Friday, August 7, 2015

Picture book mini-reviews 37

Dig, Dogs, Dig
by James Horvath
Harper Collins
April 2013

Go, Dog, Go meets your favorite construction book in this entertaining rhyming picture book. The dogs living situation is a bit reminiscent of a firehouse - but these dogs are ready for some construction work instead. Even the lines such as, "Run, dogs, run!" and "Dig, dogs, dig!" reminded me of Go, Dog, Go. They uncover a dinosaur bone, while building a park that eventually the whole community can enjoy. Colorful digital illustrations with plenty of full-bleed pages are vibrant and appealing. Endpages feature a lineup of the dogs, each posed with their tools.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Soup Day
by Melissa Iwai
Henry Holt and Co.
April 2010

Multi-media collage illustrations depict a happy little girl's day and the soup she makes with her Mommy on a wintry day in the city. This is a nice multicultural family and plenty of concepts such as counting or shapes are included throughout. The story is appended with a recipe for soup.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Penguin on Vacation
by Salina Yoon
Walker Childrens
April 2013

Here is an adorable story about a penguin who gets tired of the cold and decides to head for warmer climes. In the tropics, he's no good at vacationing - the sunny beach is not the place for skiing, sledding and skating, like he's used to. Fortunately, he makes a new friend, a crab who is able to show him the ropes. Penguin returns the favor by hosting Crab when he comes to visit the Antarctic. Endpages feature crabs on a beach... and crabs bundled up for the snow. Colorful full-bleed pages featuring digital art with thick lines make the pictures easy to see from a distance. This is a natural pick for group story times.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Pirates vs. Cowboys
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by David Barneda
Knopf Books for Young Readers
March 2013

In this wacky tale, pirates and cowboys have an unlikely showdown in a saloon in Old Cheeanne. Older children will enjoy the heavy use of vernacular from both the pirates and cowboys. Pegleg Highnoon is the only character who can speak both fluent Pirate and Cowboy - and finds the only thing they all really have in common is the need for a bath! The dialect is what makes this a favorite at storytime for me, especially with children old enough to get the sense of humor. Endpages feature pirate treasure maps and a map of the Old West.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Great Wall of Lucy Wu review

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
January 2011 

First line: "When I think back on it, I'd have to say that it all started with the Golden Lotus."

Chinese-American middle-schooler, Lucy Wu, is conflicted when her old-fashioned relative moves in... right into her bedroom. There are plenty of books out there about a put-upon kid who has to cope with sharing a room but this book succeeds in making all of the involved parties sympathetic and well-realized. Even though she's extremely short, Lucy has a passion for basketball, something her traditional (read: scholastics obsessed) parents simply don't understand.

Lucy's been
living under the oppressive perfection of her snotty older sister Regina for years and can't wait until Regina takes off for college so she can finally have her own room. Unfortunately, her plans are foiled when her parents inform her that her grandmother's long-lost sister from China will be coming to stay with them. Enraged, Lucy decides to erect a "wall" consisting of her bookcase, desk and bureau clearly demarking her space. As the year goes on, and her parents insist that she take Chinese language lessons (further cramping her schedule and endangering her ability to stay active on the basketball team.) Lucy really begins to grow frantic with the pressures that she's put under.

Lucy and her parents seem to be gearing up for an all out war. But, a sensitive, reasoned look at things eventually brings both sides closer together. 
I was heartened by Lucy's sincere concern about having her father leave on an extended business trip to China. She's quite ill at ease until he's safely home again. Lucy realizes that after school Chinese lessons turn out to be more fun than she thought. Lucy's mom comes to see that Regina has been far more insufferable than she had originally supposed, and sympathizes with how Lucy must feel about having her sixth grade school year turned topsy-turvy. And Lucy's great-aunt, although mostly silent throughout the book, also shows some spirit, not letting Lucy push her around, but realizing what a big adjustment this is for her, too. The Chinese phrases incorporated into the book add a lot, and this is a realistic middle-grade fiction with broad appeal - any kid who's ever felt academic pressure (and who hasn't these days?), sports fans, anyone who's ever had to measure up to an older sibling, or anyone who is interested in reading about how it feels to grow up in a multicultural environment will find that this book is a real winner.

Compare to:

Penny Dreadful - Laurel Snyder
The Whole Story of Half a Girl - Veera Hiranandani
The Star Maker - Laurence Yep
Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley - Stephanie Greene

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Read in July 2015

This month I read the following books:

1. I am Malala: How One Girl Stood up for Education and Changed the World - Malala Yousefzai

picture credit: Portrait of Charlotte Bronte

Friday, July 24, 2015

Picture book mini-reviews 36

Dino Bites!
by Craig Algy H
Boxer Books
March 2013

Simple, loud and funny, this story is a total triumph. One dinosaur chomps another in this food chain cumulative story, and all is well until, "The bite buzzed..." causing T-Rex to rather loudly "BUUURP!" the other dinos free again. Dino Bites has enormous kid appeal, large, colorful illustrations with bold dark outlines and a very simple text, sometimes only one word per page. This story is perfect for reading aloud to large groups.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Clarion Books
March 2013

A little green duck has lost his new blue socks, and searches high and low for them, asking everyone he meets if they've seen the erstwhile footwear in this rhyming tale. Having checked his box, his friend Fox, Mr. Ox and some peacocks, he goofily realizes... he's been wearing them this whole time. I loved the quirky hidden details such as Fox sitting down to eat a bowl of grapes and in Duck's messy house, presumably a baby picture of him as an egg.
Colorful pen, ink and watercolor illustrations hint at a Dr. Seuss-like sensibility. I highly recommend this not only as a read-aloud but for beginning readers as well.

