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Today’s guest reviewer has pets — a cat and a gerbil to be exact.
So when she decided that another cat would be a good thing, others in our family were not convinced.
“You already have a cat,” said her dad.
“Another cat means more cat hair,” said her older sister.
But Sonia would not be dissuaded. She made a list of reasons another cat was a good idea. (See the photo in the lower right.) She shared the merits of cats. She drew pictures of cats. She dreamed about cats.
Eventually, her persistence won out, and Sunny joined our family.
Sonia’s story is remarkably similar to Prudence’s as described in Prudence Wants a Pet (Roaring Brook Press, 2011) by Cathleen Daly and Stephen Michael King.
Prudence desperately wants a pet. Her parents say no for all the usual reasons. Prudence decides to take matters into her own hands and tries out a branch, a twig, a shoe, a tire and her baby brother as possible pets.
Let’s just say none are ideal.
Things look hopeful when her parents say she can get a packet of sea buddies. But the buddies don’t move or even have faces.
It is the final straw. Prudence takes to her closet in despair.
Which leads to her parents having a whispered conversation.
I won’t share the ending, except to say everyone involved is happy. And that’s always a good thing.
As an aside, this is totally my kind of picture book. It has the sort of dry, understated humor that I like with a lot of heart just below its surface.
The writing is well done. And, I love how the illustrations only show the parents’ legs and arms.
Now, let’s see what animal-loving Sonia had to say.
Our reviewer: Sonia
Things I like to do: Play with my new cat, Sunny. Play with water. Make concoctions. Play with sidewalk chalk, draw, sleep and eat.
This book was about: A girl who wants a pet, but her parents don’t want one. They think it’s too much work.
My favorite part was: When Prudence got a pet that was a cat.
I was worried when: She lost Twig.
I was surprised when: She used her little brother as a pet.
My favorite words or phrase in the book was: “Dad broke the branch into little bits and put them on the woodpile.”
My favorite picture in the book is: When she’s hugging the kitten.
Three words that describe this book: “Pet.” “Meow.” “Branch.”
Other kids reading the book should watch for: Her begging for a pet. The small specks in the fish bowl. And, when her little brother turns green.
You should read this book because: If you want a pet, it shows you how to get one. (Sonia’s best tip from her own personal experience? “Say you’ll clean the cat litter.&rdq
I hope you have a happy, peaceful holiday season, no matter how you choose to celebrate.
Here is my contribution to the holiday cheer. This is my daughter, Sonia, playing piano at her school concert.
This was her first-ever “public” performance. Her piece? “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”
I read a lot of children’s books.
And thanks to Twitter, my writing friends and the Internet, I have a pretty lengthy list of books that I’ve heard a good buzz about requested through interlibrary loan. And, I’m always happy when I sit down to read one of them.
But, I still love browsing through the children’s section of my local library and discovering a gem of a book I haven’t heard of before.
That’s what happened a few weeks ago when I found Earth to Clunk
(Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011) a picture book written by Pam Smallcomb and illustrated by Joe Berger.
It shares the story of a boy whose teacher tells him to write a letter to a pen pal named Clunk who lives on another planet. The boy doesn’t want a pen pal, so along with his letters he sends odd items from Earth that he hopes will scare Clunk away. But Clunk counters with some unlikely objects of his own, and an unusual friendship is formed.
Allow me to gush for just a moment. This book is hilarious. Hil-ar-i-ous. In a very dry, deadpan way. Pam Smallcomb’s text is funny by itself. My favorite line is, “I’m sending Clunk an electric toothbrush, a toilet plunger, and a string of Christmas lights. He will be so confused he’ll never send me another thing.”
But when illustrator Joe Berger adds in a lot of clever details in the artwork, the story just takes off. This is a picture book that merits multiple readings just to pick up on everything that’s going on.
But enough from me. Now, let’s hear from today’s guest reviewer.
Our reviewer: Sonia
I like: Snuggling with my cat, playing with my gerbil and making art.
This book was about: Having a pen pal from another planet.
The best part was when: He sent his big sister to Quazar.
I smiled when: The zoid fell in love with his big sister.
I was worried when: He didn’t get a package from Clunk for a while.
I was surprised when: He didn’t want a pen pal at first and was mean to him.
This book taught me: If you ever send your big sister away, she’ll always come back.
My favorite line or phrase in the book is: “I’m sending Clunk my big sister. THAT will teach him to have a pen pal from Earth.”
My favorite picture was: When his sister comes back to earth with a disgusting glob of something on her head.
Three words that describe this book: “Clunk.” “Zoid.” “Forps.”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: All the packages that go back and forth between Quazar and Earth.
You should read this book because: It’s really funny.
