Books & More
"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere."
— Hazel Rochman
Monday, June 29, 2015
What is that Thing?
Title: The Big Blue Thing on the Hill
By: Yuval Zommer
Everything is quiet and peaceful in the Great Forest until the arrival of a newcomer up on Howling Hill. It is a Big Blue Thing and no matter what they do…it stays put! Neither the howling from the wolves, the growling from the bears, the digging from badgers, nor the boars with their huffing and puffing will make this Big Blue Thing go away. That is until the wise old owls make a suggestion on how to rid the hill of this Thing. The freestyle illustrations of the forest animals and their surroundings are light and comical and complement the story from beginning to end. I think The Big Blue Hill is a hilarious romp for a read-aloud to a group or by yourself. Don’t forget to join in with the animal noises. What is the Big Blue Thing? Well, it is made of metal, is blue, has four tires, and…you will have to read the story to find out.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
You too can tutu!
Title: Vampirina Ballerina
By: Anne Marie Pace
What is it like to take ballet lessons if you are a young vampire? In this Dracula-meets-ballet tale, our young heroine Vampirina takes an evening (of course!) ballet class. Complete with black cape and bat-wing tiara, Vampirina twirls, trips, and wobbles, but never gives up. Encouraged by her vampire family, she overcomes her habit of turning into a bat (much to the horror of her instructor and fellow ballerinas) each time she makes a mistake during practice. She's cast as the lead in Swan Lake—but will she be able to do a pirouette without changing into a bat? Vampirina Ballerina is an upbeat story narrated in a "how to" manual style paired with super artwork by Princess in Black illustrator LeUyen Pham. A good read anytime, and especially at Halloween.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
A city with many dark secrets
Title: The Lady in gold
By: Anne-Marie O'Connor
Gustav Klimt’s portrait of the wealthy socialite Adele Bloch-Bauer, painted in a mosaic pattern using gold leaf, was commissioned by Adele’s husband Ferdinand Bauer in 1907 and today is considered a masterpiece. Adele Bloch-Bauer died of meningitis in 1925, at the age of 45. She was spared witnessing the 1938 Nazi march into Austria, the loss of the Vienna she loved so well, and the end of an era rich in culture. The painting was confiscated by the Nazis, renamed The Lady in Gold to eliminate any reference to the Jewish owner, and displayed in Vienna’s Belvedere Art Gallery, where it remained for several decades.
Klimt’s portrait of Adele is just part of the story. The painting is a backdrop to the heartbreak of a husband who lost his wife too soon, his loss of her beloved portrait to the Reich, the atrocities of the war, and the fate of friends and family of Adele’s who died in concentration camps or escaped Austria to live their lives elsewhere. Years after the war, Adele’s surviving relatives play David to the Government of Austria’s Goliath in a battle over who is the rightful owner of Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and other Klimt paintings owned by the Bloch family. This is a fascinating read, rich with stories that bring to light a facet of the war that is still being dealt with.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
206 sarcastic bones
Title: Pagan's Crusade
By: Catherine Jinks
It is the Year of Our Lord 1187, and the Middle East is going to “Hell in a handcart.” Just ask Pagan Kidrouk, squire-in-training to the traditionally heroic Lord Roland de Bram aka Saint George. Pagan has 206 bones in his body, all of which contain sarcasm rather than marrow, and all of which he would prefer to leave intact. As he navigates a seedy underworld and an upperworld of “shiny” knights, cutthroat brigands, and a siege of Infidels, he will discover his own worth and fight for his belief, not in God, but in the goodness of a great man.
This series is an excellent choice for readers looking to become immersed in the mind of a single character. Pagan has as much inner dialogue – if not more – as he does spoken. That little voice in his head always has something to say. It’s a good thing Pagan is equipt with a brain-to-mouth filter; otherwise his head would have a permanent dent from all the “Don’t be a smart-alex” smacks (though none from Roland).
Pagan’s Crusade is ideal for all readers, including those with short attention spans. The action, descriptions, and dialogue all move quickly, but smoothly, and the plot is very much on the surface – no soul-searching, existential, groundbreaking theories in this book. The sentences are short and to the point, and could be classified as the ultimate YA Easy Reader.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
The importance of knowing one's letters
Title: Fly by night
By: Frances Hardinge
Twelve-year-old Mosca Mye lives in a land superficially similar to, but also fantastically divergent from, England in the early 1700s. Parliament has reached an uneasy compromise with the many factions of resurgent Royalists (each supporting a different would-be-monarch) after deposing and beheading the previous King. Monotheist fanaticism has had its brief but bloody Reign of Terror, and the ascendant bourgeoisie of the Guilds now hold supreme power--but are locked in deadly rivalries with one another. The Watermen control all traffic on the rivers. The Locksmiths take control of city states one by one, Mafia-style. The Stationers burn all printed material that does not bear their Seal of approval...
Mosca, born on the holy day of Goodman Palpitattle ("He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns"), is the daughter of an ex-Stationer. And she knows how to read. Unfortunately, the appetite for linguistic adventure, once whetted, is difficult to satiate. With limited options for learning new vocabulary in her little village, she falls in with a verbose con artist by the name of Eponymous Clent. Along with Mosca's only friend, a violence-prone goose named Saracen, the duo proceed to blunder and smooth-talk their way through the highest political intrigues and conspiracies, leaving a trail of destruction and deceit behind them.
With chapter titles such as A is for Arson, B is for Blackmail, and C is for Contraband (and H is for High Treason), Hardinge reminds children of the importance of knowing one's letters, and the importance of literacy to civil society. This book is subversive, and unapologetically so. It would never be approved by the Stationers Guild. "Words were dangerous when loosed. They were more powerful than cannon and more unpredictable than storms. They could turn men's heads inside out and warp their destinies. They could pick up kingdoms and shake them until they rattled. And this was a good thing, a wonderful thing..."