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1. The 2014 Cybil Awards Are Here!


The 2014 Cybils Awards have been announced over at Cybils Central Headquarters!

Awesome apps, books, graphic novels are all there for you reading pleasure. The work of all the readers, panelists and judges who weighed, evaluated, and debated the merits of each title that was nominated is so greatly appreciated by all lovers of children's and YA literature.

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2. Paris to the Pyrenees

A grown-up book
Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James by by David Downie, Pegasus, 2013.  ISBN: 978-1605984322

I am interested in spiritual/pilgrim walks so I was happy to find this memoir. It is a useful and entertaining as a travelogue/virtual vacation. I liked the accounts of where they visited and what they ate, especially the food.  The challenges of finding shelter and food in the small towns, somewhat off the other more heavily traveled pilgrim route, were not issues I would have considered.

Perhaps it was because I listened to the book instead of reading it but I found Downie's "skepticism" and his relentless suspicion of all things religious and Catholic,  tedious.  I was warned -- it was there in the title.  Perhaps he was aiming for light-hearted irreverence but I found it wearing after a while. I was more intrigued with the insights and reactions of his wife, Alison Harris. She seemed more in tune to the rituals of the faith experience and willing to embrace the spiritual aspect of the walk. This is his memoir so we do not get to hear her thoughts except as he reports their conversations.  You sense his admiration as she seems  undaunted by his ongoing commentary. I know I missed out on half of the experience as the audiobook does not provide the accompanying photographs that Harris took along the way. 

Having lived in France I did appreciate his insights into Mitterrand and WWII and ancient Gaul.  His dedication to the effort, returning to finish it after having abandon it due to an injury, was inspiring. The reader/listener is left hopeful as he is ponders taking on the next leg of the pilgrimage at the end of the book. I would read that book too.

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3. Babymouse -- The Game


Swerving back into my blog with the great news that Babymouse is now a Word Puzzle Game! 

Available at Google Play Store and soon on iTunes.

Play the Pop the Pic Babymouse -Word Puzzle Game based on the popular Babymouse kids comic book series. Reveal the comic book pictures piece by piece and try to guess the word. If you liked 4 Pics 1 Word, you'll love this new Pop the Pic word puzzle game.  Kids love Babymouse star of the popular, award-winning, hilarious, pink graphic novel series showcasing the trials and tribulations of elementary school. The sassy mouse with attitude to spare has charmed her way into the hearts of kids, parents, and teachers everywhere! Now you can play the game based on Babymouse!
Now still waiting on Babymouse fabric, please.  Even Downton Abbey has its own fabric line now, why not Babymouse? 

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4. KidLitCon Austin, TX

As an early member of the Kidlitosphere I have tried when possible to attend the annual KidLitCon in the different parts of the country.

This year, joy and rapture, the meeting is in my almost backyard.  Looking forward to it!!  Texas bloggers, c'mon over! Registration is HERE.

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Fun to follow the epic battle between Snow White and Bilbo Baggins raging in a hashtag war now on Twitter for the  MTV Movie Award for Best Hero 2013. 

Here is the reason to #votebilbo

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6. Falcon

by Tim Jessell, Random House, 2012.
ISBN: 9780375868665

Breathtaking vistas and views greet the reader as an imagined flight of a falcon  sweeps them from the plains through mountain heights, over oceans and cliffs to a city-scape where a skyscraper becomes the falcon's eyrie.  Jessell's landscapes spread over two pages and evoke wind and sky and majesty from the falcon's point of view.  The child's imagination takes the falcon to the city where it dives towards people on the sidewalk and swoops away.  Jessell's landscapes and realism is fresh and welcome. 

His website gives an overview of his work and a look at his process for sketching and painting. 

Tim Jessell website

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7. TED Talk -- Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Jarrett J. Krosoczka writes books that kids connect with on so many levels, through his artwork, his humor, his understanding of childhood.  When I am asked for a recommendation from a parent going in to a classroom to read, I want to give them a sure fire hit. I give them a Krosoczka picture book. 

