105 Ways to Give a Book


Transformed: How Everyday Things Are MadeThere are books that you need to let speak for themselves. In this case, with the the table of contents. In Transformed: How Everyday Things Are Made, by Bill Slavin, the reader finds out how the following things are made:
Baseballs, CDs, chewing gum, dolls, footballs, guitars, marbles, neon signs, plastic dinosaurs, ships in a bottle, soccer balls, surfboards, teddy bears, whistles, aluminum foil, books, cat litter, crayons, cutlery, dental floss, dry pet food, erasers, matches, mirrors, pencils, plastic wrap, pottery, soap, stick-on bandages, toothpaste, wax candles, wire, bread, cereal, cheese, chocolate, cola, fortune cookies, ice cream, jellybeans, ketchup, licorice, milk, pasta, peanut butter, potato chips, salt, tap water, tea, yogurt, blue jeans, cotton, polyester, rayon, running shoes, silk, wool, work gloves, brick, cement, glass, iron and steel, lumber, paper, petroleum, plastic resins, recycling, and rubber.
There is often some background information on the item in question. For instance, in the pages on cutlery, we find out that forks did not really catch on in Europe until the 1400s. Sometimes there is a quick fact in the insert. Also on cutlery, we learn that “One industrial hammer blow delivers a force on the dies of 180 t (200 tons). This is like thirty African elephants jumping onto them all at once.”

With clear descriptions and clever drawings, this is a fascinating book just chock full of information. While ideal for any library and the bookshelf of any curious kid, I think it would be an perfect classroom book for kids to leaf through at reading time. Take it slow, as this book is best approached a chapter or two at a time.
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Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You

Attention all school districts who think you are sooo contemporary assigning The Lovely Bones as summer reading for your high school students. I know it seems like it must be a good book, because it has been on the bestseller list and everyone is talking about it. And besides it is so shocking, so that must be good, right? And it’s sad, very very sad, and sad is always good — as far as literature goes. And then there is the message of Lovely Bones, which I suppose is that rape and dismemberment of a teenager is horrifying and leaves reprecussions on everyone for a long time. I’m sure no one would have figured THAT out without reading the book.

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With YouAnyway, if you want a sad book, but with a point, maybe you can put Over A Thousand Hills I Walk With You, by Hanna Jansen, on your list. This book is based on a true story about a girl, Jeanne, and her family in Rwanda in 1994. She sees her family wiped out by the militia, and then watches as the tides turn with the Rebels striking back. It’s an extraordinary story of how a child can survive with determination and luck.

The first third of the book sets the scene of Jeanne’s life with her family, so by the time they are chased out of their home and then attacked, we have grown attached to all of them. It’s a brutal book, even in the face of all the horrors that have occured in our own lifetime. But there is a point to this book. The world ignored a Holocaust in modern times. We should know about it, and we shouldn’t be allowed to forget. Unlike the awful things done to one fictional teen, that once one has read, one wants to forget.

Edge Of The Forest: Still With MotherReader!

What better place for me to plug my enduring love of Junie B. Jones than the new issue of The Edge of the Forest? And, if my feature article isn’t enough for you, there are reviews, interviews, and Charleston Chews. But just before you go, let me say...

Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha!Yeah! Yeah! There’s a new Junie B. Jones book. And it’s super funny! The first grader heads off to Hawaii with her parents in Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha!. The book chronicles her hard-to-contain excitement in class, her plane ride with the two grouchy ladies, and her visit to paradise with a deflated swim ring around her waist.

Here’s the totally topical Junie B. version of the airport:
We started waiting in a million jillion lines.

First, we waited in the “getting our car into the parking lot” line. Then we waited in the shuttle-bus line, and the “give the man your suitcase” line, and the “get your boarding passes here” line.

After that, there was just one more line to go. It is called the “now we’re going to look through all of your stuff with our X-ray vision” line.

That line is exactly like the lines at Disneyland, except for it’s longer. Plus there’s no actual ride at the end.
Now, doesn’t that capture the experience pretty accurately? Not convinced of the joy that is Junie B.? Pop by my article in The Edge of the Forest and see if I can’t change your mind.

Yeah, It’s Poetry Friday Again

I’m going to hope that with Kelly, and Liz, and Jen back online, that I will no longer be the keeper of the Poetry Friday links. It is somewhat akin to Mel Gibson hosting the neighborhood Seder. Not that I ever called it f***ing poetry. Okay, well once. But it was tenth grade and Tennyson was kicking my ass...

Wings on the WindToday I have a traditional-type poetry book about birds. An odd choice considering that I don’t think much about birds. But I saved this book since it hadn’t been checked out for two years and was facing the ax. It’s only four years old. Such a baby!

The various bird poems in Wings on the Wind were collected and illustrated by Kate Kiesler. She has arranged them seasonally, starting with the spring. The poems are of the traditional sort — no wacky poetry here — and the pictures are soft and sweet and very lovely. In tribute to my last trip to the beach this summer, I’ll share with you a section from Celia Thaxter’s “The Sandpiper”:
Across the lonely beach we flit,
      One little sandpiper and I;
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
      The scattered driftwood, bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
      The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit —
      One little sandpiper and I.
I suspect the beach will not be lonely when we go on Saturday, but I know it will be fun. I also have another visit with my cutie-pie niece. I may even be babysitting her for the night, which would be very cool.

