Archive for October, 2013

Review of The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The Madness Underneath

Shades of London, Book 2

by Maureen Johnson

G. P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin), 2013. 290 pages.
Starred Review

This is the second book in the Shades of London series, and, yes, you should read the first book, The Name of the Star to properly enjoy this one.

Without saying too much about the first book, Rory is an American who’s going to boarding school in London. But while there, she has an almost-dying experience and then begins to see ghosts. And then one of those ghosts begins recreating the murders of Jack the Ripper. And he knows she can see him.

Book Two comes after she has survived what the Ripper tried to do to her. Her parents are upset and have been keeping her in a bubble. But some powerful friends want Rory’s help — she gained some power through her experience — and they are able to make it happen that Rory goes back to school.

But she didn’t get much work done while she was away. And the schoolwork in England was difficult already.

So now she’s in danger of failing, and there is more than one group who is interested in her, and it seems a crack has opened under her school that connects to the burying ground of Bedlam, the old mental hospital. And the ghosts that are coming out now are not happy.

In many ways, this book feels like a bridge between what went before and what comes next. But some dramatic things happen in this book, and I’m dying to know what Rory will do next.

I love Maureen Johnson’s writing style. I could easily imagine her tweeting most of the things that Rory says. The style is a little demented and a whole lot of fun, and Rory’s the kind of person who would always be fun to be around. So we get to be around her for as long as it takes to read these books.

maureenjohnsonbooks.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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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 The Meanest Birthday Girl, by Josh Schneider

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The Meanest Birthday Girl

by Josh Schneider

Clarion Books, 2013. 48 pages.

Here’s an early chapter book where the point is not that it’s easy to read. The point is the clever and funny story. This one is worth reading even if you already read well.

It was Dana’s birthday and she could do whatever she liked.

Among the things she likes is not being very nice to Anthony.

So imagine her surprise when Anthony gives her a wonderful present, a big white elephant.

Dana was surprised that Anthony had gotten her a present. And such a wonderful present; she had always wanted an elephant. Dana would not have given a birthday present to someone who called her an ickaborse and pinched her and ate the dessert out of her lunch.

“Oh, my,” said Dana. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Happy birthday, Dana,” said Anthony. “Take good care of it.”

“Of course,” said Dana. She knew how important it is to take good care of one’s pets.

That’s the catch, of course. Taking care of the elephant proves to be a daunting task. Along the way, while she’s tired and frazzled from tending her elephant, Gertrude is mean to her. Turns out, though, that Gertrude’s birthday is coming up….

This story is wonderfully told, with the author not having to spell out the underlying emotions. The parallel construction when Dana gives the elephant away helps the reader fully understand all that is going on.

I wasn’t crazy about the art in this book, but by the time I finished, I laughed so hard, I knew I had to spread the word about this book. The Meanest Birthday Girl learns a lesson, and beginning readers will thoroughly enjoy being in on the joke.

hmhbooks.com

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

Review of The Tapir Scientist, by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Tapir Scientist

Saving South America’s Largest Mammal

text by Sy Montgomery
photographs by Nic Bishop

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013. 80 pages.

The Tapir Scientist is another volume in the fabulous Scientists in the Field series. This series follows real scientists doing interesting work out in the real world.

The scientist featured in this book is Pati Medici of Brazil. She and her team are studying tapirs. In this book, they are in the Pantanal region, trying to put radio collars on wild tapirs. To do that, they must either trap the tapir or shoot it with a tranquilizer dart.

They also get blood samples and tick samples when they trap the tapirs. And, of course, they track the ones that already have a collar.

This book follows the routine of the team on their mission, explaining the day to day process when the author and photographer joined the expedition. As in all the books in this series, plenty of lavish photographs illustrate the story. In this book, many of the photographs are of other exotic wildlife in the area, but I’m not going to begrudge any animal photography done by Nic Bishop, even if it’s only loosely related to tapirs.

I like the way this book tells how it went — with setbacks as well as triumphs. There were times when the dart didn’t work and times when they captured a tapir that already had a collar.

This series shows that the life of a scientist can be adventurous and exciting. And you’ll find out about tapirs while you’re at it.

I’m posting this review tonight in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Abby the Librarian.

sciencemeetsadventure.com
hmhbooks.com
tapirconservation.org.br

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/tapir_scientist.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 – Searching for the Schwenk

Sunday, October 20th, 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. Tonight it’s back with my stand-by, The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge.

