Review of Anna Carries Water, by Olive Senior and Laura James

August 15th, 2014

anna_carries_water_largeAnna Carries Water

by Olive Senior
illustrations by Laura James

Tradewind Books, 2014. First published in Canada in 2013. 42 pages.
Starred Review

This is a lovely book that takes a situation that would be unfamiliar to most American children and deals with the universal emotions involved in that situation.

Anna’s family lives way out in the countryside, and they don’t get their water from a tap. Every evening after school, the children go to the spring for water. All her bigger siblings carry the water back to the house on their heads. More than anything, Anna wants to carry the water on her head, like they do.

They tell her not to try – she’ll get her clothes wet. She cries when they are right.

But her siblings aren’t mean about it. They tell her not to worry about it, one day it will just happen. And the rest of the book tells about the day when it does. This also has some humor and a relatable situation.

The lovely bright paintings on large pages make the book beautiful.

This book will make a wonderful choice for preschool storytime, but also for any child who wants to do things the bigger kids can do.

tradewindbooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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.

Review of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee

August 14th, 2014

ophelia_and_the_marvelous_boy_largeOphelia and the Marvelous Boy

by Karen Foxlee

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014. 228 pages.
Starred Review

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a marvelous book indeed.

It begins with a prologue where the Snow Queen has the Marvelous Boy shut into a room. She tells him that when the charm wears off that prevents her from hurting him, she will harm him greatly. But the boy whispers that he will find the sword and the one who will wield it.

Then Chapter One begins, like this:

Ophelia did not consider herself brave. She wasn’t like Lucy Coutts, the head girl in her grade, who once rescued a baby in a runaway stroller and was on the front page of all the papers. Lucy Coutts had heavy brown hair and pink cheeks, and she called Ophelia Scrap, which made everyone laugh, even Ophelia, to show she didn’t mind.

Ophelia didn’t consider herself brave, but she was very curious.

She was exactly the kind of girl who couldn’t walk past a golden keyhole without looking inside.

Ophelia is in a large museum in a city far from home, where her father, an expert on swords, is preparing an exhibit. He brought Ophelia and her sister Alice along, hoping it would help them recover after the recent death of their mother.

But Alice doesn’t want to do anything but sit in her room with headphones on, so Ophelia explores the museum and sees the keyhole.

On the other side of the keyhole, an eye is looking back at her. The boy whose eye it is tells her he comes in friendship and means her no harm. But when he starts telling her his story, the things he says are unbelievable. Ophelia is a member of the Children’s Science Society of Greater London, and she doesn’t believe in magic or wizards or enchantments.

But the boy (who says the wizards took his name for his safety) asks Ophelia for help. He needs her to find the key to the door. To do that, he sends her to the 7th floor of the museum, where the Misery Birds are waiting.

And then the key doesn’t even fit the door! The boy sends Ophelia on a total of three perilous quests before she can get him out. And meanwhile, time is running out and the sinister museum curator seems suspicious, and what’s going to happen to Alice?

I like this book because Ophelia is an ordinary girl who comes through. Here’s why she is sure she can’t help the Marvelous Boy:

Of course she couldn’t save the world. She was only eleven years old and rather small for her age, and also she had knock-knees. Dr. Singh told her mother she would probably grow out of them, especially if she wore medical shoes, but that wasn’t the point. She had very bad asthma as well, made worse by cold weather and running and bad scares. Ophelia thought this should have all been proof that she couldn’t possibly help.

My only quibbles about the book involved world-building. It seems to be our world, since Ophelia lives in London. There is an exhibit on Napoleonic Wars in the museum, and another of a Quaker kitchen, and other exhibits that could only happen on our world. But where on our world, even three hundred years ago, is a land ruled by wizards, or a kingdom where a Snow Queen could get away with making it snow for centuries? And where do Herald Trees or Misery Birds grow? And what year is it supposed to be? Ophelia wears glasses, they fly on an airplane, and people wear jeans and T-shirts, but why are no cellphones mentioned?