More Mo! More MO!

I’m sick of dealing with the huge amount of books my library has been getting this summer. Since I look through them to change their shelf locations and add labels for mysteries or graphic novels and such, I see everything that comes through this branch. And being of an obsessive nature, I really have to look at each one. Does this look interesting? Would my kids like it? Would I like it? Should I take it home to read? Is it something I want to review? Usually there is a large flow of books for a few weeks, and then it slows down. But it hasn’t slowed down yet and I am getting overwhelmed and frankly, just a little tired of new children’s books.

And then...

What should appear on my shelf of new books before I could have possibly have expected it to arrive? What picture book could make my heart leap with glee?

Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was ExtinctIt’s unbelievable, but it’s true: I have received Mo Willems’ new book, Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct. And as if that weren’t exciting enough, it appears to be unreviewed by the kidlitosphere at large. So it’s mine! All mine. Hah hah hah hah haaaaah! (That was maniacal laughter, in case you were wondering.)

I approach the book slowly. I repeat to myself, “It’s not a Pigeon book. it’s not a Pigeon book.” I fill my mind with Leonardo, the Terrible Monster to see this book in that vein, rather than an extension of the Pigeon I have come to know and love.

I’m ready. Mo Willems said that the end papers of his books are important, so I pause over a two-page spread of chocolate chip cookies. Hmmm. I turn the page to the credits. “To Cher, nice save.” What could that mean? Sorry, moving on. An angry kid face pokes his head under the small print glaring at Edwina — a dinosaur with a hat, purse, and pearls — feeding some birds (not pigeons) under the title. I’m turning the page... and I’m reading the story.


Hah! I saw Knuffle Bunny! And the Pigeon’s head!


Ahhhhhh. Very good. Very satisfying. Edwina is a nice dinosaur and everyone knows her and likes her. She’s helpful and kind, and even bakes chocolate chip cookies for everyone in town. But one kid doesn’t like Edwina, and he’s the kind of kid who is always the expert. He tries to convince the kids in his class — and then the town — that dinosaurs are extinct, so Edwina could not exist. There’s one in every bunch, isn’t there?

Of course more happens, but I don’t want to ruin this picture book for anyone, so I’ll stop there. But rest assured that Mo Willems has put together another wonderful book with clever and telling illustrations. He makes such superior use of white space to set apart his work. On the page “He was very convincing,” the text and picture take up only maybe a sixth of a page, which really makes it stand out as a punchline.

I’ll share this book at my storytime tomorrow. I’ll take it home to my kids tomorrow night. And I’ll read it to my baby niece this weekend (start her with the best). Thanks, Mo, for making my day once again. Back to work on the other thirty new books.

Glass Half Full

I’m a “glass half full” kind of person. Stop laughing, Bill — I am. Sort of. Sometimes. Well anyway, today I was.

Last night my seven-year-old was snuggling in our bed. She was having trouble sleeping, and it was almost midnight. She sat up, muttered something incomprehensible, and threw up on my actual person. The hubby and I went into full-on crisis mode. He scooped her up and ran to the bathroom. I also ran to the bathroom, undressed my disgusting self and tried to clean up. I made a fair shake of it and returned to pull off the sheets and mattress cover before damage could be done to our bed. You know, the only mattress without plastic sheeting.

With the seven-year-old under my husband’s care, I went to take a shower to rid myself of the residual stench. We tucked my daughter in, my husband went back to bed, and I waited to put the sheets in the dryer. I was also listening for further episodes from my little one, but thankfully, none were forthcoming. However, with the surprise shower, listening to her every movement and the general post-traumatic stress. I could not get to sleep. I read a book and turned in after 2:00 a.m.

But I woke up today looking at the positive. I guess I didn’t have to go to work. And we would be obliged to stay home. No tossing your cookies at the pool, after all. I could catch up on some housework, some blog stuff, and maybe read a book.

Haunted WatersWith my seven-year-old feeling better and clearly in view (one rule in my house: don’t throw up on Mommy’s brand new couches), I turned my attention to Haunted Waters. I think the author is Mary Pope Osborne — because it says so on the cover — but I would never have suspected it or, without proof positive, believed it. The book is so far removed from the Magic Tree House series as to occupy an entirely different literary planet.

The story is based on a German fairy tale, “Undine,” but she has crafted her own version of the story. It’s creepy with anticipation and mixing with the unknown. A Lord is riding in the woods, when he is drawn in further by mysterious sources. He is welcomed in from the storm by a fisherman and his mad wife. When he sees their daughter, called in from visiting the sea, he is entranced. Stuck on their land for a few days as a flood cuts off his return to his castle, he gets to know the mysterious and lovely Undine and falls in love with her. But the woods hold a demon that terrifies him, even though Undine is not afraid. She has always known its presence. Can the two of them make a future when her past holds her so tightly?

This is a spooky book, of mood and mystery more than actual bad things happening. Mary Pope Osborne wrote Haunted Waters in 1994, than recently revised and republished it. Is it good? It’s not my style, so I find it hard to judge. But it certainly is different. And things could be worse than reading a just decent book. I mean, I believe I’ve covered that topic pretty well today.

School Bells Ringing

’Tis the season of starting at a new school. Especially the dreaded middle school, where everything seems to suddenly change. Today Fuse#8 reviewed a new great girl book on this very topic, Shug. I also reviewed it in June and highly recommend it. But if you’re looking for something new, with a little edge, you might try looking down under for an Australian title.