I did not think I could be a bigger fan girl but now I've viewed his TED talk.

Krosoczka's TED talk should be a must view for everyone.

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8. Sadness: Thomas Locker

I just learned that the wonderful Thomas Locker died this year in March, 2012.  This is the Publishers Weekly obit for him.  I feel as if I've lost a friend.   At some point over all these years, I should have written him and let him know how much I admired his artwork.

I love Locker's books.  For years I've marked his books at "required" for library start-up collections and added his titles to  acquisitions lists for established libraries.  I realize now that I own very few in my personal library.

His landscapes showed such a reverence for the majesty of the natural world. PW likened his work to 19th-century Hudson River School of painting. His work also evoked the English painter, John Constable and the great Dutch painter,  Jacob van Ruisdael.  His brooding Dutch skies in The Boy Who Held Back the Sea are a direct homage to van Ruidael.

For science connections his Cloud Dance is an exquisite rendering of the hydrological cycle (water cycle) as is Mountain Dance which depicts the rock cycle.

 His pairing with Jean-Craighead-George produced the lovely To Climb a Waterfall taking the reader on a climb up the Hudson River Valley's Kaaterskill Falls.

I always add Sky Tree to lists of books for my art teachers.  Each page is a study of the same tree during all seasons and at different times of the day.  It is breathtaking.

I feel a little poorer today and I have a new set of books to start collecting for my personal library.

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9. I Like Old Clothes

With the pending arrival of the first grand-entling, I am once again regarding picture books with an eye to snuggle-up reading and inclusion in the best library a grand-entling could dream of.  I've put down the knitting needles here to look at some that delight me.

I Like Old Clothes
by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrations by Patrice Barton, Knopf, 2012. ISBN: 9780375869518

Hoberrman's words exult the hand-me-down and rejoice at the charity thrift store find.

"Clothes with a history, Clothes with a mystery"

Patrice Barton has re-imagined Hoberman's original 1976 version of this book with softly washed pictures "using pencil sketches and mixed media, assembled and painted digitally." The illustrations seem to appear on a background of "old clothes."  Fabric textures, prints, plaids and buttons serve as a backdrop for children who are playing dress-up and using old socks for hand puppets. There is no stigma to used sweaters or shirts here. Old clothes upgrade to  "vintage' in the hands of these junior fashion-istas.  Lovely.

Patrice Barton, illustrator website

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10. Jack Gantos Newbery Speech 2012

The reviews from in the hall were true.

So very Gantos.  Highlights "the slippery lives of Newbery winners" including Will James and others.  He also announces that Daniel Radcliffe has purchased the rights to Hole in My Life.  
Daniel as Jack???

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11. Revisiting Harry Potter

As a girl, I wore out the binding and covers to many books on my childhood bookshelves by frequently re-reading my favorite books. There are members of my family who read Lord of the Rings annually. The exhausted, almost non-existant binding of entling no. 3's copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) is the stuff of family legend and lore.

As what passes for a grown up now though, I rarely revisit a book. Too many books so little time, as the saying goes.

To my surprise, I have spent my summer listening to Jim Dale's readings of the Harry Potter books. It began early in the summer with an inability to settle on a book to read. I started many, only finished and enjoyed a few. I have a summer book club assignment to read George Eliot's Middlemarch, which I am over a third of the way through and enjoying but...

I felt an overwhelming desire to visit with Harry, Hermione and Ron again.  I have joined Pottermore but have not invested much time there to understand it.  I re-read the books in a sporadic fashion over the years, usually prompted by the pending release of a new volume in the series or in preparation for a  movie's premier. I have never worked all the way through from book one to book seven before. That is what I did this summer. The experience rewarded me with new insight into the story arc overall, renewed feelings of love and kinship for the characters and awareness of details and events that I overlooked or forgot from my previous readings.