Sonia has a pen pal in London, England who she’s just started writing to. She says if she had a pen pal on another planet, she’d send these items:
• An apple. “Because I like them.”
• A cat. “But not my cat — another cat — so my pen pal could see how affectionate kitties can be.”
• My big sister. (I guess no explanation is nee
Judith Viorst’s classic children’s book describes a boy named Alexander who survives a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Julie Sternberg’s debut book describes a girl named Eleanor who makes it through an awful month.
Alexander’s bad day is made up of a series of small slights and insults. He gets gum in his hair, he doesn’t get a seat by the window in the car, and the cat wants to sleep by his brother, and not him. There’s even kissing on TV, and he hates that.
Eleanor’s month is ruined by one momentous event. Bibi, the babysitter she’s had since she was — well — a baby, is moving far, far away.
And that’s so bad it’s Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie (Amulet, 2011).
As Eleanor’s world is turned upside down, she’s forced to cope the best she can. And, she learns that life goes on, even when it’s not the way she always thought it would be.
Now, let’s hear from today’s guest reviewer. Her babysitter moved to Arizona several years ago, so she could relate to the story:
Our reviewer: Sonia
I like: Coloring, playing on the computer, playing with my DS, reading Highlights magazine, and snuggling with my blanket and my cat, Vince.
This book was about: A girl named Eleanor. Her babysitter, Bibi, moves to Florida to help her Dad get better. They have a good-bye party, and all of Bibi’s friends cry. Then, they all go outside to get Bibi a taxi. Now, Eleanor doesn’t like taxis because they took Bibi away. Then, Eleanor gets a new babysitter, Natalie. Eleanor doesn’t like her like she liked Bibi, but then she gets used to her.
The best part of the book was: When Eleanor writes a note to Bibi while her dad is singing with Agnes, a neighbor. Once Agnes leaves, Eleanor wants to put the letter in the mailbox. So she gives it to the mail carrier, Val. Later, Val gives Eleanor a letter from Bibi.
I was surprised when: Bibi’s letter didn’t come sooner.
I was worried when: Eleanor had a big tantrum because she wanted her old babysitter back.
Three words that describe this book are: “Bibi.” “Eleanor.” “Natalie.”
This book taught me: You will always miss your first babysitter. But, you’ll probably get a new one that you like.
Other kids should read this book because: It’s a good book. I liked all the characters. I liked the picture where Val is waving the letter from Bibi.
Sonia has never put pickle juice on a cookie. But she concedes that it probably wouldn’t taste very good. She adds that the worst month she ever had was this very month because there was one day in it where she threw up five times. But she’s feeling much better now.
To learn more about author Julie Sternberg, visit her website.
To learn more about illustrator Matthew Cordell, visit his website.
And, here’s a delightful interview with both of them at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
Would you like to
Today’s reviewer is a bit of a blanket expert, as you can see in the photo to the right and the one near the bottom of this post.
That makes her a good choice to review Mary Ann Rodman’s latest picture book Camp K-9 (Peachtree, 2011) about Roxie, a dog with a favorite blanket.
Roxie likes to sniff her blanket. And, sometimes, Sonia does the same thing. She says it makes her feel better.
So cuddle up with something cozy, and hear her take on this warm and fuzzy tale.
Our reviewer: Sonia
Things I like to do: Color, watch TV, listen to my iPod, read books and sleep.
This book was about: A doggy named Roxie. She goes to Camp K-9, and she has a secret in her backpack. She meets a new girl, Pearl, and thinks she would be a good friend. But then she thinks you have to tell friends secrets, and Roxie doesn’t want to tell her secret – that she has a blanket – because Pearl might laugh at her.
The best part was when: Roxie goes in the cabin and sees Lucy, and Lucy has a blanket. Roxie laughs at her, but then she shows Lucy her blanket. No one laughs and everyone pulls out their own blankets that they’ve hidden.
I smiled when: Pearl and Roxie held hands and went to the pool together.
I was worried when: Pearl’s favorite dessert got knocked to the floor. It was pork pudding and liver snacks.
I was surprised when: Lucy was being all mean.
This book taught me: To be nice to your friends and not to laugh at people.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Camp.” “K-9.” “Roxie.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “‘Sorry,’ says Lucy. But I know she’s not.”
Other kids reading this book should watch for: All the different blankets. And when Lucy jumps out from behind a tree and scares the other dogs.
You should read this book because: It’s about cute dogs, and I like dogs.
If you’d like to learn more about Mary Ann Rodman, visit her website. Or, read this interview at Becky’s Book Reviews.
Mary Ann also is one of six authors who blog about writing and teaching writing at Teaching Authors.
To learn more about illustrator Nancy Hayashi, read this biography.
