Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Compound


The Compound
by S. A. Bodeen
Teen Suspense/Thriller
245 pages
New York : Square Fish, 2009, c2008

Eli is only nine-years-old when his father rushes the family into an elaborate underground compound to survive a nuclear attack. Unfortunately his twin brother and his grandmother get left behind. The next six years are monotonous and lonely for young Eli. Suffering the loss of his twin, he withdraws from the rest of the family spending hours in the gym and watching movies. When the food supply starts showing signs of not being able to sustain them, Eli begins wondering about his father. After some startling discoveries, Eli is determined to get his family out of the compound at any cost.
A crazy, crazy book but very engrossing. It literally was a book I couldn't put down. There are some slightly (okay very) twisted things in the book, but don't stop reading because of that. It is all worth it in the end!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Roscoe Riley Rules



If I haven't already mentioned this series, take note now. Katherine Applegate (of Animorph fame) has created a realistic character that young kids (especially boys) can relate to.  Each entry in the series begins with Roscoe welcoming you to his time-out corner. He then proceeds to tell the story of just how he ended up there. He always gets into some scrape, but he always learns his lesson too. The text is written perfectly for beginning chapter book readers so kids 1st-3rd grade should be able to jump right in. The black and white illustrations by Brian Biggs are a perfect companion for the stories. As an added bonus, Roscoe provides a random 10-item list at the end of each book that relates to the story. This is definitley one of my very favorite intermediate chapter book series!

Demo: The Story of a Junkyard Dog


Demo: The Story of a Junkyard Dog
by Jon Bozak & Scott Burns
unpaged
Brooklyn, NY : Fifth Paw Press, c2008

This is a strange little story with a good message about animal cruelty and recycling to save the environment. Demo belongs to a mean junkyard owner who wants to destroy the nearby town. Yet no matter how mean the man is to Demo, Demo remains a kind and loving dog. Of course, in the end, the mean old junkyard man causes a great deal of trouble only to be saved by the lovable Demo. Everyone learns their lesson and they all live happily ever after. Looks like a picture book, but rather lengthy and not necessarily a fun or easy read-aloud. Illustrations were not my favorite but added to the mood of the book. Apparently inspired by the story of a real dog, check out the website at www. demo-dog.com. I am not entirely sure why I felt like blogging about this book. Maybe just the fact that it is slightly different from my normal read.

Usborne Young Reading Series Two



Usborne Young Reading Series Two

If you are looking for simplified classics for your beginning chapter book readers, check out this series. They average 64 pages in length and are wonderfully illustrated. Each page has one or two paragraphs of text with colorful illustrations. The text is very reader friendly and the stories are exciting adaptations of the original novel. They are also fun to read aloud to younger children. The small, hardback size is perfect for little hands and will not overwhelm even reluctant readers. There are many titles available. Find them on amazon.com or check the publishers website www.edcpub.com or www.ubah.com. Your local library might have several also. (Sorry, I couldn't get the links to work, so just cut and paste if you are interested).

Adolf Hitler


Adolf Hitler
Katie Daynes
juvenile biography
64 pages
Tulsa, OK : EDC, 2006

Adolf Hitler was a fascinating and charismatic leader. I have never bothered to read a biography about this insane man just because I feel I already know the worst about him. Yet when presented with this short, illustrated volume, I thought I would take the opportunity to learn a little more about what made Hitler tick. After reading it, I still think he was insane. I will never understand how so many people followed a dark-haired man who was promoting blond-haired, blue-eyed people as the perfect race. A great introduction for younger readers needing to read an historical biography.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors


The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors
by Chris Barton
ill. by Tony Persiani
unpaged non-fiction
Watertown, Mass. : Charlesbridge, c2009

Two brothers with completely different goals in life end up joining forces and creating an extremely important concoction. Joe loved the idea of using fluorescent lighting and colors to enhance his magic act. Bob was bored and trying to find something to do after his plans to be a doctor fell through. An interesting story behind something that I see everywhere but had never given a thought to its origin. My very favorite part of the whole book was the illustrations! Fabulously retro in black and white with just touches of Day-Glo colors throughout! I hope people are thinking of this one when they hand out the Caldecot Medal next week!