As I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) I chuckled over the Ministry of Magic's preparations for the Quidditch World Cup while I was also hearing about the difficulties of running the Olympic Games in London. The lighting of the Olympic flame happened as the Goblet of Fire kicked off the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  I found new thought provoking links to my faith in the stories that did not have the same meaning to me in my previous reads.

As I listened I found myself marveling at how timely and timeless Rowling's themes are. I was struck anew at how much I enjoyed the movies but how some of the movie's shortcuts and images had overwritten the books in my imagination. Even though I was only listening to the books I found Mary GrandPré's iconic illustrations coming to mind at different points.

As I finished the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)I found myself quite content with its place in the narrative. It had seemed oddly tacked on the first time I read the book but today I was perfectly happy with every aspect of it. As I listened to the last sentences about Severus Snape and Harry's scar I enjoyed that happy experience of a book making me cry.

Even though I continue to circulate the books to students at the different school libraries where I work, I have wondered if Harry's story will continue to call to readers without the media buzz, the midnight bookstore events and movie celebrations that were such a part of my family's life over the years.,  My experience this summer has assured me that Rowling created something classic and timeless and fine with these books. Like Tolkien, the stories hold up to re-reading and bless the reader with new insights and experiences along the way.

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The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic, 2012

This book will be one of my you-must-read-this recommendations when school starts this fall.
Part Prisoner of Zenda, part Count of Monte Cristo, The False Prince is a grand adventure that kept me listening continuously and avidly.  Nielsen has written an old fashioned tale of revenge, conspiracy, mysterious identity and betrayal.  The book works as a stand alone story but will be part of a planned Ascendance Trilogy. For the audio version that I listened to, narrator Charlie McWade provided a competent performance and kept the story moving along.

Thirteen year old Sage is an orphan, a thief and a smart mouth who has learned his street smarts the hard way. A conniving noble named Connor acquires him from the orphanage and along with three other youths from around the country, sets out to teach them the skills they will need to impersonate the long lost prince of the realm.  Knowing that the young prince is dead, lost at sea, Connor seeks to place an impersonator that he can control on the throne. He maintains that he is a patriot and trying to save the country from civil war.  Only one of the boys can go forward as the heir so the boys are pitted against each other to earn the spot. To lose the contest though means death for the others as the secret can never get out. To win has its own dangers because if the false prince is discovered he will be guilty of treason.

Sage is caught up in a game of politics, power and intrigue. There is no magic in this world, no ring of power, no invisibility cloak to help him. This is a story that echoes Robert Louis Stevenson more than JKRowling.

Great fun.

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13. Robot Zombie Frankenstein!

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon.  Candlewick Press, 2012

As a child of a certain decade, I remember ColorForms.  I see there is a anniversary edition of the toy available.  There is even an app for iThing users.  I hold the original version of the toy develops a sense of shape and color.  Young imaginations were enhanced and fine motor skills are enhanced as the plastic shapes were carefully peeled and applied to the shiny surface.

Annette Simon's mixes that same spirit of creativity with her imaginative use of shapes, vivid color and popular themes. The end papers offer a menu of the shapes that will be deployed in what at first seems a very simple narrative.  Robots made up of squares, triangles, rectangles, ovals, circles and crescents morph into zombie robot, then Frankenstein robot then pirate robot.  Add in a pie and a fork and there is an opportunity for the two robots to share some delicious pie.

There are so many ways to use this book in a school library or classroom or art class.  Shape identification, colors, build your own robot, friendship, sharing, collage are just some of the ways I can envision using this title.

This is going in my Go bag for this new school year. What a deliciously entertaining book.

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14. Movie: The Leaf Men

It appears William Joyce's The Leaf Men has experienced an interesting journey to the big screen including a title change. It now called Epic.

Lovely trailer!

