Thursday, June 11, 2009

Book 35: No Talking

TITLE: No Talking
AUTHOR: Andrew Clements
STARTED: May 26, 2009
FINISHED: May 27, 2009
PAGES: 146
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Dave Packer was in the middle of his fourth hour of not talking.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The fifth-grade girls and the fifth-grade boys at Laketon Elementary don't get along very well. But the real problem is that these kids are loud and disorderly. That's why the principal uses her red plastic bullhorn. A lot.

Then one day Dave Packer, a certified loudmouth, bumps into an idea -- a big one that makes him try to keep quiet for a whole day. But what does Dave hear during lunch? A girl, Lynsey Burgess, jabbering away. So Dave breaks his silence and lobs an insult. And those words spark a contest: Which team can say the fewest words during two whole days? And it's the boys against the girls.

How do the teachers react to the silence? What happens when the principal feels she's losing control? And will Dave and Lynsey plunge the whole school into chaos?

This funny and surprising book is about language and thought, about words unspoken, words spoken in anger, and especially about the power of words spoken in kindness...with or without a bullhorn. It's Andrew Clements at his best -- thought-provoking, true-to-life, and very entertaining.

THOUGHTS: An anthropological study about vocal and body language in a book that tells kids to shut up and listen? Who woulda thunk it would work. It did. Well done, Mr. Clements. There was nothing earth shattering about this book, but it was a fun read.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 34: The Giver

TITLE: The Giver
AUTHOR: Lois Lowry
STARTED: May 24, 2009
FINISHED: May 26, 2009
PAGES: 192
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.

THOUGHTS: The first time I read this book, I was in 6th grade. I liked it then and I still like it now, but for different reason. My 6th grade-self liked the book because it made me wonder about what it was like to live without color, or real family. I also had fun debating the ending.

My current, twenty-something self, enjoyed the book because it made me ask "What if?" I questioned the societal structure present in the story. I also enjoyed the story this time because I picked up on a few things that went over my head when I was younger.

In my class, we had a brief discussion on why this book has been banned in libraries. I get why it is, but those people just need to remember that they lack the mind of a child. If you read this book as a kid, I suggest reading it again now and see how you perceive it today. The change is interesting.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Book 33: From Cover to Cover

TITLE: From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books
AUTHOR: Kathleen T. Horning
STARTED: May 21, 2009
FINISHED: May 25, 2009
PAGES: 240
GENRE: Library Science

FIRST SENTENCE: With 5,000 new books for children being published every year, it may seem an overwhelming task to wade through them.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] This book, though its focus encompasses the full range of books for children-read-alouds to YA titles-is a terrific primer for YA book reviewers. The first chapter, "A Critical Approach to Children's Books," presents a useful and concise overview of books and publishing. The next six chapters cover various genres, defining and describing each and explaining how a reviewer goes about judging the quality of a book within a particular category. With the exception of the chapter on picture books, all the chapters refer to some YA works and reviews of those works to illustrate principles of book evaluation and review writing. The final chapter, "Writing a Review," first gives a brief history of children's book reviewing in the United States, then follows with a very detailed and helpful explanation of how to prepare and write book reviews.

Horning's book is an engaging read. She uses her experience and broad knowledge of YA and children's books to illustrate each aspect of writing book reviews. Her book provides a comprehensive and basic introduction to the "business" of book reviewing that will be invaluable to beginners and helpful to old-hand reviewers who might want a refresher course on writing book reviews. Aspiring book review writers will treasure this book. It also will be a useful supplemental text in YA and children's literature courses. Librarians may also enjoy reading it to gain a better understanding of book reviews and how they are written.

THOUGHTS: A nice "hit and run" review of evaluating children's literature. Horning does not go too far into the subject, but does more than skim. She covers each type of children's lit as well as discussing how to review and evaluate. A nice, fast read for those who want an introduction into this category of books.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh]

Book 32: The Graveyard Book

TITLE: The Graveyard Book
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 24, 2009
PAGES: 312
GENRE: Juvenile / Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . . Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

THOUGHTS: For a kids book, this one starts out pretty, darn dark. I mean, there's a knife on the first page! Sadly, as much as I like Gaiman, I was not terribly excited about this book. It was just okay to me. The Graveyard is an interesting setting but it doesn't have the same magic as his other settings, like London Below.