Being BindyBeing Bindy, by Alyssa Brugman, is the story of a girl heading into eighth grade and suddenly losing her best friend. Janey has been with Bindy since kindergarten, but she is interested in hanging out with the faster — and meaner — Hannah now. After involving Bindy in a outing with boys — a total surprise for Bindy — Janey drops her totally. Bindy finds an unlikely friend in the boy she was unexpectedly paired with, James, and finds some strength and depth in her brother as well. It doesn’t help that her father is finding an interest in Janey’s mother or that Bindy’s own mother is so hard for Bindy to get close to.

It’s a pretty standard girl-losing-best-friend-to-mean-crowd, but the Australian slang gives it a little more juice. It seems so much cooler then our lame American slang. Plus, the author could be making it up and I wouldn’t be the wiser.
“Dobber,” she said.
“I didn’t dob. I didn’t have to. It was obvious that it was you,” I said.
It is also well-written, really capturing the nature of the tween girl. I love this scene very early in the book, as Janey insinuates herself into the “in” crowd:
So we headed over to them and Janey started chatting away. “What have you guys been doing? How did you do in that science test?” And then her bag just casually slipped off her shoulder onto the ground. Janey kept talking as though she hadn’t noticed. “What are you picking for sport? Ice-skating? Really.”

Janey was talking, talking and she bent down a little bit so she could hear what they were saying, and before too long they’d all shimmied up a little bit so she could sit down.

I was left standing at the edge of the court by myself, with my bag on my back, looking like a chump. Janey didn’t even notice. She was too busy yakking it up about sport selections.
I could totally see that scene in front of me, and feel Bindy’s torment. Overall, Being Bindy is an enjoyable, interesting book about growing up, with some family issues thrown in as a little bonus.

Telling It Like It Is

I’m going to admit something embarrassing. More embarrassing then reading the Nannies novel by the pool where anyone could see me while my suit was quietly disintegrating? Yes, even more embarrassing than that.

Occasionally, I read my horoscope.

It’s not by design, you understand. I’ll be skimming through the Style page of the Washington Post and pausing at the Baby Blues cartoon (today’s cartoon is about the Internet, btw) and sometimes — sometimes, I tell you — my eyes drift over to the horoscopes and I read mine. It often happens, though, that when I do read, it seems particularly pertinent. It’s like fate. Today’s horoscope read:
Gemini (May 21-June 21)
In striving for the top position, it’s hard not to compare yourself to the other guy, but resist doing so. It’s more effective to stick to what you do best than it is to let yourself be swayed by what’s working for someone else.
So, what was I doing before I went upstairs to have lunch and skim the paper? I swear to you, I was looking at my Technorati rank. And it’s silly, because I don’t even really get the Technorati rank thing, because it’s based on links not page views. I’m just glad that my site is moving up in the list because more people are seeing what I have to say.

I check my Technorati links every day to see if someone new out there is linking to me, so I can give them a look. Statcounter is good for that too, though harder to sift through to sort the ones that linked to you from the ones where people got to you by clicking “next blog.” (Hint: if it’s a porn site or a site in Spanish, it was probably a “next blog” hit). But, today I went there kind of glum, because my favorite funny mom blog is closing up shop. Fluid Pudding is extremely funny and very real, and I will miss her posts. But in turning this back to me, let me mention that she got over a hundred comments on her post about leaving the blogosphere. I couldn’t get a hundred comments on a post if I danced naked before a webcam while burning an American flag. So, I’m a little bit jealous.

And then the horoscope jumps out at me today, and I am so awed by its timely appearance in my life that I am quitting blogging for good.

Just kidding, but I am going to get back to my blogging roots of seven months ago (wow, isn’t that like a lifetime ago?) and make sure I get a little more of me in the posts, some more stories, and more opinions. For today, I am going back to the pool in my new, non-melting bathing suit, and spending some of these last summer hours with the kids and the sun.
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Summer By The Pool

On Friday, I took my girls to the community swimming pool. My good swimsuit was still in my husband’s car from our last trip down the the beach, so I grabbed one of my old suits. As I put it on, I realized that the straps were a little less stretchy then I would have hoped. They had seemingly melted. I thought it would be okay until my ten-year-old looked at me askance.

“Um, it kind of shows a little too much, Mom, don’t you think?” she said.

“Yeah, but the straps aren’t holding it up right,” I replied.

“We can pull the straps together in the back and tie them,” she said, and went off to look for the proper material.

Together we decided on a piece of white yarn tying the two straps together and then cut off very close to the knot. When it was done, I swear, it looked like a regular bathing suit that crossed in the back. I told my ten-year-old that I couldn’t believe that she had remembered that we used to do that with her bathing suits when she was little (she is a twig, and things never fit her well). She thought a minute, and told me that she didn’t remember that time — it just seemed to make sense to tie the straps together. What a smart girl.

We went to the pool, and I alternated between swimming with them and reading a book. It was hot out — too hot to sit on the chair for long without taking a dip. The girls played in the huge shallow area of the pool, allowing me to read on the lounge chair.

As the day was drawing to a close, I reached up to adjust my straps. Owww! What the...?