I would have had no troubles with the story if it takes place in a different world. But in our world? I’m having a little trouble believing in the magic. Though in some ways, that makes it better, because I share Ophelia’s skepticism. And we totally agree that no adults will believe her. I’m sure children won’t be troubled by these details, and the location of the Snow Queen’s country is left mysterious.

But all in all, this is a wonderful, child-sized adventure. Let’s hear it for ordinary, asthmatic, curious children who manage to save the world.

randomhouse.com/kids

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/ophelia_and_the_marvelous_boy.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Impossible, by Nancy Werlin

August 10th, 2014

impossible_largeImpossible

by Nancy Werlin

Speak (Penguin), 2008. 376 pages.
Starred Review

For ages now, I’ve been meaning to read Impossible, by Nancy Werlin. I keep meeting Nancy at ALA conferences and like her very much indeed, and every time I was embarrassed that I haven’t yet read her work, even though I’ve wanted to since before I ever met her. Part of the problem is that I own a copy of her book, so it doesn’t have a due date, so I don’t get around to it as quickly.

But I like to bring my own books on vacation, and I like to bring paperbacks. So when I left for a week in Oregon, I put Impossible first on my list of books to read on the plane. The only problem with that? When I finished, I liked it so much, I didn’t really want to start another book, since I wanted to savor the one I’d just finished. However, while in Oregon, I visited Powell’s, and bought the two sequels, so now on the way home I can continue to feast on Nancy Werlin’s books.

The premise of Impossible is that the ballad “Scarborough Fair” actually happened and tells of an actual curse that was put on a young woman and her daughters after her, and her daughters’ daughters down through the generations to today. An elfin knight demanded her love, and she could only escape if she performed three impossible tasks. And then, eighteen years later, her daughter must perform the three impossible tasks or be caught in the same curse.

What I love about Impossible? All the reasons why Lucy Scarborough’s case is not hopeless. Even though her mother’s a crazy bag lady, she’s been brought up by warm, loving, and wise foster parents. And there’s a young man who truly loves her. So she doesn’t have to complete the challenges alone.

And the story of how she does so is truly beautiful.

I also like the way this unbelievable, impossible curse is woven into a story of a modern-day believable seventeen-year-old girl with ordinary concerns like being on the track team and going to Prom. I like the way all the characters realistically have a hard time believing it and the modern ways in which they tackle the challenges together.

Most of all, I just love Lucy and the people around her. Nancy Werlin has written a brilliant book about True Love.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
Remember us to all who live there
Ours will be true love for all time.

nancywerlin.com
penguin.com/teens

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/impossible.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, which I got at an ALA Annual Conference.

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

August 1st, 2014

tiny_beautiful_things_largeTiny Beautiful Things

Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

by Cheryl Strayed

Vintage Books (Random House), New York, 2012. 353 pages.
Starred Review

My son sent this book to me, and I love it so much. I love his words in the note that accompanied it: “Dear Sugar is… the sort of creature I am startled and pleased to find existing in the world. Like a Mister Rogers of heartbreak and anguish.”

Dear Sugar is an advice column for The Rumpus. There is a lot of heartbreak and anguish here. Definitely not neat and clean situations.

But Sugar (Cheryl Strayed) handles them all with so much grace! She relates things back to her own difficult life experiences and has much humble, practical wisdom to share. And all along, she addresses people with endearments and makes them feel like they’re okay.

I’m going to give some random quotations from her advice below. Perhaps it will give you the sweet flavor.

It’s going to be difficult, but that’s no surprise. The story of human intimacy is one of constantly allowing ourselves to see those we love most deeply in a new, more fractured light. Look hard. Risk that.

Be brave. Be authentic. Practice saying the word “love” to the people you love so when it matters the most to say it, you will.

Trust yourself. It’s Sugar’s golden rule. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.

