Showing posts from February, 2009

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, 289 pp RL 5

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life is the first Wendy Mass novel I've read, but it definitely won't be the last. Where to begin? This book has so much going on in it, from the philosophical to the theosophical, from mutant candy and found playing card collections to peanut butter sweat and the H.O.J., I know I will leave out one of the many, many enthralling, unique, creative, unparalleled details packed into this young adult book that reads like an adult novel. I don't know the last time I read this kind of soul searching, not in a solopsistic navel gazing sort of way, but in an actively searching and enquiring way, in a kid's book!
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life begins almost exactly where it ends - on July 22nd, the day of Jeremy's thirteenth birthday. What happens over the course of the 278 pages in between is an epic search throughout New York City for four missing keys that will open the box that contains the meaning of life. No, this isn't a fan…

Wendy Mass Week!!!

As you may know by now, I love it when one thing reminds me of another and I especially love it when I can link them into a week of book reviews!  I should have known when I picked up Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass that I would end up reading and reviewing as many of her books as I could.  In fact, Jeremy Fink is a perfect example of a book where one thing leads to another!

I still have A Mango Shaped Space, Heaven Looks a lot Like a Mall and the Twice Upon a Time books in my to-be-read pile and I can't wait to dig into them.  But, for now I am very happy to be able to present you with reviews of  Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Every Soul a Star and 11 Birthdays this week.  I look forward to your comments on these outstanding books!

And, if you are a kit lit geek like me, you will really enjoy Wendy's page of Author Pals which is filled with pictures of Wendy and other authors at different gatherings and events!

Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells, 256 pp RL MIDDLE GRADE

Although it is two-hundred and fifty-six pages long, Rosemary Wells' Civil War story Red Moon at Sharpsburgreads more like an epic saga along the lines of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind in terms of the multitude of experiences the main character lives through over the course of the fours years during which the story takes place. Wells' main character and narrator, India Moody definitely fits the mold of the headstrong, sometimes willful, self-determined historical heroine who often rescues the men and boys of the story. She is also reminiscent of the subject of Wells' book Mary on Horseback. The real life Mary Breckenridge was a brave, headstrong woman who established health care for the poorest of the poor living in the Appalachian Mountains with her Frontier Nursing Service, founded in 1925.
A bit of back story at beginning of the novel reveals the incident that ties the main families in the story, the wealthy Trimbles, the hard working Moodys and Micah a…

Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Peter McCarty, 53 pp, RL 3

With Mary on Horseback: Three Mousntain Stories, Rosemary Wells, an important picture book author and illustrator, tells the story of an exceptional American figure from the perspective of children, just as she did with Lincoln and His Boys, illustrated by the painterly PJ Lynch. Once again, Wells is paired with another wonderful illustrator.Peter McCarty's moody drawings are evocative of early photographs and are well suited to the sometimes bleak lives of the people of the Appalachians. An accomplished picture book illustrator and author, most famous for her Max and Ruby books, Well's is a tireless advocate for literacy who has written a handful of young adult novels including Red Moon at Sharpsburg which is set during the Civil War and tells the story of India Moody and her fight to survive the war so she can attend Oberlin College, which accepts women, and study medicine.
As Well's acknowledges, the characters in Mary on Horseback are true to life, based on people …

My Brother Abe: Sally Lincoln's Story by Harry Mazer, 202pp, RL 4

Unlike Rosemary Well's Lincoln and His Boys which takes documented historical events and imagines them through the eyes of Abraham Lincoln's young sons, My Brother Abe: Sally Lincoln's Story by Harry Mazer takes the few known facts about the childhood of Sally and Abe Lincoln and creates a rich and compelling story from them. Little is known of Sarah, or Sally as she was called, beyond her birth date, marriage date and the date two years later when she died at age twenty-one in childbirth. There is a quote in Candace Fleming's The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary Lincolnthat mentions how Sally begged her Pa to let Abe, two years her junior, but just as smart and always as tall or taller, come to school with her and how she cried until he ceded. And, while this doesn't happen exactly the same way in Mazer's book, Sally's love of Abe and desire to share with him is evident from the first sentence of the book when she talks of being five an…

Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming, 200 pp, RL 4

As I was reading Rosemary Wells' compelling new book Lincoln's Boys, a fact based snapshot of the Lincoln family's life over the course of six years and narrated by Willie and Tad Lincoln, I found myself wanting to know more about the interesting people who were Abraham and Mary as well as the fates of the family. With February 12, 2009 being the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, I was not at a loss for reading material. Happily for me, for all of us, I found answers to all of my questions and much much more in Candace Fleming's amazing book, The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary which was published in the fall of 2008.