Also, the characters are nice, but they don't grab me - I didn't feel the need to read their story. I didn't mind it, but I wasn't thrilled by it.

I do like how Gaiman incorporated bits and pieces of history and lore from all over the place. That, more than anything is what kept me reading (well, that and the fact that I needed to for class). I was curious to see what Gaiman would pull out next.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 31: King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

TITLE: King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
AUTHOR: Audrey Wood
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 32
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: "Help! Help!" cried the Page when the sun came up.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandoble.com] This rollicking tale is the story of an unruly king who refuses to leave his bathtub and attend to his duties. One by one, the knight, the queen, the duke, and all the members of the court attempt to persuade the King to leave his bath. At last, the clever page saves the day.

THOUGHTS: This was one of my favorite books as a child. I loved the humor of the story. Why won't that King leave the bathtub?!? Wait... MOM! Can I take a bubble bath with a cake?

If you have never read this book - you need to. The art is both cartoonish and life-like. I read this story over and over and over again because I loved the richness of the illustrations. The colors are warm and lush. The illustrator brought life to the page - I swear the fish in one illustration are actually swimming around. Wood did a fantastic job of capturing the emotions on people's faces. Also, when the Knight leaves the tub sopping wet, it leaves me giggling every time.

I still randomly quote this book - glug, glug, glug.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent!]

Book 30: Puss in Boots

TITLE: Puss in Boots
AUTHOR: Malcolm Arthur (trans.)
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 32
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: A miller had three sons, and when he died he left them nothing but his mill, his donkey, and his cat.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] A retelling of the French fairy tale in which a clever cat wins his master a fortune and the hand of a princess.

THOUGHTS: I like the story, but I'll be darned if it didn't make humans look greedy and stupid. Then again, if I had a cat work his tail off (pun intended) to get me a kingdom simply so he could sleep on a warm rug, I'd let him.

The artistry in this book is fantastic. The colors and style remind me of an updated take on a medieval tapestry. The pictures are drawn in warm tones with tons of texture. This take on the classic fairytale is a pleasure to look at.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 29: London Bridge is Falling Down

TITLE: London Bridge is Falling Down
AUTHOR: Peter Spier (Illustrator)
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 48
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: See-saw, sacradown, Which is the way to London town?

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Illustrates the singing game about London Bridge's falling down. Includes a history of the bridge and music.

THOUGHTS: Everyone knows the song, but Spier does a fantastic job of showing it. I've always liked Spier's illustrations because they are rich in detail, life, and humor. His illustrations for this book were fantastic because it actually showed the rise and fall of the bridge in a humorous way.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 28: Locomotion

TITLE: Locomotion
AUTHOR: Jacqueline Woodson
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 102
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: This whole book's a poem 'cause every time I try to tell the whole story my mind goes Be quiet!

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] When Lonnie was seven years old, his parents died in a fire. Now he's eleven, and he still misses them terribly. And he misses his little sister, Lili, who was put into a different foster home because "not a lot of people want boys-not foster boys that ain't babies." But Lonnie hasn't given up. His foster mother, Miss Edna, is growing on him. She's already raised two sons and she seems to know what makes them tick. And his teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper.

Told entirely through Lonnie's poetry, we see his heartbreak over his lost family, his thoughtful perspective on the world around him, and most of all his love for Lili and his determination to one day put at least half of their family back together. Jacqueline Woodson's poignant story of love, loss, and hope is lyrically written and enormously accessible.

THOUGHTS: This book was more somber than I expected. When Lonnie writes his poerty, it is full of self-introspection, good and bad. This book has several layers to uncover and part of me questions if it is actually should be read by an older (or at least more mature) audience. Woodsen's Lonnie touches on death, guilt, religion, and being away from family. Woodson a fantastic job of looking at these themes through a child's eye. The way she makes Lonnie's innocence slip into unexpected wisdom is impressive. While the book has a happy(ish) ending, it left me feeling a little sad.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 27: Make Way for Ducklings

TITLE: Make Way for Ducklings
AUTHOR: Robert McCloskey
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 68
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The busy Boston streets are too dangerous for eight little ducklings! But with a little help from a friendly policeman Mrs. Mallard and her family arrive safely at their new home. The public garden was no place for ducklings when they were first born, but now they are old enough to brave the raucous crowds and swim with the giant swan boats. Available for the first time in a full-size paperback edition, this Caldecott winning classic continues to delight generations of children

THOUGHTS: I love this book so much that when The Boyfriend went to a Moot Court competition in Boston I told him he had to go to the park and see the Make Way for Duckling statues. He sent me a picture of his visit and I it made me giddy. When I enrolled in my Media for Children class, I just knew I would have to find a way to fit this book in. Score one for me.