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15. 48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 Finish Line

Well, I managed to finish The Likeness by Tana French for my last 4 hours of reading. I've read all three of French's Dublin mysteries now and I understand a fourth is due this year.  These are not YA books.  Her writing is very compelling.

I split my time evenly between blogging and reading this year.
 Time Reading  5.5 hours
 Time writing and visiting other blogs  5 hours

 Glad I had the time to write some posts anyway.  Will be making a $20 donation to RIF in honor of this annual event. I knew I would be pressed for time and attention this year but it is an annual event that MotherReader heroically organizes and I have managed some level of participation every year.

Kuddos to everyone!

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16. 48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 #3

I confess that ordinarily, I do not read animal stories.  I avoid horse stories due to my fourth grade reading of Black Beauty and the image of the expired Ginger being carted away that is seared into my imagination.   No Marguerite Henry for me, thank you very much.  To this day,  I am ignorant of  Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian despite having happily handed them over to many passionate horse story loving girls over the years.  Even entling no.1's enthusiasm for the entire Black Stallion series complete with matching Breyer horses did not move me unil I saw the beautiful Black Stallion movie.   I did get through Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James one summer because it was on my grandparent's bookshelf and I was out of reading material.

The glorious cover of this new Iain Lawrence novel called to me though. I adored Pam Munoz Ryan's sweeping 2 Comments on 48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 #3, last added: 6/12/2012

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17. 48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 #2

My Sister's Stalker by Nancy Springer. Holiday House, 2012.

There is no pigeonholing Nancy Springer as a writer.  I have been follower from Sherwood Forest to Camelot to the London of Sherlock Holmes.  When I realized The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye: An Enola Holmes Mystery was going to be the last Enola Holmes book, I purposely delayed reading it because I did not want the series to end.  Springer's new book is a tightly written thriller.

Children of divorce, Rig and his older sister, Kari do not see each other very often. Kari is at college and Rig is still in high school. He is living with his space cadet mother (you can understand why his parents divorced) when he googles his sister's name one day and discovers an entire website devoted to her.  Kari is a sophomore in college but there are photos of her on the site dating back to her high school years.  Many of them seem to be recent photos taken from afar.  Who is behind this site?  Who is stalking his sister?  Rig turns to his estranged father for help when his mother refuses to see the photographs as anything threatening. 

One of the gratifying aspects of this book, as an grown up reader, was how realistically Rig's father responds to the threat to his daughter. In approximately 100 pages Springer sketches a story that should give young adults pause before they post every moment and location of their lives online.  This is a great "quick picks" book.

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18. 48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 #1

Lunch lady and the Mutant Mathletes by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  Random House, 2012.

Dee, Hector, and Terrence are assigned to the school mathlete team in lieu of detention for skipping out on the class field trip to the museum (Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco: Lunch Lady #6.)  The team must compete in the Math Match Competition against the never defeated private school Willowby Academy kids who sneer at the public school teams.  There is something strange about the kids on the Willowby Academy team.   Lunch Lady and her trusty assistant Betty investigate and ride to the rescue wielding their high tech lunch room gadgets

Krosoczka absolutely connects with young readers through his art and his sense of humor. I personally believe his insight stems from his time working at the Hole in the Wall Gang camp.  It may be a chicken and egg thing. Did he work there because of this focus or did he gain it from working there. Dunno.  My niece told me that she really, REALLY liked the Babymouse books I sent her but she LOVED the Lunch Ladies.

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Starting my mini-version of MotherReader's 7th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge.
Off to see what is on top of the reading stack.  See ya!

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20. Jennifer Holm has a blog!

This will be a fun blog to follow:  Jennifer L. Holm, Author (I wear slippers to work)

Here, I learned that she will be appearing with her brother Matt Holm at the Dallas BookSmart Festival  at the Dallas Museum of Art this weekend.