In the heat, my elastic straps — already melty, if you remember — had glued themselves onto my very skin. As I peeled them off my shoulders, I noticed a white dusting on my thighs. Hmm. Leftover sand from the beach? Dry skin flaking from the heat? No, hold it. It was tiny grains of the fabric from my bathing suit which was apparently disintegrating at that very moment. It was time to go home.

Friends With BenefitsFortunately, I finished my book. I read — and am not ashamed to say it — Friends With Benefits, the second book in the “Nannies” novels series. You know what? I am a little ashamed to say it after all.

In the first book by Melody Mayer, The Nannies, three very different girls from three very different backgrounds become nannies for three very different reasons. Hispanic Esme needs the money for her family and to find a way out of the ghetto. Outspoken Lydia needs a way to escape the rainforest her parents dragged her to, and get back to her rich roots. Midwestern Kiley wants out her quiet life, and competing on a show to be nanny to a rock star seems just the way to do it. They find each other, become friends, and meet boys. Of course they meet boys.

In the second book, Friends With Benefits, they are adjusting to their new lives as nannies to the rich and famous, while balancing their loves and lusts. Esme has her boy from the old neighborhood, and the son of her employer interested in her as well. Lydia has found a real hunky catch, and is determined to lose her virginity with him (as she states in the book). Kiley has attracted the attention of another transplanted Midwesterner, but he seems out of her league. Add all that to the troubles of their charges, and their employers, and you’ve got a lot going on. Oh, and there’s lots of name-dropping of actors, actresses, models, and designers.

A fun read for a hot day by the pool. A hot, elastic-melting, fabric-decaying day by the pool.
Category: 2 comments

Poetry Friday: Gone To The Dogs

Once I Ate a PieFor Poetry Friday I present Once I Ate a Pie, by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest.

Question: How cute is a mother-daughter writing team?
Answer: Not as cute as this book.

Now, I’m no dog lover. Give me a cat any day. But these dogs are hard to resist in their general dogginess. They chew things, they bark at everything, they steal things of the table. And still we love them. Well, you love them. I kind of tolerate them, but you get my point. The breeds of dogs are portrayed in ways that define them; therefore the German Shepherd has this poem:
I want my people in a group. Like sheep.
When someone is in the bathroom, I open the door.
“Are you all right?”
They are NOT happy.
I take them back to the others.

When they go anywhere,
I am watching.
I am the herder.
The poems are cute and the thirteen dogs are captured in their essence by the wonderful paintings of Katy Schneider. I only wish they had named the breeds and maybe a little bit about them at the end of the book. It would have completed the experience of the poetry to see that in the poem about Greyhounds, calling them runners in fact relates to them being very fast and having been raced. I mean, I know that, and I assume many others know that, but it might make it easier for kids to connect the poems with the specific dogs.

Overall, this is a book that can be enjoyed by dog lovers, but cat lovers can give it a try too.

Some other Poetry Friday posts (since someone went on vacation and isn’t keeping track):Just a few, but it’s still early — especially on the West coast — and it’s summer. I’ll be back with more listings later, after a visit to the pool with my kids (and a good book).

Edited to add: I’m back with a few more Poetry Friday posts. Not that I intend this listing thing to be a habit. Let’s just make that clear.Before you head out to the lake or the beach or the mountains tomorrow morning, stop by Semicolon and link to a book review from this past week. I’ll be heading to work on Saturday, so yay for me.

Another An Na

A Step from HeavenOkay, I knew An Na was a great author. After reading Wait for Me, I couldn’t remember why I had gone into that book with such high expectations. I decided to take a break in my growing pile of teen books to reread her first book, A Step from Heaven. The Printz award winner for 2002, A Step from Heaven is incredible, as I am now reminded and now remind you.

It begins as Young Ju is four years old, in Korea, with the language and observations of a little girl. She knows things are bad in the house, then all of a sudden there is talk of Mi Gook and everyone seems happy. Then they are going to Mi Gook (New York) by plane, and Young Ju is sure they are going to heaven. When they arrive, her American Uncle Tim tells her it’s not heaven here, but is a step from heaven. And so begins her new American life.

As Young Ju grows up during the course of the book, the language and writing change accordingly. We witness her growth and the changes in the family. As the father grows more powerless in the new country, he becomes more abusive to them all. This isn’t an easy book to read, but it’s powerful. Ultimately it’s about strength, not despair, even when everything seems bleak. A Step from Heaven is a fantastic book about the struggles of being an immigrant in a new country.

Library Musical Video

How could we all have missed this? I was captivated by Prangstgrüp Lecture Musical and investigated the site further and found...

Library Musical

Drop everything and watch it now.
Category: 4 comments

Video Mania

It has traditionally been my husband’s job to point me to the new, funny videos out on the Internet. That’s how I saw Numa Numa guy so long ago.

But now it is my blogger buddies who are pointing out the good stuff. And oh, how far we’ve come from Singing Guy. Check out OK GO’s amazing video, with my thanks to a funny, funny momblogger, Fluid Pudding.

Then pop over to another fantastic addition to the musical genre with Prangstgrüp, with my thanks to Gotta Book for pointing it out.