I borrowed this book from the library.

That's Mine!
by Michael Van Zeveren
Gecko Press
January 2013

A frog, a snake, an eagle, a lizard and all fight over an egg they find in the jungle. After accidentally bonking an elephant on the head, all the animals are very quick to disavow their connection to the egg. When the egg finally hatches a baby crocodile, she knows exactly who to go to: the frog that originally found the egg. The ending is ambiguous enough, we weren't sure if the crocodile is planning to eat the frog, or simply claiming the frog as a parent. A funny translation from the French language original.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Steam Train, Dream Train
by Sherry Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Chronicle Books
April 2013

Here is a soothing bedtime train book all in rhyme. Oil pastels give a textured look to the illustrations. Zoo animals and a dinosaur load up their train with toys, balls, paint, ice cream, sand for sand boxes... a bit random, but in short, everything a boy could ever want. End pages feature engineer coverall stripes.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy Families review

Happy Families
by Tanita S. Davis
Knopf Books for Young Readers
May 2012

First line: "The surge of chattering, pointing, gawking people pours into the massive auditorium, and I feel a shiver crawl up my arms."

Twin high school freshman Ysabel and Justin Nicholas are leading perfectly normal, happy lives until they discover their father is hiding a secret. Ysabel is a talented artist, hoping to eventually get an art school scholarship with her glass bead designs, while her younger brother Justin is a straight-A student with his eye on the Ivy League and law school. In short, they are both high-achieving, intelligent kids and their father's secret truly turns their lives upside down.

When their grandfather discovers that the twins' father has been renting an apartment several hours away, initially the family suspects that the possibility of an affair with another woman. Nothing could have prepared them for the truth... their father has been living as a woman and is in the process of transitioning to her new identity as Christine.

This is a short little book, that covers a weighty topic in a unique way. Alternating chapters between the twins take you through their turmoil, surprise and hurt that their father isn't who they thought he was. The family suffers from the secrecy and a total lack of communication. As their parents work issues out in therapy, the teens are left in the dark about how this change will affect their lives. It's not until the end of the book, that their father tells them that they are not necessarily divorcing, that the twins won't have to change schools and so on. The whole family eventually makes their peace with the complicated situation. The book is appended with a glossary and guide to speaking respectfully about people who are transitioning to another gender.

Compare to:
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom - Emily Franklin
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M. Danforth
Freak Show - James St. James

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cover Trend: Post-Its

Here's a trend I've noticed... covers with post-it notes on them. I could swear I remember more books with post-its on the cover than just these. Are there more titles that I've left out?

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things - Ann Aguirre
The Last Time We Say Goodbye - Cynthia Hand
The Boy Problem: Notes and Observations of Tabitha Ready - Kami Kinard
All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven
Sarah Simpson's Rules for Living - Rebecca Rupp
Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze - Alan Silberberg

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Breathe review

by Sarah Crossan
October 2012

First line: "Breathing is a right not a privilege, so I'm stealing it back."

Alina, Quinn and Bea live in a world where oxygen is hard to come by. Many citizens live in safely protected domes, where oxygen is carefully controlled. The wealthy, known as Premiums, are able to afford more, of course, while poorer members of society known as Auxiliaries must move slowly and breathe cautiously in order not to run out.

Alina is working with a group of rebels who are hoping to use plants outside the domes to increase oxygen in the air. At the very least, they want to break down some of the unfair class structure that is currently rigidly enforced.

Bea is a lower class citizen. After she flunks the very challenging set of tests to be raised to a higher position, her parents are left to hope that she'll make a good marriage and raise the entire family's status so that they can all breathe easier.

Wealthy Quinn is up for a bit of adventure and he readily agrees to a camping trip on the outside of the dome.

The story features a love triangle between Alina, Bea and their love interest Quinn. Love triangles can frequently move a plot along with plenty of opportunity for conflict, but here, I just felt sorry for the two girls. Quinn is overcome by Alina's beauty, even though he's been best friends with Bea for ages. I enjoyed the alternating chapters format which pivots between the three main characters and their unique voices.

The lack of oxygen is fairly well-thought out - exercise becomes a privilege for the wealthy who are able to afford to get their heart rate up. Poorer people age faster and tire easier in the oxygen poor environment. Fans of dystopian will find a lot to like here: an oppressive government, citizens who are kept in the dark about what is really going on, brave teens who are ready to challenge the status quo, a love triangle and some daring chase scenes.

Compare to:
Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi
More Than This - Patrick Ness
The Pledge - Kimberly Derting

I borrowed this book from the library.


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