS that Jason has been her boyfriend for weeks. She can almost remember every moment they've ever shared.) But trouble is coming and the three will have to fight to survive long enough to reach the safety of Camp Half-blood. To complicate matters, Jason has NO MEMORY at all of who he is or where he came from.
So the book does feature a quest, and it is EXCITING. I won't go into the details of this one. Chances are if you're familiar with Percy Jackson and his series, then you'll want to read this new series anyway. And if you haven't read Percy Jackson yet, if you've yet to discover the joys of The Lightning Thief, then this is NOT the place to start your journey with Rick Riordan.
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Moon Over Manifest. Clare Vanderpool. 2010. October 2010. Random House. 368 pages.
The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I knew only from stories. The one just outside of town with big blue letters: MANIFEST: A TOWN WITH A RICH PAST AND A BRIGHT FUTURE. I thought about my daddy, Gideon Tucker. He does his best talking in stories, but in recent weeks, those had become few and far between. So on the occasion when he'd say to me, "Abilene, did I ever tell you 'bout the time...?" I'd get all quiet and listen real hard. Mostly he'd tell stories about Manifest, the town where he'd lived once upon a time.
His words drew pictures of brightly painted storefronts and bustling townsfolk. Hearing Gideon tell about it was like sucking on butterscotch. Smooth and sweet. And when he'd go back to not saying much, I'd try recalling what it tasted like. Maybe that was how I found comfort just then, even with him being so far away. By remembering the flavor of his words.
This was my third time to read Clare Vanderpool's historical novel, Moon Over Manifest. (I read it twice in 2010.) It is one of those books--in my opinion--that reads just as good, if not better, upon rereading. I never get tired of reading great books, of books that are among 'my favorite and best.' How could I ever know which books were truly my favorites unless I reread them again and again?! How could one reading of a great book ever, ever, ever be enough?!
Moon Over Manifest is a coming-of-age novel that is a historical mystery. The heroine, Abilene, is a young girl who's just arrived--in her own way, in her own style--in the town of Manifest. She's heard a few stories from her father--this is the town where he spent some of his childhood; but she knows she's just got a fraction of the stories. For there are many, many things she doesn't know about her father--past or present. Like, she doesn't really understand why her father is sending her away now. Yes, it's the depression. Yes, times are hard. Yes, life on the road is tough and unpredictable. But isn't being together worth it? She has certainly always thought so...
So the novel has a framework to it. There is the modern-day story with Abilene and her brand-new friends as they set about discovering clues to the past--letters, newspaper articles, special objects, etc. And the flash-back story that stars Jinx and Ned--two young men who are the best of friends. This is the story set during the first world war. This is the story that sees one of the young men going off to war and never coming back home. This is the story that shows the devastation of the 'Spanish' influenza. And that's just the beginning.
I loved so many things about Moon Over Manifest. The characterization. The storytelling. The writing. I definitely recommend this one...
Read Moon Over Manifest
- If you're a fan of historical fiction
- If you're looking for a book set in the 1930s
- If you're looking for a book set during World War I
- If you like storytelling
- If you like historical mysteries
- If you like coming-of-age stories
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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America's Doll House: The Miniature World of Faith Bradford. William L. Bird, Jr. 2010. Princeton Architectural Press. 128 pages.
From the book jacket:
One of the most popular exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute is a dollhouse. Sitting on the museum's third floor is the five-story home donated to the museum by Faith Bradford, a Washington, D.C. librarian, who spent more than half-a-century accumulating and constructing the 1,354 miniatures that fill its 23 intricately detailed rooms. When Bradford donated them to the museum in 1951, she wrote a lengthy manuscript describing the lives of its residents: Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doll and their ten children, two visiting grandparents, twenty pets, and household staff. Bradford cataloged the Dolls' tastes, habits, and preferences in neatly typed household inventories, which she then bound, along with photographs and fabric samples, in a scrapbook. In America's Doll House, Smithsonian curator William L. Bird, Jr., weaves this visual material into the rich tapestry of Faith Bradford's miniature world. Featuring vibrant photography that brings every narrative detail to life. America's Doll House is both an incisive portrait of a sentimental pastime and a celebration of Bradford's remarkable and painstaking accomplishment.
I almost never rely on summaries written by other people, but, in the case of America's Doll House
, I couldn't think of a better way to say it. After all, if that description made me WANT to pick this book up, then maybe it will make you want to do the same!!! I can't say that the description fits the book exactly--in one or two phrases, I think there is a bit of exaggerating going on. But. Still.
America's Doll House has a mini-biography of Faith Bradford. Readers learn a bit about her childhood, how she came to start her miniature collection, how this was a hobby she shared with her sister, how almost all of her original collection was lost (and/or stolen). Readers learn a bit about her private life and public life, her career as a librarian. Readers gain a bit of background into the times. Readers really see how this hobby shaped her life--through the decades--and how important it was to her, how absorbing of a pastime it was to her.
But America's Doll House also has a mini-lesson on the Smithsonian museum. Readers learn about what the museum was like at this time--late 40s through late 50s. Readers learn about what exhibits the museum had. Which exhibits were the most popular, where they were located, how various people responded to the museum. Perhaps most importantly it focuses on the tension of the times. The desire to have collections for their historic value, for their social value, but at the same time be new and modern and relevant to the times. Many pages are spent talking about money, talking about new buildings, remodeling, etc.
The book is very detailed in the relationship between the museum and Faith Bradford. How she came to donate her collection. What she expected the museum to do for her and her collection. How she wanted it displayed, etc. Also there is some discussion about a second dollhouse she had built for the museum. A doll house that went straight to storage--for better or worse. Going back to the tension of the times. The book also mentions that this second dollhouse is now missing. (Oh, how sad that sentence made me.)
Over half the book is photographs. And these photographs are good. The detail is much greater than the photos displayed on the online exhibit site. You can see the details of each room. You can see the dolls themselv