And last, but not least, Where the Hell is Matt?, which makes me so jealous. Hey, pay me and I’ll read in any location you want.
Category: 4 comments

Wait For Me

Wait for Me by An Na is prose as poetry. A mood piece, not an action piece. It’s more about the words than anything else. But what beautiful words and combinations thereof. My favorite passage:
Sometimes there are these moments that linger in the mind. They are never explainable. Why that time and not others. Why that look and not others. They just exist. I turned around and there he was. Standing perfectly still. The sunlight slanting across his lips, his chin, his scar. Illuminating all that was flawed. His dark brown eyes studying my hair. He waited so patiently, without judgment, without anger, just stood there with that white shirt held out in front of him like a flag. And in that moment, in that terrible heat, I wanted to tell him everything. Let the weight of my lies slide off my shoulders. But all I could do was take the shirt and whisper, “thank you.”
Mina has been lying to her family and using her friend. That doesn’t make for a sympathetic character. It’s also hard to believe that she would let it all go this far, but in suspending that disbelief, you enter her troubled world. For months she has been lying to her mother about her grades at school, feeding into her mother’s assertion that her daughter will go to Harvard. Mina knows she won’t get in, but has been using a friend’s romantic feelings for her to get him to forge acceptable report cards. In her desperation to keep up the façade, she gives in to his advances, while remaining the victim in her own mind. She also steals from the cash register for the family business, altering the receipts so she can pay herself for her work there.

Since all of her problems would be resolved if she were just honest with her family, I find it hard to care about her misery. She is only kind to her sister, who is ignored by their mother. There are a lot of deep family conflicts and complications in this book, which makes it an interesting read, but Mina is hard to like for all the trouble she brings on herself. When she meets a new worker, Ysrael, at the dry cleaner, she starts to fall for him and finds herself being a little more free.
“I used to hate the beach when I was little,” I said. I could feel Ysrael looking at me. “I thought the sand made the world too tipsy.”

Ysrael laughed. A clear, shining on-note bark that broke with the sea. “And now?” he asked.

I turned to him. “I feel like I can breathe again.”

Ysrael stared at the horizon and nodded silently. We stayed that way, not speaking, not moving, just let the sea lap around us. The sun had dipped below the horizon, but the sky still held on to the memory of the light. The brilliant colors balanced on the crests of the waves.
Unfortunately, she uses her feelings for him to ditch the classes to improve her SAT scores — the only constructive solution she has taken for her predicament so far — and eventually uses him also. I wanted to jump into the book, shake her, and let her know that it doesn’t really matter what college she attends.

All said, Wait for Me is a beautifully written book — I’m just not sure what it is actually trying to say.

Book Meme

Big A, little a passed on a book meme to the kidlitosphere and as a card-carrying member (where is that card anyway?), I will participate, even though I generally freeze at these sort of things. Whenever I am asked about books in this way — my favorites, cool girls, cool boys, best American books of the last 25 years, great teachers, whatever — my mind goes blank. I have to walk along the library shelves to get any ideas at all. I’m also pretty fixated on whatever I just finished reading, so it’s hard to remember much else.

But I’ve walked around the library and I’ve delved deep in my soul, and this is what I’ve got.
  1. One book that changed your life?
    When I was in fifth grade, an adult saw me reading Winnie-the-Pooh and commented what a sophisticated book it was. It left me with a lifelong appreciation of the humor in Winnie-the-Pooh that I think many kids miss because they think the book is too young for them. It also gave me a firm conviction not to rush kids into older books, so when they do read a book they will appreciate it.

  2. One book you have read more than once?
    As a child I read most of my books several times. The most recent book I read twice was The Tail of Emily Windsnap. Which I read again because I wanted to read the sequel. Which wasn’t that great. Oh well.

  3. One book you would want on a desert island?
    If I could take the trilogy, then The Lord of the Rings. It’s complicated enough to keep my mind and imagination busy.

  4. One book that made you laugh?
    The Junie B. Jones series always make me laugh out loud, especially if I listen to them on CD. See more on this topic in the upcoming Edge of the Forest.

  5. One book that made you cry?
    The Yearling. Stupid fawn book.

  6. One book you wish had been written?
    I wish that the books that have been written recently had been available when I was a kid. I think I missed out.

  7. One book you wish had never been written?
    If you’re a reader of my blog, you’ll know the answer. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Stupid bunny book.

  8. One book you are currently reading?
    Kids’ books I generally finish in one sitting, so I’m not in the middle of any right now. Next on the list is Bass Ackwards.

  9. One book you have been meaning to read?
    The Book Thief, since everyone raves about it. But it is so long, that I haven’t been ready to commit to it. I never got past the fourth Harry Potter either, and I keep thinking that I will go back and finish the series.

  10. Now tag five people:
    I believe we’re keeping this in the kidlitosphere, but if anyone from my blogroll wants to join in, please do.
Category: 3 comments

Wacky Poetry

There’s a crocodile in the toilet
There’s a hedgehog in the sink
And that is why
The dog and I
Cannot get a drink.

Now, I made that up in the wait of one stoplight. One looong stoplight, but still. And that’s why I don’t get these books of wacky poetry for children. If I can toss off one poem in four minutes, then why do I need a book of them?

Flamingos in the SinkThat belief was not challenged by Flamingos on the Roof, by Calef Brown. Didn’t like the poems. Didn’t like the pictures. Here’s one of his:
Ray built a house on his nose.
Just for a lark, I suppose.
The lark is content there.
It even pays rent there.
and shovels the stoop when it snows.
Is it better than mine? Probably. That much better? I don’t know.

I do like Shel Silverstein, because he’s the original. It’s like the One Red Paperclip guy. It was a stroke of genius — and incredible luck — to start with a red paper clip and trade up to a house within a year. It ticks me off not to have thought of such a thing, but I give the man credit. He’s got a book and movie deal, besides the house itself. But the next guy to try and trade... I don’t know, a push pin, isn’t going to get nearly the attention. It’s not that the idea is so perfect. It’s being the first one to do it that matters.

So while Shel Silverstein will go down in literature history for his poetry, we won’t see much of the later additions to this sub-genre. Okay, maybe Prelutsky. But Calef Brown? I don’t know.

All that said, if you like silly poems and bright, odd pictures — and lots of kids do — this will be a fun book. Personally, I wouldn’t give a red paper clip for it.
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Think Before You Sequel

Priscilla and the Splish-Splash SurpriseIn Priscilla and the Splish-Splash Surprise, a brother and sister team up to put together a book. That is so sweet. She’s a painter in New York City and her brother works with glass and steel at his workshop in Massachusetts. Maybe that doesn’t prepare one to be an author. I’m just thinkin’. As evidenced when you put together lines like this:
For Priscilla, in fact, there’d been no blue for days.
It started last week with a yellowish haze.
Each day the sky darkened. It thickened like soup.
Finally the whole sky just seemed to droop.
The first raindrop fell. Then the second and third.
Then the clouds opened up and rain was the word.
The storyline is that it rains for days, and Priscilla gets bored, and then she goes exploring and meets a pixie, and then they are friends, and she follows her to her pixie world where she learns how wonderful the rain really is just in time for the sun to come out again. Fine. Whatever.

The first book, Priscilla and the Pink Planet, had a better storyline to support the lame-ish rhymes. And the idea of a pink world appeals to so many little girls going through a pink phase. There was also more than a little Seuss thing going on. This new book has none of the charm of the first, which was hanging on by a thread anyway. Stop this sequel madness before it goes any further.

Ham and Pickles: First Day of SchoolThen, we have Ham and Pickles: First Day of School, written and illustrated by Nicole Rubel. The worst thing about this book is the title, which implies that this is one of many books about Ham and Pickles. How unfortunate.

The second worst thing about this book is contained inside of the first page (which would be “page 2” if you were counting the cover page, but ii if you were not), in which we learn that “the illustrations in this book were done on marker paper with black ink, markers, colored pencils, crayons, glitter, fabric paint, photographs, real flowers, rickrack, and beads.” Presumably, she didn’t think of using orange peels and fingernail clippings. Maybe in the next book.

The third worst thing about this book is the text, pretty much all the way through the whole book.

So I didn’t much like this new picture book. The illustrations, with everything piled on together, were busy and disjointed. I hated the choice of giving the guinea pigs (I think they are guinea pigs) huge, weird eyes, making them the least cute things in existence. I mean, you have to work hard to make a guinea pig un-cute.

The story involves Pickles being worried about starting school, and her brother Ham gives her all sorts of not-useful advice. This leads to an awful first day for Pickles, including forgetting her lunch. Big brother Ham saves the day in the end by sharing his lunch. And that makes all the trouble he has caused ooookkaaay.

I think books that address first-day jitters are fine, but I don’t like ones that list specific worries. Why give kids a new worry they may not have thought of yet? It just seems like a bad idea. Books that address school worries in general allow the child to tell the parent what his or her worries are without having new ones planted there to deal with. Skip this book. And with luck, maybe more won’t be produced after all.

Just For Kids, NO, Just For Adults, NO, Just For Kids...

Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All AgesReady for a new children’s-book-as-adult-book to put on your shelf next to The Giving Tree and Oh, The Places You’ll Go? Then make way for Walk On! A Guide for Babies of All Ages, by Marla Frazee.

I read this, assuming it was a children’s picture book, being as that is how it looks and was cataloged. The book itself is an entire set of instructions on learning how to walk by pulling yourself up, taking a try, getting up and trying again when you fall. I was perplexed. It won’t actually help babies learning to walk, as they don’t have the comprehension skills with which to get the most benefit from the book. Parents won’t grab it for preschoolers, feeling like they have passed this stage. Maybe siblings of pre-walkers? Is that a big enough niche group?

Then I looked at the reviews that proclaimed this book to be genius. Especially noting one that pointed to the author’s dedication, “To my son Graham — off to college.”

Oh, now it all makes sense. This is one of those books where we adults are supposed to learn from the lessons of childhood. That makes some lines sound sooo important. Lines like these:
You will need support.
This is tricky because sometimes
what you think will support you
Though I will give some credit to this line:
Is your diaper weighing you down?
Replace “your diaper” with the non-family-appropriate word for what must be in the diaper to be weighing it down, and you will surely see the inside joke in this line.

I hate inside jokes in picture books. I hate that “look how very deeeep I am” quality. It’s all just bull“your diaper.”

Look for this book to make its appearance at graduations everywhere. Gag reflex not included.
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Dead Connection

Yesterday the whole family went to a nearby water park designed for younger kids. I love this place because it’s small enough that my ten-year-old can go around with a buddy without my constant supervision. She loves it for the same reason. None of the sections of the pool are more than four feet deep, so my seven-year-old has a great time without getting in over her head — literally. We floated in the lazy river, went down the small slides, and crossed over the floating logs, all on a perfect sunny day. And we came home exhausted.