Thanks to Peachtree Publishers for providing a copy of this book for Sonia’s review.
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Elvin Lim is Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and author of The Anti-intellectual Presidency, which draws on interviews with more than 40 presidential speechwriters to investigate this relentless qualitative decline, over the course of 200 years, in our presidents’ ability to communicate with the public. He also blogs at www.elvinlim.com. In the article below he reflects on Sonia Sotomayer’s confirmation hearings. See his previous OUPblogs here.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court is probably going to be confirmed, but only after Republicans in the Senate put up a fight to appease the base that they tried to block the inevitable. There is value, though, in airing these differences, for they explain the irreconcilably liberal and conservative conceptions of justice that exist in America.
Conservatives have every right to disagree with Judge Sotomayor’s judicial judgments, as they are entitled to contest her understanding of the constitution. Most of their opposition will focus on the New Haven “reverse-discrimination” case (Ricci v Destafano) and this infelicitous remark: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” In short, the gist of the debate will be about the ambit of the Judge’s fellow-feeling. That is why Democrats and President Obama believe in the relevant virtue of “empathy” in a judge, whereas Republicans want a judge “for all of us” rather than “just for some of us.” Let us unpack this significant difference in perspective.
Democrats in general believe that justice is about helping the dispossessed, whereas Republicans in general believe that justice is about equality before the law. Democrats believe that justice is necessarily a distributional value. They believe that the world we are born into is structurally unfair and steeped in institutional biases, and it is the duty of the privileged and powerful to come to the aid of the dispossessed. That is why Democrats project their empathy to the particular few who they feel have been disadvantaged and not to all.
Republicans believe that the state of the world we are born into is morally neutral, and it is up to each individual to make the best of one’s talents in it. Because the ambit of Republican fellow-feeling extends to all, there is no extra virtue in empathy. Hence Democrats always presume an injustice to be righted (hence they are “progressive”), Republicans valorize and want to preserve the status quo (hence they are “conservative.”) These are irreconcilable positions because they are starting premises to much of the debate between liberals and conservatives. Logic can only be deployed to adjudicate the move from premise to conclusion, it can do nothing to discriminate between the choice of argumentative premises.
The pure liberal and pure conservative conceptions of justice are probably irreconcilable. But while the goalposts are not movable, we are. Ironically, empathy - the standard for Supreme Court justices that is under debate - is exactly what the two parties need to possess. If our starting premises are different and irreconciliable, the least (and probably the most) we can do is to try to understand why the other side thinks as it does. I think liberals can start by asking conservatives that if empathy is such a vice, would they teach their children to do onto others only what they would not want others to do unto themselves? And conservatives can return the favor by asking liberal parents this: if empathy is such a virtue, then shouldn’t every wrongdoing be at least partially exonerated?
Emotional and intellectual identification with alternative conceptions of justice is neither the only route to justice nor an insurmountable roadblock to it. Liberals are right in one sense - only empathy about the other party’s understanding of empathy will help resolve the partisan stand-off in Washington - but they should also practice what they preach.
First, a story …
Halloween isn’t even here yet, and the candy wars have already started at my house.
Things began innocently enough. A co-worker gave me a small bag of treats for my youngest daughter. She was thrilled. And very protective of her windfall.
It seems my oldest daughter had recently eaten some potato chips the youngest thought were hers.
So I wasn’t too surprised when I opened the pantry and found the note in the picture attached to the treat bag.
I wonder what will happen when they each have their own haul from trick-or-treating?
Now, some recommendations …
If your focus is more on books than on candy, here are a few last-minute Halloween recommendations.
How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara (Schwartz & Wade, 2007). The title sounds like this might be nonfiction, but in fact it’s a wonderful, fiction picture book about Charlie, a boy who wishes he weren’t the shortest kid in his class.
Beautifully woven into that story line is a class project to guess the number of seeds in three different pumpkins. The book has lots of my favorite things. There’s a classroom setting with a diverse mix of kids, an engaging story and lots of educational hooks — in this case about pumpkins and math — mixed in along the way. There’s even some nifty pumpkin facts from Charlie and his teacher at the end.
Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pieby Jill Esbaum (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2009). This book is part of a gorgeous series called Picture the Seasons, which also includes titles about spring, winter and apples plus an upcoming book about summer and the beach.
This ode to pumpkins for kindergarteners through second-graders covers traditional and unexpected uses for the big, orange fruit with stunning, full-color photography.
And Booklist praised its simple but clever narrative calling it, “Fun, cozy, evocative stuff.”
So get reading before hordes of trick-or-treaters beat down your door. And if there’s any candy you especially want for yourself … be sure to put a note on it.