The word "scrapbook" in the title can be misleading. Here, it is used in the old fashioned sense, the pages of the book looking more like the sheets from a newspaper of the time than what we think of as a scrapbook toady. To view one of the pages click here. This is the same format Fleming used with great success in…

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by PJ Lynch, 93 pp RL 3

No doubt you know Rosemay Wells and her cannon of beautifully illustrated insightfully intelligent picture books, several of which star the timeless bunny siblings, Max and Ruby (who can take their place in line behind Frog and Toad and George and Martha when it comes to picture books that capture genuine prickly emotions and the difficult dilemmas that are part of life.) But, you may not know that Wells has written a handful of books for middle grade readers. In addition to her newest book, Lincoln and His Boys, she has written Red Moon at Sharpsburg, the story of India Moody who, while trying to get medicine to her sick father gets caught in the crossfire of the one of the Civil War's most most tragic and terrifying events, the Battle of Antietam. She also wrote the amazing biography Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories which tell the story of three families who are helped by Mary Breckinridge, the first nurse to travel to the Appalachian Mountains and provide medical …

Abraham Lincoln's Bicentennial Birthday Celebration Book Review

Abraham Superlincolnportrait by kid's book author and illustrator extraordinaire,  Adam Rex!

I am a fairly observant person.  So, a couple of months ago when we started receiving piles of new (and old) books on Abraham Lincoln and his kin, I knew something was up.  At first I figured we were just  preparing for the huge book selling event that is President's Day.  But, as I gradually became aware that we were not stocking up on bios of George Washington, Teddy and Franklin D Roosevelt and JFK, I decided to investigate.    Turns out that February 12, 2009 marks the 200th Birthday of our 16th president!
I had no intention of marking this momentous day with a post or review, but I was lucky enough to receive a review copy fromCandlewick Pressof an amazing book that lit a fire under me.  Non-fiction is not a favorite of mine and, while I love historical fiction, I prefer to read about British history or Colonial Era America.  The Civil War does not do it for me.  But, this incredible…

The Ink Drinker by Eric Sanvoisin, illustrations by MartinMatje, 35pp RL

When The Ink Drinker was first published in translation in from the original French in 1998, it appeared as a beautiful little hardcover with vibrant illustrations. The rest of the series, A Straw for Two, The City of Ink Drinkersand Little Red Ink Drinker, appeared in succession to make a quartet. Sadly, only The Ink Drinker is still available, but it arrives in a very reasonable paperback edition, packaged now as a Random House "Stepping Stones" book, bridge between easy beginning reader books and higher level chapter books like the ubiquitous Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones series.
The narrator, Odilon, who's name we don't learn until the second book, is the very unhappy child of a bookstore owner. He is unhappy because he hates to read, hates books, and he is surrounded by them at home and at work. It is summer vacation and he is is working in his father's store. Because he likes the sound of paper being torn, his father won't let him do anythi…

Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus 188pp RL 3

Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson is like Monty Python's Flying Circus in book form and appropriate for children... Amazingly enough, this comes from the author of the National Book Award winning work of very serious, copiously detailed historical fiction for teens, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1: The Pox Party, and it's sequel, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume II: Kingdom on the Waves. Or maybe it's not so amazing. MT Anderson is a diverse writer with an incredible ear and this book BEGS to be read out loud. If you want to have some bedtime laughs with your kids, ages 6 and up, this is the book for you! However, the audio version, read by Marc Cashmam, who at times sounds like David Sedaris, is hilarious also, but then you would miss Kurt Cyrus's wood cut style, pen and ink drawings and extra goodies that add so much to this irresistible book.

Do you know how many laugh-out-loud on …