Showing posts from July, 2012

The Girl Who Could Fly, written by Victoria Forester, 328 pp, RL 4

I as intrigued by Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly the first time I saw Kevin Hawke's haunting cover art, at left. When the paperback edition with Jason Chan's markedly different but equally enthralling cover art arrived, I knew I had to bump this book up to the top of my TBR pile. I tried more than once to get hooked by this book and just couldn't get past the hokey, drawling dialect of the narrator as the life of the girl who could fly was unveiled. Born in Lowland Country, Piper McCloud was the late-in-life, only child of Betty and Joe McCloud, farmers who believed in doing things the way they have always been done and tolerating no deviance when it occurred. Piper, however, is one massive deviation from the norm. Not only do women not give birth at Betty's age, but Piper seemed be unusually rambunctious. Buoyant both literally and figuratively, Piper finds that she can fly. Her thoughts seem to fly as well, and she is always sharing her crazy ideas (…

Now I am Big! AND I Can Do It MYSELF! written by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Sara Gillingham

More fantastic books continue to brighten the shelves of the board book section at the bookstore where I work as Abrams Appleseed Fall 2012 titles are released. As with their Spring 2012 titles (click here for past reviews) Abrams Appleseed titles consistently feature elegant artwork, attention to design and a thoughtful, fresh approach to conventional topics. Janik Coat's Hippopposites is a perfect example of an old, almost overdone concept that feels brilliantly new in her hands. While a toddler's steps toward independence may seem like well worn ground in picture books, I honestly can't think of a single title, especially in the board book format, that presents these steps in a way that little listeners will recognize and revel in the way that author, Stephen Krensky does. Add to the wonderful words the crisp, colorful and just a little bit retro illustrations of Sara Gillingham, award-winning art director, designer and author of over fifteen books for children (for mor…

Montessori Letter Work and Montessori Number Work, written by Bobby and June George, illustrated by Alyssa Nassar

Two of my three children attended Montessori preschools, but I have to confess to not paying too much attention to the methods of teaching employed in the classroom. I learned more about the Montessori method reading Montessori Letter Work and Montessori Number Work by Bobby and June George, founders of the Baan Dek Montessori School in Sioux Falls, SD, than I did over the combined years my kids attended these schools. But, that is solely a reflection on me and not the schools or the method... Once again, AbramsAppleseed blazes a new path in the world of board books with these  two titles. And, once again, AbramsAppleseed fulfills their promise to "foster the development of its young readers and engage them and their adults in artful, beautifully conceived books." Montessori Letter Work and Montessori Number Work are both visually appealing and educational in an innovative way that makes perfect sense when reading to and teaching toddlers.  Both books begin with a letter to…

I Love to Sleep AND I Love to Eat, written and illustrated by Amélie Graux

I Love to Sleep and I Love to Eat (the titles alone are perfectly baby-centric) are billed as "Deluxe Trilingual Touch-and-Feel." And, while these two new board books are filled with fantastic touch-and-feely things on every page, and English, French and Spanish words for each baby item depicted, what  really makes these two books deluxe are the crisply modern, elegantly adorable illustrations byAmélie Graux. I have seen plenty of board books in my time and it takes A LOT for one to grab my attention. Not only do Graux's books stand out for their charming artwork, but for the unique style they bring to the otherwise standard, generic (and mostly dull) world of touch-and-feel board books. When it comes to style, Graux's books are leading the way along with Janik Coat's Hippopposites, the only opposites book your child will ever need. Interestingly, both artists are French. Actually, even if your baby doesn't need an opposites book or a book about food or bed, …

N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley with illustrations by Ethen Beavers, 306 pp, RL 4

The first N.E.R.D.S. : National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society book came out in 2009 and I have to admit to feeling a bit like a jealous sibling when the new baby arrives. You see, my beloved Sisters Grimm series was already up to book seven by the time this new series arrived, and it was so different and foreign. And wouldn't it take away precious time and resources from the first born series? The Sisters Grimm series came to a close in May of 2012 with book nine, The Council of Mirrors and I have yet to read it as I am not ready for it to be over. However, I do feel ready to turn my attention to the new baby and I think I actually kinda like him.