Writing is hard for every last one of us — straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glowbug.

There will be boondoggles and discombobulated days.

But it will be soul-smashingly beautiful, Solo. It will open up your life.

I have breathed my way through so many people I felt wronged by; through so many situations I couldn’t change. Sometimes while doing this I have breathed in acceptance and breathed out love. Sometimes I’ve breathed in gratitude and out forgiveness. Sometimes I haven’t been able to muster anything beyond the breath itself, my mind forced blank with nothing but the desire to be free of sorrow and rage.

What’s important is that you make the leap. Jump high and hard with intention and heart. Pay no mind to the vision the commission made up. It’s up to you to make your life. Take what you have and stack it up like a tower of teetering blocks. Build your dream around that.

You asked me for practical matchmaking solutions, but I believe once you allow yourself to be psychologically ready to give and receive love, your best course is to do what everyone who is looking for love does: put your best self out there with as much transparency and sincerity and humor as possible.

As you are surely aware, forgiveness doesn’t mean you let the forgiven stomp all over you once again. Forgiveness means you’ve found a way forward that acknowledges harm done and hurt caused without letting either your anger or your pain rule your life or define your relationship with the one who did you wrong. Sometimes those we forgive change their behavior to the extent that we can eventually be as close to them as we were before (or even closer). Sometimes those we forgive continue being the jackasses that they always were and we accept them while keeping them approximately three thousand miles away from our wedding receptions.

I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.

Isn’t love amazing that way? How it can bend with us through the years? It has to. It must. Lest it break.

Perhaps these give you the flavor. But dip into Tiny Beautiful Things and just see if you can come out again.

cherylstrayed.com
vintagebooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/tiny_beautiful_things.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, given to me by my son.

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.

Review of One Dead Spy, by Nathan Hale

July 31st, 2014

one_dead_spy_largeNathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

One Dead Spy

by Nathan Hale

Abrams, 2012. 127 pages.
Starred Review

Once again, I’m struck by what a brilliant idea it is to show kids history in graphic novel form.

The frame of this series is pure fantasy. Our hero is Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War spy. Somehow, I’m simply not surprised that he’s the hero chosen by the author Nathan Hale, who was born in 1976.

Before the historical Nathan Hale’s scheduled hanging, there’s a silly sequence about how he comes up with his famous line, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” When he does, a giant book with the title, The Big Huge Book of American History appears and swallows him whole. But then he comes back, having seen hundreds of years into the future of this country.

The executioner asks, “How could you see the future in a history book? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Nathan Hale answers, “A giant book just swallowed me whole. Does that make sense?”

But then, to prove he’s seen the future, Nathan Hale begins telling stories to the executioner and the British officer overseeing the hanging. They decide he can tell more stories before he hangs, which is the premise of the series.

And the stories Nathan Hale tells are true, with plenty of invented dialog and put into comic book form.

This first book tells about Nathan Hale’s life and his service in the Revolutionary War. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. (And it’s not long, either.)

Did you know that Nathan Hale wasn’t actually a very good spy? He got caught on his first mission. But he was involved in some noteworthy exploits before he became a spy. I especially found interesting the way the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga got moved to liberate Boston Harbor, and the way General Washington had a fort built and moved into place in one night.

I love the warning on the back cover:

HAZARD LEVEL: Yellow/ Lethal

Riots, massacre, starvation, fever, theft, spycraft, mercenaries, sea warfare, land warfare, lightning, exploding cows, and death by hanging.

Do you know any school-age kids who can resist such a warning?

hazardoustales.com
amuletbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/one_dead_spy.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz

July 28th, 2014

handle_with_care_largeHandle with Care

An Unusual Butterfly Journey

by Loree Griffin Burns
photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz

Millbrook Press, Minneapolis, 2014. 33 pages.
Starred Review

This beautifully photographed book tells the true story of an unusual farm – El Bosque Nuevo, in Costa Rica, where they grow butterfly pupae.