Patricia Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (Philomel, 2010) shares a true incident from the author’s youth. And, it’s as compelling as any story she could have made up.
Polacco has previously written about her struggle learning to read. Here, she recounts her experiences in a classroom full of students with perceived physical, intellectual or emotional issues that made them not fit in anywhere else.
In fact, the class is so looked down upon by the rest of the school that it’s openly referred to as “The Junkyard.”
Fortunately, the teacher, Mrs. Peterson, doesn’t believe in labels. Instead, she sees every child as a genius waiting to be discovered. And she encourages her students to look for the potential in themselves and the world around them.
Still, it’s a tough year. One child with health issues dies. Others are bullied. And a close-minded principal almost cancels a rare opportunity for the students to shine. But the class perseveres, earning a well-deserved moment of triumph.
It’s a moving, well-told tale. But the author’s note at the end may be the most inspiring.
As she wrote the book, Patricia discovered what happened to many of her junkyard classmates. One becomes the artistic director of a major ballet company. Another works for the fashion industry in Paris. And one becomes an aeronautical engineer for NASA and designs lunar modules for the Apollo missions.
All credit their eventual success to that classroom and the teacher who saw greatness in them.
Now, let’s check in with today’s guest reviewer, who’s pretty great herself …
Our reviewer: Sonia
Things I like: Reading this book, eating mints, watching TV and playing with my D.S. Feeding my cat.
This book was about: A girl named Patricia Polacco and her friends. They made a plane that Gibbie is in charge of. He has a disease called Tourette’s and he says the plane will fly all the way to the moon. There’s another boy in Patricia’s tribe named Thom, and he can’t see well. He’s the first friend Patricia makes. And, there was a tall boy named Jody with a growing disease. And a girl named Ravanne who doesn’t speak much. And their classroom is called The Junkyard and their teacher’s name is Mrs. Peterson. She inspires them to be the best they can be and see the possibilities in things.
The best part was when: At the end of the book where there’s the photo of all the kids and it tells what they went on to do in life. I also liked it when the plane went all the way to the moon with the streamers behind it.
I laughed when: Gibbie says the plane needs a propulsion unit, but he means a motor.
I was worried when: A mean boy took Patricia’s pin off. When Jody looked pale and died. And when the principal took their plane away.
I was surprised when: A picture of the kids really went to the moon. And that the author saw Gibbie again in Houston when they were all grown up.
This book taught me: Be the best you can be. Try your hardest.
Three words that best describe this book are: “Junkyard.” “Wonder.” “Plane.”
My favorite line or phrase in this book is: “Like I said,” Gibbie whispered. “That baby is going straight to the moon.”
Other kids reading this book should wat
With lots of snow in the forecast — at least where I live — it seems like the ideal time to curl up with a bowl of perfect soup.
Not in the mood to cook? That’s OK. All you have to do is open the pages of Lisa Moser’s newest picture book Perfect Soup (Random House, 2010) and you’ll be warm and cozy before you know it.
The book features Murray, a kind little mouse, who wants to ease winter’s chill with his own, homemade perfect soup. There’s just one problem. He doesn’t have a carrot, and the recipe specifically calls for one.
Murray’s search for that elusive carrot involves a farmer, a horse, a snowman, a shopkeeper, a boy and a woman having a bad day. After they all work together, Murray gets his carrot, but how he uses it might surprise you.
Let’s see what today’s reviewer, Sonia, has to say:
I like: Riding horses, collecting pigs, playing The Storybook Game with my babysitter, Maria, and reading Perfect Soup and James and the Giant Peach.
This book was about: A mouse named Murray who thought it was a good day to make soup. He needed a carrot to make the soup perfect.
The best part was when: When everyone got what they wanted, but Murray didn’t want the carrot any more.
I laughed when: The horse said, “I’ll caarrry those logs if you give me jingle bells. I want to be faaancy like the town horses.” And, when I saw that Mrs. Wooley’s house looked like a teapot.
I was surprised when: He didn’t want the carrot for his perfect soup.
I was worried when: Murray didn’t notice the snowman when he said, “Hi.”
Three words that describe this book: “Perfect.” “Soup.” “Snowman.”
Other kids reading this book should look for: The message the snowman wrote for Murray in the snow. The house where Murray lives.
My favorite word or phrase in this book was: “Murray was in a hurry.”
This book taught me: To always say “hi” to people and to help people. That things don’t always have to be perfect.
Sonia says her favorite kind of soup is chicken noodle. She’d like to try Murray’s recipe for Perfect Soup.
If you’d like to learn more about Lisa Moser, visit her website or read this interview.
If you’d like to learn more about Ben Mantle, visit his website or his blog.
And if you’re looking for other reviews, check out these: