Archive for October, 2013

Review of Clementine and the Spring Trip, by Sara Pennypacker

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Clementine and the Spring Trip

by Sara Pennypacker
pictures by Marla Frazee

Disney Hyperion Books, 2013. 160 pages.
Starred Review

Clementine’s back! In this, her sixth book, we’re taken through Clementine’s 3rd grade year. I’m almost sad to see her maturing as the series goes. She doesn’t really get into any trouble in this book. In fact, her teacher asks her to partner with the new girl, Olive, on the class’s Spring Field Trip to Plimouth Plantation.

And there’s plenty of elementary school drama. Clementine’s class is forced to ride the dreaded Bus Seven.

I have only taken Bus Seven one time, but one time was enough, let me tell you. If you took all the terrible-smelling things you could think of and mixed them together and let them rot for a good long time, it would smell like roses compared to The Cloud. The smell gets worse with every step you take toward the back of the bus, except that it gets a little better at the very last row, but that might be just because at the very last row you can smell the exhaust. Bus exhaust smells like roses too, compared to The Cloud.

On the field trip, the third graders have to eat with the fourth graders, and Margaret warns Clementine that the fourth graders have rules against eating anything noisy.

Rules and worries and the new girl and the disgusting smell all have a part to play in a satisfying story about our irrepressible third grade friend.

This book doesn’t stand out in my mind, because I’m getting used to the high quality of the series. I’m booktalking the whole series this year simply by reading aloud a small section from this book. This whole series makes highly enjoyable reading, with plenty of lively pictures and a way of looking at the world not quite like anyone else’s.

disneyhyperionbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/clementine_and_the_spring_trip.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 Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, by Hilary McKay

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea

by Hilary McKay
illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago, 2013. First published in the United Kingdom in 2011. 108 pages.
Starred Review

Hilary McKay is so good at writing about families! In the Lulu books, the family is not as quirky as the Cassons, but they still have enough foibles to feel real and to be fun to join in.

We already knew, from Lulu and the Duck in the Park, that Lulu loves animals. (Though, no, you don’t have to read that book first to enjoy this one.)

The rule about pets in Lulu’s house was: The more the merrier! As long as Lulu cleans up after them!

Lulu had two guinea pigs, four rabbits, one parrot, one hamster, a lot of goldfish, and a rather old dog named Sam.

When Lulu and her family go on vacation to a cottage by the sea, they bring along Lulu’s cousin Mellie, who is seven years old like she is. When they get to the cottage, the owner warns them about the dog from the sea and tells them to put the trash can in the house at night.

All the family make plans for their vacation. Lulu’s father is going to train for a marathon. Her mother is going to read six books. Mellie is going to make a kite perfectly. But when Lulu says she’s going to find the dog from the sea and make friends with him and tame him, everyone quickly tells her why that’s impossible. I like Lulu’s reaction.

Lulu did not argue. She had found that arguing only made people argue back. It was better, she thought, to do exactly as you liked, quietly, with no fuss. Besides, what did her crazy family know about possible and impossible?

As if it were even slightly possible that her father would ever run a marathon!

Or that her mother would read six books in six days ending with War and Peace (which she had been trying to read ever since before Lulu was born).

Or even that Mellie would perfectly finish her kite, which was already spread all over the living room floor with the string in knots and the instructions missing.

“Never mind,” said Mellie. “I never bother with boring instructions anyway.”

“How can you make it without instructions?” wondered Lulu.

“I’ll just copy the picture on the box.”

“It’ll take ages.”

“Not if you help,” said Mellie, looking around to make sure Lulu’s parents were out of the way, and adding, “You help me with my kite and I’ll help you with the dog from the sea.”

Lulu thought about how much she liked Mellie, who never thought anything was impossible.

This is a wonderful warm beginning chapter book.

albertwhitman.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/lulu_and_the_dog_from_the_sea.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 No Fits, Nelson! by Zachariah OHora

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

No Fits, Nilson!

by Zachariah OHora

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I always love the books that turn the tables on a toddler’s world, and give them a chance to have a new perspective on their own propensities.

In this book, Amelia has a giant blue gorilla for a friend. The last page pictures him as a small stuffed toy in bed with her, but the bulk of the book is the way Amelia sees him: A giant blue companion.

They do everything together. But Nilson does have a problem with throwing fits.

However, Amelia’s on top of it. When she sees Nilson is frustrated, not getting what he wants, impatient, and about to throw a fit, she says “No fits, Nilson!” and gives him a reason to contain himself. “We’re having banana pancakes for breakfast!” “This is an ADVENTURE, not errands!”

The pictures are such fun, with Nilson’s mounting frustration and Amelia’s calm, but then happily enjoying the day together in between the fit-crises.

I especially love the page after Nilson’s been promised banana ice cream on the way home.

Amelia covers Nilson’s mouth and stares him down with a gorilla eye lock, repeating the words banana ice cream over and over.

The picture shows tiny red words BANANA ICE CREAM over and over in a line between their eyes and between Amelia’s mouth and Nilson’s ears.

There’s a lovely climax when it turns out there’s no banana ice cream left for Amelia, and she’s the one in danger of throwing a fit. This time, Nilson is the one who saves the day and calms her down.

This book is perfect for any family whose child has ever acted like a giant gorilla. Marvellously cozy and quirky.

zohora.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/no_fits_nilson.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.

Review of Lucky Ducklings, by Eva Moore and Nancy Carpenter

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Lucky Ducklings
A True Rescue Story

by Eva Moore
pictures by Nancy Carpenter

Orchard Books, New York, 2013. 32 pages.

This book is a lovely tribute to Make Way for Ducklings, using a true story and an equally cute family of ducklings. A note at the front explains the true story from an incident that happened in June 2000, which the book is based on. Five ducklings fell through a storm grate and had to be rescued by people.

But Eva Moore gives the ducklings names – Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin, and Little Joe. She shows us the walk from Mama Duck’s perspective. She’s walking along proudly, stepping over the grate, and all five ducklings fall right through.

When the firemen are called, they can’t get the grate up. But then they use a cable from a truck, while someone holds back Mama Duck. Then the firemen can climb down and rescue all five ducklings.

It’s all dramatized beautifully, with multiple pictures of adorable ducklings, and plenty of places for the reader to Quack. To get the family all the way to the park, there’s even a scene where a fireman holds back traffic while Mama Duck hurries to reunite with her rescued babies.

This doesn’t replace Make Way for Ducklings, but it’s a lovely book, more modern and shorter, to read alongside the old classic. Some things, like families of ducks, remain the same.

scholastic.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/lucky_ducklings.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.

Review of Becoming Babe Ruth, by Matt Tavares

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Becoming Babe Ruth

by Matt Tavares

Candlewick Press, 2013. 40 pages.

Who knew Babe Ruth went to reform school at age 7? Becoming Babe Ruth looks at George Ruth’s childhood and how even he had to work at becoming a great baseball player.

The book focuses on his years at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where he played baseball and learned from Brother Matthias. Years later, when he was famous, he still had a special relationship with the school and helped them raise money to rebuild after a fire. The band from the school got to go on the road with the New York Yankees for the last two weeks of the 1920 baseball season, special guests of Babe Ruth.

This is also a beautiful picture book, with extra large pictures of a larger-than-life baseball player. I like the focus on a boy down on his luck who works hard and makes it big, but still remembers where he came from.

The author says in a note at the end, “Becoming the king of baseball took countless hours of practice and plenty of support and guidance from his school and from his teacher and mentor, Brother Matthias. And even at the height of his fame, he remained eternally grateful to those who helped him become Babe Ruth.”

candlewick.com

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Booktalking.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/becoming_babe_ruth.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 – Book of a Thousand Days, Day 14

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

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

Last time, I left off just before Day 14, Tag 14.

My method is to pick out interesting and useful phrases that it suddenly seems vital how to say in another language. You don’t have to have read the book, though I always hope the phrases I choose might intrigue you into doing so if you haven’t already.

“sacks of barley” = Gerstesäcken

“squeaks and scratches kept nipping at my dreams”
= ein Quieken und Scharren kratzte an meinen Träumen.

“to spare” = abzwacken (Google: “extort”)

“nibbled” = geknabbert

“tallow candles” = =Talglichter

“rat-spoiled food” = rattenverseuchtem Essen

“fashioned” = gebastelt (“tinkered”)

“sharp” = spitz

I like it when German words are actually shorter:
“the lid of a barrel” = einen Fassdeckel

“rocking” = wiegt

“Ancestors” = Ahnen

“But what ails her?” = Doch was ist ihr Leiden?

“heartsick” = Liebeskummer

“can’t wrap my thoughts around” = bleibt mir verborgen (“remains hidden from me”)

“a man from legend” = sagenhafter Mann

“squinting” = geblinzelt

“spooks” = erschrickt

“hooked in the chimney” = im Schornstein tobt

“whining” = knarrt

“crawled” = rutschte

“clutched” = umklammerte

“tethered goat” = angepflockte Ziege

“She made my blood shiver.” = Mein Blut erschauerte.

“glimpse her soul” = auf die Seele erhascht

“tired from shaking” = erschöpft vom Zittern

That’s all for tonight. I’m leaving off at the end of Day 27, page 25, which is Seite 37 in the German version.

May you know nothing about rattenverseuchtem Essen, and never have occasion to say, “ein Quieken und Scharren kratzte an meinen Träumen.

Review of Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Ever After High

The Storybook of Legends

by Shannon Hale

Little, Brown and Company, 2013. 305 pages.

I love Shannon Hale’s writing. So when I learned she’d written a book starting a series designed to go along with dolls made by Mattel, I had to at least try it. I also love fairy tale variants, and this series is set up to play off of fairy tales.

This book is fun, but I couldn’t really buy the premise at all. And to be fair, I’m guessing that pretty much everything I didn’t like was probably not Shannon Hale’s idea, but the framework in which she was asked to write. When I judged for the Cybils last year, I learned that in Fantasy novels, I’m a big stickler for internal logic. Could such a world exist? The premise of Ever After High stretches credibility a bit too far for me.

The idea is that in the world of Ever After, the children of storybook characters are destined to live out their parents’ stories. In fact, on Legacy Day, second year students at Ever After High have a big ceremony and sign the Storybook of Legends in order to embrace their Destiny.

It’s a cute premise, and the idea is that this has been going on for generations and generations. If a character doesn’t sign, they are told their story will disappear, and so will they. But, come on – what if the storybook characters don’t have children, or don’t have them the right gender for the story, or have them at totally different ages from the other characters in the story? It seems like there’d have to be an awful lot of coincidence for this to work.

Anyway, in our story, we’re focusing on Apple White, daughter of Snow White, destined for Happily Ever After, and Raven Queen, daughter of the Evil Queen. Raven is not at all happy about being destined to be evil. What will happen if she doesn’t sign the Storybook of Legends? There are rumors of a student who once upon a time didn’t do that. Did she survive and live happily elsewhere? Or did she indeed go poof? Apple, however, is determined to make sure that Raven embraces her destiny – that’s the only way Apple will get her Happy Ever After.

I think my favorite character in this book was Maddie, the Mad Hatter’s daughter, who can do impossible things. Some other fun ones are Cedar Wood, Pinocchio’s daughter, and Briar Beauty, who falls asleep often but has a great fashion sense. Dexter Charming, younger brother of Daring Charming, was a nice contrast to his brother.

It seemed kind of silly the way certain words were changed, fairly randomly. They used “hexcellent” instead of “excellent” and “fairy” instead of “very,” for example, even though the change didn’t really make any sense, but just made it sound more related to magic. I also noticed that certain outfits were described in tremendous detail – I’m thinking because the outfits are being sold along with the dolls.

But as I said, most of the things I didn’t like were probably set up by Mattel, not the author. She did have a lot of fun within the premise. As you can imagine, there’s a strong message of making your own choices.

It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

everafterhigh.com
squeetus.com
lb-kids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/storybook_of_legends.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 Savvy, by Ingrid Law

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Savvy

by Ingrid Law

Puffin Books, 2008. 342 pages.
Starred Review
2009 Newbery Honor Book

My copy of Savvy is inscribed to me from the author, acquired at ALA Annual Conference 2011. I finally read it on the plane on the way to ALA Annual Conference 2013. What in the world took me so long? I completely loved it. I wasn’t surprised to do so, since fantasy that wins Newbery Honor is pretty much a sure thing for me.

The book opens as Mibs is turning thirteen. Here’s how the book opens, when she explains why turning thirteen is significant in their family:

When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it. I had liked living down south on the edge of land, next to the pushing-pulling waves. I had liked it with a mighty kind of liking, so moving had been hard — hard like the pavement the first time I fell off my pink two-wheeler and my palms burned like fire from all of the hurt just under the skin. But it was plain that Fish could live nowhere near or nearby or next to or close to or on or around any largish bodies of water. Water had a way of triggering my brother and making ordinary, everyday weather take a frightening turn for the worse.

Her turn is coming soon:

My savvy hadn’t come along yet. But I was only two days away from my very own thirteen dripping candles — though my momma’s cakes never lopped to the side or to the middle. Momma’s cakes were perfect, just like Momma, because that was her savvy. Momma was perfect. Anything she made was perfect. Everything she did was perfect. Even when she messed up, Momma messed up perfectly.

But before Mibs’ birthday can be properly celebrated, with powerful adults keeping an eye on things in case her new savvy gets out of control, her Papa gets in a car accident and is in a coma in the big city. Mibs and Fish and toddler Gypsy are left behind with Grandpa.

When the preacher’s wife gets wind of Mibs’ upcoming birthday, she plans a birthday party with her daughter and all the girls from Sunday School.

I could feel Fish and Grandpa getting more and more nervous at all the talk of parties. Thirteenth birthdays in the Beaumont family were strictly non-public affairs.

What follows is a delightful sequence of disasters. Mibs and Fish stowaway in a bus along with the preacher’s son and older daughter, driven by a Bible salesman who sells pink Bibles that no one wants. They want to get to Poppa, but have to take some detours along the way. Mibs learns her incredibly quirky Savvy, and learns a lot about people along the way.

Over-the-top adventures with quirky characters and a whole lot of heart. It’s easy to see why this book caught the attention of the Newbery committee. I’m so glad I finally read it!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/savvy.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, gotten at ALA Annual Conference and signed by the author.

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 The Loopy Coop Hens: Letting Go, by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

The Loopy Coop Hens
Letting Go

By Janet Morgan Stoeke

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013. 32 pages.

Janet Morgan Stoeke came to our library in May. I love her work. She has mastered the art of expressing the mind of a child – or in this case the minds of three childish hens.

The format is a full-sized picture book, but the book is perfect for beginning readers, complete with four short chapters. And the entire book is short enough to use in Storytime and will appeal to a wide age range.

The story is that the three silly hens Midge, Pip, and Dot are sitting in the shade under a tree, when apples begin to fall on them. They decide a fox must be throwing them and ask Rooster Sam for help. Children will delight in finding the flaw in the hens’ logic.

When Rooster Sam gets frightened away by another falling apple, Dot bravely decides to go up a ladder and investigate. She manages to explain to the other hens that the apples aren’t being thrown, they are letting go. The book comes to a nice conclusion when the hens all climb the ladder, see the pretty view, and decide to let go like an apple.

Now, parents might feel the need to explain to very young readers that hens with feathers, even if they can’t fly, aren’t at as big a risk falling from a tree as children. But children can probably figure that out, and the book shows the hens dazed, but eager to do it again.

I like the simple good-hearted fun in this book. We have a puzzle for the hens to solve, in which children will be way ahead of them. Then they turn it into an adventure, which children might not anticipate. This book works on many different levels.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/letting_go.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.

Review of Across a Star-Swept Sea, by Diana Peterfreund

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Across a Star-Swept Sea

by Diana Peterfreund

Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2013. 449 pages.
Starred Review

Okay, before I begin the serious review, I’m going to gush a little. I LOVED this book! SO good! I stayed up all night reading it, and I’m not the least bit repentant. It helps that I have a 3-day weekend starting, but still, I haven’t read a book good enough to make me do that in awhile, and I’m so happy to find one.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is a sequel to the delightful For Darkness Shows the Stars, which was a science fiction retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. You honestly don’t have to have read the first book. Some characters from the first book do make an appearance in the second book, but this one takes place in a totally different part of a future devastated earth, so their societies developed differently, and you don’t need to know about the society from the first book.

This book is a science fiction retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. As you can tell from one of the first Sonderbooks reviews I wrote, back in 2001, The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my all-time favorites, and I’ve read it many times. That made me appreciate all the more what a brilliant job Diana Peterfreund did with this retelling. There was almost a scene-for-scene correspondence.

The big, fun thing she did was flip everyone’s gender. So “The Wild Poppy” is a 16-year-old girl, Persis Blake. It puts quite a different twist on the story.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is about a daring Englishman who saves nobles from the French Revolution. In Across a Star-Swept Sea, they’re in the same future earth as For Darkness Shows the Stars, where humankind was devastated by an accident with genetic engineering. People who used the genetic engineering gave birth to children who were “Reduced” — never having more intellectual capability than a small child.

The people living on the two islands of New Pacifica believe they are the only humans to have survived the wars. But one of the islands, Galatea, is having a revolution. Over the years, the people who were not Reduced, naturally, became the ruling class. The Reduced were capable of nothing but being servants.

However, a generation ago, a cure was developed, so that the Reduced were able to have “Regular” children. The new class of people, “regs” were still not treated well on Galatea, so they began a revolution. And the worst part is that they have developed a pill that destroys the brains of the former aristos, so they are now the Reduced ones, fit for nothing but service.

Persis Blake, in her many disguises as the Wild Poppy, is rescuing aristos from the revolutionaries. No one knows her identity, and she poses as an empty-headed socialite in the princess regent’s court of the other island, Albion. Their society has perfected genetic engineering, so she uses “genetemps” to disguise herself in any way she wants. But when one of those genetemps goes wrong and makes her sick, she’s saved by a Galatean medic who was looking for passage to Albion anyway. He’s handsome and seems to want to help the refugees, but can Persis trust the nephew of the revolutionary leader?

All the wonderful plot twists of the original are here, except that she tells you sooner (right away) the identity of the Wild Poppy. But those who know The Scarlet Pimpernel would know immediately anyway, and this works well.

If they didn’t take you seriously, they would never see you coming. Persis was the most stylish, the most glittering, the most frivolous girl in Albion. There was no way she was secretly orchestrating a spy ring.

This book is marvelously written and will make delightful reading whether you’ve read the original or not. Those who already know and love the original, like me, will appreciate this book all the more. Magnificent!

dianapeterfreund.com
epicreads.com
authortracker.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/across_a_star_swept_sea.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, ordered via Amazon.com.

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!