Last time, we left off on page 185 in English, Seite 234 auf Deutsch. The squires are about to go in search of the Schwenk.

As usual, I’ll just look for fun phrases that I never before realized I really wanted to know how to say in multiple languages. As usual, I’ll find an abundance of these in The Order of Odd-Fish. (I won’t give any spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, I’m hoping these phrases will intrigue you.)

“East Squeamings” = Ost-Heikel (“East-Delicate”) (Like “squeamish,” I think.)

“shacks” = Scheunen

“a sprawling fish market” = einem ausgedehnten Fischmarkt (“an outstretched fish market”)

“stalls” = Buden

“dripping bunches” = tropfenden Bündeln

“wriggling white blobs” = zuckenden wei?en Klecksen

“shimmering fins” = schimmernden Flossen

“panting mouths” = Luft schnappenden Mäulern (“air snapping mouths”)

“bulging tubes” = aufgedunsene Röhren

“trussed up” = fest verschnürt

“bustling cacophony” = umtriebige Kakofonie

“booth” = Nische (“niche”)

“why settle for second best?” = warum sich mit dem Zweitbesten zufriedengeben?
(“why yourself with the second-best to-peace-give?”)

No surprise here:
“lugged” = schleppte

“smoke” = qualmte

“promising noises” = vielversprechende Geräusche

“passed around” = herumreichten

“floating in black-licorice broth” = in einer schwarzen Lakritzbrühe schwammen

“awed whisper” = ehrfürchtig flüsternd

“slouching” = herumlümmelte

“snorted” = schnaubte verächtlich (“snorted contemptuously”)

“casually” = unaufällig

“eavesdrop” = belauschen

“hang around” = herumgelungert

“devastating” = verheerend

And I’ll end with the final sentence in the section:
“Come on, let’s go find the Schwenk.” = Kommt, gehen wir los und suchen das Schwenk.

That’s it for tonight! As always, some fun words to say and fun things to imagine a situation where you could say them.

Review of The Mighty Lalouche, by Matthew Olshan and Sophie Blackall

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

The Mighty Lalouche

by Matthew Olshan
illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Magnifique!

One hundred and a few-odd years ago, in Paris, France, there lived a humble postman named Lalouche. He was small, Lalouche, and rather bony, but his hands were nimble, his legs were fast, and his arms were strong.

For company, he kept a finch named Geneviève.

When Lalouche loses his job because the postal service wants to use the new electric cars, he sees an ad for boxers. Lalouche is much smaller than the other boxers, but he overwhelms them with his speed and agility, and wins every time.

There’s a final showdown with The Anaconda, but Lalouche takes up the cry, “For country, mail, and Geneviève!”

However, despite all Lalouche’s surprising success, stationery stores with envelopes and stamps still make him sad. The happy ending turns that all around and makes the reader think about what success really means.

So, it’s all a charming story. There are even photos in the back and an author’s note that French boxing was actually like that – where speed and agility could win out over muscle and bulk.

But what makes this book over-the-top wonderful are the cut-out illustrations by Sophie Blackall. (Well, okay, and the way the story is perfectly paced to match them.) They have amazing attention to detail and wonderfully give the feel of nineteenth-century France. Let me strongly encourage you to check out this book and look at the pictures yourself. I have little doubt you’ll be charmed as well.

I am going to feature this book in a “Family Storytime” at the library. It’s too much fun to keep to myself.

For country, mail, and Geneviève!

matthewolshan.com
sophieblackall.com
randomhouse.com/kids

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/mighty_lalouche.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 Let Go Now, by Karen Casey

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Let Go Now

Embracing Detachment

by Karen Casey

Conari Press, 2010. 232 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve been reading this book, slowly, a little at a time, often pausing to post quotes on Sonderquotes, for more than a year. I started reading it as a library book, but then when it was clear I was going to take ages, and that it is packed with good insights, I purchased my own copy.

There are 200 numbered meditations, with “Pause and reflect” pages after each ten meditations. All of the meditations are about detachment and letting go.

I’m divorced, and I didn’t want to be divorced. It’s been a long time, but it’s still always good to get any and all encouragement to let go of that marriage, to detach. And what do you know, the advice is good in other areas, too. I’m a Mom whose kids are becoming adults. And it turns out that most situations that cause stress can be improved by letting go of something.

Why would you want to detach? I’ll let Karen Casey explain, from the Introduction:

To begin with, I think we have to cultivate our willingness to let go, that is, to detach from the trials and tribulations of our contemporaries if we want to find the quiet peace we long for, a peace that will allow us to truly love, to truly embrace, and to appreciate those who journey with us. In this process, we also give those companions the freedom to grow and to find their own way, thus their own eventual peace too. I don’t think we can come together as loving equals without embracing the willingness to detach.

We live very codependent lives, from my perspective. By this I mean that too many of us let even the whims of others — in our families, our communities, our workplaces, even in other parts of the world — define us, determine how we feel, and then decide what we will do next in many instances. Learning to detach allows us to live the life we were meant to live. By allowing other people’s behavior, good, bad, or disinterested, control us, we miss many opportunities for movement and expression in new directions. The converse is also true: if we attempt to control the other persons on our path, wherever they may reside, keeping them “attached” to us through any means (and most of us are very practiced at this), we immobilize them, thus preventing the growth they deserve and have been prepared for already.

Detachment isn’t easy. If it were, there would be no need for a book offering to help you develop the skills to do it. And it may not have appeared on your radar screen as something you wanted to cultivate prior to picking up this book. As was already noted, we are accustomed to being enmeshed with others, letting our lives be constantly influenced by their behavior. I am not suggesting that this influence is always bad; there are good influences, too, probably everyday. We can and do observe healthy “detached” behavior in some of our friends, and perhaps they showed up on our path to serve as our teachers. It’s not always easy to discern the “good” from the “bad,” however. It’s my intent for the meditations here to illustrate those behaviors we want to mimic and those we don’t.

Rather than give you more inspiring excerpts from the book, I’m going to refer the reader to the many quotations I posted on Sonderquotes. This is a marvelous choice for reading each morning. It will help you go on your way with peace.

womens-spirituality.com
redwheelweiser.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/let_go_now.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 personal copy, purchased 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.

Review of The Real Boy, by Anne Ursu

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

The Real Boy

by Anne Ursu

Walden Pond Press, 2013. 343 pages.
Starred Review

The Barrow even had one magic worker so skilled he called himself a magician. Master Caleb was the first magician in a generation, and he helped the Asterians shine even more brightly. He had an apprentice, like most magic smiths. But like the wizards of old, he also took on a hand — a young boy from the Children’s Home — to do work too menial for a magician’s apprentice.

The boy, who was called Oscar, spent most of his time underneath Caleb’s shop, tucked in a small room in the cellar, grinding leaves into powders, extracting oils from plants, pouring tinctures into small vials — kept company by the quiet, the dark, the cocoon of a room, and a steady rotation of murmuring cats. It was a good fate for an orphan.

This book is about Oscar. When the magician Caleb goes on a trip, leaving the apprentice, Wolf, in charge, something terrible happens to Wolf. Oscar is stuck watching the shop. He doesn’t know what to do. He feels like an alien. He doesn’t know how to read people’s faces, and interacting with them makes him anxious.

But the Healer’s Apprentice, Callie, is also in charge in her master’s absence. She and Oscar help each other. She helps Oscar deal with people, and he helps Callie know which herbs will cure.

But something is going wrong with the magic, something that may be much bigger than Oscar and Callie can handle.

I’m not sure I was satisfied with the ending — not sure I understood clearly enough what had actually happened. But the book itself, the world, and especially Oscar, were delightful to spend time with.

In a contemporary novel, Oscar’s difficulties would probably have a name, a definition. I like that this fantasy novel doesn’t label Oscar. We see him as an individual, with his own particular difficulties and fears, as well as strengths and insights. Ultimately, this is a hopeful book about overcoming and doing good in spite of your own self-doubt. Go, Oscar!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/real_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 an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Annual Conference and had 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.

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

Review of Tiny Little Fly, by Michael Rosen and Kevin Waldron

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Tiny Little Fly

by Michael Rosen
pictures by Kevin Waldron

Candlewick Press, 2010. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve found a book I simply must read for my next Baby Storytime. It’s got great big pages and features great big animals – and one tiny little fly.

Tiny Little Fly lands on Great Big Elephant, and Great Big Hippo, and Great Big Tiger. They each wink one eye and try to catch the fly, with appropriate sound effects. They all fail.

The big vivid pictures make this perfect for a group reading, especially combined with the chorus of sounds like “Tramp! Crush! Tramp!” for the elephant. I especially like the winding trail of the fly pictured behind it. You can almost feel the fly landing.

And how common is that situation? You can easily relate to the animals saying to themselves, “I’m going to catch that fly!” But it’s so easy to believe they would vigorously try and fail.

My, oh my,
Tiny Little Fly!

At the end, there’s a big fold-out spread, with all three animals fruitlessly after the fly.

Tiny Little Fly
winks one eye. . . .
“See you all soon.
Bye, everyone, bye!”

Just right for a beginning experience with books. It’s got animals, rhymes, repetition and predictability, big lovely pictures, buzzing sounds, things to chant, and even a happy ending.

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/tiny_little_fly.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 Frog Song, by Brenda Z. Guiberson and Gennady Spirin

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Frog Song

by Brenda Z. Guiberson
illustrated by Gennady Spirin

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2013. 32 pages.

Frog Song is a beautifully illustrated celebration of frogs all over the world. Each two-page spread has a painting that features one particular species of frog. The text gives an onomatopoetic sound like the frog makes (Psst-Psst, Click-Clack, TinkTinkTinkTink) and tells something distinctive about that frog, usually how it lays and cares for its eggs.

Here’s an example:

In northeastern Australia, the Scarlet-sided pobblebonk sings by a pond after heavy rain. Bonk . . . Bonk . . . Bonk. The female frog lays her eggs on the water and whips the gooey mass into a ball of bubbles. Fwish! This floating raft protects the eggs until the tadpoles hatch.

There are notes at the end with facts about the featured frogs, as well as a bibliography, online links, and a message about frogs being endangered.

But what makes this book really stand out are the gorgeous paintings. They go so beautifully with the poetic language. Yes, you get facts in this book, but they are presented in a way that fills the reader with wonder.

brendazguiberson.com
gennadyspirin.com
mackids.com

I’m posting this review today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Perogies & Gyoza.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/frog_song.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 – Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, das fünfzehnte Kapitel

Sunday, October 13th, 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 back to the most Sonder book of all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy. We left off at the end of Chapter 14, so tonight we begin Chapter 15.

Here’s a sentence we should all try to use this week:
“Today we go Schwenk-hunting.”
= Heute machen wir uns auf die Jagd nach dem Schwenk

Have I translated this one lately?
“My digestion” = Mein Verdauungstrakt

“adventurous” = ausgesprochen abenteuerlich (“decidedly adventurous”)

Ah, no one gives more interesting phrases to translate than James Kennedy!
“a sprightly zing in my gastric acids”
= “ein munteres Zischen meiner Magensäuren
(“a lively sizzle in my stomach acids”)

“a broad wave” = einem ausholenden Schwung

“oak chest” = Eichentruhe

“curious devices” = merkwürdiger Gerätschaften

“elusive” = scheues

“murmured” = tuschelten

“modesty” = Bescheidenheit

“a damp mass of prickly fur” = eine feuchte Masse von klebrigem Pelz

“a hissing, gurgling clump” = ein zischender, gurgelnder Klumpen

I like this alliteration:
“said Sir Festus breezily” = fuhr Sir Festus fröhlich fort

“spiky gun” = Stachelpistole

“a long-range, triple-accuracy Apology Gun”
= eine weittragende, dreifach genaue Entschuldigungspistole

“the Very Polite War” = der Au?erordentlich Höfliche Krieg

“proposing marriage” = Brautwerbung

“the murderous curtsy” = der mörderischen Hofknickses

“literally” = sprichwörtlich

A nice long word:
“disagreement” = Meinungsverschiedenheit (“opinion-difference”)

“more extravagantly effusive” = extravaganter und überschwenglicher
(“more extravagant and exuberant”)

“outdo” = übertrumpfen

“chaotic mass apologies” = chaotischen Massenentschuldigungen

“an ugly free-for-all of manners”
= ein hässlicher allgemeiner Sittenverfall
(“an ugly general moral decline”)

“rudeness” = Grobheit

“dial” = Wählscheibe

That’s it then, the first section of Chapter 15, telling about the Very Polite War. May you not encounter any mörderischen Hofknickses this week!