The Knitting of Elziabeth Amelia

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The Knitting of Elizabeth Amelia
by Patricia Lee Guach
ill. by Barbara Lavallee
unpaged picture book
New York : Henry Holt, 2009

Elizabeth Amelia is lovingly knitted out of some wool yarn. This makes her very soft and bouncy. As she grows up she is very popular for this very reason. Eventually she marries a man (not knitted from wool). Elizabeth Amelia wants some children but she can't find the perfect yarn to knit them with. So what else is there to do, but start unraveling her own leg to create her first child. The second, third and fourth children use up pretty much all of her legs. So what is left of her just sits around on the couch and hugging her children. Her husband points out that their children need a mother that can get up and do things, "You're nothing but a pillow". Startled into action, Elizabeth Amelia begins reconstructing herself. With the help of her children she undergoes an extreme makeover and is once again able to dance with her husband.
Let's just say I found this story rather odd. The idea of a doll being able to grow up and get married is a little creepy. The fact that she gets married and his children, even more so. I wonder if the author is trying to say something along the lines of mothers give so much of themselves to their children that they tend to neglect themselves. While this might be a true statement in some cases, I still find the execution of the idea strange. Why couldn't all of the characters been dolls?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What (or should I say, How Much?) Did I read in 2009!

726 picture books
278 Easy Readers (beginning readers)
325 chapter books (Intermediate, Juvenile, Young Adult, and Adult)
104 comic books
311 Juvenile Non-Fiction (including Biographies)
______________________________________________
1744 Grand Total of Items Read from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009

Have I mentioned how much I love my job?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My (Unwilling) Witch Starts a Girl Band


My (Unwilling) Witch Starts a Girl Band
Rumblewick's Diary #3
by Hiawyn Oram
ill. by Sarah Warburton
Intermediate Chapter Book
87 pages
New York : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009

Haggy Aggy and Rumblewick are back. As usual, HA wants to spend all her time on the Other Side with regular humans. While at a resort on the Other Side she sees a sign for Girl Band Auditions and that becomes her sole purpose. Rumblewick does his proper witch's familiar duties and does everything his witch tells him despite his misgivings about the whole thing. Haggy Aggy's plans have their typical disastrous results. Another humorous entry in the series made even more enjoyable by Warburton's clever illustrations. 

Beneath the Mask


Beneath the Mask
The Grasslands Trilogy: Book Two
by David Ward
Young Adult SciFi/Fantasy
245 pages
New York : Amulet Books, 2008

We rejoin Coriko, Pippa, Tia, Bran, Feelah and Thief as they attempt to finally flee the world of the Spears. Plans go awry and the bonds that join them are tested to the limit. The only good thing to come out of it is their increased knowledge of who the Spears really are. A great follow-up to the first book, keeping me engrossed in the world and characters of Grassland. I am very excited for the third and final volume to be released this coming spring (hopefully).

Escape the Mask


Escape the Mask
The Grasslands Trilogy: Book One
by David Ward
Young Adult SciFi/Fantasy
195 pages
New York : Amulet Books, 2008

Coriko only remembers life as a slave in Grassland. Day after day plucking Shards from the earth, night after night curled up in his cave with his mate, Pippa. Always fearing the silent Spears standing guard everywhere. Pippa has some memories of her life before slavery. She gives them both hope and faith in their future. Her prayers bind them together and give a purpose to their dismal existence. When things start changing in Grassland, Pippa and Coriko, along with four others jump at the chance for freedom. Life Outside is a huge unknown to these young people, yet they are willing to risk almost anything for a new and hopefully better life.
I love that the time and place of this series is vague. Grassland could be on Earth or a whole new planet we've never heard of. The time could be long ago in the past or it could be a possible far-distant future. A fabulous book in my favorite genre. A definite series to purchase for my personal collection.

Abigail Iris; The One and Only


Abigail Iris: The One and Only
by Lisa Glatt and Suzanne Greenberg
ill. by Joy Allen
Juvenile Realistic Fiction
148 pages
New York : Walker & Co. : Distributed to the trade by Macmillan, 2009

Third-grader Abigail Iris is so jealous of her Only friends. They don't have to live on such a Tight Budget or share their rooms and they get Heelys instead of regular shoes. Abigail Iris loves her two older half-brothers and her older sister, but sometimes she would really love to be an Only child. She is super excited to get a chance at living the life with her Only friend Genevieve on a spring vacation trip to San Francisco. While on the trip she realizes that being an Only isn't as perfect as she dreamed. Having brothers and a sister may not be perfect, but it sure can be fun. Abigail Iris learns to love her own family and her place in it.

Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize


Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize
Kathy-Jo Wargin
ill. by Zachary Pullen
Picture Book Biography
unpaged
Chelsea, Mich. : Sleeping Bear Press, c2009

Prior to reading this book, I had only associated Alfred Nobel with the Prizes associated with his name. Now I know the reason behind the Prizes.  Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. His intentions were good, he wanted to make it easier to build roads and bridges, railways and towns. When the world started using his creation for destructive purposes, Alfred was very sad. One day a Paris paper printed his obituary. His brother had died and they thought it was Alfred. After reading of his supposed death, he realized that people only thought of him as the maker of dynamite and all of its bad uses. He did not want to be remembered in such a way so he made changes to his will. Upon his death (for real this time), he was one of the wealthiest men in Europe. After leaving a small amount of money to family and friends he stated that the rest was to be used to reward "those who have rendered the greatest services to humankind".
The cover was so beautiful that I thought I would love the interior illustrations as well. Most of them were beautiful. However, I did really like the distortion of a lot of the people. The heads, especially nose and ears seemed skewed as did the hands. Overall a great book and very informative.  

Django: The World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist


Django: The World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist

by Bonnie Christensen
Picture Book Biography
unpaged
New York : Flash Point/Roaring Brook Press, c2009

Having never heard of Django before, I had no idea what this book held in store for me. What an amazing and inspirational story was revealed to me through the life of this gifted musician. Django was born in 1910 to a gypsy family in Belgium. Living the usual gypsy life, Django traveled from place to place, never attending school. Despite the hard life, he was constantly surrounded by music and dancing.At a very young age he becomes a master of his guitar. A fire destroys his gypsy wagon and leaves his hands virtually useless. Instead of giving up his beloved guitar, he spends hours perfecting a new way to make beautiful music with his crippled  hands. Not only was the story beautiful, the illustrations were absolutely gorgeous and mood-invoking.

Swamp Song


Swamp Song
by Helen Ketteman
ill. by Ponder Goembel
picture book
unpaged
New York : Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009

Each creature in the swamp makes its own unique sound as they move through the trees and water. All these sounds together make a beautiful swamp song that makes Old Man Gator start tappin' his toes. An entertaining read-aloud that will have you tappin' your toes as well. Kids will join in on the sound effects helping you make your own Swamp Song right at home. They will also enjoy seeing the funny clothes each swamp creature is wearing.

Animal Colors: A Rainbow of Colors from Animals Around the World


Animal Colors: A Rainbow of Colors from Animals Around the World
by Beth Fielding
Juvenile Non-Fiction
32 pages
Waynesville, NC : EarlyLight, c2009

Each two-page spread gives several examples of animals (or parts of animals) that are the same color. The animals shown include mammals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians. There are several individual colors as well as color combinations grouped together. My three-year old had fun trying to name each creature as well as telling me which ones he already knew were poisonous and we should never touch. A cute book with fun photos and brief, yet interesting facts that also helps reinforce color recognition in small children.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Goldilocks


Goldilocks
by Ruth Sanderson
unpaged picture book
New York : Little, Brown & Co. Books for Young Readers, 2009

Ruth Sanderson's beautifully illustrated version of this classic fairy-tale was a pleasure to read. The twist on the traditional ending was fun and teaches a great lesson about consequences and making retribution for ones actions.

The Fairy Godmother Takes a Break


The Fairy Godmother Takes a Break
(After Happily Ever After)
by Tony Bradman
ill. by Sarah Warburton
48 pages
Intermediate chapter book
Mankato, Minn. : Stone Arch Books, 2009

The Fairy Godmother is upset because no one ever thanks her for her services. She never has a moment to herself. Her husband, Mr. F.G., is her personal assistant. He uses a special, magic computer that only does one thing, accept Wish-Mails. One day there are so many Wish-Mails that The Fairy Godmother decides to quit! She and Mr. F.G. are going on a vacation to relax and get away from it all. However, when you are as well-known as the Fairy Godmother, it is rather hard to escape notice. Her vacation doesn't quite go as planned, but that might be a good thing in the long run.

After Happily Ever After is a fun new beginning chapter book series by Tony Bradman. Each book is a stand-alone book giving us the after story of some very famous people in the fairy tale world. Filled with delightful black and white illustrations by Sarah Warburton, this is a new favorite series of mine.