This story begins with a museum in Boston receiving a box full of butterfly pupae which are about to become butterflies. Then it zooms to Costa Rica and shows us the screened greenhouses where the butterfly farmers keep the butterflies.

The book shows all the parts of the process, including feeding the butterflies with crushed bananas and sugar water, searching the leaves for predators, making sure the growing caterpillars get plenty to eat, and gathering the ones almost ready to become pupae.

They explain the stages of an insect’s life. The blue morpho caterpillar grown at El Bosque Nuevo changes its patterns dramatically at each stage of molting.

The pictures show workers sorting hundreds of pupae to send out, shows how they are kept in the museum, and finally shows the wonder of a little girl looking at a newly-emerged butterfly.

For those who want to know more, the back matter is most interesting. This is a nice twist on a simple book about butterflies – shows an actual butterfly farm and the entire process of growing a butterfly.

loreeburns.com
ellenharasimowicz.com
lerneresource.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/handle_with_care.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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.

Sonderling Sunday – Duddler Yarue

July 27th, 2014

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. And my comments work again this time!

This week, it’s back to my stand-by, the book that inspired me to start Sonderling Sunday, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, by James Kennedy, otherwise known as The Order of Odd-fish.

Sonderlinge 2

Last time, we left off right around the halfway point, on page 208 in the English version, and Seite 262 auf Deutsch.

Just to set the stage, I’m going to write out the whole first paragraph of this section.

Jo and Ian searched the neighborhood, but they didn’t really know what they were looking for. It wasn’t clear what “Duddler Yarue” would look like, and anyway, the streets were almost deserted. After a half hour of wandering, Jo despaired of ever making any headway, and was ready to give up when they saw an effeminate boy smoking a cigarette on the corner. He watched Jo and Ian idly.

Auf Deutsch:

Jo und Ian suchten das ganze Viertel ab, aber sie wussten nicht einmal genau, wonach sie eigentlich suchen sollten. Es war nicht klar, wie dieser »Duddler Yarue« eigentlich ausschaute, und außerdem waren die Straßen beinahe vollkommen menschenleer. Nachdem sie eine halbe Stunde herumgeirrt waren, glaubte Jo nicht mehr daran, dass sie noch irgendetwas erreichen würden. Sie wollte schon aufgeben, als sie einen etwas affektierten Jungen an der Ecke stehen sah, der eine Zigarette rauchte. Er beobachtete Jo und Ian gelangweilt.

“suspicious” = Verdächtiges

“clue” = Spur (“trail”)

“to boil over” = die Beherrschung zu verlieren (“the mastery to lose”)

“rude” = unhöflich

“street wisdom” = Straßenweisheit

“some guy” = irgendein Bursche

“snapped his fingers” = schnippte mit den Fingern (I just like that one.)

“startled and a little pleased” = erschrocken und zugegebenermaßen auch ein bisschen erfreut
(“frightened and admittedly also a little bit pleased”)

“the sights” = Sehenswürdigkeiten

“secret places” = geheime Orte

“I wouldn’t want you to miss it.” = Ich möchte nicht, dass du das versäumst.

“rather enjoying Ian’s jealousy” = genoss Ians Eifersucht

“teetered back and forth” = zögerte unschlüssig (“hesitated indecisively”)

“turnstile” = Drehkreuz

“Ian bought three tokens and went through properly.”
= Der kaufte drei Münzen und warf sie ordnungsgemäß in den Schlitz.
(“He bought three coins and threw them properly in the slot.”)

And that’s it for tonight! A short one, but it’s nice to get back in the swing of it. After all, Ich möchte nicht, dass du das versäumst.