As a child, I loved this book because of the illustrations... and because I lived near Boston. I loved how the line-drawings were so realistic. I could actually see Mrs. Mallard and her line babies waddling down the street. The author did a fantastic job of capturing the feel of Boston in the various seasons while managing to show very little of the actual city. Also, the plump and round characters in the pictures appealed to my sense of cuteness.

The story was just as cute. The book does retain certain gender stereotypes (Mr. Mallard decides to go exploring, leaving the wife and kids at home - slacker), but I can overlook that because the feeling of love, family, and helpfulness is so pervasive. Whenever I went to the park as a kid, I always expected cars to stop and wait for a duck family to pass.

All of this remains true today. Make Way for Ducklings is a classic children's picture book that I will always cherish.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent!]

Book 26: Caps for Sale

TITLE: Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business
AUTHOR: Esphyr Slobodkina
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 48
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Once there was a peddler who sold caps.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Caps for Sale is a timeless classic, in print for over fifty years, and beloved by generations of readers. This easy-to-read story about a peddler and a band of mischievous monkeys is filled with warmth, humor, and simplicity. Children will delight in following the peddler's efforts to outwit the monkeys in this new, enlarged, and redesigned edition, and will ask to read it again and again.

THOUGHTS: This read was a walk down memory lane for me. I remember reading it a lot as a child... because I loved the monkeys. I forgot how the illustrations, while seeming very static, exude movement on certain pages.

I think I need to go put my gray cap on now.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 25: Are You Ready to Play Outside?

TITLE: Are You Ready to Play Outside
AUTHOR: Mo Willems
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 57
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Piggie!

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Piggie can't wait to go play in the sunshine. But will a rainy day ruin all the fun?

THOUGHTS: Awesome! I half expected the joy of splashing in puddles to get me wet.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Book 24: There is a Bird on Your Head

TITLE: There is a Bird on Your Head
AUTHOR: Mo Willems
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 64
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Piggie!

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Gerald discovers that there is something worse than a bird on your head-two birds on your head! Can Piggie help her best friend?

THOUGHTS: Totally adorable! The story is absurd but it works - I laughed out load several time. I loved the illustrations. Willems works mainly with simple lines and large blocks of color. Somehow, he makes the facial expressions on his characters leap off the page with true emotion. These two characters reminded me of my friends and I. I need to track down the rest of the books in this series - this was hil-a-rious.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Book 23: Frog and Toad are Friends

TITLE: Frog and Toad are Friends
AUTHOR: Arnold Lobel
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 64
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Frog ran up the path to toad's house.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The inseparable Frog and Toad are introduced to readers through five wonderfully silly adventures. Like an innocent Laurel and Hardy, the two amphibians show the true meaning of friendship - Toad tells stories to Frog when Frog is sick, Frog helps search for Toad's lost button, and Frog writes a letter to Toad because he never receives any mail. These marvelous tales touch both the heart and the funny bone.

THOUGHTS: This is a rather rollicking story about friendship. I liked how the author dropped pearls of wisdom here and there that easily translate outside of this story. The illustrations are rather subdued but come across as lively and full of emotion. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I apparently missed reading all the classics as a child.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh]

Book 22: The House in the Night

TITLE: The House in the Night
AUTHOR: Susan Marie Swanson
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 40
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Here is the key to the house.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] A spare, patterned text and glowing pictures explore the origins of light that make a house a home in this bedtime book for young children. Naming nighttime things that are both comforting and intriguing to preschoolers—a key, a bed, the moon—this timeless book illuminates a reassuring order to the universe.