Hero Up! - Marvel Super Hero Squad


Marvel Super Hero Squad: Hero Up!
Paul Tobin - Scripts and Ideas
Marcelo Dichiara, Todd Nauck, Dario Brizuela - Art
unpaged
Juvenile Comics
New York : Marvel Enterprises, 2009

Whether you are a superhero enthusiast or just a casual reader of graphic novels you will enjoy reading this collection of short comics. Based on the Cartoon Network animated show Marvel Super Hero Squad, each comic is only one to three pages in length. Captain America, Wolverine, Thor, Iron Man, Silver Surfer and others give you an idea of some of the daily trials they face. A very fast read that will make children and adults alike laugh out loud.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Little Mouse Gets Ready


Little Mouse Gets Ready
by Jeff Smith
31 pages
beginning comic book
New York : Toon Books, c2009

Bone creator Jeff Smith is going in an entertaining new direction with this comic book/graphic novel for early readers. Little Mouse is excited to go to the barn with his family, he just has to get ready first. Mama is getting impatient. Doesn't she understand that it takes time to get all those clothes on?
A very fun comic book for those just learning to read as well as to read aloud to small children. The full-page comic panels are adorable and the word bubbles are super easy to read. The ending was a laugh-out-loud moment for both myself and my three-year-old son. Let's hope Jeff Smith gives us more tales about Little Mouse, I know I will read them.

The King Who Barked: Real Animals Who Ruled


The King Who Barked: Real Animals Who Ruled
by Charlotte Foltz Jones
ill. by Yayo
40 pages
juvenile informational
New York : Holiday House, 2009

The King Who Barked  is a collection of tales about real animals throughout world history that have been crowned as royalty or voted into public office. The animals range from a horse in the Roman Empire in the year 40 CE to  feline mayors in Texas during the 1990s. The stories are humorous as are the illustrations. You might be surprised to read how many animal politicians have held office in the United States. (And I don't mean people acting like animals either).

Jump the Cracks


Jump the Cracks
Stacy DeKeyser
207 pages
young adult realistic fiction
Woodbury, Minn. : Flux, 2008

    15-year-old Victoria sees a young mother mistreating her toddler while riding the train into New York City. When she notices the mother leaving the train alone Victoria finds the little boy in the train bathroom. Outraged, she takes the little boy and plans to tell the situation to her father so they can get help for him. Her plan goes awry when her father isn't their to meet her train as promised. As she sees the mother accompanied by a huge, mean-looking man (the boy's father?) coming towards them, she takes the little boy back on the train. Before she can get off again it starts to move and they end up in Newark, New Jersey. Now accused of kidnapping little William, Victoria can't get anyone to listen to her side of the story. She is forced to keep running to stay out of trouble and to keep the adorable little guy out of the nasty hands that want him. Throughout this crisis, Victoria reflects upon her own family life which she thought was so terrible. She realziaes some similarities between hers and Wills' situation, but also major differences. Whatever happens, she doesn't want this sweet little boy to fall between the cracks.
     This first novel by Stacy DeKeyser, is a bit sad, yet realistic. There are lots of children who fall through the cracks of the system, constantly being put back with parents or other caregivers who don't treat them right. Victoria decided to take a stand and deal with the consequences later. She seemed a believable character who acted on her feelings and genuinely cared for this little boy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis


The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis
by Barbara O'Connor
150 pages
juvenile fiction
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009

Everyday is the same in Fayette, South Carolina. Boring! Popeye is not looking forward to a summer of having nothing to do except learn the weekly vocabulary words his grandmother, Velma, gives him. To make it worse, it rains for a week straight so he can't even escape to the backyard. Then he discovers a shiny surprise stuck in the mud down the road from his house. A big shiny silver motor home tilted on the edge of the road, one tire hopelessly stuck in the mud. Popeye is stunned by this wonderful new thing in his life. It is covered with American flags, smiley faces, peace signs, lightning bolts and bumper stickers. The day got even better when he discovered a large family with a whole bunch of kids lived in the motor home. They invited him to join their Spit and Swear Club. Boy, did it feel good to do something naughty without Velma knowing a thing! Soon Elvis, the oldest boy, and Popeye were ditching the younger kids and trying to have a "small adventure" before the motor home was pulled from the mud sending Elvis' family on their way.

Barbara O'Connor has a way with words and characters. I could visualize all the people in this short little novel as if I were watching a movie. This is a nice and refreshing glimpse into the life of a young boy looking for just a little excitment in his life.