Review of The Adventures of Superhero Girl, by Faith Erin Hicks

July 27th, 2014

superhero_girl_largeThe Adventures of Superhero Girl

by Faith Erin Hicks
colors by Cris Peter
introduction by Kurt Busiek

Dark Horse Books, 2013. 106 pages.
2014 Eisner Award Winner

I didn’t expect to enjoy this graphic novel as thoroughly as I did. It’s made up of strips from a webcomic about a girl who’s a superhero. She can lift heavy objects and leap over tall buildings, but she can’t fly.

In her ordinary life? She’s pretty ordinary. She’s a young adult in a small town that doesn’t have much crime. She’s got a roommate, and she has trouble paying the rent, because she really needs a day job. She has no tragic catalyst in her life that made her a superhero, and she’s always been in the shadow of her superhero brother, Kevin, who is everybody’s favorite and can fly and has corporate sponsorship and looks like a proper superhero.

Superhero girl has some issues. She forgets to take off her mask sometimes when she’s trying to be an ordinary citizen. She goes to a party with her roommate, trying to set her work aside, and gets caught in the thrall of a supervillain who has the power to make everyone think he’s awesome. Then there’s the skeptic, who’s convinced she can’t be a superhero without a tragic back story or a fancier costume. And don’t get started on the time she washes her cape in the Laundromat and it shrinks.

I like what Kurt Busiek says in the Introduction:

Superhero Girl is about life. It’s about being a younger sister, about being a broke roommate, about needing a job, being underappreciated, getting sick, feeling out of place at parties, being annoyed by people carping when you’re doing your best – all wrapped up in the package of being a young superhero in a small-market city where you’re pursuing your dreams but don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

That’s not parody. There may be elements of parody on the surface, but really, that’s rich, human storytelling. It’s telling the truth through humor, and using the trappings of the superhero genre to universalize it, to turn it into something symbolic, so we can all identify with it, maybe more than we could if SG was a paralegal or a barista or a surgical intern. The superhero stuff is the context, the package, and the humanity and emotion and the humor found in it are the content. The story.

This is a story about a young adult starting out in life, pursuing her dream, and struggling to do so. It’s reading that will make you smile.

superherogirladventures.blogspot.com
darkhorse.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/superhero_girl.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Comments Are Working Again!

July 26th, 2014

I had wondered why I hadn’t gotten comments in months. (Duh!) My statistics had gone way down, too. It turned out that my comments table and my statistics log table were corrupted. The usual repair process didn’t work at all.

So, now I have Good News/Bad News.

Good News: My blog will take comments again! :)
Bad News: ALL the old comments are gone. :(

I also want to note that Yahoo! Web Hosting was NO help at all. If I had it to do over again, I’d definitely choose a different host. They just said they provide a platform for MySQL and WordPress, but don’t provide any support for those.

But I did decide that being able to comment in the future is more important than saving all the old comments for posterity, even though it makes me sad to lose them.

Review of The Careful Use of Compliments, by Alexander McCall Smith

July 23rd, 2014

careful_use_of_compliments_largeThe Careful Use of Compliments

by Alexander McCall Smith
performed by Davina Porter

Recorded Books, 2007. 8 hours on 7 compact discs.

This is the fourth novel about Isabel Dalhousie by Alexander McCall Smith. I’m finding them much more enjoyable via audiobook. Isabel is a philosopher. She muses and thinks about everything that she comes across. In other words, the plots of these books are extremely slow moving. This is fine when you are in the car anyway, and delightful Scottish accents add to the fun.

You’ll be disappointed if you expect a traditional mystery from these books, but Isabel does slowly encounter a puzzle about a painting she’s thinking of buying. Also in the book she explores questions about motherhood, as she has a newborn son, and about her relationship with Jamie, so much younger than she is, and her relationship with her niece Kat. She’s being cut out of her job with the Review of Applied Ethics, and has to deal with the plotters responsible.

If you want an action-packed thriller, don’t pick up these books. But if you want to explore some musings about life and love with a deep thinker, and encounter some interesting situations at the same time, these books are a delight.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/careful_use_of_compliments.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook 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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!