Review of Booked, by Kwame Alexander

July 27th, 2016

booked_largeBooked

by Kwame Alexander

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2016. 314 pages.
Starred Review

A sports novel in verse is pretty much the last sort of book I’d pick up on my own. But this one is nominated for Capitol Choices, and I did love Newbery-winning The Crossover, so I picked up this book last night and ended up reading it in one sitting. I’d forgotten just how good Kwame Alexander’s poetry is.

The story revolves around Nick Hall, a kid who loves soccer. His Dad is a professor of linguistics and he requires Nick to read from his dictionary called Weird and Wonderful Words. Nick hates this task – but his writing – the poems in this book – is peppered with weird and wonderful words, defined in the footnotes. The words include things like limerence, sweven, cachinnate, and logorrhea.

Nick’s got some conflict going on. His best friend’s on an opposing soccer team. There’s a girl he likes. Issues with teachers. He wants to compete in the Dallas Cup, but first his parents, then his own health gets in the way. But the big overarching problem is conflict between his parents.

The story is good, and compelling (I didn’t, after all, put it down until I’d finished.), but what makes the book truly wonderful is Kwame Alexander’s poetry.

He varies the formats so beautifully. There are poems that rhyme. There are acrostic poems. There are poems in two voices. There are long poems and short poems. There are poems made by blacking out all but a few words on the pages of a book. There are poems in two voices to show conversations.

Here’s a short one:

Problemo
The girls
let down
their ponytails,
high-five
their coach,
then walk over
to shake
our sweaty palms
after beating us
five to three.

Here’s another:

Thought

It does not take
a math genius
to understand that
when you subtract
a mother
from the equation
what remains
is negative.

One of my favorites rhymes, but gives away what happens, so I won’t include that one.

And I must confess – all the white space of a verse novel did make it easier to keep going until I finished. I’m sure it will act on kids the same way, too. A verse novel and a sports novel is a great combination. It’s also a novel about words and about issues important to eighth-graders. A win all around.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Sonderling Sunday – Odd-Fish Chapter 21

July 24th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! – That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

Sonderlinge 1

This week I’m back to the book that started it all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, otherwise known as The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy.

Last time, we finished up Chapter 20. We are really making progress in this book! Tonight I’m not planning to spend a lot of time — but we will tackle the beginning of Kapitel 21

The first sentence is a good one to know:
“Rainy season struck hard.”
= Die Regenzeit schlug diesmal hart zu.

“flying ocean” = fliegender Ozean

Ha! This one’s shorter in German:
“Thunder banged and growled at all hours”
= Es donnerte unaufhörlich
(“It thundered incessantly.” Hmmm. Seems like the translator got a little lazy there.)

But this one’s not shorter:
“fog wrapped the mountain in an unbreakable cloud”
= Nebel hüllte den Berg in eine undurchdringliche Wolke
(“Fog shrouded the mountain in an impenetrable cloud”)

We’ve seen this before, but it’s still fun to say:
“muddy rivers” = schleimige Flüsse

“droned” = prasselte (“pattered”)

“leaky ceilings” = löchrigen Decken

“don’t worry about that” = machen Sie sich deshalb keine Sorgen

“enough fight” = genug Mumm

“pulled her jacket closer” = schmiegte sich in ihre Jacke
(“snuggled herself in her jacket”)

That’s the first section of Chapter 21. It’s short, but I’m going to call it a night and do some schmiegen.

Bis bald!

Review of This Is My Home, This Is My School, by Jonathan Bean

July 23rd, 2016

my_home_my_school_largeThis Is My Home, This Is My School

by Jonathan Bean

Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2015. 48 pages.

This is a picture book about homeschooling, created by the brilliant illustrator Jonathan Bean.

The text is simple. It explains that their living space and classroom space are the same, and that they have a very large playground. It talks about the field trips they take in their school bus (the family van) and the art room that is the top of a hill where they can see the world.

The text is simple, but the pictures show all kinds of activities.

Most fun is this sequence:

Sometimes our teacher gets tired very easily.
[A two-page spread showing Mom taking care of multiple tasks.]

Oh no, she’s calling for help!

This is the substitute teacher.

This is our dad!

At the back, we see photos of Jonathan Bean and his sisters from the days when they were homeschooled.

This book is recommended for all homeschooled families. Finally, a picture book about them!

jonathanbean.com
mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay, by Cari Best and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

July 23rd, 2016

zulay_largeMy Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay

by Cari Best
pictures by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Margaret Ferguson Books (Farrar Straus Giroux), New York, 2015. 40 pages.

I’m reviewing this book in the interest of promoting diversity. It’s a message book, yes – about a day in the life of a blind girl – but the message is done well, and done through story.

Zulay narrates the story, telling about her classroom and her three best friends. It takes the reader awhile to realize Zulay is blind, because that’s not the most important thing about her.

In fact, Zulay goes through a large part of her day before anything really stands out. She gets to school, links arms with her friends and skips down the hall. She greets the hall lady and notices her new perfume. She hugs her teacher, comes into her classroom, hangs up her bag, takes down her chair, and sits at her desk. She talks about her new pink running shoes and has to be reminded to raise her hand.

Zulay needs help drawing shapes, but then she is able to help her friend Maya with addition and tens and ones.

There have been hints, but we understand how things are different for Zulay when it’s time for writing and she takes out her Brailler. Later we learn about Zulay’s frustration as she works with Ms. Turner to learn how to use a cane.

But Zulay conquers her frustration and gets to run in her pink running shoes on Field Day.

This is a nice way to get kids thinking and talking about the lives of others. As well as telling the story of a blind girl whose hopes and joys are similar to those of her friends.

oohlaladesignstudio.blogspot.com
mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Complete Peanuts, 1999-2000, by Charles M. Schulz

July 19th, 2016

complete_peanuts_9900_largeThe Complete Peanuts

The Definitive Collection of Charles M. Schulz’s Comic Strip Masterpiece

Dailies and Sundays plus Li’l Folks

1999 to 2000

by Charles M. Schulz

introduction by President Barack Obama

Fantagraphics Books, 2016. 315 pages.
Starred Review

This series is wonderful. Every single Peanuts strip is reproduced, in order. My family has been following it since the series began in 2004 with the 1950 to 1952 volume.

I reviewed the first several volumes, but then decided there wasn’t a lot more to say. They are brilliant, and it is wonderful that Fantagraphics is assembling this collection.

My son and I wondered what they would do with the final volume, since Charles Schulz died in February 2000, so the book would only be half as long.

The solution Fantagraphics came up with delighted us — they reprinted Li’l Folks, a cartoon panel series that Charles Schulz drew from 1947 to 1950 for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. You can see some things that showed up in the early Peanuts strips directly quoted.

It has been a tremendous treat to read all of the Peanuts cartoons over these past twelve years. And now one more volume is promised, with “bonus material and rarities.” I can’t wait!

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Sonderling Sunday – Das Buch der Tausend Tage, Day 160

July 17th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books, sort of a Very Silly Phrasebook for Travelers.

Buch_Tausend_Tage

Today I’m going back to my beloved Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale, Das Buch der Tausend Tage.

Last time on this book, we finished Tag 158 of Dashti and her lady’s time in the tower. Today we begin Day 160.

As usual, I will simply quote interesting words and phrases and show how they were translated. I hope that this gives you a taste of the wonderful writing in this book without giving away the plot.

“Times I’ve asked them for news of the world”
= Hin und wieder habe ich sie gefragt, was es in der Welt Neues gibt
(“Here and again have I them asked, what there in the world new is.”)

This is nothing new, but always fun to say in German:
“fresh meat” = frisches Fleisch

“held open” = hochhielt

“snorted” = schnaubend

Interesting. They don’t just call the color “peach.”
“peach” = pfirschfarben (“peach-color”)

“shades” = Schattierungen

“wondrous” = wundersam

“The guard laughed like a horse snorts.”
= Der Wächter lachte wie ein wieherndes Pferd.
(“The guard laughed like a neighing horse.”)

“he was sorry for us, and he was sorry for being sorry.”
= wir taten ihm leid, und es tat ihm leid, dass wir ihm leidtaten.

And I have to note any Sonderwords:
“They weren’t nice words he said.”
= Sonderlich nett waren seine Worte nicht.
(“Especially nice were his words not.”)