On her "Coming Soon" tab she talks about the new Babymouse for President book and Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis's Year In Stuff which is the sequel to her absolutely brilliant Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff.  These books tell their stories in a scrapbook fashion. What is astonishing is how Holm manages to tell a humorous, poignant and tender story through a collection of post-it notes, texts and the flotsam and jetsam papers of daily life.
I'm looking forward to seeing what she wants to share on her blog.

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21. SYNC YA Audiobooks Summer Schedule

Generous audiobook publishers are partnering with SYNC again to offer a terrific schedule of FREE audiobooks to download and enjoy this summer 2012.  Mark your calendar so you will not miss a week.  As usual, their pairings are thoughtful and interesting.   Go to SYNC for more information.

June 14-20: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch (Scholastic Audiobooks) and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, adapt. by Frank Galati (L.A. Theatre Works)
June 21- 27: Irises by Francisco X. Stork (Listening Library) and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Tantor Media)
June 28-July 4: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (Listening Library) and Tales from the Arabian Nights by Andrew Lang (Naxos Audio)
July 5-11: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (AudioGo) and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (AudioGo)
July 12-18: Guys Read: Funny Business by Jon Scieszka (Harper Audio) and The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories by Mark Twain (Recorded Books)
July 19-25: Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter (Oasis Audio) and Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (AudioGo)
July 26-Aug. 1: Pinned by Alfred C. Martino (Listen & Live Audio); and a title to be announced (Brilliance Audio)
Aug. 2-8: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Hachette Audio) and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Blackstone Audio)
Aug. 9-15: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, (Harper Audio) and Dead Men Kill by L. Ron Hubbard (Galaxy Press)
Aug. 16-22: The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (Bolinda Audio) and The Call of the Wild by Jack London(Naxos Audio)

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22. Chronal Engine

Chronal Engine by Greg Leitch Smith. Clarion Books, March 2012

It is always a joy to have a new book that no one knows about yet to share with the students and librarians.  I've been in that happy position this week as I've subbed in my district's libraries.  The short version of my book talk is: teens are forced back to the Cretaceous era on a rescue mission. This is no Land Before Time with cuddly, roly-poly baby dinos. These dinosaurs are looking for their next meal and would greatly enjoy a snack delivered from the twenty-first century. 

Soon-to-be-eighth-grader Max and his older twin siblings Emma and Kyle are resigned to spending the summer with their grandfather at his ranch while their mother is away on a dinosaur dig in China.  Soon after they arrive disaster strikes and Max must determine if the story of his great-great grandfather's Chronal Engine is true and if it really is capable of moving them back in time.  The reader can easily believe in the machine's abilities as Smith draws on his electrical engineering background to describe the electronics involved. It may be imaginary but is sounds technically feasible.. 

Of course there are dinosaurs, big dinosaurs, little dinosaurs, baby dinosaurs, flying dinosaurs and ginormous alligators. The action is fast paced and gripping as the rescue party discovers they are no match for the sheer mass of these animals, much less their claws and teeth. I admit to some audible gasps and "Oh NOs" while I was reading. OK, I may have even shrieked once.

Humorous shout-outs to Star Trek and Star Wars will tickle fans.  For Texans, there are landmarks, real and imagined, that evoke the Lone Star State. 

Smith demonstrated in his first book, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo that he has a fine ear for youthful dialog and humor.  (Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo is an excellent audiobook. The performers who read the story are pitch perfect which is a tribute to Smith's writing. I highly recommend it.)

Young paleontologists will find much to enjoy as prehistory facts and knowledge weave naturally into Max's thoughts and comments.

The book is also enhanced with full page black and white illustrations by Blake Henry.  His style gives the story the feel of a graphic novel.  Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series saw a return to the illustrated adventure novel which works with science fiction stories like these.  When storytelling with larger than life creatures it helps to show their size and weight. Here, the heroes' Volkswagen zooms beneath the legs and tail of a sauropod and a T-Rex turns and stares menacingly into the reader's eyes. 