Buckley lets us know right off the bat what kind of series N.E.R.D.S. is going to be, with the great illustrations by comic book artist Ethen Beavers and the fantastic book design from Chad W Beckerman, the amazing creative director for Abrams Books that makes the books read like top secret dossiers and other vital information. I…

Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers/Diggers/Wings by Terry Prachett RL5

The Bromeliad Trilogyby Terry Pratchett, usually known for his humorous science fiction for adults, is part satire, part parable and all adventure story. My husband and I (mostly my husband) first read these books out loud at bedtime to our older son some eight years ago. Now my husband is reading them out loud to our youngest, who is seven. Long after my son has fallen asleep, my husband can be found reading ahead. In his words, "Pratchett, in his portrayal of the nomes, the little people who are the protagonists, displays the best and worst of human nature, the yearning for simple answers and the wisdom not to embrace them completely and slide into complacency." The main characters in these stories are a group of four inch high nomes, lead by young Masklin.  In Truckers, Masklin's group of outside nomes joins up with hundreds of other nomes living in a department store (that is going to be demolished in 21 days) who have lived there for so many generations that they no…

Sidekicks, by Jack D Ferraiolo, 309 pp, RL 5

A year ago, I enthusiastically and admiringly reviewed The Big Splash by Jack D Ferraiolo. And, a year ago his second middle grade novel, Sidekicks, was released. Newly issued in paperback, I finally got around to reading (actually, I mostly listened to the audio which is brilliantly read by Ramon de Ocampo and Jack Garrett) Sidekicks and I am amazed to say that I think it is even better than Ferraiolo's debut novel. While I loved The Big Splash and all the humor, creativity and fantastic characters that Ferraiolo packed into that mystery novel, with Sidekicks he takes it to the next level, writing a book that is filled with emotion, excitement, action and romance. Yes, romance. Despite the kid-friendly cartoon cover, there is a fair amount of kissing that goes on in Sidekicks between the thirteen year old stars of this story, which is kicked off with a bit of adolescent embarrassment and angst.
While my main role as a reviewer of books for young readers is to present what I find…

It's a Tiger! by David La Rochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard

It's a Tiger! is the new book from the fantastic David LaRochelle. I am remiss that this is my first full review of one of his books, but I did feature two of his books in my Best Picture Books of 2008 post. Happily, It's a Tiger! is a fantastic book and an instant story time staple for me at the bookstore and also great place to begin to introduce you to the books of David LaRochelle. Jeremy Tankard's illustrations are perfectly matched to LaRochelle's story and will have little listeners following closely.

It's a Tiger! begins, "Are you ready for a story? Me too. We'll start in the jungle where the tall trees grow and the monkeys swing from vine to vine. Wait a minute. That's not a monkey. That looks like..."

"A TIGER! Run!" Bulging eyes (for the monkeys and the main characters), a vivid red background and the need for speed burst from the two page spread. A quick visit back to the first page of the story reveals a stripy tail amongst th…

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, written by Jaqueline Kelly, 338 pp, RL 4

Jaqueline Kelly should feel very accomplished in this life. Besides being a doctor and a lawyer, her debut novel won the Newbery Honor Medal in 2010, and I suspect The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate would have won the gold had the equally amazing and wonderful book When You Reach Me by Rebbeca Stead not come out in the same year. Check out this interesting article that features fourteen questionable Newbery choices over the years.  Either way, I am so glad I did not have to choose a gold medal winner between the two. That said, while I loved every page, passage and sentence of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, as I read I frequently wondered what type of young reader would pick up this unique work of historical fiction? 
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate begins in the summer of 1899 in Fentress, Texas on the Tate pecan plantation. Eleven year old Calpurnia is a middle child with three older and three younger brothers. As one might expect, growing up on a plantation with nothing but brothers,…

The Cobble Street Cousins Series by Cynthia Rylant, illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin, 55pp RL 1.5

The Cobble Street Cousins is another fantastic emerging reader series by the prolific and amazing Cynthia Rylant. The length and reading level are slightly higher than her Lighthouse Family Series, as is the subject and tone, but if the interest level is high enough readers will make the reach. Rylant's series are the antithesis of the reigning queen of chapter books, Junie B Jones and, while The Cobble Street Cousins may seem a bit too sweet for adult tastes, I have no doubt that there are many parents out there searching for better role models and more out-of-the-ordinary stories that what dominates the shelves today. I also have no doubt that the adventures of the cousins will inspire readers to pursue some creative endeavors of their own after reading.
The titular characters, sisters Rosie and Lily and cousin Tess, are all in the fourth grade and staying with their Aunt Lucy, owner of a flower shop, while their parents tour the world with their ballet troupe for a year. Rosie …