The kids and the husband played a Harry Potter video game while I caught up on my friendly neighborhood blogs. Fortunately, no one has been writing much on the weekend in the summer (myself included), so I could catch up and spend some time reading the back posts of some of my newer blogroll additions. The Best of the Sneeze kept me laughing for a solid hour, so I highly recommend it.

After getting the kids tucked in, I was determined to call it an early night. I decided to just start on one of the many teen books I have piled up, and I would finish it in the morning.

Dead ConnectionTwo and a half hours later, and very close to midnight, I finished Dead Connection, by Charlie Price, with the booktalk introduction already running through my head. What a freaking page turner!

A mix of CSI, Medium, and The Sixth Sense, this book combines the best of the elements into a suspenseful and provocative book. Told in chapters from varying characters’ points of view, the story is laid out in pieces that the reader puts together as new information is constantly revealed. The main character is Murray, a teenage boy who frequents the cemetery to talk to his dead friends. And listen as they talk back to him. He finds comfort in the cemetery, given that his mom is always entertaining different men and can’t take the time out to be a real mother. He finds a live friend in Pearl, a ninth-grade girl and daughter of the cemetery’s caretaker. She is also a misfit and goes about getting Murray’s friendship in all the wrong ways, but it works out for both of them eventually.

Their story is interspersed with that of a detective trying to solve the case of a missing teenage girl, a mentally unstable young man trying to remember something important, and a cop out of control with a drinking problem. Now the odd thing about this book is that all of the rest of the characters — and thus the chapters — are adults. An interesting choice for a YA book. There is some violence and sexual talk — like demanding favors from hookers — which is leading me to question whether I can booktalk this to seventh graders. I don’t think there is anything in here they wouldn’t know from CSI, but I am on the fence.

Which leads to my booktalk idea. I thought I could ask if any of them watch CSI, then ask if anyone would be offended if I talked about a book that was like that show. If they say no, then I talk about the book. If they say yes — and it would probably be some jokester — I say, “Too bad, because I was going to tell you about this book involving the disappearance of a cheerleader, an detective with a mission, and a boy who talks to the dead.”

Anyway, this is a fantastic book for teens and an enjoyable read for adults. Just make sure that when you start it you have allowed enough time to finish it in one sitting. You won’t want to put it down until the very end. I promise you that.

Yellow Star

Yellow StarWow.

I just read Yellow Star, by Jennifer Roy, and... wow.

I know you expect more from me, and well you should. I coined the category “Weird-Ass Picture Book.” I turned my hatred of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane into a new slang word (“I was enjoying the book, but then the author pulled a total Tulane on me”). Perhaps you have even enjoyed my occasional sharp turn of phrase (“without going all Little Drummer Boy...”). Now I read one of the most remarkable books ever written and I can sum it up only one way.


Let me take a step back and cover the basics. The book (for upper elementary school readers) is written in verse, qualifying it for inclusion in Poetry Friday. So there. It features the sepia-toned cover all the rage in children’s books these days. In this case, it’s actually appropriate for the time period and topic. It’s the story of a Jewish girl in Poland during the Holocaust. It’s at once both sad and inspirational.

It blew me away.

Here is the Prologue:
“In 1939, the Germans invaded the town of Lodz, Poland. They forced all of the Jewish people to live in a small part of the city called a ghetto. They built a barbed-wire fence around it and posted Nazi guards to keep everyone inside it. 270,000 people lived in the Lodz ghetto.

“In 1945, the war ended. The Germans surrendered, and the ghetto was liberated. Out of more than a quarter of a million people, only about 800 walked out of the ghetto. Of those who survived, only 12 were children.

“I was one of the twelve.”

— Excerpt from interview with Sylvia Perlmutter, March 2003
Syvia, now called Sylvia, was four and a half years old when the war began and ten when it ended. Her true story remained untold until now, when her niece shared it with the world. The author, Jennifer Roy, decided to write in first person and to publish it as fiction so she could convey the feeling of the experience with dialogue and emotion. She has done an excellent job.

Syvia survives the Nazis sweeping the ghetto to remove the children several times, saved by the dedication and ingenuity of her father. She learns to play quietly, even with dust balls, and to stay inside at all times. With a child’s eavesdropping ears, she hears rumors of the atrocities done to the Jews. But even the spreaders of the rumors cannot believe they could be true. It is a story of deprivation, hunger, and ultimate horror.

But it is also the story of hope, in that this child could be hidden and could survive. And knowing that we are reading a memoir, the reader is drawn in by the truth of it and comforted by the knowledge that our main character must survive.

I saw this book reviewed by Jen Robinson and Fuse#8, which reassured me that I was going to be reading something quite special. I wouldn’t have skipped by this book in any case, but I hope I can ensure that no one else misses it.


Search Fib and More

It isn’t enough of a nod to Poetry Friday that I won (or joint-won) Bookshelves of Doom’s summer reading haiku contest. Not for me. I’m going to join the ranks doing search fibs, because they are so much fun. Though none will reach the poignancy of this from Gotta Book, originator of the fib, I continue to be amused with what people hoped to find here on MotherReader.
Froot loop art
Best poems Kipling
Stick figures clip art families
Kiribati email contact churches Tarawa
Be back later with yet another Poetry Friday offering. Oooh, the tension builds...

Waiting For The Movie

Sometimes I read a book and think that it would be a good movie. Sometimes I see the movie and picture the movie characters for the book characters. But never before have I read a book without a movie and substituted the potential movie characters for the book characters. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing — just a new milestone.

