2.27.2017

The Time Museum by Matthrew Loux, 256 pp, RL 4


In 2012 I reviewed Salt Water Taffy, a five book graphic novel series by Matthew Loux. My son was just taking off as a reader at the time and while he was able to tackle them on his own, we also enjoyed reading these graphic together. The story of two brothers spending the summer in a village on the coast of Maine in the company of a crusty old sea captain and the town's supernatural forces like a giant lobster, the ghost of a huckster and a haunted whaling ship had us enthralled. Five years later and my son and I are both SO excited to be reading the first book in Loux's new series, The Time Museum!


I love historical fiction, especially when time travel is involved. The Time Museum brings both full force. Delia Bean is a science-obsessed teen with a long, dull summer spread out in front of her. That is, until she finds a very out of place kiwi running through the woods and follows it and stumbles upon the Earth Time Museum. 

The Earth Time Museum holds artifacts from all of Earth's eras: past, present and future. Delia is doubly surprised to find that it is curated by her uncle Lyndon. After a quick introduction, she learns that she is one of six gathered at the museum to compete for an internship by proving her skill over the course of three time trials. These are literal time trials. Delia and her peers will travel to three different periods of time and complete tasks. A scavenger hunt is how the team see it, although their guide from the museum, an armor bedecked knight named Sir Walter, prefers to call it a scientific expedition.





The concept alone for The Time Museum is enough for a whole story in my book, but Loux layers in a mystery in the character of the Grey Earl that adds to the adventure and danger. The six competitors are also all well formed individuals with character traits that conflict and work together at times. Sometimes, the six are their own worst challenges. But, they do travel to prehistoric times then to the ancient library at Alexandria (I wish they had spent more time there, but Loux gets in some good jokes) and finally 1,000 years into the future where anachronistic "time discrepancies" are popping up all over London.

Closing the cover on The Time Museum, all I can think about is wishing I had a time travel device of my own so that I could go to the future and see how this story plays out!

Matthew Loux's SALT WATER TAFFY series!






Source: Review Copy

2.24.2017

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta, illustrated by Frank Morrison


Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born, written by Gene Barretta and illustrated by Frank Morrison has a fantastic narrative structure that helps young readers begin to understand the historic importance of Ali by focusing on the childhood incident that lead him to the boxing ring and a future as the People's Champion. Morrison's oil illustrations are painterly and full of energy and action.



Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born begins powerfully with a lone punching bag in an empty gym (and an explanation for young readers regarding Ali's name change) and ends with an empty boxing ring. Three two-page spreads begin the narrative, giving details of Ali's famous matches with Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Leon Spinks and including his most famous quotes. Then the narrative jumps back to 1954 where twelve-year-old Cassius Clay has his brand-new bicycle stolen while visiting the Louisville Home Show for black merchants. This life experience makes up the bulk of Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born and once you know the story and amazing coincidence it's easy to understand why. Seeing his distress at having his bike stolen, a woman on the street tells Clay to go back into the building to the basement and ask for Officer Joe Martin. After hearing Clay's story, Martin tells him he'd better learn to fight before he tries to whup the bike thief. Columbia Gym becomes Clay's second home, Officer Martin his trainer. Baretta captures Clay's bravado, confidence and determination as a young man, showing him running alongside his school bus and practicing his reflexes by having his brother Rudy throw rocks at him.

The penultimate page features Ali's quote (all of his quotes are in bold caps), "DON'T QUIT. SUFFER NOW AND LIVE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE AS A CHAMPION," along with his gold medal win at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The final page shows Ali's in a suit, pen and paper in his hand, the People's Champion. Barretta tells readers that Ali fought against religious and racial discrimination, striving to be a positive role model for them. Ali believed, "I HAD TO PROVE YOU COULD BE A NEW KIND OF BLACK MAN. I HAD TO SHOW THE WORLD." I think it's important for young readers to read this quote and think (and talk) about it. Many don't realize that, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended public segregation and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, there were still deeply inaccurate, prejudicial, beliefs  about African Americans held by many. And there still are. Barretta includes two pages of biographical backmatter and a page with a bibliography, suggested reading and websites. Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born is a great introduction to a great man that should inspire readers to want to learn more.

Source: Review Copy





2.22.2017

egg by Kevin Henkes


egg marks Kevin Henkes' 50th book, and it echoes, in palette and deceptively simple tone, one of my all-time favorite books by him, A Good Day.

Repetition of words and images in egg, some pages divided into four or even sixteen panels, creates anticipation and, best of all, makes it a book that, like A Good Day, is a treat for beginning readers. egg begins, "egg, egg, egg, egg / crack, crack, crack, egg." Three eggs hatch, the fourth doesn't.



There is, "waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting," then, when the hatchlings return, listening and "peck, peck, peck." A crack leads to a hatch which leads to a SURPRISE! Henkes ends his book with camaraderie between the hatchlings and a little sunshiny twist on the final page.


I have read egg over and over, to kindergarteners and with first and second graders struggling to learn to read. For these children especially, Henkes' books are a treasure trove when compared to the ancient primers we have on the shelves of my library. I feel like I end up saying this every time I review a new book from this author I have been following for 20+ years now, but Henkes' enormous talent centers on his ability to capture the joyful essence of childhood, the excitement, the emotions, the quiet moments, and put them on the page with words and illustrations. I am so grateful that my children and subsequent generations of children are growing up with his picture and chapter books.

Source: Review Copy