Although the ages of the characters are eighth grade and high school, this book will also work very we

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23. Midnight in Austenland

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale.  Bloomsbury, 2012

I'm afraid I am a sure-sell when all things Jane Austen. Hale's first book Austenlandwhich I reviewed (here) in 2007 was entertaining Jane Austen fanfiction.  I savored the concept of a place like Disneyland for Austen lovers, hence the name Austenland.

The story was picked up by Twilight's Stephanie Meyer who is producing Austenland -- the movie which is in post-production according to IMDB.   If you wander back to July 2011 on author Shannon Hale's blog, squeetusblog, you will find her posting a bit about being on the movie set.

In this new book, Hale keeps the setting and some of the background characters including Mrs Wattlesbrook who manages the place, Colonel Andrews, who interacts with the visitors like a Disney Character at the parks, and Miss Charming, a perpetual guest at Pembrook. 

Charlotte Kinder is a divorced mother of two.  She is successful in business but feels alone and like a failure because of her divorce. When the opportunity to take a vacation presents itself, the travel agent suggests Austenland and Charlotte, who has only recently read Jane Austen's works, books the trip. 

Hale tells the story in a sort of pendulum swing fashion between the past and present.  The reader learns more about Charlotte's past as she tries to understand herself in an ongoing dialog with her Inner Thoughts. In the first story, Hale played off Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  Here she puts a spin on Northanger Abbey.  Has there been a murder at Pembrook Park or is Charlotte, like the NA character Catherine Morland, seeing things that are not there? 
This was a fun read for spring break.

As New Zealand discovered there is gold in fan loyalty.  This time around Peter Jackson et al are rebuilding Hobbiton for the filming of The Hobbit so it will be a permanent part of the New Zealand tourist trade for year to come. (See Hobbiton Movie Set Tours)  I wonder if a similar idea might be pursued to create a real Austenland type hotel for Austen fans.

24. The Great Spring Break Read-a-thon

I have decided to see how many books I can enjoy over Spring Break. It will be productive and edifying to devote a swath of time or maybe at least a small corner of time to reading this week.  We are enjoying local entertainments instead of traveling so I will enjoy a vacation of reading. 

As Emily Dickinson described it so well:

There Is No Frigate Like a Book
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

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25. On the Blue Comet

On the Blue Comet by Rosemary Wells.  Candlewick, 2010.

On the Blue Comet was a pure joy to read.  My childhood memory of pressing my cheek against the train board to gain a eye/ground level view of the trains was echoed in this story.   The story's main character, eleven year old, Oscar Ogilvie is a kindred spirit as he performs the same ritual. We both were trying to imagine ourselves into the small world of the trains.

When I was a child, we had a model train set up.  We did not have a basement but my father designed a over-sized folding platform for our HO model trains which included a train we had actually ridden on, the Santa Fe Railway Super Chief.

Wells sets her story during Great Depression. Oscar and his father share a love of model trains and they have an elaborate set up in the basement of their house.  Each year they add to their collection but the hard economic times have put a stop to that.  In fact, things are so bad that they must sell the train set to the local bank manager who uses the trains as a display in the bank lobby.  Oscar's father leaves to look for work in California, promising to send for Oscar when he finds some.  The kindly night watchman at the bank allows Oscar to visit and run the trains after the bank closes.  One night the lobby is invaded by bank robbers and Oscar escapes into time and an unlikely landscape.

This story mixes history, time travel, and fantasy along with cameo appearances by some famous people in history.  A great deal of the reading fun was identifying the people Oscar comes in contact with. 

Bagram Ibatoulline has contributed glowing paintings that have been meticulously researched.  Period fashion and architecture are reflected in illustrations which allow the reader to reach back in time too.

The book reminds me of how much model trains added to our childhoods. We learned -- hands-on --about electricity, direct current, transformers as well as trouble-shooting, patience and craftsmanship. 

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