Interesting that the translator changes some of the metaphors.
“having made a person feel rubbed down to bones”
= mir den Boden unter den Füßen wegzuziehen
(“the floor under my feet pulled away from me”)

“rubbish heap” = Unrathaufen

“god of tricks” = Gott der Streiche

“stone hearts” = versteinerte Herzen

“chick” = Küken

Tag 162

“first breath” = erster Hauch

“friskier” = munterer

“jump and play” = hüpfen und spielen

“bits of salt meat” = Leckerbissen aus Salzfleisch

“rounded more than straight” = krummer (“crooked”)

“dim” = trüb (“cloudy”)

“buds” = Knospen

“winter hideaway” = winterlichen Zufluchtsort

I will stop there, at the end of Day 180, before Tag 223, when some awful things happen.

Meanwhile, may this week find you munterer than before.

Review of The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig

July 16th, 2016

girl_from_everywhere_largeThe Girl From Everywhere

by Heidi Heilig

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2016. 454 pages.

I love the premise of this book. 16-year-old Nix has grown up on a time-traveling ship, the Temptation. Her father, Captain Slate, can Navigate anywhere – as long as he has a hand-drawn map. The map doesn’t have to even be of an actual place. With enough detail, Slate can even bring their ship to fantasy worlds.

They make their living gathering things from one time or place and selling them in another.

But Slate has an obsession. He wants to go back to 1868 Hawaii and stop Nix’s mother’s death.

Now, I didn’t quite believe Nix’s worries about that. She was afraid that if Slate stopped her mother’s death – she died in childbirth – Nix would cease to exist. Whereas her father believed Nix would be able to get to know her mother. I didn’t quite understand why Nix didn’t take that approach.

I also wasn’t crazy about Nix’s potential love interest, probably because I don’t go for the noble thief trope. Kashmir is a crew member who came on board from Vaadi Al-Maas, a location from the story of Sinbad the Sailor. He is a thief, and steals things for Nix from various places.

As the story opens, they are working to get a mythical bird that will heal illness, along with enough valuables to win an auction taking place in 2016 for an 1868 map of Hawaii.

But things go wrong, they end up in Hawaii in 1884, and there get embroiled in a plot against the king of the Hawaiian Islands.

This brings up an interesting ethical question: Is it okay to work with people planning to annex Hawaii to the United States when they know that’s going to eventually happen anyway?

Meanwhile, the novel takes on something of a heist plot, with their part involving a trip to a mythical place to pick up some terra cotta warriors. There’s another potential love interest introduced, a handsome youth who lives in Hawaii. And Nix learns about the place where she would have grown up if her mother had lived.

So you may be able to tell, I didn’t fall too hard for the characters in this book, but I still found it an intriguing premise. It was fun to see Nix comfortable with New York City in the present day as well as other places hundreds of years in the past. The rules of Navigating which were unveiled during the book were quite plausible, and I find myself hoping this is only the beginning of adventures for Nix and the Temptation.

heidiheilig.com
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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Tiny Stitches, by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman

July 15th, 2016

tiny_stitches_largeTiny Stitches

The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas

by Gwendolyn Hooks
illustrated by Colin Bootman

Lee & Low Books, New York, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Tiny Stitches is the story of Vivien Thomas, the African-American medical researcher who developed the surgical procedure that saved the life of blue babies during the days of segregation and despite overwhelming prejudice.

Vivien always wanted to be a doctor. He saved money for medical school even as a child working with his father as a carpenter. But they lost all their savings in the Great Depression.

It wasn’t through going to medical school that Vivien got his opportunity. He interviewed for a job with medical researcher Dr. Alfred Blalock, and impressed him with his knowledge and intelligent questions. He got a job assisting Dr. Blalock, who gave him more and more research of his own.

Vivien’s surgical techniques improved with each operation. Just as he had learned to fit pieces of wood together seamlessly, Vivien learned to suture, or sew, blood vessels together seamlessly. Dr. Blalock was impressed by Vivien’s tiny stitches. Sometimes Vivien assisted Dr. Blalock with an experiment. On other days, Dr. Blalock assisted Vivien.

Vivien was happy working as a researcher, until he learned that his official job description was janitor. White men with the same duties and skills as Vivien were called research technicians and earned more money. Vivien was insulted. He was not a janitor. He told Dr. Blalock that he would not continue working unless he was paid the same as the other technicians. A few days later, Vivien noticed his paycheck was much better. He now earned about the same as the white technicians.

In 1941, Dr. Blalock became Chief of Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He took Vivien Thomas with him, where Vivien faced even more discrimination.