THOUGHTS: I found the illustrations better than the story - this book reminded me a lot of Goodnight Moon and I am biased toward that classic. The very simple color scheme and splashes of yellow make this book very nice to look at, but beyond that it was just okay for me. I can see how reading this to a child at night would be very comforting, the text is simple, cyclical, and soothing.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh]

Book 21: The Hello, Goodbye Window

TITLE: The Hello, Goodbye Window
AUTHOR: Norton Juster
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 32
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Nanna and Poppy live in a big house in the middle of town.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] This is a love song devoted to that special relationship between grandparents and grandchild. The kitchen window at Nanna and Poppy's house is, for one little girl, a magic gateway. Everything important happens near it, through it, or beyond it. Told in her voice, her story is both a voyage of discovery and a celebration of the commonplace wonders that define childhood, expressed as a joyful fusion of text with evocative and exuberant illustrations.The world for this little girl will soon grow larger and more complex, but never more enchanting or deeply felt.

THOUGHTS: A very cute story that emphasizes family and how they introduce you to the world. The author gives the little girl an exuberance that makes the book fun to read. While I'm not a huge fan of the illustration style, I can appreciate the fingerpaintesqueness of it and how that reminds me of childhood.

RATING: 6/10 [ Good]

Book 20: Flotsam

TITLE: Flotsam
AUTHOR: David Wiesner
STARTED: May 23, 2009
FINISHED: May 23, 2009
PAGES: 40
GENRE: Juvenile

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam—anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there's no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep.

In each of his amazing picture books, David Wiesner has revealed the magical possibilities of some ordinary thing or happening—a frog on a lily pad, a trip to the Empire State Building, a well-known nursery tale. This time, a day at the beach is the springboard into a wildly imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep, and of the qualities that enable us to witness these wonders and delight in them.

THOUGHTS: Yes, I am counting this book even though it is entirely illustrations. They are FANTASTIC illustrations. I'm particularly in love with the image that opens the story. This book is magical. The illustrations are vivid and realistic, portraying and undersea world reminiscent of Disney's Little Mermaid.

The best part of this book was the moral of the story - never stop dreaming, exploring, or sharing.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 19: Picture This

TITLE: Picture This: How Pictures Work
AUTHOR: Molly Bang
STARTED: May 21, 2009
FINISHED: May 21, 2009
PAGES: 96
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: I was quite happily making my living as a writer and illustrator of children's books.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Everyone knows that a picture tells a thousand words. But what about the elements that make up a picture? Using the tale of Little Red Riding Hood as an example, Molly Bang uses boldly graphic artwork to explain how images--and their individual components--work to tell a story that engages the emotions: Why are diagonals dramatic? Why are curves calming? Why does red feel hot and blue feel cold?First published in 1991, Picture This fans will welcome the new edition's striking redesign and introduce its insights to many other artists and art appreciators alike.

THOUGHTS: This is a fantastic introduction to breaking down images and why they work the way they do. Bang's book was a required read for my Media for Children class - we used it to help us understand how all the illustrations in the plethora of children's books we're reading. Bang takes a very simple approach to crafting a single image. She walks through its construction step-by-step, showing how and why things work or don't work. She follows up that section by laying out principles of illustration.

The book is simple but incredibly informative.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 18: Love that Dog

TITLE: Love That Dog
AUTHOR: Sharon Creech
STARTED: May 21, 2009
FINISHED: May 21, 2009
PAGES: 128
GENRE: Juvenile / Poetry

FIRST SENTENCE: I don't want to / because boys / don't write poetry.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won't stop giving her class poetry assignments—and Jack can't avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say.

With a fresh and deceptively simple style, acclaimed author Sharon Creech tells a story with enormous heart. Written as a series of free-verse poems from Jack's point of view, Love That Dog shows how one boy finds his own voice with the help of a teacher, a writer, a pencil, some yellow paper, and of course, a dog.

THOUGHTS: My class read this book aloud in a round robin style. It was pretty cool hearing everyone put their own mood into the poems. Creech's work elicits great emotion with few words. I actually teared up in class as Jack explores his feelings through the poems he writes. Creech writes Jack in such a way that his lively character jumps off the page. Jack is a ball of energy and that comes across throughout the book because of the vibrant language and sassy attitude.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]