The Wizard, The Witch and Two Girls from JerseyPicture Lord of the Rings meets Ella Enchanted meets Mean Girls and you’ve got Lisa Papademetriou’s new book, The Wizard, The Witch and Two Girls from Jersey. Two teens from different parts of the social spectrum (Mean Girls) end up in a fantasy world (Lord of the Rings) and with humor and pluck (Ella Enchanted) save themselves and the day.

Given that the lead character is Hispanic, and given that High School Musical is sooo hot these days, I would go with a Vanessa Anne Hudgens lead, and Ashley Tisdale as the blond, snobby girl. Take away the Hispanic aspect (which isn’t hard to do, given that it is only shown in a few Spanish phrases early in the book), and I would see this more as an Anne Hathaway and Rachel McAdams (the classic Mean Girl) vehicle. Or if you remember the eighties teen movies better, picture a Molly Ringwald Pretty in Pink and a Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club. My point being, if this book isn’t currently in negotiations for a movie deal then somebody’s agent is sleeping on the job.

Here’s a short exchange after Heather breaks the princess:
“You’re sorry?” Veronica snapped. “Great. We’re stuck in a fictional forest full of Ookies and attacking hags, and you feel bad about smashing the only person who could have helped us. Ooh, that’s so helpful! Thanks!”

“I said I was sorry,” Heather replied. “What do you want from me? It’s not like I carry Krazy Glue in my pocket or something. Besides, you don’t even know for sure that we’re inside your dumb book. It’s not like you can prove it.”

“Oh, yeah?” Veronica folded her arms across her chest. “Well, if we’re in chapter two, then Princess Arabelle should be meeting an old man with a long beard just about...”

At that moment, a bush rusled. Veronica reached for the dead dwarf’s battle-ax as two riders entered the clearing.

“...now,” Veronica finished.
Veronica and Heather need the same fantasy book for a class report due the next day. Veronica knows the story inside and out, but wants to own a copy. Heather just didn’t do her homework. At the bookstore, they wrestle over the book and a bizarre scanner accident lands them inside the story itself. Unfortunately, they mistakenly shatter the princess character when she is turned to glass by a witch. Veronica knows that the only way out of the story is through the story, so she puts forth Heather as the princess. However, they have already changed the tale by coming into it, so things do not always happen as Veronica suspects they will.

There are many references to other books and fantasy premises that readers will enjoy. Veronica also compares the world around her with the way the author wrote about it, which gives the book an interesting take on being inside and outside the story at the same time. There are many other references which are good for a chuckle/groan. Like the existence of Kibler elves who make tree-baked cookies. Or that one of the awful witches is the Countess of Uncomfortable Humidity. It’s a funny book. Light, light, light. But very funny.

The author also writes on a book blog that I found recently, and added to my blogroll last night, Bookburger. The blog is very well done and very professional-looking in its own quirky/fun way. The blog authors nail some great interviews. In fact, I found the blog when they interviewed Mo Willems for his You Can Never Find A Rickshaw When It Monsoons — which is still not in my library and I should have bought a copy long ago, but I harbored this secret desire that Mo would send me a copy based on my continued posts about him and because everybody seems to get something like cupcakes, or Baby Mouse posters, or even just ARCs so isn’t it time somebody out there ponied up something for MotherReader, for the love of Pete‽

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yeah, Bookburger is a wonderful site with some damn good credentials. Give it a look. I’ve also added some humorous parent blogs and some fun sites on my blogroll as well, so peruse at will.

Beach Combers Unite!

There are many, many fine beach books out there. In fact, Planet Esme did a great series of beach-related picture books last week. I’ve linked to the last post of that week, noting that the previous days’ posts are listed on the left side (as I typed the word “left,” I held my hands up from the keyboard to make the letter L — to confirm that the entries are indeed on the left side.)

I will only review one book here today. Some may call it selective for picking only the best beach book of 2006 to discuss. Some may just call it intrinsic laziness for only writing one review. Both assessments would be spot-on.

My mother lives in Virginia Beach, so that is the beach that I frequent. It is the worst beach for beach combing if you want to find whole shells of any kind. The surf tends to be rough, so the shells come tumbling to the shore as pieces. It makes the few nice ones even more special. It also focuses the search on the other wonders of the ocean.

One White Wishing StoneOne White Wishing Stone by Doris K. Gayzagian is the story of that search for the perfect gifts from the sea. The little girl finds many treasures in her path that will be familiar to all beach goers. While the elusive starfish is found in a tidal pool, she is also impressed with the eight skate egg cases she finds on the sand. Having never seen skate egg cases represented in a picture book, while having seen them all over the beach, I am impressed with the things that the author chose to highlight of the beach experience.

One White Wishing Stone is a counting book with simple — if lovely — text. I give credit to the illustrator Kristine Swarner for turning this book into the best beach book of 2006 with her beautiful pictures. The paintings bring you along on this lazy, lovely day on the beach. Look at the cover with the little girl beckoning you into the waves. I could leave my desk today, if it weren’t for my, you know, job.

There is still one whole month to get yourself to the beach this summer — though I am a strong advocate of hitting the Southern east coast in September for a more serene visit. If you can’t make it, or want to relive those pleasant days when the tide ruled your day, pick up this simply stunning book.
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