In 1943, Dr. Helen Taussig approached them with the problem of blue babies – babies born with a heart defect so that their blood didn’t get enough oxygen, and they died. Dr. Blalock assigned Vivien to research a method for operating on the babies.

Vivien had to develop new needles small enough to use on babies, and he tried the procedure out on animals. Dr. Blalock assisted Vivien only once during his experiments.

On November 29, 1944, Dr. Blalock tried the procedure Vivien had developed on a blue baby patient named Eileen. Dr. Blalock asked Vivien to stand on a stool behind him and guide him through the operation.

After that operation and others (also assisted by Vivien) were successful, Dr. Blalock and Dr. Taussig were highly acclaimed.

As news spread of Dr. Blalock’s success, two or three operations a week soon became two or three operations a day. Patients came from as far away as Europe to have the procedure. Vivien remained standing on the stool behind Dr. Blalock, coaching him through more than one hundred fifty operations.

The last double-page spread has a picture of Vivien in full academic regalia up on stage.

Vivien Thomas was not publicly acknowledged for his brilliant research and surgical talents until more than twenty-six years after the first blue baby operation. On February 27, 1971, the Old Hands Club, a group of doctors who had trained under Vivien, presented a formal portrait of him to Johns Hopkins Hospital. It is displayed across from Dr. Blalock’s portrait. In 1976, Johns Hopkins University awarded Vivien an honorary doctorate degree and appointed him to the faculty as Instructor of Surgery.

Although he never had the chance to attend medical school, Vivien’s research pioneered open-heart surgery on children. Today about forty thousand children are born each year with heart problems. Because of Vivien Thomas, these children now have a chance to live full and healthy lives.

This book isn’t flashy. The prose tells the story without frills. The pictures show a doctor at work. There’s nothing surprising or startling here.

But the story tells about a remarkable man who did outstanding work and saved lives – even without recognition.

gwendolynhooks.com
colinbootman.net
leeandlow.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Frederick’s Journey, by Doreen Rappaport

July 15th, 2016

fredericks_journey_largeFrederick’s Journey

The Life of Frederick Douglass

by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by London Ladd

Disney Jump at the Sun, Los Angeles, 2015. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s another striking large format picture book biography from Doreen Rappaport. Like her biography of Theodore Roosevelt, To Dare Mighty Things, the bold painting of the subject on the cover sets the tone.

She has a gift for telling important things about a subject even in the short picture book form. Of course, the large paintings by London Ladd keep the reader engaged. As with To Dare Mighty Things, the author includes quotations on every spread.

Frederick Douglass’s story begins with his childhood as a slave. It goes on to tell how he worked hard to learn to read and eventually gained the hope that motivated him to seek his freedom. After that, he worked tirelessly to spread freedom to others.

The quotation at the front of the book sums it up well:

You have seen how man was made a slave;
You shall see how a slave was made a man.

This book shows you Frederick’s story, so you can see his journey yourself.

doreenrappaport.com
londonladd.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Story of Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi

July 14th, 2016

story_of_diva_and_flea_largeThe Story of Diva and Flea

As Told & Shown by Mo Willems & Tony DiTerlizzi

Hyperion Books for Children, 2015. 70 pages.
Starred Review

I like beginning chapter books that actually have an interesting story, which anyone will like. There’s a place for stories that appeal to young children, and this is written in a simple style. But it’s an interesting story, whatever your age.

This book is set in Paris, where Mo Willems lived for awhile. It tells about Diva, a little dog who lives with the gardienne of a grand old apartment building.

Diva took her job seriously. Every day, she would exit the grand front door, trot across the small courtyard, and stand at the building’s front gate. From there she watched and guarded, and guarded and watched.

And if anything ever happened, no matter how big or small, Diva would yelp and run away.

Diva was very good at her job.

It also tells about Flea, a large cat who lives on the streets of Paris.

Flea did have a fixed occupation, however. He was a flâneur. A flâneur is someone (or somecat) who wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see. A great flâneur has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always more to discover.

Flea was a really great flâneur.

When Diva meets Flea? Diva (with much hesitation at first) learns about a big world of things to discover, and Flea (with much hesitation at first) learns about the comforts of Friends and Home.

Tony DiTerlizzi’s art (gently colored) adds just the right touch to this story and gives it the flavor of Paris. There’s a nice double-page spread when Diva sees the Eiffel Tower for the first time.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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